Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Rikitea, Mangareva, Gambier Islands, 20th of December

Landfall in Paradise

During our more than three weeks at sea, we saw one ship, about a dozen storm-petrels, a few shearwaters, and a lone masked booby. But not a single albatross, whale, or even a dolphin! The days passed chilly and overcast with an occasional rain shower. At some point, we lost all hope of seeing the sun again - and we were supposed to be in the tropics! 

Only a few days before we arrived in the Gambier islands the temperature skyrocketed to 30+ °C, which felt absolutely marvellous. On the 16th of December, we dropped anchor in a deserted bay of the island of Taravai inside the reef. Although the island was invitingly beautiful with green hills and sandy beaches, we didn’t leave the boat until the following day. Instead, we had a hearty supper and went early to bed. It was wonderful to be able to sleep peacefully eight hours in a row after so many days of three to five hours of sleep on rolling seas. 

As is proper to an island paradise, the beach was dotted with palm trees, and behind the trees began a dense jungle home to local wildlife, in this case, three wild chickens and a rooster (as far as we could see). 

We played Robinson Crusoe and collected ripe, brown coconuts lying on the beach. From these Pekka will later make coconut milk with the traditional Polynesian method using a tool called rapakoko to scrape the inside of the coconut. The milky juice is then squeezed out of the  pulpy mass. With a machete, we also hacked down several yellow coconuts to drink.

On our third day we weighed anchor and reluctantly headed for the village of Rikitea, on the island of Mangareva, to obtain customs clearance. On the way, we remembered that we had discarded our too worn-out French courtesy flag a few years ago, and had forgotten to buy a new one in its stead. This did not present a problem, however, as we used the Dutch courtesy flag, after a few minor alterations, as a substitute!