Tuamotos Touring

I’ve adjusted to the feeling of sweat rolling down my back during any part of the day when I am not motionless in the shade or swimming. If that’s the price I have to pay for being in this land of heartbreaking gorgeousness, I’m willing to pay it.

Photos are in Fakarava – one of Sam Kellogg waiting for an endless internet session to be over, another of the kids watching the sharks eat scraps from the kitchen at Tetamanu Lodge, in the south, and another out my porthole window somewhere along the way.

The Tuamotos aren’t for everyone, which is obvious based on the small number of tourists that we see. Like the Marquesas, the places we are visiting don’t have much in the way of traditional tourist services and therefore don’t have many people visiting that want air conditioning, restaurants, internet, boutiques, etc. Or they want those things, but they don’t get them.

Mainly the tourists that are here that aren’t on boats appear to be French. The people that live on the atolls are friendly and do a wonderful job of maintaining what they have. Almost without fail, yards are tidy and raked, landscaping is prevalent, and trash is almost non-existent. Order and tidiness are obviously valued and it’s nice to see what communities can accomplish if they are all of the same mind. The people seemed happy – kids were riding bikes, and playing soccer or ultimate (with visiting cruisers). Older kids and adults played soccer and basketball on a covered outdoor surface, had javelin throwing practice, or took part in a women’s fitness group. We were there on the Saturday before Easter and a procession went through town with a cross, ending at a pretty little church by the water.

We just left Anse Amyot at the atoll called Toau where we snorkeled gorgeous coral formations all around our boat. A couple named Gaston and Valentine live on the motu (the chunks of land that make up the atoll) and make meals for boats passing through. Valentine has lived on the motu almost her whole life. She told me the story of how her parents fled with her as an infant because her maternal grandfather had stolen her from her mother. The grandfather disapproved of Valentine’s father and thought Valentine resembled his wife who had passed away years earlier and for whom Valentine had been named.

Valentine’s mother stole her back from her grandmother and fled in a small boat with her husband, 8-month old Valentine and the supplies they could fit in the boat. With a 1-hp motor, it took them all night and all the next day to find a place to set up a new home. I asked Valentina how her parents chose that spot and she said, “Haven’t you heard of a pig GPS?” Now our conversation had gone back and forth between English and French but this part was in English and her English is very good. So I had not misheard. I told her I did not know of that kind of GPS.

She said, “You put a pig in the water and follow it. It can smell the land and it can swim. Pig GPS.” I told Joe this in hopes that he might consider it sufficient reason to bring a piglet on board but it didn’t work.

Valentine’s story had more twists and turns as her grandfather came and stole her again and then eventually gave up and become a supporter of Valentine’s parents. She has lived on the motu for over 50 years. She said boats started showing up in 1976. They got 2-3 a year and now get over 250. Her father said that anyone who comes to their motu should be treated as family so that’s what they do. They cooked for 22 guests from at least 6 countries last night, all of whom were on boats anchored in their bay.

Before Toau, we visited Fakarava where we snorkeled, dove, shopped, learned about pearl farming, got diesel, played field games, and did our normal boat things. We said goodbye to the Porter-Kelloggs who are off to New Zealand, and hello to the Sheppards who live on their own boat (Arctic Fern) that is currently in Sicily. We met them about 18 months ago when we were cruising the Mediterranean.

We have been having a great time with Howard and Caroline and their two daughters, Jessica (10) and Olivia (9). All of our guests are so different and are teaching us so many things. 

Right now, we are on our way to Rangiroa where we will find more beautiful beaches and snorkeling spots and maybe a few groceries before heading to Tahiti and some much anticipated “civilization.” It will be almost three months since we left Panamá City, the last place we have been that had fast food restaurants (our new way of summing up what a place is like for the kids). The Galapagos had many services for tourists but no McDonald’s!

All are well on board and I am enjoying being on night watch again, if only to catch up on my communications.

I will leave you with a story that illustrates the strength of women on sailboats. This one features Caroline, who didn’t necessarily want a life on the water but is happy with one of exploration and adventure.

Today, Joe took a bag of trash to the forward storage compartment on the port bow. He came back and said he thought we had a mouse on the boat or that one had been on the boat because he noticed many droppings in the compartment. We had offloaded many bags of trash in Fakarava when we had ties to the dock by the grocery store. I thought it was possible that a mouse had jumped on the boat at that point but was wondering why we hadn’t seen any other evidence of it. In my experience, mice do not usually stay in one place. I was hoping that the mouse had just jumped on and off again.

Regardless, I decided I needed to step up and make an effort to clean it. Joe does many distasteful jobs on the boat and I figured I could handle this one. I took a bucket filled with salt water and decided I would just wash all the droppings out through the drainage hole in the bottom.

I had just pulled the three bags out of the compartment (which is about 3 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 3 feet tall) when Caroline came up and asked if I needed help. She is a good, hard worker and hard to refuse. She said she wanted to confirm that what Joe saw were really mouse droppings and I agreed. I had spotted a fair number and they did look like mouse droppings but that smell of ammo Oa was missing and something about the droppings looked off.

Caroline dropped right down into the compartment and said, “I think they’re fly eggs. There are maggots crawling all over.” Sure enough, I noticed little white wormy things on some of the trash bags. Caroline proceeded to throw them into the sea and took my bucket of sea water and set about cleaning the compartment by hand. I called the kids up to see the maggots and Tully particularly enjoyed holding them, then flinging them into the water. Soon it was all over and both mice and maggots were a thing of the past. 

I was quite impressed with Caroline’s lack of squeamishness (the day before she helped me with a fish dissection for science class). Even more so when she told me about her experience with maggots as a child. Her father used to fish with maggots and would keep them in the fridge where they would last longer but come out sluggish, not a good attribute in fish bait. So Caroline’s father asked her to warm them up in her mouth and, dutiful child that she was, she did! Our kids don’t know how good they have it.

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