Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Day in the Tuamotus

It is hard to describe a typical day on Papillon. It very much depends on where we are. In Cartagena, we listened to the cruisers´ net on the VHF, skirted around the painters aboard, and went for long walks into the old city. In the Galapagos, we took the water taxi to various sealion-covered beaches, followed giant sea turtles in the frigid waters, and practiced a lot of German. In the Marquesas, we rode horses through the mountains and ate a lot of baguette and brie.

Right now, we are in the Raroia atoll in the Tuamotus, and we are at the beginning of Birthday Alley aboard. Indy, Erik and Stylish all have birthdays within the next three weeks. While we always try to let the birthday person pretty much have their way on their day, it all depends on circumstances. For example, we aren´t really in a position to host a lavish party right now. For one thing, there are no stores here. For another, there are no people. So we improvise.

We are currently anchored at the eastern edge of the lagoon. For you Thor Heyerdahl fans out there, we are right by the site where Kon Tiki landed in 1947. The islands here are your typical tropical fantasy: turquoise waters, sandy beaches, lots of palm trees. And, for me, the most exciting part: live coral. There is finely-branching coral everywhere here, which is a great sign of a healthy reef. As I´ve mentioned, the Caribbean is, by and large, dead. As a woman who studied coral biology back in the day, the Caribbean was a depressing place to visit. It is good to be back in the Pacific.

We began Indy´s birthday in the traditional way, with pancakes and bacon. Bacon has long been absent from our diet, mainly due to the expense, but we found some on Nuku Hiva for slightly less than the price of a new car, so I bought three packages (1 per birthday). After some leisurely present-opening (books, a digital watch, and a card that plays the Macarena when you open it. Guess which one was the biggest hit.) we packed our things and headed to the nearest island.

The girls entertained themselves by snorkelling and splashing in the shallows. They built a port for their coconut boats on a sandy spit. By the Kon Tiki island, Stylish had the big find of the day: some perfect sand dollars the size of my hand.
Meanwhile, Erik built a fire from coconut husks. I´ll admit, it is a little disconcerting to see Erik sitting on a log, sharpening his machete, but we roll with these things. Like boys everywhere, Erik considers any excuse to build a fire a good one. The girls kept him well-supplied with dried husks. When everyone got hungry, we cooked hot dogs on sharpened sticks over the fire. We ate them with our fingers (no buns), dipping the dogs in condiments presented on a couple of giant clam shells we found nearby. Delicious.

Stylish made a complex sand maze for hermit crabs. She had collected dozens of the crabs, and it was fun to watch the brightly-colored shells careening down the paths, looking for the exit. Indy spent most of her time in the water, looking at fish and begging Mom and Dad to chase her.

Erik, our die-hard diver, snorkelled the reefs and reported back to the group. Aside from coral and various fish, he saw four blacktip sharks nearby. I was satisfied with the grouper and parrotfish I saw when I snorkelled. I don´t mind seeing sharks in deep water, but for some reason they don´t feel as benign close to shore.

We packed up in the late afternoon, and headed back to Papillon for spaghetti and meatballs. Everyone was wiped out from the sun, and in bed before nine.

And, we had so much fun, we did the same thing the next day. Never let it be said that the Papillon Crew is hard to please.

The Tuamotus are all about island-hopping, so we´ll press on to Makemo soon. We only have a couple of months before we have to push for New Zealand. That doesn´t feel like much time to see the Tuamotus, Societies and Tonga, but we´ll do our best. And maybe we´ll fall in love with a place, stop, skip the rest, then do another big passage to NZ. That´s fine, too. As long as we´re all still having fun.


Anonymous said...

What could be a better birthday that roasting weinies over a fire?

Indy-a digital watch & books too, the birthday fairies have been good to you!

It is going to be hard to tear yourselves away from these beautiful islands.

Enjoy your next passage.
Love Grannie

Kate said...

Happy Birthday Indy!! We were thinking about you. We'll have to do a present catching up when we see you next. Until then I am sending you the gift of lovely sparkly thoughts. You'll have to catch them as they pass by the boat.

I am glad you enjoyed your day.

Love Katie and Beth

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Indy! Your favourites are the same as mine. Begin the day with bacon and end it with spaghetti and meatballs, life is good!!!
Enjoy, God Bless
Mrs. M/Karen

Tamara said...

I'm ashamed to admit that my children are watching The Backyardigans right now. If you ever doubt the value of what you are doing as a family, please recall the Backyardigans.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to all those Papillion crew who are celebrating!! What an amazing way to mark the occassion! Happy and safe travels. Carol P