Friday, May 28, 2010

Photo Update

Here's a couple photos that can make it through the convoluted web of touchy internet connections. We're now in Moorea of the Society Islands after spending a few days in Tahiti to reprovision and refuel.

'The Aquarium' in the atoll of Fakarava, Tuamotus

Coming through the pass into the lagoon of Fakarava, Tuamotus

The anchorage in Bay of the Virgins of Fatu Hiva, Marquesas

Me and my makeshift sailboat (supplies: one kayak, one boat hook,
one hammock and some thin line)
~55 pound yellow fin tuna and one happy Ben

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Goodbye Marquesas, Hello Tuamotus

If there's one thing I'm learning on this trip it's that I must come back to these islands some day. It's becoming clear that we're not spending nearly enough time is any of these locations to absorb their full experience. Although we are spending a day here, a few days there, I get the sense that we're essentially passing by on the highway, peering out through the windows of the car - seeing the place but missing out on its essence. That being said, however, we're still here and we're still doing some pretty amazing things. I'm not for one second sad or disappointed that I'm here, just a little unsatisfied with our itinerary - happy but not satisfied, right where you should be in life, according to an old hockey coach of mine.

So our time in the Marquesas over, I have the memories and photos of jungle hikes to waterfalls, diving with manta rays and sharks, spear-hunting for parrot fish, fishing for tuna, bonfires on the beach, and friends both on land and afloat. The people there are remarkably open and friendly and helpful - always with a smile and a 'kaoha' or 'bonjour.' An absolute highlight of our time in the Marquesas was trading with the locals of the island of Fatu Hiva - wine, tools, rope, wine glasses for beautiful artwork and all kinds of fruit.

And now we've made the four day passage to the Tuamotu archipelago, a group of seventy-five atolls between the Marquesas and Tahiti. Imagine an island in the middle of the ocean. The island becomes ringed with a circle of coral growing up from the sand creating a barrier reef. Watch the island for a very long time and you'll see the land of the island being eroded away by wind and waves and the ring of coral grow upwards to the water surface. After more time the island completely disappears, leaving a ring of exposed coral/sand and a calm inner lagoon of the clearest water imaginable. Multiply that by seventy-five times in all shapes and sizes and you have the Tuamotus. Some of these atolls, when islands in the past, supported freshwater rivers that flowed to the sea and inhibited the growth of coral at their mouths, leaving, in the end, passes through the ring of coral large enough to allow access for boats to the interior lagoon. That's where we are. And it's pretty cool.

We've been here in Rangiroa (in the northwest of the archipelago) for a few days and will be leaving for Fakarava (a few atolls to the south and east) this afternoon. After a couple days of exploration there, we'll travel to Tahiti. Stay tuned for some photos...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Marquesas

Well...we made it. Safe and sound, even, if you can believe it. We arrived in the island of Nuku Hiva of the Marquesas on the 2nd of May after a sixteen day passage from the Galapagos. 'Uneventful' is one word that could be used to describe the trip across the Pacific: we saw a total of one whale, a handful of small jumping squid that landed on deck, and thousands of flying fish scattered by our presence. And not much else. For eleven of the sixteen days, the wind blew 20 knots on our port beam (perfect for sailing), making me wish everyday that we could just turn off the engine and hoist a sail, of which, we, of course, have none.

Our three-hour watch schedule - 3 hours on, 6 hours off - between the three of us (owner Naveen, captain Devin and I) made the days go by quickly but, jesus, let me tell you, sixteen days was a long time to be cooped up in a boat. The wind was more of a curiosity to us on this power boat than something to actually take into account and there were no sails to trim or lines to flake so we just sort of settled in for the ride. I think I read about seven books and watched twenty movies and had plenty of time to practice my singing voice...turns out sixteen days wasn't long enough to help there.

And now in the Marquesas, we've explored a couple islands (Nuku Hiva and Ua Pou, now Hiva Oa, where Paul Gauguin lived the last few years of his life), stocked up on fresh fruit (including the famous breadfruit - fried it's really good!) and tried to remember how to use the french language (this is French Polynesia, afterall) after having spent the last six months immersed in spanish. Devin brought his spear gun along so, once we find the clear water everyone talks about - so far we haven't seen much, having anchored in larger, populated harbors - hopefully we'll be able to catch some fresh tuna dinner, accompanied with fresh lobster tail. We'll see.

From here on Hiva Oa, we'll head to Fatu Hiva (also of the Marquesas) and by next week we'll transit west and south to the Tuamotu atolls for a week or so, then on to Tahiti before the end of the month. I hope all is well back home in Minnesota and Seattle and wherever you are - I've been thinking a lot about you (gawd knows, I've had enough time recently) and thanks for checking in.