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...

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