Astra Blog: Tuamotus (Part 1) 25.06.08 - 27.06.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Mon 14 Jul 2008 10:46

Astra Blog: Tuamotus (Part 1) 25.06.08 – 27.06.08





Within a few moments of anchoring a local man, Gilles, came out to meet us.  An affable chap and good English speaker, he had come to offer to take us to a pearl farm so that we could see the pearl culturing process first hand. It seemed like an excellent idea so we arranged to meet him the next day and we went into the village to see what we could get in terms of provisions. Not a successful mission: the one small shop on the island sold little more than sweets and drinks and certainly no fresh vegetables.


The strip of land which sits atop the reef is a couple of miles long and very narrow. On one side the waves from the deep blue Pacific Ocean break against the beach of broken coral, on the other the cyan water of the lagoon laps against the shore. In between these bodies of water lies the village: some very simple houses amongst a throng of palm trees. In the middle of the village we found a clearing which was being used for the traditional Tuamotu sport of patia fa; the men take it in turns to throw spears at a coconut at the top of a 7.5metre pole from a distance of 22 metres. They are worryingly accurate!


The following morning Gilles came to meet us as arranged. In his home-made speedboat we rocketed around the inside edge of the atoll, threading our way between large coral heads at 30 knots. We were all pleased to reach the motu (small island on a coral reef) on which sat the pearl farm in one piece.  


Gilles introduced us to the manager of the pearl farm who took us on a tour and explained the grafting process by which pearls are made. To compensate the workers for the fishy smell and incessant Tahitian reggae is a sea view which most people would probably give their left leg to be able to look at whilst at work; the colours of the lagoon need to be seen in order to be believed.


Once Sally had had her fill of fondling pearls and had made extensive mental notes as to what to look for in a black pearl we decided to return to the yacht. Gilles was clearly enjoying our company and insisted that we stop for a game of volleyball. After half an hour sweating under the midday sun we persuaded our genial host to take us back to Astra. Clearly a fitness freak, Gilles invited us to join him on his afternoon run: Jeremy accepted gladly on behalf of Ash and George!


Gilles runs the same 5 mile circuit around the very edge of his motu everyday. Conversely, Astra’s representatives were last seen breaking into a jog some months back when they were told that Happy Hour was about to end. The run started off at a gentle pace. Unfortunately our personal trainer was just getting warmed up. Gradually increasing the pace, he explained his fondness for running in the heat of the day. A couple of miles in we were both parched and a little hot under the collar. Fortunately we had Gilles on hand to inform us how good for our muscles it is to run in the heat. “Does it not feel good?” he enquired; “yes” we grunted truthfully.


To increase our enjoyment of the occasion he started demanding various exercises: knees up in front; knees up behind; running backwards; side stepping one way then the other. Obviously, keen to keep the British end up, we grin-grimaced and plodded on. The highpoint of the run was that it finished. What now we wondered: star jumps? Press ups? Or perhaps he will have us shinning up and down coconut trees? Mercifully, none of the above. Instead we hobbled over to a nearby house where Regis, a friend of Gilles, was celebrating the end of his day’s work with a cool Hinano.


Regis was soon joined by his father, Regis Senior. The latter did not speak much in the way of English but bridged the language barrier with the international _expression_ of friendship that is the offering of a beer. Slightly confused that we were incredibly happy to accept a beer immediately after exercising, our sadomasochistic friend Gilles left us to it and went off, perhaps to do a 10 mile swim or to flagellate himself with a palm frond.


Regis and Regis proved to be formidable company and excellent hosts. The language barrier was breached several times further with more giving and receiving of Hinano and a friendship was forged with laughter and toasted heartily. Ash went back to Astra to fetch the others to join in the fun and a few moments later returned with Jeremy, Charlie and further liquid refreshment.



As the sun went down Regis Senior reached for the guitar and played us some traditional songs.

From Regis Junior’s house we wandered 100 yards to his father’s house as the latter was keen to show us his garden: he is the only person on the motu who grows his own vegetables. We then enjoyed another couple of hours becoming better acquainted before finally saying our goodbyes and heading back to Astra.


The following morning to mitigate the effect of the “Hinano head” Ash, Charlie and George went snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of the lagoon. A shore party was sent to take the two gentlemen named Regis some pamplemousse and returned with a glut of papayas from Raroia’s only horticulturalist. Once final farewells had been bid, we hauled up the chain and set off to our next atoll, Makemo.