Wed 10 Sep 2014 03:54
"Different?" You ask. "How so?" Maupihaa is stunningly beautiful, another atoll, consisting of a ring of coral enclosing a lagoon. The main island is about three miles long, the rest are a string of little motus along the reef. It has white coral sand beaches, incredibly clear water, a turquoise lagoon and more palm trees than you could shake a stick at. So why is it different? You've been seeing photos of similar places since we left Colombia.
It's different because it is so remote I think. You can only get there if you sail your boat there, or take the supply ship and wait another 6 or 8 months before the next supply ship arrives to take you off again. The people who live on Maupihaa (about 10) rely on what they can gather or catch to supplement the stores they buy from the supply ship - imagine writing a shopping list for 8 months. They sell copra for cash, which the supply ship picks up.
And they welcomed us into their homes, their land, their way of life.
When we first touched shore Edgar came and spoke to us, he showed us the paths, which he'd thoughtfully marked with 'bottle trees' - he'd pushed plastic bottles onto the twigs, and when we returned from our hike greeted us with coconuts, one a freshly opened jelly nut so we could refresh ourselves with the cool coconut water and feast on the jelly flesh when back on the boat.
The other folks were just as friendly and generous, particularly the family who lived on the North of the island. They fed us, and the other cruisers, every second or third night, Hio the son having spent hours on the reef finding lobsters, or in the forest looking in holes for coconut crabs, or spear fishing by the pass for fish and collecting bags of huge whelks to roast on the fire or be turned into poisson cru by the women folk.
So we have many special memories. Little things like sitting by the fire watching hermit crabs trying the whelk shells we'd just discarded for size - that magic moment when he's checked it for size, cleaned it out and goes for it - uncurling his soft tail from within his old shell to pop it into his new home. That wonderful evening, a day off full moon, when we saw a green turtle approach the shore and watched her all the way up the beach and into the undergrowth, then saw her scraping away the soft sand to delicately dig her nest chamber, using her hind legs as proficiently as we'd use our hands. That unforgettable time when we were snorkeling the wreck outside the pass and we heard whale song underwater and put our heads up to see a humpback broaching.
Phil has been in his element: making fires to barbecue on the beach in the evenings, leading expeditions through the undergrowth of the forest whilst examining every hole for coconut crabs, fishing using live hermit crabs for bait or off spear fishing with the other chaps. The last being quite an exciting sport as the sharks are determined to get involved. They are of the opinion that any dead fish is their fish and will grab it whilst still on the spear, or even jump out of the water to try to get a fish being held up by the owner as he swims for the dinghy.
So we've been having busy, sandy, sun filled days, experiencing the South Pacific that we hoped to find. But tides and cyclone seasons wait for no man and it's time to move on, so we set sail this morning. Cyclones wouldn't be much fun on Maupihaa. With an elevation of about 3 meters the sea was washing right over the island last time one hit. Houses were demolished, palm trees washed into the lagoon. They stood the children in a plastic barrel and tied it to a palm tree. I guess there's a flip side to every coin.
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