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Date: 30 Jun 2012 23:04:43
Title: Campfires, Coconut crabs and Barracuda

Lat 16:57.39S
Lon 144:35.03W

Postcard from Tahanea:
Dear Mum,
Having a terrible time, weather is crap, surroundings are grey and miserable, nothing to do all day but wallow in self pity...
Please arrange immediate transportation back to England's glorious summer.
Love Jo xx

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Ok, slap on the wrists for me for being a smug little so-and-so. I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. But let's face it, that's what this Blog "Blag" is all about!

Tahanea is a really beautiful atoll and we are currently anchored in my favourite anchorage of the Tuamotu's so far, maybe even the whole trip. The picture above is the beach we are anchored off. It is incredibly picturesque and needless to say the 60D has been working overtime, trying to capture this idyllic little part of the world. There is a slight breeze, and the only sound is the gentle lapping of the waves on the boat, and the distant roar of the ocean crashing against the reef a couple of miles away. Dad even slept on deck last night, enjoying the stars and moonrise.

The view from the bow of the boat right now

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We had 3 nights in Makemo, but it was a bit underwhelming, largely because we did actually have some bad weather (shock horror!) with some squalls coming through and cloud cover for much of the time. We still managed a campfire on the beach, the boys got in some kitesurfing hours and we dived/snorkelled the Western pass before rising early and leaving for Tahanea with a good wind behind us. The boys also managed to break the dinghy outboard during a kite exchange, and the gear lever snapped off and the dinghy got stuck in forward gear. Luckily we have 3 engineers onboard and after a morning of "fixing" it is now back in working order. Our visit to the main village on Makemo was very brief as the anchorage there was very rolly in the SE winds, and we needed to get 10 miles up the atoll to find some shelter from the bad weather. We managed to find a large supermarket and stock up on fresh provisions (it's getting better as we get closer to Tahiti), fill our dive tanks and briefly get on the internet.

A half day sail from Makemo brought us to Tahanea, which is a national park as it is the only remaining atoll with a bird called the Tuamotu Sandpiper nesting on it. National park status also means there are no houses here, except for a makeshift shack (named Blue Peter Yacht Club!) that is used seasonally when the locals come to pick the coconuts during the Copra season. They dry out the coconuts and sell the dried product for inclusion in your Bounty bars (amongst other things), providing a large proportion of the income in these atolls. We used the rainwater cisterns to get some fresh water to wash our clothes yesterday, and while we were there two local guys arrived in their boat and deposited their huge trawl of about 200 lobsters that they had caught over the previous few evenings. They have makeshift cages by the shack, where they keep the lobsters just underwater, in the shade, before they are collected by a bigger boat and taken to Tahiti for sale to the restaurants. They cooked one up for us to taste, and we traded some beers for 4 more lobsters to put on the campfire that night - delicious!

I have created fire! (with the help of a gas clicker!)

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The locals also gave us a huge Coconut crab, that they had caught on the island one night, and had been feeding up for a few days before they were going to eat him! We obviously gave them too much beer for the lobsters, as they tied up the enormous, beautiful crab and gave him to us to cook later. When Dad tried to politely decline, insisting the crab was too beautiful to eat, they laughed their heads off at us! Stupid white man! Jamie the carnivore was keen to cook him up, but the lure of fresh crab meat was not enough to persuade the rest of us that this beautiful creature should be sacrificed for our lowly stomachs, and Archie and I set off on a "Free Coco the Crab" expedition, despite Jamie's protesting! It was pretty hard freeing Coco from the rope he had been tied up with - for some reason he didn't understand that we were trying to help him! He was very tightly bound and his pincer claws had teeth that could easily chop a finger off! But we succeeded and felt better for our conservation efforts, stupid white man or not!

Coco the beautiful Coconut crab - about 30cm across!

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Walkies! Coco wouldn't let go of the rope we had pulled him out the bucket with!

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As we entered the pass on our way into Tahanea, the fishing reel buzzed out and on the end of it was a large Barracuda! We haven't caught one of these before, and indeed it had been a while since we'd caught our last fish, so it was quite exciting. The teeth on it were amazing and incredibly sharp! We enjoyed him barbecued on a campfire that evening, along with another fish, a rock cod, that Archie caught spearfishing.

Dad gets friendly with the locals

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The spearfishing has been reasonably successful, although when there are so many sharks around, it is bloody stupid, as Archie learnt the hard way! The water in the pass into Tahanea was crystal clear and we drift snorkelled it a few times, making use of the incoming tide to sweep us into the atoll, and then using the dinghy to head back out again and be swept in with the current again. Great fun. On the last occasion, Arch caught the smallish rock cod at the beginning of the snorkel, and literally 20 seconds after it was speared, it's rising heartbeat had attracted 3 sharks and another large barracuda. By the middle of the dive, both of us had rising heartbeats due to the increasing number of sharks and we were attracting them towards us and not the fish! I had 6 sharks swimming around me and Archie had been chased by them out of the water. We had to pick him up from the shore! They are only black tip reef sharks (about 1.5 metres long) and not known to be aggressive, but I guess we can't blame them for circling us when we had a dead fish on the end of a speargun in the water! I think Archie has learnt his lesson and we might be a little more careful from now on!

Here's looking at you, kid...

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Crystal clear water in the Tahanea pass

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We moved south east through the atoll yesterday to our current anchorage. I had another kiting attempt but keep getting my board twisted around the back of me before I can get the kite to pull me out of the water. Very frustrating and very salty! I did manage to get up for all of 2 seconds though - woohoo! Hermit crabs are all over the beaches again, and there is a crystal clear lagoon for bathing. I think we will be barbecuing another of Archie's spearfishing trophies tonight on another campfire. It's a tough life.

Dinner?

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Hermit crabs roam the beaches

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Bommie watch - there are many coral bommies to look out for on the way to finding a safe place to drop the hook

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More kiting porn

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We are leaving for Fakarava tomorrow, although there is not much wind so we are doing a slow overnight up to the Northern end, where we pick up Ilana on Sunday!

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