Makemo and the Haeva

Pacific Bliss
Colin Price
Sat 30 Jul 2011 00:07
Other than strong winds and first sightings of coral heads just below the surface of the water in the middle of an atoll, Amanu had been a breeze.  We had had a pleasant sail the 170nm from Amanu and even tried to stop at another atoll with no pass to enter it's lagoon, but to no avail.  Just sailed by a couple of times and waved at the bemused locals.  We arrived at Makemo well before dawn and stood off hove-to for a few hours waiting for the light.  The pass into the atoll, whilst scarey for the novice was not too much to cope with.  We pushed in against the 4kn ebb and made the logoon after about 20 minutes of motoring.  We knew folk who had recently been to Makemo, so armed with their information we knew where to go and what to do.  All a bit of relief as we know a relatively stronge S/E blow is due so we tie up, bows to the modern and sturdy concrete quay with a stern anchor set, not exactly the things of exotic Pacific island dreams but flipping fantastic for those who haven't slept a full nights sleep for over a week due to anchor concerns.  We're actually more exhuasted than we realise.  Being this close to the village and tied up to the quay has it's pros and cons.  Besiged by kids all day, but getting to shore for morning bread (no later than 6am) is a breeze and the water is cleaner than any Town dock you'll have ever seen and the local children incredibly polite given there level of excitement. Fish swimming under the boat in crystal water all day long.
 Moored to the quay with the supply boat Kora Ora
We're in Makemo for the Bastille day celebrations.  We wanted to be somewhere where it's a production by local folk for local folk.  We're currently on a escalating scale of dance excitment, from young school kids in Amanu to local atoll folk here in Makemo, then eventually the finest biggest display of all South Pacific, The Marquesas in December. 
There is a wonderful tradition for Polynesians to adopt and accept gay/cross dressers to be honest we're just not sure.  But often it's normal for a family to bring a son up to adopt feminine dress and tendancies.  Our first experience of this was in Amanu, first with the local shop keeper and most wonderful of all the second teacher in the school who had coriographed the whole dance show.  To see him/her you would have thought he was a wonderful retired dancer couriographing a wonderful avent-garde show in New York complete with camp  hands movements and stern facual expressionss, but it was brilliant   Not in a billion years would you see this in a UK school, everyone's so worried about corrupting the innocent children.  Anyway these same self Dancing queens where in Makemo too.
Sports day for the kids      The plumpicious ladies add some weight to the occasion 
 Z with friends   
Fishing competition back with tuna   
I think the connection to Bastille day is just a ruse, and in Polynesia this festival is know as the Haeva.  There is  a fabulous display on the morning of the 14th but the event seems to start at least a week before and goes on and on and on.  By the time we left  the village nearly 2 weeks after arriveing the evening ritual of dance and music was still in full spate.   And it was truely mezmorising the women tiny,small, big and extra big move there hip and posteriors like nothing else, Z and I are still trying to do it but so far we're no where near.  Cosmo and Colin are also failing at trying to mimick the male dance of knocking knees together and giving a loud, "huh ha".
The children are reacting very differently to the frustrations of different language.  Z is desperate to learn.  So we swiftly meet some very sweet 11 yr olds who then escort Z each evening to the Heava,  all very grown up, when one night they took her out to attend the 'boom, boom' disco, only Z returned by 8 pm ready for bed and before the disco had began,  she's a long way to go before she burns the midnight oil
 Z all dressed up Polynesian style for the 'boom boom room'
Supply boat arrived at night and spent 3 days looking down into our cockpit
Final goodbye to the trusty boogie board - snapped 
 kids playing on the mooring lines
Our stay at the Quay is now getting a little waring with all the children,  We have at least been able to sleep a whole night through.  We've been recommended to visit the S/E of the island with is quite a feast on the eyes and finally we find good sand to play in.   Two days after arriving we're beckoned over by the chap who live on shore and asked if we would like to come fishing.  So Big C and Little C walk off to the reef with Toa to catch fish whilst Z and I went black tip spotting and shell combing.  We all left the rather camp 'Hubert' in the palm frond hut to make lunch.  The boys have an absolutely marvelous time catching about 20 delicious parrot and other such likes fish.   But best of all Cosmo comes back high as a kite as he got to pick up a baby black tip by the dosal fin that had got caught in the net, no mean feet when mummy is just a few meters away from your toes.  The invatation for fishing turns into an incredible lunch we've been cooked for and served whilst our lovely hosts sit by not eating but tucking into a liquid lunch,  Huberts tipple is for beer, but in fact is just fermented water and Toa downs the quater bottle of Rum we bought as a thankyou,  it's all getting a bit mad and before we know it we're dingying Hubert back to his house 1 mile down the shoreline.  And boy what a treat,  Huberts home is fantastic obviously a good way to express his artictic temprement, managing to make disgarded beer bottles and tins an artistic feature.  And of course a thrown fit for any Queen.  
A [et coconut crab - 'pet' that is until it is big enough to eat
                               Beer and cigarettes       Oven for bread
Hubert;s queen's palace    
 motoring in thro turquise water
Later, the children and I are not going any where near the shore post twilight but Colin as ever is up for adventure.  and here's how the evening paned out: 
I putter ashore with Hubert in the dinghy, which he promptly falls out of and into the water - all ready well on his way in the evening's entertainment.  Toa is not amused when we turn up.  His special tool for scraping out copra is missing and he acuses Hubert of having taken it.  Quite why the old queen would want a scooped bit of rusty steel I don't know - anyway, as the evening progressed the subject kept reoccuring with more flailing of arms and accusations.  The two of them would warble off in Tahitian until they remember I am there and revert to French.   Whisky and beer are consumed.  There is much talk of how the 'bad people of Makemo' are all thieves - clearly not true from our experience. Ocassionally in the silent dark night outside the hut there is a thump as another coconut hits the ground and the mantra, "100 Francs" is muttered as each coconut is said to be worth 100PF (approx$1.20) when dried and sold. More whisky and beer are consumed, and finally just as it looks like I can make a swift exit, Toa learns that Hubert has offered to make us bread the next day, and, not to be outdone, decides that he will make some that night.  It looks like it is going to be a long evening.  I watch the first couple of stages, and the coconut fire being lit before making my farewells, and being escorted across the stream oudside the hut, and over the sand flats by a rather tipsy, very tatooed, copra farmer originally from Morea.  Kind people through and through - a lovely evening.
So having thought we would have moved on yesterday we finally get away about 11am the following morning, having waited to go and pick up the promised bread from Hubert, that unsurprisingly didn't materialise. A quick whizz into the town for the weekly Veg delivery, it's a bit of a bonanza  as I strike lucky  and get in 2 mins before the airfreight delivery arrives so I am able to buy the children a massive treat, broccoli.  We've not seen it for 7 months and my vegetable indoctrination is working.  Z gets to hang out for a  few more hours with the her 11yr old girl friends then with a tearful fairwell and gifts of beautiful shell necklaces they had made, we cruelly drag our daughter away to the northern mottus of the atoll.
We have up until now managed rather well on our motu-moving,  I don't enjoy, actually find it positively stressful, but it's do-able.  However getting to our next anchorage is no easy feat. We've  left too late, and halfway down the light is heading us, which makes coral-head spotting really difficult.  So up the mast I'm hoisted or at least up to the spreaders.  So, the, somewhat, already stressful job is made even worse when you discover you have missed a small, just under the water fearsome brute and now the boat has just past it missing it by only 4metres.  So I'm hating my journey and it's just about to get a whole lot worse when we turn the boat by 45% and I am being bashed about up the mast with 17knot of wind.  I'm going off Atoll sailing pretty bloody quickly.
But once safely anchored we discover that it's beautiful here and the sand is fine and the shelling is good.   With only one other boat in the bay,  Colin trys out a new pastime of  Windsurfing in the buff , he thinks this might be an Makemo First.  Luckily Randell the solo American Sailor on the other boat hasn't got his bino's out and accepts an invitation for dinner.   Having had quite a rauchous night with Randell late on in the evening I decide it's a good time to give myself a new look.  On a trip to the loo I spot a pair of Scissors,  I must have had  'Vidal Sasson delusionary moment' , as 5 mins later I had achieved a rather unsuccessful attempt on the five point bob.  Finally having come to my senses I realise that Randell real would think we/I was stark raving mad, it's not most suppers your host appears back with hair 4" shorter than when she went off to powder her noses minutes before hand.  So I was unable to say my goodbyes to the poor chap, better to think me mildly rude than completely insane..... But boy the boat is now carpeted with the offending 4", Colin and the Kids are not amused.
Beach scene   and sunset
 Randal arriving for diner
 Rather like the san Blas - but clean
Due to my now rather fast developing aversion to atoll sailing I'm not keen to move on quickly.  But that isn't how Colin feels so after four days we are off  to find a new atoll, only a 22nm hop away.
Katui, is, we think a very seldom visited atoll - it seems that many of the Tuamotos are frequently visited now what with the advent of GPS plotters and cruising guides, and we want to get off the track a bit more. Many atolls now have airports and if not the supply boats are coming in every few weeks.  As normal we arrive at the pass and our predictions of low water and slack tired are proved wrong, again.  We make an attempt on the pass getting through the first section and then have to get through an extremely narrow, unmarked, shallow entrance, did I say I'm having a sense of humour failure about atoll cruising.  Colin asks a local fisherman if he would motor his panga ahead of us to show us the way ....................  And when we get to the anchorage it's not exactly easy anchoring, deep water strewn with coral heads.  Luckily, very luckily there isn't a drop of wind so we are safe for a night, tucked up next to the islands Generator!
Chandelier is all made of shell - beautiful 
  from town quay into the lagoon
The pass at almost slack, looking out to sea  
  Katui features
Looking back to the pass in - you dont get an impression of how narrow and how shallow this was  
After a night of bad dreams about never getting out, which is now the plan, we sit and watch the water,  the anticipated 9.30 slack never comes and it's not until 11.30 when we realise it's now or never, we need to make a run for it.  We've never upped and left so quickly.  Same old story there is a big blow due in a days time and we need to get to a safe place and Katui is by no mean safe.  We make it out not with a few screams and scares. So now we have 24hrs to make the 45nm run befor the next blow.  The day ahead is relaxed, fun and an enormous relief to be out.  Katui may well have been a rather lovely place to hang out at, but the short 16 hour stop over we had didn't give us time to discover.  It's pointless going to an atoll for less than a few weeks, is our humble opinion.
Come night fall the wind begins to fill in and it's looking like the weather is ahead of schedule.  I was hoping I could let Colin sleep till 1am but the sea state is making be feel decidedly ill,  Colin take over watch and for the first time in 2 years he's feeling sick as a dog  too.  It's getting quite close to me having one of those frank chats with Colin again.  But It's 5am and we need to get through yet another  pass when the water is screaching out.  The weather is foul and joy of joys the anchorage by the pass is untenable in a South Easterly,  guess what that's means.............  So in hideous conditions with near no visablitly we are now having to make the 9 miles through another coral strawn atoll tp the protected SE corner.  I think it's fair to say I'm not really enjoying the Tuamoto's.
But 2 days later our weather and world changes dramatically........