Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 19 Mar 2011 02:21
Moored Niutahi Boat Harbour, Apataki
Wind: East, F3 Gentle breeze
Weather: Cloudy, warm

The village of Niutahi is on Isle Niutahi and takes up all of its limited space, about a kilometre square. The island must have an average height above sea level of about 1.5 meters so it will certainly be going under if sea level rises anything like predicted. Having said that I imagine that the storm surge from a half decent cyclone would also be sufficient to wipe the place out. I am curious as to the history of the Tuamotus as I find it hard to imagine permanent settlement here was very practical in the past. What is here now is a bunch of mostly single story houses made of fibre board walls and corrugated iron roofs, two stand out at two stories in a whitewashed concrete Mediterranean flat roofed, balustraded style. One is the boulangerie and the other forms its own little island across a narrow pass on the north east side of the island. Water is supplied from the roof tops and every house has its own large black polyethylene water tank. It rained heavily last night for a short while and I noticed in my walk around today that the three tanks that stand behind the wharf building are overflowing full. The wharf shed also houses a diesel generator which runs constantly and rather disturbed my sleep, but you get used to these things very quickly.

In my walkabout I passed an interesting house which had lots of shells and photos displayed under an open patio. It caught my attention, I paused momentarily and was consequently invited in by three people sitting at a long table. I accepted their kind invitation and watched the young man punch holes in each end of dozens of shells while the elderly lady strung pendants and such like together on nylon fishing line. The large elderly gentleman sat and, like me, watched. We had a limited conversation and I was offered a coconut to drink. They hold a lot of milk so I was rather stuck for a while. The lady gave me some shells and a shell necklace as a souvenir of Apataki, officially welcoming me. They were very nice. Once I had drunk the coconut – the juice of which is very good for you by the way, it is sterile and has the same salinity as blood and consequently it is used in a lot of sport's drinks and was used in WW2 for emergency transfusions – as I was saying, once I had drunk this natural health drink I continued on my way. I guess as long as there have been coconuts here a traditional community could survive, but once again I am left wondering how this community survives in the world today as modern consumers totally dependent on a lot of expensive foreign goods such as satellite TV which many houses seem to have. What do they trade? Obviously not many cars here, there is nowhere to go, tricycles seem to be the preferred means of land transport. On the other hand of course there are lots of boats, mainly open plywood and fibreglass boats about 10 meters in length with large outboards. Certainly nothing traditional.

My coconut research continues, it seems amongst other talents coconut palms can grow with a distinct lean into the prevailing wind. That seems pretty clever to me and I wonder how they do it.

All is well.