Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kauehi

Kauehi Atoll, Tuomotu Archipelago, French Polynesia

We had a fabulous stay at the village in Kauehi, Tearavero. Although every local we talk to has a different answer, we think about 200 people live here. All the literature we've read about French Polynesia has gushed about the exceptionally friendly Polynesian hospitality. So far, we have enjoyed meeting kind people, but we haven't found them any more or less hospitable than other places we have visited. Until now.

Everybody that we met in the village has invited us into their homes. We have shared coffee, tea, juice with a number of friendly locals. Sunday is clearly a day of rest and relaxation here, and everyone seemed to be out on their front stoop or on the patio relaxing. As John and Strahan explored the village, they were invited into two homes to sit and chat with the locals.

On our second day, we enjoyed 'Tahiti Delight', a yummy punch at Daniel's house, before he took us exploring into the coconut plantations in search of the large and elusive coconut crab. There were many stories and pantomimed descriptions about the dangers of thrusting one's arm down into the crab holes, in hopes of pulling out a crab that might have a pincher as big as your forearm. Unfortunately, we didn't find one this afternoon. The boys decided to return after dusk, when hunting is much easier.

As we wandered through town, we noticed flags lining the main street. Locals told us that there would be a parade to mark the last day of May, which is a month of celebration for the Virgin Mary in the Catholic Church here. Amy and I decided to join in the procession. Just before dusk, we joined a group of 40 villagers at the home of the priest, where a service was held in the shed in his yard. We were welcomed (kissed) by many villagers, and the children seemed to be especially fascinated, as they stared and giggled when we caught their eye! After the service, the group walked down main street, following the six white-robed priests, and the alter for Mary, which was carried by two young men. After several stops to switch alter-carriers, we arrived at the white Catholic Church that stood proud in the centre of town. The church was filled with shell-covered chandeliers, and shells were strung together and hung throughout as garland. The mass was long, and mostly conducted in Tahitian, although there was also French strewn throughout the service. Not being Catholic, we weren't really aware of what was going on, but our favorite part was the singing. Not that we were among the source of the hymns, the music was even more powerful and vibrant than the tunes that we'd heard drifting over to the anchorage during each weeknight service. As the service ended and we filed into the street with the rest of the congregation, Amy and I, once again, found our cheeks to be the beneficiaries of much kissing.

After the service, a local couple invited us to their home for a barbeque on the following day. Even though we had planned to leave, we accepted their invitation eagerly, and decided to delay our departure to later in the afternoon, so we could enjoy a mid-day meal. Even though it was rainy and windy on the following day, our hosts insisted on a barbeque, and we arrived at their large home, to discover fish cooking on the backyard barrel and fresh, young coconuts cut and ready for us to drink. We were treated to a fabulous meal with coconut rice and poisson cru mounded on the table, alongside the barbequed fish and coconuts. Throughout our meal, Joanna took a special interest in John and tried to teach him both french and some of the local language. Tahitian is a very difficult language to learn and we're all struggling with even the basic phrases. We were also shown the beautiful shells that they cut, polish and fashion into various pieces of jewelry and artwork. Amy and I were each gifted with a very beautiful necklace.

We've now moved to a new anchorage. We're still within Kauehi atoll, yet we're now on the south side of the lagoon, which is completely remote. There is one other boat here, Mojombo (from Comox - www.mojomboexpedition.blogspot.com), but they are at least a half mile away from us. Yesterday, the boys practiced their newfound hunter and gatherer skills on the beach. They came back to the boat with a freshly speared fish. Because we'd heard that there is ciguatera (toxic) in this lagoon, we hummed and haaa'ed about whether to eat it, but since we have very little fresh food aboard, and no meat, we decided to give it a try. (The store at the village just happened to be closed all this week as he shop keeper had left town!) We built a bonfire on the beach, made a foil pouch of potatoes and butter, and cooked our dinner over the roaring fire. We tested the fish on our lips, waiting to see if they turned numb, but without any immediate noticeable effects, we all enjoyed our fish and potatoes. It's now the next day, and we can safely say that disaster has been averted yet again.

Well...must sign off for today. John has just dropped a wrench overboard, and all of us crew are now going free diving. We plan to leave tomorrow for Faka Rava...so our next post will be from a new coral atoll.

Position: 15°56.9'S and 145°03.8'W

Labels: visitors, French Polynesia, Tuomotu, fishing, food

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi to you both, We were told to "only eat the teenagers" to avoid cigatura. Seems to have worked for us!
Regards, Ankle Deep.

Shannon said...

We miss you guys! Thanks for all the stories, we (Ben, Shan & Lincoln and baby #2) are living vicariously through you!

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Hi - thanks for leaving a comment on the blog! Cheers - John and Naomi