French Polynesia, Tuamotu Islands, Fakarava Atoll
4 June 2020
Heaven, Purgatory and Hell
A navigation of 254 miles from Moorea, against the prevailing currents and winds to reach the paradise of the Tuamotu, the true Polynesian atolls, where sun, palm trees, coral beaches and turquoise lagoons have filled the brochures of travel agencies and helped to crowd dreams of all.
The navigation was pleasant despite the last 70 miles upwind and current pushed only by the will of our Oliver, but at 9 am, in favor of the tide, previously calculated, Ariel sumptuously put the bow in the atoll of Fakarava passing the easy pass. In the lagoon the sea calms down, sheltered by the dominant wind from the east, which continues to blow without obstacles, but the sumptuous wave of the ocean remains outside.
A few miles separate us from the north anchorage in front of the village of Rotoava, the only significant one in the belt of emerged lands of this great atoll, one of the largest in the archipelago that covers a distance between the two furthest far beyond that which there is between Bolzano and Palermo. An immensity of water dotted with small or large coral atolls. The sun at 10 is equal to our noon in a southern country; violent and already almost perpendicular, moreover without shadows, except that of the palms, dense, but not ubiquitous.
We are the only ones with Milanto and Sea Lover and another catamaran to compete for the mooring buoys managed and prepared by Andrè of the Yachting Services of Fakarava, a not exactly long-limbed Frenchman, who with his wife after years of sailing for the Pacific, they made their nest here. They manage the only pleasant meeting place for wandering sailors like us, providing home and garden with WiFI, laundry, e-bike, coffee and any other service that can be used by a tourist who arrives by sea, and not only.
Fakarava looks bright, without shadows, warm and sly, almost sleepy, deprived of the tourists fortunately confined by Covid to their home and providing us lucky navigators with images of the past. An asphalted road of 20 km runs through most of the belt of land emerged from the airport in the north, almost to the southern part of the atoll. A road built with funds from the French government on the occasion of a planned visit by the then President Chirac, which in fact never took place. But the road has remained, giving a touch of the West to a place where the asphalt was probably unknown before then. It was the year 1978, and so it has remained. The impression is of a tourist place, but now silent and asleep, green and white, where dogs, roosters and hens seem at first glance perhaps the only inhabitants.
Driven by primary needs, or by the heat and the blinding sun, very soon we find the only restaurant, if we can define it that way, open, where the owner, inveterate anti-Covid, (NB; here the confinement, ridiculous by the way, has just finished) and welcomes us without a mask, with a captivating smile, but above all with frozen beer and Polynesian-style raw fish, in coconut milk, explaining that the nuclear experiments of the French, from 1968 to 1974 made many more victims of covid, and still today, with leukemia in children and other chronic diseases in older children, they live the specter of a dramatic past. It may be for this reason that the French, gnawed by the sense of guilt, try to help the demographic increase by guaranteeing to future mothers, two months (one before giving birth, and one after), state expenses, in specialized centers in Tahiti.But it is not enough to heal the wounds of a past made of suffering. Our landlady lost her husband to the bombs, and has a leukemic daughter, which is why she still fights today to sensitize tourists, not to forget. Today we are the tourist. In non-Covid times, 4 planes a day arrive from Tahiti and two cruise ships a month to crowd the only road and ride the 65 now dusty bikes in a shed. But 2020 is a disaster. We are lucky enough to live here too, as in Moorea, an enchanting place without the screaming crowds. One of the benefits of Covid.In non-Covid times, 4 planes a day arrive from Tahiti and two cruise ships a month to crowd the only road and ride the 65 now dusty bikes in a shed. But 2020 is a disaster. We are lucky enough to live here too, as in Moorea, an enchanting place without the screaming crowds. One of the benefits of Covid.In non-Covid times, 4 planes a day arrive from Tahiti and two cruise ships a month to crowd the only road and ride the 65 now dusty bikes in a shed. But 2020 is a disaster. We are lucky enough to live here too, as in Moorea, an enchanting place without the screaming crowds. One of the benefits of Covid.
Stephanie, Andrè’s wife, has lunch with us, who we recognize from the logo printed on the t-shirt, who despite the navy blue pain cannot hide the signs of prosperity, although more than the breasts they affect kindness, smile, availability and ways to make us already feel part of the Fakarava community. Andrè and Stephanie become our lighthouse. We prepare 9 bikes (e-bikes) for the next day where we can discover every corner of the island (even if it is not appropriate to call it an island). The 1857 lighthouse, unique in Polynesia for those times, the Perl Farm, where the black pearl, so famous in these places, is grown, and the “coconut factory” where we discover that practically everything is obtained from coconut. Aside from avoiding it when walking under palm trees, as it could kill you if it falls on your head,for the rest they use it as a drink when young; coconut water is thirst-quenching and nourishing, then they use milk when it is more mature, to marinate fish and for other culinary customs, the pulp, at all ages, including adulthood (of coconut), when it falls from only from the plant, and no longer has water or milk, but only an old pulp, no longer edible, and then the profession of “splitting old coconuts” must exist, because we meet pedaling (fortunately assisted), these smiling characters who break the cocci to separate the corky and frayed peel, from a pulp residue that will be treated to obtain the famous Tuamotu Coconut Oil, a powerful emollient, healing, panacea for hair and skin, and associated with turmeric, an important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory .Nature at the service of humanity.
Now I stop because the computer calls energy, and even my limbs ask for the kennel, on this night of an almost full moon that makes the southern cross less bright than usual, but sprinkles silver in the lagoon.
see you tomorrow at Ariel
Paolo & Cecilia