Loading Map

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bliss Day 4

When Manihi called us on the VHF yesterday morning to confirm our dinner reservation at Motu Aito Paradise (www.fakarava.org) he explained that he had to go out and catch a big fish in order to feed the nine of us plus his four guests, and he invited any of us to join him. Bill, Dave and John jumped at the chance to do some ocean fishing since we haven't been fishing inside the lagoons due to the high likelihood of catching something with ciguatera. The grouper we see snorkeling are fearless because no one's interested in eating them, but pelagic fish are okay to eat. After a couple of hours they came back with a wahoo that Dave caught on a hand line, while Bill lost one on a rod and reel, and John did all the boat handling. Dinner for that night was on!

Some of us then went out for a quick snorkel of the coral between the anchorage and the pass. We first did a drift snorkel towards the pass but the current was ripping and we quickly got back into the dinghies and headed for calmer waters. We saw an eel and some colorful clams but the coral in general isn't in very good shape here. We all went for another pass drift dive/snorkel on the late afternoon change of tide and this time it was much better. The surf has come down over the past few days so the water clarity was high enough for John and me to see all the way to the bottom of a shallower part of the pass where the gray sharks were congregating. Not in the numbers that the divers get to see, but still fascinating. Along the reef side of the pass the fish were numerous and we spotted a large eel, the biggest barracuda I've seen, my first white tip shark, and three huge Napoleon wrasse. It was the best snorkel yet, and I stayed in long after my fingers went numb with cold.

We were back on the big boats by sunset to get cleaned up for a "night on the town." We took our own drinks in with us at 6 PM and Manihi made us all feel very welcome. He invited us to see the interior of his residence and explained how they catch rain water and store it in a cistern beneath the floor. He was born on Fakarava and raised his four children there (a daughter lives in Kauai with her husband and child, but the others are still living in French Polynesia). The motu was completely bare when he started building, and the trees he planted 20 years ago now provide plenty of shade and climbing adventures for his four cats (with a friendly dog looking on). We returned to the dining area where the table was set with tiare blossoms at every place setting, and the shallow water at the edge of the open air room was lit for viewing fish and small black tip sharks cruising in circles.

When dinner was served we were joined by a Japanese couple who had arrived two days earlier, and an Italian couple (from Pescara, Abruzzi) who had arrived just the day before. None of them would admit to speaking much English, but the Italians were game to try while the Japanese politely kept their own company. We sat down to a table laden with platters of cabbage and carrot salad, oven baked wahoo steaks, and beef bourguignon to ladle over the mounds of rice already on our plates. It looked like far too much food for all of us, but after seconds and thirds most of it disappeared. Our clean plates were cleared away and Tila brought out dessert plates with two squares of pastry on each. One was chocolate and one had maybe a coconut base, and both were tasty. Taken in all of its individual parts there was nothing particularly gourmet about the meal, but the unique setting and convivial company made it an experience none of us will soon forget. (And at 2,000 CFP per person we considered it a good night off for the cooks on each boat!)

After an early morning dive Soggy Paws and Visions of Johanna are headed towards the north end of the atoll today. Nakia is going to explore an area to the west of the pass in hopes of finding a new spot to anchor for a couple of days during this period of settled weather.