Loading Map

Monday, June 14, 2010

Still in Anse Amyot

I'm surprised to see that my last blog was written a week and a half ago, but life in Paradise has been keeping us busy.

We have been enjoying daily snorkels and/or reef walks and occasionally both in one day. I still can't get over the variety of fish we're seeing here and I continue to struggle with identifying as many of them as I can in our Reef Fish book. My new game is counting eels and yesterday I had a personal best of 11 morays including two little ones. During our reef walks John found several unoccupied cowrie shells to add to our collection. After one walk on a motu in the eastern section of the lagoon we dinghied out to a small motu with some pearl farming attached to it. We did a snorkel circumnavigation of the little island and it was very nice with tons of clams and live coral including a bit of brain coral which we don't see often.

One afternoon Gaston and Valentine took a French couple out in their work boat and returned with pearl oysters. The rest of us gathered on shore as Gaston split open the oysters to pop the pearls out into a small bowl filled with wet salt to clean them. We could see how labor intensive it was, but they ended up with nicer pearls than we'd seen in Kauehi. They cleaned each animal to harvest a nugget of meat for their meal later. They had also brought back a dozen purple pencil urchins. We didn't see what they did with the insides and they are now out drying in the sun.

The weather has been particularly calm and John ended up putting the rocker stopper out for a few nights. But the swell has been low enough recently that he pulled it back out of the water. We had a few days of lots of clouds and overcast rolling through with no appreciable rain fall. The last few days have been crystal clear and calm enough for several trips to snorkel while our friends dove on the outside of the atoll. I don't find these trips particularly interesting because most of the fish are in deeper water and there's not much nice coral, but the upside is that we've seen fish out there that we don't find in the cove. One day we snorkeled in through the pass on our way back to Nakia and saw a few white-tip reef sharks, a barracuda, and a free swimming octopus.

Our evenings have been busy with various social activities. There was a potluck birthday dinner on shore one night, happy hours on friend's boats, a lobster dinner to pay for our second week of mooring, a happy hour ashore with Philippe on guitar and Valentine on ukelele, and the big dinner on Saturday prepared by Gaston and Valentine to celebrate their wedding anniversary. That morning we heard the final squealings of a small pig which was turned into blood sausage and pork stew for dinner. This was accompanied by more parrotfish poisson cru and baked parrotfish in tin foil packets on the BBQ. The cruisers all pitched in with canned fruit, juices, and various bottles of alcoholic beverages to make a potent fruit punch, and we didn't get home until 11 PM.

John helped install a few new moorings with Soggy Paws and Gaston to bring the total to 13, with three additional spots sussed out for anchoring. Yesterday we had a high count of 15 boats in the cove, but I don't know if that's a new record or not. Gaston and Valentine have been hard pressed to keep up with the increase in visitors and the quality of two of the meals has suffered as a result. There have also been problems recently with getting gasoline, which is always a scarce commodity in the these remote atolls, and Gaston hasn't been able to do any game fishing this past week. About a week ago Valentine's sister, Liza, and her family returned from Fakarava to run the pension a few doors down from G&V's place. The next day four men came out to build a fish trap not far from Nakia's mooring and the area we snorkel. They come out multiple times throughout the day to harvest mostly parrotfish and grouper, and today someone saw them take a Napoleon wrasse. They throw back butterflyfish and others, and morays eels are speared and thrown out of the trap. This morning John was so upset to see them spear seven morays that he went in to talk to Valentine about building a fish trap the eels can get out of, but he couldn't bring himself to broach the subject with her. It's hard to watch, but it would also be presumptuous of us to suggest they change what they've been doing for generations.

Last Thursday John cooked a promised pancake breakfast for G&V. At the last minute their three French friends showed up as well. Soggy Paws was invited, and John was kept busy in Valentine's kitchen flipping flapjacks and cooking eggs to order for everyone. We brought all the supplies including syrup, but G&V preferred their pancakes topped with peanut butter and I got raised eyebrows from the French when I buried mine in syrup! Sherry and I did the cleanup while the guys went off with Gaston to fix another cruiser's outboard.

Yesterday, as a courtesy for all of their hospitality, a number of us sat through a two hour church service conducted by Valentine. Gaston and Philippe were the only other locals in attendance, while there were 13 adults and four children representing seven cruising boats. Six adults spoke English and everyone else spoke French so the service was conducted in French. There was lots of singing accompanied by Philippe or Valentine on ukelele, and Valentine read passages from the bible for discussion. Of course this was the morning after the big anniversary party so everyone's head was a little thick and it was hard to keep from nodding off!

You probably haven't heard that there is a general strike in Papeete where the international airport and the commercial shipping ports have been closed for a few days. We still need to get gasoline and are hoping that the Thursday supply barge into Fakarava with carry some. We will probably leave Anse Amyot on Wednesday for the short hop to civilization.