"Can you believe there are places like this, with nobody around?" asked Alisa. "Look at it. Back in Alaska we'd never believe that you could just have a place like this to yourself."
The sun had returned to Amanu after days of rain and wind. The sun in turn brought alive the turquoise of the water. That unworldly color is the special effect that everything aesthetic hinges on in the Tuamotus. The palm trees blowing in the trades and the incessant boom of the surf on the outer reef do their part. But it's that turquoise water that sells the whole package.
There was a progression in the number of traveling boats at the various atolls we've visited: 15 in Tahanea, 30 in Fakarava, five in Makemo, two in Hao, and just us at Amanu.
We spoke to only two people outside the family during our eleven days there - the couple who warned us about sharks. We saw them driving around in their skiff for a day or two after that, and then they apparently went back to the village, out of sight at the other end of the atoll.
The village has the reputation of poor anchoring possibilities, and after our weeks at the darse in Hao we were a bit over trying to bridge the language divide. So we never visited the village at Amanu.
On our first visit to French Polynesia, in 2008, I put a lot of effort into learning some French, and I was rewarded with some great interactions that were sieved through my hundred-word vocabulary.
But I haven't put any effort into the language on this visit. Am I getting old? Are the distractions of work and writing and maintaining family life afloat interfering with the travel?
Or perhaps it's just that I sense it's time for Elias to take on the language duties...
We're good at being off on our own. As a matter of fact, we kinda like it. Our society of four is company enough for large stretches, especially in wild places. Solitude is the heart and soul of a certain kind of travel experience that we very much relish. In this hyper-connected era of 7(?) billion living people, time and solitude may be the rarest wealth - and we've had plenty of both lately.
Well, yes - plenty. After three months in the Tuamotus, we find the more social side of our nature eager for a run. We've met some interesting locals, but moved on too quickly to make friends. And we've met some fantastic yachties, but every single boat we've met has been going the other way, WITH the tradewinds.
I blame a general failure of imagination.
Gambier is our planned departure point for Chile, and in Gambier we expect to finally meet some boats heading in our direction. Alisa has been making noises for a few days now that she's ready to meet some people whom we might know for a longer than a single anchorage.
But first - the Australs. I have a very powerful itch to see the Australs, especially Rapa.
So this afternoon we left the pass at Amanu, bound for Raivavae in the Australs - reputedly one of the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific.
We drove Galactic right along the waterfront of the village, which borders the pass. It felt odd to be leaving in such a public way without having ever stopped to say hi. Sort of as if we had spent 11 days in someone's house without ever introducing ourselves.
Once out of the (very rapidly ebbing) pass we pointed it downwind. I poled out the jib. We haven't sailed dead downwind since we were a thousand miles from Tahanea.
The boys were generally crazy, as they generally are at the start of a passage.
Alisa and I were a little dopey, as we generally are at the start of a passage.
And I was a little grim and grumpy, as I generally am at the start of a passage. The responsibility doesn't always ride lightly.
In four days, or five if the wind is as light as forecast, we hope to find ourselves in Raivavae.
New places ever await.