Saturday, November 1, 2014

Four Days of Rapa

Rapa from seaward.  A very very romantic landfall, and the four meter seas helped with the ambience

I'm afraid that words and pictures are going to be stretched a bit to capture this one.

This is a place that I've dreamed of visiting for years, and now that we're here the experience is, as always, very different from anything that I imagined beforehand, and, because it is true in the particular details that we couldn't have pictured before, better than we could have expected.

The pace of events has made seeking out internet time a second-best priority.  But for now, sitting on the porch of some new local friends' house (he is just now coming in from a paddle in his pirogue…so we will pause this entry while I have a heartfelt discourse for a few minutes, mostly in pantomime) I get the chance to share these pictures from our first four days in Rapa.

The crew, ready for shore after two days at sea
The village of Ahurei
I'm glad Dad doesn't make me
do varnish like this
As I noted in a couple earlier posts, we were very lucky to find our arrival coinciding with the visit of the Hanse Explorer and the National Geographic crew that had chartered the boat.  

The anchorage of Baie D'Ha'urie is infamous for being an insecure place to anchor, and Martin, the captain of the Hanse Explorer, very kindly allowed us to raft up at the dock.

Not to be dramatic about it, but if you haven't been to sea in your own boat you can't imagine how utterly alone we were on the 300-mile sail from Ra'ivavae.  Just us and our boat and the big big Pacific.  And then suddenly we find ourselves coming alongside this small ship, and climbing the pilot ladder to get aboard, and interacting with a bunch of friendly strangers - what a transition.

The Nat Geo folks invited us to a little party on board that night, which seemed to set the precedent for involving us in anything that was going on for the rest of their stay.  Very kind.
And how we got up there...

And, I said "friendly strangers" just now, but that wasn't strictly true, as the Chief Mate of the Hanse, Madeleine Habib, is from Hobart and is friends with one of our great friends back there.  So it was a pleasure to make the connection with her. 

The Habib-Abookire Union of Seagoing Arab Sheilas
(can I say "Sheila" in this context?) wearing the head
garb, post-reception our first night

What's next - oh yes, the fundraiser for the local youth group that was being held by the community - dinner and dancing, for 3000 CFP a head, or about $35 USD.  A bit out of our price range, to be honest, but as it was for a good cause and everyone was apparently going, we would have been happy to throw down…except that, hearing we couldn't buy much of anything in Rapa, and not sure at one point if we wouldn't clear out of French Polynesia from Ra'ivavae, we had purposely used up all of our local currency.

But wait - not a problem.  Nat Geo was shouting for the entire ship's crew to attend, and Paul Rose, the Expedition Leader (I maintain that you can't have an "expedition" to a place that a four-year-old can happily sail to, but that's a quibble) very graciously extended the invitation to us as well.  

Why?  I can only guess that the Polynesian worldview is catching.

A table, somewhere under all the food

Poema, the trilingual Pew Charitable Trust Marine Protected Area
community engagement powerhouse, and friend to Galactic.  She's the one
who told us in Ra'ivavae that we would cry when we left Rapa
Lord knows what I'm saying to the poor kid

Eric, taking on all comers.  He holds his own in these situations, but at
the expense of sometimes being a little rougher than we would like
Ah, yes - and this is where I mention our pleasant interactions with Rueben, the Togolese public health nurse who is posted here.  He and Julie, the nurse on Ra'ivavae, have just naturally assumed that our family fell under their purview during our visits…a "you're here, you're human, if you're sick I'll help you, here, give this antibiotic to your kid, would you?" sort of attitude.  Very French, I suppose, and also the type of interaction that can provide a bit of unexpected comfort to traveling parents.

Rueben in conversation: "Polynesians eat too much.  Everyone here gets
sick because they ARE TOO FAT.  In Africa people die because they
don't eat enough.  Here people die because they eat too much."
And this was a good one…  Alisa tried to invite Jackye and Johnnie, a local couple who have been incredibly nice to us, over for coffee and cake.  This morphed into five adults and a child coming over for dinner - they always eat together, explained Jackye.  (Everyone has a Rapan name and a French/Western name.  The Western names are the ones we remember, go figure.)

We were thrilled to have everyone at the boat…except that we are low on "hospitality" food - we're doing lots of rice and beans and pasta for our family meals - and we can't buy anything here for a special dinner with friends.  AND we're out of beer and wine, AND we don't have access to the local foods that are the mainstay of the Rapa diet, AND Polynesians eat a lot, and when you feed someone you naturally want to give them a very good meal.  So there was a little pre-dinner angst from Alisa.  But we made do with deviled eggs and pasta with our last two jars of New Zealand beef and a cabbage salad and the many things that Jackye and Johnnie brought.  No need for concern - we all had a great time.
These guys are used to the ways of yachts, and they showed up dressed
warmly, expecting to stay in the cockpit for the entire meal
Our guests brought LOTS of vana - sea urchin roe.  A delicacy    
And of course we moved the party downstairs, where things are more
comfortable.  That's Martin on the right, the captain of the Hanse
 Explorer, making an appearance
Jackye and Alisa dressed for church the next day    
Elias before church - I love how this picture captures his wariness in 
a new village setting.  He and his brother are the leading attraction for
every kid in sight, and coming to a common understanding of what
fun play entails can take a little working out
The inside of the church 
And our little ambassador.  Parents were happy to let their kids try to get
Eric's attention throughout the service
Then of course there are the pare, the "hyper-fortified" ridge-top village sites that Rapa is famous for.  
More on them in a future post, I imagine.

Morongo Uta, one of the largest pare sites, and conveniently the
easiest to get to
And the view of Baie D'Ha'urie that you get along the way...    
Finally, I'll just note that we continue to have a great time with Lucie and Arnold and their boys.  Through the years we've heard yachties talk about being "adopted" by local familes in Polynesia.  This is the first time that that word seems appropriate for describing our interaction with islanders - these two just assume that we should be involved in whatever their family is doing on a particular day, even though our inability to speak French makes us pretty dull companions.

Eric and Elias and Armold Jr. and Lucie at Sunday dinner.  We really must
learn their last name.  Lucie is from Tahuata, in the Marquesas.  
Spouses from off the island seem to be in demand…the population
of Rapa got down to about 100 people during the post-contact
apocalypse,which is quite a genetic bottleneck
Arnold in their taro fields
Elias and Arnold Jr.
Of course the whole point of writing a "sailing blog" is to try to capture some larger perspective on the fly - to get, and share, some glimpse of What It All Means.

But I think Rapa will defeat any attempt to share real-time perspective…we're just going to have to live in this place as fully as we can in the short time that we'll be here.

Late-night party animal
More soon.
Galactic at the dock

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