Monday, July 21, 2008

Societies adieu

Well, we’re still here, three days after we checked out of the country with customs and immigration. (Don’t tell NOBODY.) We’ve been delayed while I finished revisions to the very very last paper to come out of my old job as a biologist for National Marine Fisheries Service.

We used our time in the Societies well, and we feel ready for the next leg of our trip. Most notably, the new oil cooler is on the engine, so we’re no longer running with a lube oil system held together with fuel hose and hose clamps. Tomorrow we’re setting out on the 700-odd mile sail to Suwarrow atoll, which in the fifties and sixties was one of the very loneliest places on earth and right now, from what we hear on the ham radio, may have as many as a dozen yachts at anchor. Oh well. Alaska really did spoil us rotten.

As I noted in our last post, we pretty much just put our noses down and took care of business here in the Societies. These islands still offer a lot to a traveler, good people to meet and beautiful places. But you have to pick and choose when you’re crossing as much ground as we are in our one cyclone-free season jaunt across the Pacific. And I think there’s great value in holding out for places like Hakahetau and Tahanea, places that retain some innocence in the way they greet outsiders. If you’re lucky enough to be traveling just for the hell of it, it’s good to have a standard for what you find to be really valuable. A standard that explains why one place makes you wish for a moment or a day or a week to be absolutely nowhere else on the whole spherical globe. Better to have the frustration of not meeting that standard over and over, and then valuing those rare instances when the standard is met, and reinforced, than to just be vaguely satisfied with every place that doesn’t actively piss you off. In other words, I would rather once stumble on a red-footed booby colony that I had no idea existed than a hundred times follow the directions in the cruising guide to the place where the tour guides feed the sting rays so that you can pet them.

All that being said, we did manage to work ourselves up to a little fun while we were here. A highlight was the Bastille Day celebrations in Patio, the largest village on the island of Tahaa, just north of Raiataea. Here’s our view of the village from our anchorage. The word that I want you to think of is “bucolic”.

I got these images at the day’s copra-cutting contest. Teams of three race to be the first to chop open a pile of coconuts, extract all the meat, and bag it up in a burlap sack. Imagine a Polynesian version of the log-rolling contest at an Alaskan fourth of July celebration.

And Alisa got these pics of the canoe races.

And then, of course, there is Elias. He is now just a few weeks shy of two, and filling our hearts variously with love, wonder, and toxic levels of frustration. I’ve got a lot to say about the daily renewed miracle of watching him blossom under our care. But what Alisa and I are really really excited about is that he crapped into the toilet today and yesterday! Love is one thing, being finished with diapers something else.

Here’s a series of pics of him playing with his little fishing set. The kid is mad for playing at fishing, and he is actually much more interested in processing the fish (“knife! cut!") than in catching them.

And so, faithful readers, another Once in a Lifetime sabbatical looms. It’s seven hundred miles to Suwarrow, which we expect to be blissfully deprived of digital communication, and then perhaps another seven hundred miles onward to Tonga, where we will again be In Touch. So a few weeks until the next posting. I trust that we’ll have something worthwhile to share…

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