Friday, 8 June 2018

3-2018 Maupiti and Mopelia

Greetings All, 3-2018 Maupiti and Mopelia 7th June 2018

We left Bora Bora on Saturday 26th May after farewell drinks at Bloody Mary's Restaurant with Sue and Rob on Athanor. It was sad to say goodbye as we have spent many happy hours together in recent years. However our allowed time for the boat in French Polynesia has run out, unless we pay Import Duty.

The low 1.5 meter swell was perfect for entering the narrow pass at Maupiti some 25 miles west. This is a lovely spot with a small but well appointed village nestled by the side of a mountain which provides welcome shade by late afternoon. The water is a vivid aqua and the island is well protected by surrounding reef. A place where we could easily spend a few very relaxing days.

However the next morning, taking advantage of the low swell, we continued on to the atoll of Mopelia. A very peaceful overnight downwind sail with a full moon to light our way. We arrived early morning and waited for good overhead sunlight before entering. This pass is said to be the trickiest in French Polynesia because it is very narrow with strong currents. In addition it is not marked and there are breaking waves on each side of the entrance. Fortunately for us a Frenchmen anchored inside the lagoon saw us studying the pass, called on the radio and offered to come out and lead us through. As it turned out this man (Gilles) who lives in Raiatea has been coming here for twenty seven years and knows the pass well. He was a great help to us, boarding our boat and directing Andrew as he gunned the engine. Once committed there is no turning back as the pass is too narrow and the current too strong to turn around. We could see the sharply defined edges of the coral on both sides. The water was quite turbulent with lots of eddies but no breaking waves once inside the pass. We sailed across the lagoon avoiding the many coral heads and anchored at a lovely sandy beach.

This is the most interesting place as the twenty inhabitants are virtually self sufficient. They are all related and live dotted along the lagoon 200 meters apart. They each farm the copra within their area and they belong to a co operative that manages the collection, transportation and sale of the copra. A copra ship (also their only supply ship) comes once or twice a year depending on how much copra they produce. We have been told the atoll produces on average 50 tonnes of copra a year and the government price is $1.40 a kilo. Some locals are well set up with adequate housing, solar panels, refrigeration, a power boat and in some cases a motor vehicle or a bicycle. Others survive with fewer material things but are still blessed with plentiful supplies of fish, lobsters, coconut crabs, mango, coconuts and eggs from a colony of Sooty Terns living and breeding on one of the small sand islands within the lagoon.

We first met two sisters aged 30 and 25 who chose to stay here and continue farming the family copra plot after their parents retired and moved to Maupiti. I think this would be very hard work for women but these girls love living here and don't want to leave. They gave us coconut juice and a cooked coconut crab and we gave them some apples and oranges. The girls were educated in Raiatea and spoke very good English. They are well set up with solar panels and refrigeration.

We then met Jeane and Tuarae who came out to our boat to say welcome and gave us four paw paw and two coconuts. They invited us to their home for dinner the following night. Jeane is Italian and lives with Tuarae who was born here. They met in Maupiti two years ago and Jeane moved here to Mopelia a year ago to live with Tuarea. At the time he lived in a tin shed but Jeane has been cracking the whip and today they have a beautiful home. It is made up of independent huts. One hut is the kitchen with a gas cook top, benches and a small seating area similar to a family room. Another hut is a separate dinning area with a long table under a lovely high pitched roof covered by coconut palm. The A frame hut for the bedroom has glass windows and a door. There is a huge built in fire pit under the palm trees, and an outdoor enclosed shower area. They have a fresh water well but also collect rain water for drinking. Jeane has established a vegetable garden and although the soil is sandy and of poor quality she has introduced as much compost as possible. She is having some success producing her first zucchini, some beans, various herbs and a small but healthy looking lime tree. She is fastidious and their home is nicely decorated with coral, shells, photos of the family and hand painted flowers on the interior walls. She has a book shelf full of books and glossy magazines on the hand made coffee table. Jeane has also purchased some linens and scatter cushions to add a splash of colour. Taurea is very industrious, can turn his hand to many things. Jeane said she is not that popular with the other inhabitants as Taurea used to do lots of jobs for them but now he has to do all the jobs for her. However the end result looks like a movie set for The Swiss Family Robinson. At dusk we watched a blood red sunset which added to the beauty of this magical spot nestled under the palm trees by the water's edge.

The dinner consisted of delicious coconut crabs, spicy rice and the heart of the coconut tree. This has a delicate taste and is similar in texture to the crunchy solid part of a cucumber. I contributed a cake for desert and some cold beer, a treat for them as they don't have an oven or refrigeration. We had a very interesting night learning about life on Mopelia. Jeane was glad to have company and talked fifty to the dozen. This is rather exhausting as Jeane adds some French to her English with an Italian accent and breaks into Tahitian to keep Tuarea up to speed. The dinner was waiting on the table for half an hour before starving Andrew asked "Are we going to eat" Jeane drew breath, looked a little startled and said "Oh yes, eat, eat". Poor Tuarae who speaks little English gave up and drifted off to listen to some music.

Before we left they invited us for lobster the following night. However the wind picked up and rain clouds rolled in and so we all decided to postpone. Andrew and I took the boat a few miles away to the south east end of the motu for better protection from the wind. Late the next afternoon Jeane and Tuarae arrived at out boat with the promised dinner. Tuarae had barbecued a big fish, cooked six lobsters and made some delicious poisson cru, which was raw parrot fish soaked in lime juice and coconut milk. I made a big salad and we all enjoyed an extraordinary meal. They also gave us a dozen fresh Sooty Tern eggs and two more coconuts. The locals poke a hole in the coconuts and add home made alcohol to make a cocktail but we just drank the juice.

In the last few days two Canadian boats "Fandango" and "Pelorus Jack" have arrived. Jeane and Tuarea have been busy entertaining "Fandango" and we have spent time with Kathleen and Brian on PJ. Yesterday the four of us went for a walk and met Pierre who lives by himself and speaks little English. Fortunately Kathleen and Brian speak fluent French and Brian mentioned he waned to see how to hunt coconut crabs. Pierre took us to a shaded area under the palm trees where he keeps his captured crabs. There were a dozen crabs of various colour there each tied to a long string attached to a palm frond.
Pierre said the blue ones were the most tasty. He feeds them coconuts and keeps a regular supply for eating. Andrew, Brian and Kathleen went crab hunting last night with Pierre. Andrew said at night the crabs were out in the open on the ground and easy to pick up, just keep away from their big pincers. They didn't take any crabs last night, the boys were more interested in how they were caught.

Tonight we are having a BBQ and Pot Luck Dinner on the beach. Tuarea is out fishing now. We will tell you about this adventure when next we write. We are enjoying Mopelia very much, it is a beautiful place and the local people are very nice. So far we have met nine of the twenty inhabitants. It's a pity we don't have any internet access to send photos, but I guess the remoteness of this atoll is its appeal.

There is a big sea swell outside and so we are waiting patiently for this to settle before we sail 570 miles west to Suwarrow. We are not in a hurry as Mopilia is pretty good.

Love Candy xx

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