There is good reason why the words French Polynesia can instantly create a range of sensations in the mind. These islands hold a exotic, mystical lore to them, made up of tales of legends, ancient explorers, great ocean voyages, deep blue ocean contrasted by towering green cliffs, the colors of the flowers that adorn the land and the people and the amazing strength that seems to flow through everything here. This strength and beauty is deeply ingrained in the culture here, it is the Mana, the life force, which one can feel while here and is part of everyday life. For myself, like so many others, I have wanted to come here and experience this for myself, and what an experience it has been. My time here has flown past though, and now that it is nearly finished I find myself looking back and willing it not to end. My writing while here has been limited, not for lack of inspiration, but rather due to almost an overload of the senses that has left me wanting to experience it and take it all in rather than try to capture it with paper and pen. Even my photography seems to have taken a back seat as I admitted defeat in ever capturing what I saw with my eyes with a camera. Hopefully I do not sound too dramatic, but my time here has been a mere taste of what I wanted to experience and have dreamt of for many years, it has been an amazing experience, and it has left me longing for more. All ready I am trying to think of how I can get back here.
Since last I wrote we have travelled to four different islands, each with their own distinct personalities and experiences, and all unforgettable. I have dived under deep blue water as a large humpback whale swam lazily below me, I have climbed to the top of mountains, looked down into the lagoons below made up of so many different versions of blue, I have surfed amazing waves with no one else but mates, hunted on the bottom of the ocean and competed with sharks for food (sometimes they won), and I have listened as the local people shared their legends and stories with me. There has been so much that I am struggling to remember it all and find the right story line to tie it all together. The thing that stands out the most though would have to be the people, the friendliness and genuine warmth of all those I have met here. It is the only place I have ever been where people in the surf take the time to go up to every person and shake hands and say I’orana (hello). People on the street pick you up and invite you into their homes and cook for you and take you to see their island. Every one says hello as they pass you on the street and there seems to be laughter in the background everywhere.
We got some great footage and interviewed some amazing people along the way, not just locals but other cruisers that are out exploring and following their dreams themselves and are just as welcoming as the locals to invite you on board and show you their boats. The friendliness in this area seems to be almost contagious. The islands themselves also have their own stories and their own feel. The different landscapes I have seen in my time here have all been impressive in their own way. The Gambiers, with their mountains, large lagoon and pine tress standing side by side with coconut trees. The dreamlike atolls of the Tuamotos, vibrant reef surrounding an inner lagoon where it is very easy to feel like you are alone on your own personal desert island. Tahiti and the Society islands, mountains rising out of the ocean to touch the clouds. Throughout all of these places the most amazing underwater life and waves are to be found as well for those who explore. You need years, not months to explore this area, I have only scratched the surface and in so doing refreshed my desire to know this place intimately.
The Polynesians are also people of the water, they paddle their va’as (outrigger canoes) everywhere, and they surf, dive, swim and live in the ocean. Their history and legends are interwoven with this element, their canoes are sacred and their understanding of the ocean and its temperaments and seasons are part of the very language itself. They are very much still the ocean people they were so many years ago when they set out in their great canoes to colonize this vast area of ocean we call the Pacific. We all sat in awe one night on Kuhela as our friend Poe told us the stories of her island, Huahine. How the god Hiro tried to steal one of the islands to take back to Tahiti where he kept his treasures until one of the other gods saw this and stopped him by throwing his spear and pinned the island in place, that’s how the island Moorea came to be where it is. She explained the language itself and how the names of islands came to be, how the history and culture was passed down through words and song. To sit there and listen to someone speak and sing of their culture that way and to see how alive and vibrant it was and how the Mana of the people still flowed strongly today is something that I admire greatly, and am so lucky to have experienced. This short bunch of words written here hardly does it justice to what I have experienced in my time here. I have not left yet and already I miss the place and its people.
Things on board are going well, its great having Joe and Adam here and everyone is learning life on board and getting along well with Kuhela. We’ve been doing a bit of work to keep her looking good and there has been a fair amount of joking and taking the piss out of each other. Its been great to have the extra hands on board and everyone is getting into the swing of things, Adam has even managed to keep his lunch down on the last passage, which to his credit was a bit of an achievement with the swell being beam on and a strong breeze blowing.
But the time has come to move on west, the weather has given us a little break to make some miles towards one of the other outer islands and we will take the chance to start making our jump out towards Tonga. The weather this year has been far from normal and my visa is finished up here as well, so between the two things life is telling me to make tracks westwards. Tomorrow morning we pull anchor and begin the 24 hour voyage to the atoll of Maupelia, a tiny spec in the middle of the Pacific ocean. There’s only supposed to be one family that live there and looking forward to meeting them. There are so many islands everywhere that I would like to explore, as usual the more I see the more I want to. I am looking forward to Tonga and to New Zealand and to what is to come, its time for the next leg of the trip and to get back out onto the ocean and to what life has in store for us.