There are still places in the world lie off the beaten path and take effort to get to. Places reminiscent of the old books and stories that inspired me and sparked my imagination when I was younger and set me on the path to get out and explore, this is one of those places. With the sun climbing higher in the sky, the green smudge on the horizon grew into an island complete with palm trees, thousands of birds fluttering and calling overhead and, on the northern side, a small pass, maybe 20m wide, leading into a turquoise lagoon. Its not an easy entry though, there is a river of water that flowing strongly out of this small break in the reef, like some mythical gate keeper who has one last test for those who wish to enter.
All the water that comes crashing over the reefs on the other side has to get out through this one small gap and there must have been about four knots of current against us as we lined up to go through. With the engine revving higher than I usually let it, Kuhela put her head down and made her way through, slowly we made our way onward through the deeper blue in the middle, while just off either side, the color turned to green in a sharp, definite line as the walls of the pass come up to just below the surface. Luckily its only a short pass and soon enough we were inside the lagoon and heading for the protected southern beach as the wind was around twenty knots and predicted to worsen in the coming days, it was time to find a comfy place to hole up for a few days. There were about ten boats all hiding in there, even places off the path will still have footprints I guess, but the good thing is that a couple of them were friends of ours and what’s better than sharing an awesome spot with good mates?
The island itself runs down the eastern side of the lagoon and hooks around to the west down on the southern end, with a local population of twenty and a supply ship that makes its way here every eight months, its far from busy and has that beautiful remote feel to it and a healthy lagoon, full of fish and an abundant population of sharks. Didn’t take long to get Kuhela all squared away and get the dingy in the water and go exploring, coconuts on the beach, meeting the locals and catching up with a couple friends off other boats. Was great to be somewhere more remote again after being in a few of the more populated spots, and we were all frothing to get in the water to explore and see what fish were around. The next day we took the dingy the three miles back up to the pass to go spearing and see what was on offer, and it lived up to all we expected. We pulled up just before the pass and did a few drift dives out through the channel, its like flying, you dive down in the clear blue water and let the current carry you out to sea. Gliding along, passing sharks, hundreds of trevally, large red bass and colorful parrot fish all darting up around and under the shallow ledges of the pass and, sitting stationary in the deep fast moving current like some huge aquatic bird, a large manta ray, what an entrance to a new spot. Just to the left of the pass the water slows down and there is an eddy there that you hold position and can spear in and the wall of reef drops away to deeper blue and follows the edge of the island around to the South West. In this spot would be the fish I was after, the dogtooth tuna that I have been chasing throughout the Pacific, and what a perfect set up for them. The first day was just to check it out, and we did see a couple small ones, I would come back with my bigger gun and heaver gear to chase them properly in the coming days. We did get a few jacks for dinner though, so good to have fresh fish again.
The locals were amazingly friendly, and more than once we were invited into their homes for a feast. Sitting on a beach, on a small spec of sandy land in the pacific ocean, fresh food and good people around, it was all as good as it sounds and more than once I found myself sitting on Kuhela at the end of an amazing day trying to visualize just where on the face of this planet we were and how lucky we were to be here. Especially being able to share these experiences with Adam and Joe, it means a lot to me. In preparations for one of the feasts we had one day, we went into catch up with a local friend, Taria, and he showed us his house and how he made his living off the Copra he sold, giving us a go at using the tools of his trade and having a crack at some coconuts, literally. Not nearly as easy as it looks. Later that night we went to shore again to get coconut crabs for dinner the following night and spent a few hours walking through the trees looking for these alien like creature. There like a massive hermit crab, minus the shell, and man are they strong. You know things were getting serious when the local crew stripped off their shirts and started wrestling one of them from under a fallen log. The thing was massive and I'm surprised there’s not a few more four fingered locals the way they were sticking their hands under that log, but they got it out and bagged it up and after getting a couple more slightly smaller ones that was all we needed so called it a night. With a bit of spearing the next day dinner was more than provided for and we all gathered for a massive feast at Taria’s house, accompanied by Tahitian singing, and Tahitian coconut beer. These guys love both of these things with equal fervor and was a great night and so good to share in the good vibes of the local crew.
The weather had turned on us a bit and we decided to move to the north of the atoll for better protection from the wind and to be able to spear at the pass a bit easier. The dog tooth tuna come up to the shallow reefs during the night so late afternoon or early morning are the best times to get out there and chase them. They’re such an impressive fish, easily the strongest I have ever speared, and easily pull my big inflatable float under the surface as they run deep. There is another challenge here as well, we’re not the only ones chasing a feed, the sharks love them, and competition is fierce. Either you stone your fish with a well-placed shot or loose it, simple as that. The first good-sized tuna I pulled the trigger on, I hit a bit a high and he ran hard off the edge of the reef, I had forgotten the power of these fish, and after a brief fight the sharks were on to him and it became a absolute frenzy of fins, teeth and tails, somewhere in the middle of that was my fish, or what was left of it. Impressive to watch, and even more impressive to hear. It took a while and a few more dives to find another one and get close enough to him, but suddenly he was there, off to my left as I fell trough the water and I changed my decent to move closer and all right over the top of him. I took aim and let fly and missed the sweet spot by an inch or so and he took off, but luckily Adam was close by with the boat and I was able to pass the float line to him to help slow the fish down as Joe and I worked on getting him up quickly. The shot wasn’t bad and took the fight out of him quickly and we managed to get him up and in board before the competition arrived. So stoked to have landed a good sized doggie, around 25kg and to have Adam help out and get in on the action too was epic. It was high fives and laughs all round and dinner was taken care of for the next little while for sure. We shared the fish around, giving some to the local family on the beach, and they used every bit of that fish, the head, the frame, fins, everything, they were so happy and gave us eggs and veggies in return. Sharing fish is something I love to do and I love the feeling of providing food for others with something you’ve worked for and challenged yourself with.
We took some time out to explore some of the island as well and came across a hatchery for the thousands of terns that were nesting here. There were everywhere, calling and shrieking as we walked around below them and the little chicks scurried away. We had to watch where we stepped as they lay there eggs out in the open on the rocks, and the chicks hide with their backs to you and look like little mounds of moss, until they spring up and waddle away unsteadily. This is when we realized where the eggs came from that we got from the locals, there was certainly no shortage of them on the island, and are pretty tasty. It felt good to be out in the wild and part of the larger processes out here, competing with the sharks for food, eating what was provided by the trees and the birds, it all helps to slow you down a bit, make you realize your place. We are not above what happens around us, we are simply part of it; all to often we forget that. As usual it was being out here with mates and the people we met that made this amazing place special, one night we all stood on deck as the clouds drifted past over head, a big moon smiling down on us and it was just one of those special moments. A time where you know you are exactly where you are meant to be, it’s a type stillness and a piece that is almost indescribable. We had all followed our dreams and were all part of, and connected to the bigger things around us. Swinging on anchor off spec of sand and reef in the middle of the ocean, a boat, good mates and surrounded by nature. There’s not much more you could wish for.
Soon the weather cleared and it was time to head on further west. This would be our last stop in French Polynesia as well, we had all ready officially checked out of the country, but there are no authorities out here to check anyways. To be finished my time in this amazing part of the world brought up such mixed feelings for me. I had seen a mere glimpse of hat it was I dreamt of all those years, it had lived up to my expectations, though there were things I would do differently and places I did not get to, it simply left me wanting more. I am all ready planning ways to get back here and now have a few contacts and mates to call on next time I'm out this way. I will most definitely be back.