Hop to Hirifa
Our original plan was to stop at Pakokota Yacht Services for the evening before heading to the south of Fakarava. We knew from our last time here that it’s a great place to break up the trip. But as we approached Pakokota, we could see no room at the inn – or at least on the mooring balls. So we carried on south. And by 2 pm, I was flapping around in the water, snorkelling on the anchor in the SE corner of Hirifa.
Hirifa is a popular place in a blow as it’s well sheltered from the prevailing winds. And, because it is so sheltered, it’s an excellent place to paddleboard, so we dug it out of its storage place in the forward heads and blew it up.
Over the next few days, we progressed from wobbly to tentatively proficient – regaining our paddleboard legs as we took turns paddling around the coastline.
We also took a stroll around the grounds of a long-abandoned churchyard. The current church is over to the west near the south pass.
Basil Fawlty in Sybills’s body
I’m pleased to report that the spirit of Fawlty Towers lives on at Tetamanu Dive Centre.
One of our sailing buddies at Hirifa said they could access the internet on their boat from the dive centre at Tetamanu and it was good enough to watch streaming services. That was good enough for us. So, we left Hirifa and headed towards the south pass, where we found a free mooring ball. After getting ourselves sorted out, we took a dinghy ride over to the dive centre to buy this super interweb.
We found the owner at the bar on the waterfront and paid her 5,000 francs (around €42) for a week’s worth of what we thought would be fast internet. We were to be disappointed. After connecting to the service and punching in the code, we quickly found that getting 0.25Mb was the sign of a good day. Recently, the service had changed to be accessible only from the bar.
If that’s not Fawltyesque enough, here’s another example: On that first day, we bought two bottles of Hinano beer from the owner. A couple of days later, we wanted more beer to help pass the time while waiting for websites to load using the gratingly slow internet.
The very nice young girl at the bar, looking very embarrassed, told us that the owner had instructed her that bottles of beer are only for guests – she could sell us only cans. I don’t know if the owner was expecting a sudden influx of people who wanted to stay in rattan boxes, but only two guests were there at that time. Eventually, we gave up on the internet; it was creating more frustration than it was solving.
We went snorkelling instead.
Despite its shortcomings, the view from that bar is stunning. It’s a great place to watch the Pacific sunsets and boats coming in and out of the pass. And sharks come into the shallow water surrounding the bar to feed on any scraps from the kitchen, giving a clear view of these graceful, and much-maligned, creatures. I never thought I’d be saying that about sharks before we set off, I’d only ever seen them on Jaws.
It was at this bar where we met the owner of the superyacht, Samaya, that was parked near to Lady Jane. I won’t disclose too much as I’m sure the guy treasures some degree of privacy and wouldn’t appreciate me forcibly ripping open his kimono.
But, we had a pleasant relaxed conversation with this unassuming guy about sharks, snorkelling, contemporary stuff like coronavirus etc. and found out that he and his family support many conservation projects throughout the world, most of them focusing on aquatic wildlife preservation.
As we left to get back to our boat, he suggested that we could come over anytime – even to use the internet. “I’ll make sure the crew know,” he said, presumably so we wouldn’t get turned away before we even got to the ship. Although very tempted to ask for a 10-course tasting menu with wine pairing, we couldn’t think of anything we wanted, so we didn’t go over.
Here’s the yacht: Samaya
And here’s a photograph of Lady Jane’s cockpit lights with Samaya in the background. Somewhat similar I think you would agree?
Nothing much had changed around the village, except there is no sign of the yacht aground on the reef last year. The local folks did a great job of dismantling that. The only indication of the yacht being here is the occasional cushion from inside the boat seen in the odd garden.
The photograph below is just on the corner of the entrance to the south pass from the seaward end. Although we don’t know for sure, the stones piled up in the foreground are likely to mark cremated remains. We see these in many places throughout Polynesia.
And here is the location of the new (it’s all relative) church in the south of Fakarava.
Despite our northern sense of getting good value for money and having more than three days left on our ultra-slow internet voucher, we decided it was time to go – next stop Pakokota.