Volleyball, boules and booze
Our tour of the islands gave us ideas on where to go – and the places to avoid because they look too sketchy for boats carrying over two metres of draft.
Following the channel back out of the Gambier, we turned left near the northern tip of Mangareva and headed towards Anganui Bay on the western side of Taravai. The bay provided good shelter from the north-easterly wind that had just made a feisty reappearance. We snorkelled here, made a quick beach trip and visited our Ticket to Ride friends in the next bay. Later we all had dinner together on Antinea.
The handy guide to the Tuamotos and Gambiers suggested a good anchorage between the islands of Taravai and Agakauitai, so that’s where we headed next. This is also close to the village of Taravai, where Hervé and Valerie host a Sunday get-together and BBQ for cruisers. Just bring some food and drinks is the deal.
Maria and I took an exploratory dinghy ride over the reef between the islands and managed to pick a way through to the village of Taravai without tearing the propeller off the outboard. Then, late Sunday morning – too late to prepare anything for the Sunday get-together – Bertrand and Pascale went to the village to buy one of Valerie’s unique sand paintings.
Shortly afterwards, they returned and told us that, despite our lack of culinary contributions, we were all invited to Hervé and Valerie’s get-together. We just needed to bring drinks. So we hastily threw some beer and wine in a bag with cash and cameras and followed Antinea’s dinghy over the reef using a better route, suggested by Hervé, hugging the Taravai coastline.
When we arrived, Hervé helped pull our dinghy up the beach.
Amongst all us softies choosing not to risk coming into the village anchorage were the crew and their friends from a charter catamaran brave enough – or with a draft shallow enough – not to worry about clobbering their keel on a bommie as they came into the bay.
Hervé and Valerie have been doing this for over 15 years, and both speak excellent English – and French, of course.
The food was excellent. The cake below is a contribution from the catamaran anchored in the village bay.
Traditional games at these get-togethers are pétanque and volleyball. Maria did well and delivered the boules with style and panache. And I played my first volleyball game as a very late starter.
Valerie and Hervé came over to our anchorage the next day to deliver the fruit and pork we asked them for the previous day. The payment was in wine, but it is better to pay by cash for various reasons. And given the price of wine in French Polynesia, it works out to be a much better deal.
Hervé told Bertrand that Tokorua, on the outer fringes of the Gambier, offers the best snorkelling in the west. So, on the next calm day, we left our anchorage between the islands and headed there.
Antinea arrived before us, and Pascale and Bertrand were first in the water hunting for parrot fish for dinner (they might have been successful if the shark hadn’t got there first).
The water is much clearer here than around Taravai, so it is well worth a look if the weather conditions are right. But, as we were parked very close to each other and surrounded by coral heads, we decided to leave Antinea to it and headed back east to another bay in Taravai for the night – Onemea – where we had the bay to ourselves.
The airport anchorage on the eastern fringes of the Gambier is another spot worth visiting. And, near Totegegie, there is a ‘hole’ where there’s a lot of room to anchor away from coral heads. And that’s where we headed the next day.
The best snorkelling here is at the false pass south of the airport. The ocean side offers clear water, and the coral here is in great shape. There are white-tip and black-tip reef sharks, parrot fish, butterfly fish, grouper, wrasse and several other tropical reef fish to see. Unfortunately, my GoPro camera chose this moment to fail, so there are no underwater photos.
We stayed a couple of days before heading back to Rikitea before the wind became too strong.
Afternoon tea, dead bodies and searching for lunch
Back in Rikitea, we invited our French friends to savour haute cuisine, without much of the haute, in the form of an English afternoon tea of scones served with jam and cream.
And on Saturday, after disposing of our rubbish at the waste disposal plant, Maria and I set off to Jojos to meet Bertrand and Pascale for lunch.
The photo below has nothing to do with the restaurant; it was taken near the waste plant. But I appreciate the creative use of old oil drums as moulds to make mooring blocks – or “Corps Mort” – for pearl farm installations.
There is a bit of a theme here – and it isn’t the exclusive domain of Jojos: you can’t pin things down. Despite Bertrand earlier confirming with Jojos that they are open for lunch on Saturday, when we arrived, they were shutting up shop. They were only open for breakfast.
But help was at hand.
An unexpected BBQ
When two local guys, sat at a table drinking cans of Hinano beer, overheard our plight, they invited us for a BBQ at one of their houses.
Some may think that’s a bit dodgy, or there’ll be a price to pay. But no. Those two wanted to extend a (slightly tipsy) welcome to us and, simultaneously, make it into a bit of a party.
So we bought some beer, climbed back into our dinghies, and set off on the hunt for the house, following the vague directions they gave us. Eventually, we spotted someone waving from the shoreline, so we headed towards shore where our new, and even tipsier, friends helped us tie up.
Like many places in French Polynesia, there’s a high degree of self-sufficiency. Coconuts are everywhere, and one of our hosts gave Maria and Pascale a practical lesson on how to grate them to make coconut milk while the other plied Bertrand and me with beer.
They had caught fish (soldier fish, I think) during the last full moon; the chicken on the BBQ was one of their own, and the coconut milk that Maria and Pascale contributed towards was used to make poisson cru.
Another local joined the party. His father owns one of the pearl farms, and he offered to pick us up the next day to show us how they attach the collectors in the farm installations. The deal was that we bring snorkels, masks, towels and cash so we could later buy some pearls. But, referring to my previous observation – it didn’t happen.
The food was excellent, and our hosts a lot of fun. Although I think Maria regretted the offer of a dance with our host – it was a bit more lively and hip-thrusting than she bargained for.
Last days in the Gambier
Bertrand and Pascale were leaving before us, and we weren’t going to see them again for a while. They were off to the Tuamotus and us to the Marquesas. So we invited them to dinner.
The next day we headed over to Rikitea Yacht Services to pay for the petrol they delivered to our boat the previous night.
Titouan and Juliette are expanding their services to include honey production. And, towards that goal, Titouan has been attending an apiary course to get the necessary accreditation – and they have started a hive on their grounds. We tried some of their honey straight from the honeycomb, which was delicious.
We found the shops more full of fruit and vegetables than usual, including comedy-sized versions of carrots and cucumbers. Whether their size has anything to do with nuclear-enriched soil from detonating bombs over Mururoa, one can only speculate – but these looked like they belonged in a grower’s contest.
After stocking up with our nuclear-powered vegetables and some fish, we headed west of Taravai – back to Onemea bay – where we had the anchorage to ourselves again. At least for a while until Silke on Ocean Maiden arrived with Breakaway, who we helped with extra water due to their broken water maker.
We continued to track the weather for our trip to the Marquesas, keeping a close eye on CAPE activity (possibility of lightning) and wave height and direction. And on 30th January, all was looking good, so we headed off to Fatu Hiva.
Next, we sail to the Bay of Virgins, buy his and hers tikis and get caught with a 40+ knot blast of wind.