After our wild ride through the north pass at Fakarava, it was a relief to enjoy the gentle sea state and helpful winds blowing us in the direction of Toau. With just the genoa flying and Lady Jane gently rolling along, we reached our destination by mid-afternoon.
There are two main places to park a boat here: through the Otugi pass on the west of the island, leading to the lagoon near Teahuroa – and via the ‘false pass’ on the north leading to Anse Amyot and our destination near to Gaston and Valentine’s restaurant.
The lagoon at Anse Amyot is blocked from the rest of the island by a reef creating a mini-lagoon, so it’s a pass without the drama of a vast amount of water pouring in and out. And it’s easy to navigate thanks to clear markers at the entrance. We hoped to find a mooring buoy to attach to here, but our luck wasn’t in. Unfortunately, we had picked a busy day with all moorings occupied and lots of boats anchored. So, parking was a bit challenging. We needed three attempts to set the anchor: twice in the shallow bit at the head of the lagoon (both time we dragged) and once in deeper water, where dropping 60 metres of 10mm chain did the trick.
Gaston and Valentine’s Place
Now safely attached to the seabed, we launched the dinghy, said hello to some of our fellow sailors who were flying an Ocean Cruising Club burgee, then headed over to shore to find Gaston and Valentine. It didn’t take much of a search; we found them chatting to some folks in their restaurant. After saying hello and booking ourselves in for dinner the next day, they invited us to take a look around their village.
Pearl farming finished a while ago here. We understand that to be a result of falling market prices and harsher taxes. But there’s plenty of evidence that it used to be a busy operation; there are pearl farm floats everywhere. We walked the length of the village from Gaston and Valentine’s place to the south, and past some cabins to the end of the beach. It took less than five minutes, including stops for photographs.
Something fishy going on
We called back to the village the next day to check what time dinner was being served (7 pm) and saw Gaston preparing Parrotfish for the evening. I would never have thought about eating something that colourful; it seems almost wrong. And it seems crazy to be eating a fish that has a reputation for being contaminated by the ciguatera toxin. But, as the local folks generally know their stuff – and a mass poisoning of your guests isn’t good for business – we felt sure they were safe.
Unfortunately, in a photographic blunder (in that both of us forgot to bring our cameras or phones ashore) we have no photos of Gaston preparing the fish. It’s a pity because it was an impressive sight. So, in an attempt to compensate for the lack of photographs of the dinner-to-be, I snorkelled over the reef and took a photo of a parrotfish that escaped Gaston’s clutches.
Dinner that night proved to be excellent. The parrotfish were both fried in breadcrumbs and made into Poisson Cru. And a server brought a huge plate full of lobster to the table, where Valentine placed us with some holidaying Swiss folks who had arrived on a skippered charter catamaran, ‘so that we can speak to each other in English.’ Very thoughtful.
We would have loved to have stayed longer here, but we had to get to Tahiti as soon as possible. Our water situation was getting annoyingly limiting (showers in seawater and rinse off with a little fresh stuff) and we wanted to fill our tanks. Staying any longer would likely result in a grim and malodorous situation for us and anyone in our proximity. The weather looked right. So the next day, after saying à bientôt to Valentine and Gaston, we hauled up the anchor and headed to Tahiti.
I’m sure we will be back – next time with a fully functioning watermaker. And we will remember the camera.