June 23, 2011

The Downhill Run to Papeete

We're cutting it close. The Rendezvous starts Friday afternoon and we just exited the beautifully calm pass at north Fakarava into perfect trade wind conditions--15 knots from astern and long rolling swell. We expect to arrive in Papeete sometime Friday morning. I guess we wanted to squeeze in every Tuamotu experience we could--which we did
Over the past two days we've hiked out past a small lone motu then waded in knee deep water to the edge of the exposed reef and were overwhelmed with awe at the collision of water against coral. This is one view that the photos can't do justice to--but as sailors, we couldn't help but imagine how early sailors must have felt when they saw no sign of land and only frothing water before their ship hit the reef. After our hike we sailed up the inside of the lagoon--the channels are well marked but my heart still quickened whenever a reef loomed out of the depths.

Halfway up the atoll we stopped for the night and explored a copra farm on shore, then early the next morning we headed to the village of Rotoava--we were out of bread, milk, eggs and cheese (and a whole bunch of other stuff--but that can wait) but our main goal was to visit a pearl farm. First though we needed to adjust to roads, and cars, and while there were only a couple of each it took a bit of concentration not to get run down.

The pearl farm was interesting. They buy their shells fully grown--unlike the Guaymas farm, so the process is not nearly as labour intensive. Luckily we arrived at harvest time--so we had the good fortune of watching the grafter (the person who harvests the pearl then replaces it with more Mississippi oyster which makes the next pearl (a good oyster can go through four grafts--and produce four pearls in its life). Each graft produces a larger and larger pearl and only the best--healthiest oysters are reused. If an oyster produces a flawed pearl it doesn't have new material grafted in and is instead used for meat.

The process was fascinating and the pearls were lovely (although I'm pretty convinced the Sea of Cortez pearls are prettier). The bonus with these pearls is they are almost affordable--especially for the less than perfect pearls--so Barb, Jo and I all added sparkly things to our collections. I think we'll look quite fetching at the Mayor's cocktail party.

But now the Tuamotus are fading behind us. I have my tattoo to remember the Marquesas, pearls from the Tuamotus and more memories than I can recount. It is amazing how much we've packed in. A few days ago I was talking to Lauren-girl from Piko about when we first met. It was hard to recall the exact moment because Mexico seems so long ago. And so far away...

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Dean Cole said...

That sounds so awesome. Just listening to the Southern Cross and thought I would see if someone actually had a post about making the downhill run. Love it.

Diane, Evan and Maia said...

So cool, Dean. We played that song a lot as we crossed the South Pacific. Will need a new anthem for the Indian Ocean...