Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Culture Shock

Papeete, of the fragrant Tiare flower
17 35.1 South 149 37.0 West

OMG...having a major culture shock having arrived in Papeete(Tahiti) and what is known as civilization. Lots of cars, stores, people, internet and tons of beautiful turquoise water/at least not at the Marina where we are, fish,sharks, and the quiet villages that have been our life for the past 4+ months. Going to the supermarket was like being kids in a candy shop and we have already spent $700. on treats, cheese , vegies, and things we have not seen since Panama in September..still have a few more trips to go. We are limited to what we can carry at once so this is a multi trip spree! Also, once we get back begins the long and tedious process of repacking all the food in our handy dandy food saver(vacuums and seals) and then trying to stash it all away in all our hiding places all over the boat(and I do mean all over).

We are sandwiched in between all the big yachts at this marina as we were luckily able to fit in a spot too small for anyone else...The number of really large (crewed) boats is mind least 20 or more over 100 ft/both sailboats and motoryachts. This really is a crossroads for all boats traveling the Pacific and I guess everyone stops here at some point. There are no more spaces here and there are not even any seems really busy! Nice to be on the dock for getting stuff on and off the boat...we are taking down all our sails except one for repairs and replacement plus needing some more boat supplies and all that food so walking the gangplank (they have us stern to with a narrow board from boat to dock) sure beats dinghying back and forth. Will also make it lots easier for Dietz'z and Zak who will arrive late Sat nite after a long, long, very long day of travel. Emma will most likely be in the best shape of all of them(tho' Zak is a really good traveller as well) Obviously we can't wait to see them. It has been 6 months(4 for Zak) and I know Emma will be a different kid. Definitely the downside of this adventure is time away from friends and family.

We had a wonderful last couple of weeks filled with water activities and social gatherings in the Tuamotus. Last I wrote we were at the South Pass of Fakarava where we spent about 5 days and dove and redove that pass as it was so cool. Went out with a dive shop to figure it out the first time but then just went on our own, towing the dinghy the other 4 times. Saw hundreds of sharks and really nice coral and fish and were able to get really comfortable with the concept of drift diving from our own dinghy(which is very nice to have right with you by the way as you have no way of getting lost from your exit out). From there we went to the town of Rotovai by the north pass of Fakarava and spent the next 4 days there. Also famous for its diving we arranged to go out with the dive shop there a couple of times...too far from the pass to dinghy and also more complicated diving as the pass is very fast. We did our first dive at a place known as the coral garden which was really awesome. Incredible visibility, and an aquarium full of colorful fish and live, varied coral. We are being really spoiled by these amazing conditions and loving the 84-86 degree water. Next day we went out early in the morning to the north pass and did that wild and crazy dive. They dropped us at the wall and we went down to about 100 ft. and hung out watching the sharks. As we came up a bit got into the current and were flying (literally felt like that with arms out and just ripping along) thru the water. I was glad that we had a dive master with us as I needed a bit of help manuevering with the strength of that current. Even our friends Dave and Sherry who are seasoned divers (Dave was a navy diver for his career) thought it was a tough dive...but cool! Went to the fancy hotel about 3 miles away to meet up with a couple from DC we had met (they were on their honeymoon and diving their way thru French Polynesia) the day before when we went to the hotel looking to buy gas. Once again our afternoon on the beach got rained out...we do so little beach hanging out that it is frustrating that it seems to usuallly rain just then. Had a number of happy hours on board with Soggy Paws and our friends from the boat Puerto Seguro, a nice young couple Maria and Estefan who are from Columbia and Argentina whom we had met in the San Blas and remet here.

From Fakarava we did a nice daysail (good wind, no swells) to Anse Amyot, an area that is a false pass/kind of a cul-de-sac-between the reef outside and inside on the atoll of Toau. This was an amazing place complete with moorings and the truly amazing hospitality of a couple named Gaston and Valentine who live there. They provide these moorings for free as long as you eat at their restaurant at least once in your stay. It was a lovely spot with good protection for 350 degrees/totally unusual for the Tuamotus. Lucky for us as the whole time we were there the winds were clocking 25-30 knots. Soggy Paws and Puerto Seguro joined us at this anchorage as well as 2 catamarans with nice French couples aboard. The diving here was quite easy to do on our own...Gaston has placed a couple of dive buoys outside the reef so we could tie the dinghys up and go down with no encumbrances. Beautiful coral, visibility to 100 ft and again lots of fish...but no sharks(kind of a welcome relief). Next day we were lucky enough to be taken across the inner reef in Gaston's boat and shown where the Manta rays feed. We snorkeled and frolicked with the rays (who measured at least 8-10 ft wingspan) and were blown away by that experience. They are weird but beautiful in the way they move...Gram posted a video on the blog for anyone who wants to share this exciting experience. We had lunch and then went out to the other buoy with Dave and Sherry to do the other dive here. Once in the water you find hole that must go down 200-300 ft. It kind of spooked me at first...thinking I would disappear or be sucked into the big blue (as in black) hole. Again visibility was amazing and there were tons of fish including a few new species to watch. We did this dive a second time with Dave, Sherry, Maria and Estefan and that time I was totally relaxed and really got into the depth of the wall/hole. Did see a few Napoleon fish that must have been 100 lbs...very BIG. Somewhere in here we had a lovely dinner with Gaston and Valentine (12 people in total with the French boats included)...lots of wine, parrot fish cooked in foil on the grill, LOBSTER which we had not had since the San Blas, and Poisson Cru plus garlic bread and a delicious coconut cake with choc. frosting for desert. What a treat and a very late, fun night. Our last night there I had suggested we do a pot luck dinner with all the boats and we asked G and V if we could use their place...of course they agreed and we had another eve. of good food, good wine and good company. Anse Amyot proved to be a simply wonderful stop and will long be remembered.

It was really hard to say goodbye to Dave and Sherry...after all we had been off and on travelling with them since Nov and pretty much completely with them since Jan. They are the ultimate in cruising kind and taught us so much...always willing to help and really fun to be with. They like to be as active as we do (which is probably not the norm) so we made the most of our time together and were very well suited to stay in tandem in that respect. They will stay another 6-8 weeks in the Tuamotus before heading to the Marquesas and then onto Hawaii for their winter. We will miss them tremendously and hope our paths will cross at some future date. I believe we will stay in touch which at least is a consolation.
Once we left Anse Amyot we had a quick 28 hr.passage to per usual it was windier than predicted and thus with more swells but that did allow us to make it in record time. So there you have it and here we in a much anticipated countdown of 3 days till we see Zak,Sierra, Rob, and our precious Emma on Sat. night.

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