28 February 2016 – 6900 steps
Internet Access at the Town Hall
Breakfast 6:30 – 8:30
9am Lecture on Atoll ecosystems
10:45 First trip of 3 with barge to the Fakatopatere pier
12:30 pm BBQ lunch on the beach
3 pm Barge back to the Aranui
5 pm Polynesian dance class
6pm Briefing about the Day at Sea
9:30pm Aranui Band
Time to Go
I had not slept more than a few hours in the past few days so when I woke up, I hesitantly peered at my watch. “Oh no”, I thought to myself, it’s already 8 am. I had gone to bed just later than 2am after catching up on some emails using the ship’s wifi and typing out a few stories of my trip. My wife was in the shower and so I waited a short while not wanting to get out of bed. Knowing she did not have a watch or have any idea what time it was, I knocked on the bathroom door.
“We have to get going, breakfast is over by 8:30.” I called. “If we want anything to eat, we had better get going.”
She hurried out and finished getting ready while I had the fastest shower ever. In no time I was out and getting dressed for the day. “You didn’t get much sleep.” she told me. “I heard you come in very late.”
“I had lots to do. I’m all caught up now though.”
“Well, lets get down for breakfast, what time is it?” she asked.
“We have only 8 minutes left. We had better be on our way.” I was not wanting to miss out on the first meal of the day. Kirsten headed down to the dining room three decks below while I searched around for my key and camera.
As I was rushing down the stairs, I was careful to hold onto the rail. We were still cruising in the open ocean toward our first island stop of Takapoto. Just before I reached the dining hall deck, I saw my wife coming back up the stairs. “We missed it. The door is already closed.”
“What?” I asked, “We still have 5 minutes left.”. I continued down the stairs.
“Where are you going, the door to the dining room is already closed.” she insisted.
I was a bit frustrated. We still had 5 minutes left before 8:30 and I wanted something to eat. I struggled with the heavy door to the dining room to get it open. I wanted to see what was left for breakfast.
As I entered the dining room I was surprised to see that it was already empty, there was nobody left in there. “Strange” I thought to myself. As I went into the buffet dining area I saw all of the staff there with food set up on the buffet table. “Are they eating now” I wondered.
As I approached them, the server said, “Sorry, breakfast does not start until 6:30.” A bit bewildered I looked at my watch. Then the realization hit me as I looked up at a ship clock that said 6:25. I had not yet switched my watch back the two hours from my own timezone on the west coast. Breakfast time had not yet started. Here I was worried that I was going to miss out. It was then that I realized that I had only had 4 hours of sleep that night again.
A bit embarrassed I looked at my wife and said, “I think I’m going to go back to my room.” I walked out of the dining room doors past the people that were starting to line up in anticipation for an early breakfast. “I’ll come back later. Just as soon as I get a little bit more sleep.”
Following a short snooze, I eventually returned to the dining room for breakfast. Set out on the buffet table was a wide assortment of hot and cold foods. Bread and baguettes for toasting with jams and jellies. Silver dollar sized pancakes with syrup, scrambled eggs, bacon, pain-au-chocolate pastries (Chocolate croissants), watermelon, pineapple, melons, cold cereal with milk and orange juice. There were too many things to choose from and I think I may have overdone the delicious meal.
We found another couple to sit beside and had a great conversation. A variety of table sizes are scattered throughout the dining room with tables for 6, 4 and the occasional one for 2. Passengers are always looking to sit with others that speak the same language as them. On our ship, it appears that about 60% speak French, 10% speak German (and English) and 30% speak English as their native dialect. It is always interesting to get to know other people, where they are from and the types of trips that they have been on. Aranui passengers seem to be very well travelled and looking for a new, unique experience. Something that certainly is delivered on this cruise.
Following breakfast, we had the opportunity to listen to a lecture by Tahiarii Pariente. He works with the Teitiaroa Society that operates on the same island as the super luxury private island Eco style resort called “The Brando” on the island of Teitiaroa. Every Aranui cruise includes a lecturer that gives a number of presentations on a variety of culturally significant topics. Our lecturer is an expert in local anthropology as well as the culture, customs, plants and animals of the Polynesian people. We enjoyed listening to him for an hour talking about the islands of French Polynesia and what make them so unique. My wife and I joined the others that went up to him afterwards to ask him questions about his experiences and ended up speaking to him for another half of an hour.
After our long discussion it was time for us to head down to deck 4 to disembark the ship for our first shore excursion. During the lecture, the ship had anchored off of the atoll of Takapoto which is 20 km long and 6 km wide. An atoll encircles a large shallow lagoon with an outer rim of dotted motus (land) in the shape of the letter “O”. Because this particular island has no pass (entrance) into the central lagoon the Aranui 5 anchored off shore and shuttled us to and from the main dock that is protected by a rock and cement breakwater.
We lined up in the hallway at three set times that were designated by the deck number our room was on. As we are on deck number 7, we were in the first group of passengers from decks 7, 8 and 9 to get into the boats that tendered us to shore. The gangway down the side of the Aranui had about 25 steps down to the waiting boat below. We were instructed to file into the seats of the boat starting with the back row until the front was filled up. Once the boat was filled with about 40 to 50 people, our driver motored the 5 minutes to shore where we were greeted by a local lady with a basket full of flowers.
As the same brawny sailors that helped us onto the boat stood one on shore and one on the boat, I stepped onto shore. The one on the boat helped me off by holding one arm while the other on shore was there to help me by supporting the other arm. I really only had to walk of the boat that was moving up and down with the waves as they made is to easy. As we stepped on shore we were each presented with a flower to place over one ear as is a traditional gesture of welcome in Tahiti.
Kirsten and I made our way into the small village, taking a short detour on our way to the beach where a Barbecue was being prepared. The village was very simple with small houses lining the streets. We stopped by a small LDS church that we were told was off the main street by the local elementary school. There we met a few locals and 2 missionaries that were just finishing up a meeting. They welcomed us and even presented us with some beautiful flower lei’s. Just after we left, a young 22 year old man named Boban that was at the meeting came riding by with his bicycle. He was very friendly and talked with us as we walked toward the picnic beach which was located on the inside of the lagoon. It was a beautiful tropical paradise with shallow turquoise and blue coloured water on this side of the atoll. He told us about his family and life on this small atoll.
Once we arrived at the beach front restaurant, the island barbecue was already underway. There were grills cooking up three types of fish from the lagoon along with chicken, beef, sausages and pork. I couldn’t believe how much food they had prepared for the over 200 passengers of the ship that had just descended on their small island of 500. There was also salads, Tahitian style raw fish, rice, quinoa and vegetables that were likely brought over by the Aranui.
Following dinner, we headed back on the 8 minute walk through the village to where we had come from. Along the way Boban cracked open a few Autera nuts from a street-side tree. They looked similar to pine nuts and tasted like hazelnuts. He also husked a cracked open a husked coconut. The flesh of the coconut had a Styrofoam like consistency and was sweet, like locally grown candy. As soon as we passed by a tree of Tiare flowers, he was quick to pluck off a flower to present to each of us. Boban was delighted to show off his island and all of the simple beauty that it had to offer.
It was a short, 4 hour long stopover in Takapoto but it gave us a glimpse at what life was like on this very remote atoll. On the way back we stopped to see villagers and other cruise passengers gathered around a building located at the end of the main road through town. It was the city hall and everyone had a phone or computer in their hand. It was the free internet access that everyone had gathered for to connect to the outside world. We promptly pulled out our iPhones and within a few minutes Boban had invited us to be permanent friends on Facebook and forwarded us some of the spearfishing movies he had made of himself in the lagoon.
Although I had attempted to stay in the shade and covered up for most of the day I started to realize that I may be getting a bit of a sunburn. Before dashing from our room to come to the island, I had placed some sunscreen in my pocket but had not applied any of it. Now at the end of the day, I was starting to feel some sensitive skin. I pulled the sunscreen out and sprayed it on in hopes that it would at least help. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten to use it.
Much too soon, however, it was time to say goodbye to this new friend we had made on the island. He gave Kirsten the customary kiss on each cheek as he said goodbye before we headed back on our tender out to the Aranui that was still waiting offshore. Boats were shuttling passengers back to the ship between 3 and 4pm by the time the last passenger was on-board.
We had two hours to relax in our room before the 6pm briefing was to take place telling us about what to expect for the following day. I wasn’t interested in the 5pm Polynesian Dance class around the pool. The briefing was a very basic summary of activities taking place on the ship. The next day would be our first of two days at sea as we covered a lot of distance on our way to the Marquesas Islands.
Dinner was just as delicious as the day before. Kirsten and I came late to eat and were seated at a French speaking table. It was good practise for me to get some French conversation in but the lady sitting next to Kirsten did not understand any English so Kirsten did her best to communicate.
I was much too tired to stay up to listen to the Aranui Band in the Veranda Bar on deck 6 that evening. Instead we headed back to the cabin for some much needed sleep. After too many days of limited sleep, I was determined to get a full night sleep.