Vaitahu

Late in the afternoon, after seeing the Manta rays, a small powerboat came to us. Aboard was a couple with a son, perhaps eight, and daughter, perhaps nine. We had our usual language barrier, but they indicated that they wanted a small amount of gas for their outboard, and they would trade a short stock of bananas for it. We syphoned at most a gallon out of our tank and into theirs. They indicated that tomorrow we should sail to their town of Vaitahu, only two miles away, and they would have more fruit for us. Tim communicated that he would buy ice cream for the kids.

So today we did. The bay off of Vaitahu is even more dramatic/beautiful than where we were before. There are three other sailboats in it, and room for fifty more. Fantastic rugged slopes crash down from the clouds to the sea, but they are lush green, with coconut palms in all the valleys, and a tiny village at the bottom.

Tim and I took the dinghy to the landing (where you hope a stern anchor will prevent damage on the sharp rocks in the swells), and stepped ashore. There was the boy from yesterday, and a man who said that the boy’s family had gone to pick grapefruit (pompelmous?) for us. Tim gave the boy a box of snack/energy bars. The boy didn’t seem to know what to make of that, but as we all walked toward town we apparently passed his house, because he scampered up a little hill and ducked inside, and reemerged with just one bar in his hand.

Initially we had no luck trying to communicate with the boy. But he understood ice cream, and he led us to the store (no sign on it). As we were buying his treat, his family showed up with a bag full of fruits and vegetables. We tried to discuss where best to see mantas, but communication was very difficult. Until Cameron showed up…

We had been told to look up Cameron. I assumed he was a local, but in fact he is a surfer dude from Hawaii, who has spent much of the past 20 years in Polynesia. He seemed to be friends with everyone, and we chatted at length about the goals of the Blue Planet Odyssey, and whether or not there is any direct evidence of sea level rise in the area. (He says no, even though he has no doubt it will be happening.)

I asked about Internet access in the town, and he said, “Here.” We got the wifi password and tried it out, but it was even slower than what we had found in Hiva Oa. Certainly not going to support uploading photos; barely supported email.

Cameron let us know that the store owner was inviting us to lunch across the street. We hesitated, because Bill was still aboard the boat, but we decided this was an opportunity not to be missed. It turned out that LOTS of people were invited to lunch, including the crews of the other 3 boats (one of which was Cameron’s). What an amazing spread! Ceviche, whole raw fish sliced so you could eat it off the bones (with coconut milk, it was explained to me), breadfruit in a goo like poi (in coconut milk), cooked bananas, rice, grilled chicken, sausage, olives, nuts, mangos…

Luckily we had brought along one of the soccer balls that we carry to give as gifts. With Cameron’s help we asked our host if we could give it to his son. He said to give it to “all the kids.” Cameron said this could be tricky, but he knew which kids we should present it to. By now the kids had run off to swim, but Cameron walked to the landing with us and explained the gift to the boys there. The gift was well received! We had some trepidation about soccer being played on the edge of the rocks, but as far as we could tell no one got hurt.

As Cameron said, we were in the right place at the right time to get a real Polynesian experience — and it was quite a treat for us! We even packed lunch “to go” for Bill, plus took two mangos to augment our bag of fresh fruits. Back at the boat we ate one of the grapefruit, which was without question the best I’ve ever had. I can’t help but wonder, can it get any better than this, or is this the best day of the entire circumnavigation!?

6 thoughts on “Vaitahu”

  1. Hi Zeke,

    Just checking in and letting you know how much I love reading your posts, and I bet I speak for a lot of us out here!

    Thanks so much for telling us about your awesome day in Vaitahu and the best grapefruit you have ever had.

    Really love all your stories. Thank you for including us in your odyssey.

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  2. very, very cool. I love that you give soccer balls as gifts to the younger ones. Quite and amazing trade and welcome (for a few gallons of gas). Deep gratitude to you for sharing these experiences with all of us.

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  3. Agree! – pomelos (or as they call them here in Hawai’i by their Chinese name – jabong) are delicious – and plentiful – and always shared around as they are huge and seem to all ripen at the same time!

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  4. Look at the (long range) bright side. You now have a wonderful benchmark from which to create a multitude of night watch mind-games! Store as many full-color details as you can on your cranial hard drive….and enjoy.

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