Tuamotus – Raroia

Following our final departure from the Marquesas islands on July 21st. we once again found ourselves in the familiar surroundings of a deep ocean passage. The journey south of 750kms to our destination Raroia took a little getting used to as I had to relearn the movements of the boat again. Just a day into our trip we had a series of problems with our automatic steering system and reverted to the wind vane system and eventually manually steering.  By day three our luck had changed and configuring the sails for forward of the beam sailing saw us putting 104 nautical miles per day behind us. We needed to arrive at the passage into the atoll at precisely the correct time to avail of optimum tidal conditions. The passage into an atoll can be quite a treacherous stretch of water to negotiate with a small sail boat as tidal currents can potentially run at up to 8 knots. Thankfully Axel’s calculations proved accurate and after motoring for some of the final stages of our ocean voyage we successfully sailed through the pass and into what I can only describe as a glimpse of paradise.

Raroia is one of the 77 atolls in the Tuamotus chain of French Polynesia. We dropped anchor near the Tahuna Maru islet or motu as the these tiny islands are termed here. When we arrived we were the only boat in the lagoon and we had our choice of the many motus that form part of the atoll formation.

For our first night here we chose to pack our back packs and go ashore with our national flag to the Tahuna Maru motu and set up a camp on  what effectively was our own private island. I chopped down some small palm and coconut branches which would act as our mattress unto which we laid our sleeping bags. The outdoor skills honed in the forests of home certainly came in handy during this trip. Axel meanwhile gathered materials to fuel our first beach bonfire here. Preparations completed we headed further into the motu and paid our respects at the plaque and little monument, erected by the Kontiki Museum in Oslo, to commemorate the landing place of that famous voyage.  We then returned to the beach and toasted Thor Heyerdahl, Norway and ourselves with a glass of champagne against the backdrop of yet another spellbinding Pacific sunset. What a unique experience spending our first night of many here on this atoll sleeping beneath the stars in a place which is so close to the hearts of us Norwegians marking as it does the precise place where that epic Kontiki journey finally made landfall on August 7th. 1947.

One of our stated objectives in undertaking  this trip was to eschew the trappings of our first world lives together with all of it’s inherent distractions to enable us to fully assimilate into these magical places. This meant getting as close as we possibly could to the natural wonders that surround us and by living sustainably from the nature’s bounty. A perfect example of the former was waking up one morning on my bed of branches and sleeping bag to discover that two tiny chicks had taken up residence by my side. They had obviously fallen out of their overhead nest and gravitated towards the only source of warmth and company that they could find. That was yet another magical moment that I shall cherish for a very long time being so close to such sweet and beautiful creatures.

Whilst here we taught ourselves how to utilise what lay around us when it came to experimenting with using the natural resources that we found in abundance. Back home in Norway I would never have dreamed that I would learn how to correctly open a coconut, native style, with a wooden implement and discovering it’s culinary diversity. We enjoyed the coconut milk and Axel even made a cake from the solids. Becoming ever more adventurous we made our own coconut yogurt and cheese with a starter culture of kefir kindly donated by yet another generous fellow mariner that we met here. The next local cultural delight that we discovered was the breadnut which is the Polynesian equivalent of our potatoe. We really adopted this fantastic natural product into our diet and we fashioned it in to everything from a pizza base, various types of bread and my preferred variant breadnut fries – delicious !. It was most gratifying to be able to source wholesome local produce  directly from the producers, it really was an excellent example of food from farm to fork with no food miles in between. Taken with the abundance of seafood from outside the lagoon I thoroughly enjoyed my time here from a food sustainability perspective and the simple satisfaction of living from what we had at our disposal and in sympathy with the local culture. This experience has really taught me another humbling life lesson in how to live simply and holistically. 

As part of that, pared back to basics, lifestyle we so much enjoyed sitting around our camp fire and having cook outs on the beach. The arrival of two other boats during our time here lead to yet another wonderfully enriching  interaction with fellow members of the sailing fraternity. The Dutch crewed Zwerf Cat and the Dutch / US crewed See Saw arrived into the lagoon and we enjoyed so many beautiful moments with their incredibly friendly crew members whom became another part of our now extended sailing family. One of the most memorable nights of this entire journey came when the Zwerf Cat crew fashioned a large piece of wood into a makeshift screen and using their projector we all gathered around the camp fire one magical August night for a screening of the original Kontiki documentary on the very island where those brave souls landed precisely 72 years earlier. Those moments come only once in a lifetime and it is incumbent on us to seize that opportunity to experience them to the full as we may never pass this way again. I had, at once, feelings of both humility and tremendous Nordic pride on that occasion.

Life here is completely different to anything that I have ever experienced heretofore. A typical day at the office here would see Axel indulging his passion for kite surfing in the lagoon whilst I would take our dingy and motor across the lagoon to a random island, set up a workplace in the shade of a palm tree and work on my music and play in one of the most inspiring and secluded places on the planet completely devoid of any distractions. I would later entertain our new sailing friends with some of those new compositions during the course of several nights around the camp fire.

I cannot emphasise enough how much I have enjoyed meeting so many new friends through these impromptu meetings at anchor since we first arrived here in French Polynesia. Meeting them has been such a life affirming experience and somehow they have all become an inextricable part of our adventure and we of theirs. Seldom have I felt such a sense of being part of a common purpose and I must say that has been one of the most profound feelings that I have ever experienced.

Having spent almost one month here on Raroia the impact and the memories that this paradise on earth has had a profound effect on me and has influenced the way that I think about myself and my place in the world as well as acting as an inspiration for my music making and play writing. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to live a completely alternative type of lifestyle here and only now do I fully appreciate the words of Bengt Danielsson, a Swedish member of the Kontiki crew, who lived on Raroia for four years during which time he wrote at least two books on the island culture. He wrote  ” The Raroian peace stems from the fact that the people have no material anxieties and no other object in life than just to live ” . I cannot think of a more apt choice of words to reflect my feelings on my time in this truly magical atoll.  However as always we have other atolls to explore and we are set to leave here on August 15th in search of adventures new.     

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