We actually arrived yesterday. When I woke up yesterday morning we could see land. I could actually smell it on my midnight watch; the air was heavier, smelled earthy and a bit like animal. The closer we got the more beautiful the land appeared. The Marquesas Islands are the youngest island chain of French Polynesia, so they are the tallest. This is in comparison to the Tuamotus, which are only atolls now. The volcanic mountains shoot out of the sea straight upwards of 3000 feet. The peak under which we are anchored is masked in clouds. The hills are covered with mango, breadfruit, papaya, and coconut trees. I forgot how much I missed the color green!
We are now anchored in an anchorage near the town of Atuona. It is very small and everybody (except a few snooty French boats) have bow and stern anchors out so we don't swing into each other. We were greeted by friends we met in Mexico, and we are all the more closer now that we have bonded over the experience of sailing across the Pacific. Last night we went over to a friends boat for cocktails- how fun it was to talk to somebody other than Mom and Dad!! But really, Mom and Dad made great companions to make the passage with, and there are few people in the world I would make the passage with again. We also met another boat who arrived last week. They took 37 DAYS to cross. Ouch. 18 and I was starting to go stir crazy... I can't imagine going twice that.
Today we met Sandra, the agent who helped us check in to the country. She pulled up to the dinghy landing in her Range Rover, hopped out, and said, "Bounjour!" She speaks English with a heavy French accent, and it was fun to communicate with her. I immediately asked her about surf, and she said she has a friend who might be able to take me to a wave about an hour from here. There is actually a small break at the beach behind the anchorage here where a river drains out, and I think I might paddle over and see about catching a few ankle-slappers after I write. The water is 81 degrees and the air is 87....
Back to checking in: we drove into Atuona, which was a few minutes drive. It is a very small town with nicely maintained buildings, little houses with fruit trees surrounding them, and a few general stores. There are a few restaurants, although some friends told us they went to "Make Make" the snack shack, and 2 hamburgers, 4 beers and a plate of fried rice cost them $60. A bit pricey, no? Checking in was a breeze; the customs woman was friendly! Surely a first. I got to practice my first real French phrase: "Ou est la banque?" And they understood me! And I understood them! (because they pointed across the street and laughed.) Yes, I think we will get along fine.
The people here look interesting. Some look more European- lighter skin and hair, and others look more Polynesian- dark hair, dark skin, bigger builds. Lots of tattoos and the girls wear flowers in their hair. I only heard people speaking French. I am going to make flash cards and practice! I saw a few guys with surfboards who went down to a beach and were surfing a little shore break wave. Perhaps I will go surf with them one of these days.
Colonialism is a very strange thing. Here we are, in the middle of the Pacific on a very remote island chain, and people are speaking French. Every morning people buy fresh baguettes and croissants. There are French flags flown. You are greeted with "bounjour." And the country who colonized it is probably as away as one could possibly be on Earth. Weird. But, this place is awesome. Beautiful, warm, friendly... I can't wait to explore more of it!
In all honesty, I think I could be anywhere and be happy right now. The passage was not that difficult, we had good weather and wind, a comfortable boat, and made good speed, but I am so stoked to be here. Not only am I stoked, but I feel like I deserve to be here now. I worked hard those last 18 days to get here! Well...something like that.
Now Dad is recruiting me to scrub barnacles off the bottom of the boat. I need to learn how to curse in French. C'est la vie!!
At 4/11/2011 8:51 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 09°48.21'S 139°01.83'W
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