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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

French Polynesia: Amanu

The pass into Amanu
The pass at the entrance to Amanu

The ocean passage from the Gambier Islands to the atoll of Amanu – some four days' travel north-northwest to where the large atoll Hao dominates the map – was as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. I only lost one meal to the fish, and we didn't get hit by any storms, but having already done one hugely unpleasant ocean passage (and a particularly long one too, judging by the reaction of the other yachties in Rikitea) I wasn't exactly keen on doing any more.

Navigating the Pass

St Paul's Cathedral, Amanu
St Paul's Cathedral, Amanu

«Non, la bas c'est la passe deuxième,» said Marerenui, shaking his long-hair and looking for all the world like a Polynesian Shaggy temporarily without his Scooby Doo. «Vous voulez la première; c'est deux kilometres au sud.»

A beautiful beach on Amanu
Everywhere you look on Amanu it's as pretty as a picture postcard

Marerenui to the Rescue

Marerenui and Laurent
Marerenui (left) and Laurent

That's when the speedboat came planing over the surf, pounding along with three brown-skinned natives bouncing up and down in a synchronised dance that's instantly familiar to anyone who has witnessed insane driving on tropical islands. We flagged them down, and in broken French I asked them about the pass. Marerenui, Angelo and Laurent were to turn into our saviours.

Amanu harbour
Sleepy Amanu harbour

Amanuan Hospitality

Mark relaxing in paradise
Relaxing in paradise

We showered and hit the sack for a couple of hours' rest, but I was rudely awoken after an hour by the arrival of another boat, this time heralding another type of native: the Gimme-Something. Most of the locals we'd met so far had been incredibly kind, handing out fruit and advice freely and not expecting anything in return. The Gimme-Something, however, equates 'yacht' with 'rich American' and pays a visit to see what he can get. The two Gimmes who turned up, with a young son in tow, enjoyed the tour of the boat I gave them in pidgin French, declined the offer of une tasse du café, and after some idle banter revealed their mission.

Fumbling in French

It soon became apparent that my French was pretty poor and I understood only a little, though luckily Hinano, Marerenui's wife, spoke much clearer and simplistic French than the men, probably because she was used to talking to her kiddies. Still, the French that I did have was enough for basic communication, and with a few simple inventions I managed to turn the language into my own communications tool.

Coconuts drying in the sun, on their way to becoming copra
Harvested coconuts drying in the sun, on their way to becoming copra
Rob standing by broken bottles on Amanu
Captain Rob on Amanu; the brown shapes near his feet are broken bottles

Saying Goodbye to Amanu

A coconut palm forest
Amanu is covered in coconut palms

Our final day on Amanu was a perfect example of the extreme kindness of the Amanuans. Marerenui, finding out that it was our last day, invited us to dinner again, laying on a wonderful spread of poisson cru (raw bonito in vinegar, quite a delicacy), chicken, rice, pasta, coconut milk and entertainment.