Last summer we visited the French embassy in the Netherlands. The embassy didn’t want to process a visa request for Katia and told us to fly to Cape Verde to do it there. That was a waist so we started our six week crossing to French Polynesia without a visa. The gendarmerie there quit rapidly sends us back to the ocean. Two thousand kilometers to our next destination and we are not allowed to stop. The only exception is when the boat breaks; that is maritime law; so let’s keep our fingers crossed!
The Polynesian culture
The Polynesian culture is spread out over a triangle which stretches out from New Zealand to Easter island and Hawaii. France has colonized part of Polynesia which is now a “French overseas territory” known as French Polynesia. Generosity and an open door for sailors attracted seafarers to Polynesia for centuries. The French though seem to want to keep this door firmly shut.
All non European sailors (Americans, New Zealanders, etc) pay a deposit of 1500 euro upon arrival and only some nationalities get a 3 month visa. Katia with her passport from the Cape Verdean islands is apparently not welcome and only gets two weeks upon arrival for an area as big as Europe. What a downer. But we play by the rules and check out in time. Because of the slow bureaucracy we get an unexpected 1,5 week extra but after nearly a month we have to leave and set sail for the Cook islands.
Stranded on an atol
After sailing for a while we pass an atol. Unfortunately the boat broke so we anchor off a village for repairs. We walk a bit along the village street and a group of fishermen calls us to join them. We sit down with them and drink coconut beer and eat caviar. They give us plenty of presents among which polished pearl oysters and fresh fish. The black pearls they give us we return naturally as it is not permitted to accept them.
A crab which eats coconuts
The atol itself is the most magic place where we have ever been. An atol is a sunken island which forms a lagoon surrounded by old coral reefs covered in palm trees and white sand beaches. We enjoy the surroundings and give fresh fruit and presents to the people. When we get thirsty automatically coconuts seem to end up in our hands and our fridge is stocked with nice food. In the night we enjoy the local delicacy; a crab which feeds exclusively on coconuts. The meat tastes sweat with a whim of coconut!
Dancing in the moonlight
On Sunday we go to church and are thanked for our arrival. When I take Jago out in the night to make pictures of the atoll we make more friends. The people are grateful that they can see their island from above and we are towed along with a group of locals for beers on the small pier. We talk, we laugh and share drinks with the major, the post office employees and the village electrician who does not stop buying crates of (4 euro!) beers. They take us along in a luxurious SUV with loud music and we visit their houses.
The evening turns into night and a full moon shines brightly above the pier in the flat lagoon. We smile, we drink and we teach each other dances from different continents. Katia dances with the major and I with a Polynesian girl with a flower in her hair. At 4 PM we roll into our beds. Our departure will have to wait a day or so because it will be difficult to shake of this hang over. The boat is almost repaired so we will continue. We leave French Polynesia behind us and venture deeper into Polynesia.