A month in the Gambier Islands

We’ve been enjoying the Gambier Islands for just over a month now and I must say I’m very comfortable here. The islands are beautiful – volcanic in origin and covered in lush green vegetation with small tranquil beaches on its borders. So far we’ve visited five of them, Mangareva (the largest and most developed island), Taravai, Aukena, Akamaru and Totegegie (an uninhabited island with only an airstrip on it). The islands themselves are surrounded by a barrier reef, making the seas here very calm, warm and filled with wildlife. The snorkelling here is brilliant and although the animals aren’t quite as friendly as in the Galapagos, there’s a huge array of species to see and I’m starting to get a little better at identifying them.

The best thing about the islands, however, is the people. The locals seem to be really friendly and although it’s a definite advantage if you speak French (we don’t), they are generally amenable to giving help and are happy to share their surplus fruit and vegetables. The other cruisers especially are absolutely wonderful. It’s been very easy to make friends here and there’s a real sense of community in the anchorage. Perhaps the fact that all the cruisers here have taken a route that’s slightly off the beaten track gives them a bit more in common, creating more of a connection with each other. We’ve had a number of parties on shore where everyone brings along some food and drink for a picnic. My favourite was a get-together in a derelict house with no roof – it created quite an atmosphere and gave us a bit of protection from the nippy wind outside. We explored another island at the weekend and stayed on our friend’s boat for a few days. It’s a very shiny modern catamaran called El Nido and is home to our friends Olivia and David and their two young children. It felt like going on holiday in a luxurious five star hotel with all the modern conveniences you can imagine, and best of all….. a hot shower! My first hot shower since March, I was in heaven!

Another good thing about Gambier, which I was pleasantly surprised to find when we arrived, is that Mangareva has it’s very own wifi hotspot which can be reached from Bob in the anchorage. Before our mums start wondering why we haven’t used it to Skype them yet, I should point out that the internet is incredibly sketchy! It usually cuts out at least once every 10 minutes and is even slower than the old dial-up connections – we’re lucky if some websites even load up their homepage before the internet cuts out.  Still, it’s better than nothing and it means that we’ve been able to catch up on a few emails, order a few things online and update the blog. Thank you to everyone whose posted comments on the blog, we’ve been able to read them all and are thrilled so many of you are keeping up to date with us. We’d just like to say welcome to the new followers and sorry we’ve not been able to reply to all the comments individually. Ryan seems to be the most talked-about subject in the comments and I’m sure many of you are still wondering what’s happened to him. Well, after having a plethora of medical tests in Tahiti it seems that no one really knows what was wrong with him. They ruled out appendicitis and even though they weren’t completely sure what was causing his stomach pains, they have given him the all-clear and he is currently on his way back to Pitcairn as I write. I’m thrilled he’s happy and healthy and although I’m sure his parents must still be worried that his condition couldn’t be explained, he’s not in any imminent danger and should hopefully stay that way for a long time to come! He arrived in Mangareva by plane a few days ago with Nadine, Andrew and his grandparents who were already in Tahiti. We never saw Ryan and Nadine as they had already boarded their ship to Pitcairn when we arrived on the dock – it was a very rainy day and I don’t blame them from wanting to be in a dry warm cabin. We did get to see Andrew and Ryans grandparents (Olive and Steve) briefly which was lovely, and got an update from them. We’re still planning on heading back to Pitcairn during the next suitable weather window and I look forward to seeing them again in the near future.

Anyway, back to our exploits in the Gambier Islands…. As I was saying, the internet here is pants! The bad news is that it’s taken me many hours (if not days) over the last 4 weeks to upload my low resolution photos to the blog – but the good news is that I have actually managed to upload some photos to the blog! So first of all, here are the photos from Pitcairn and our medivac with Ryan:

Our first view of Pitcairn - the first land we'd seen after our 23 day passage from Galapagos

Our first view of Pitcairn – the first land we’d seen after our 23 day passage from Galapagos

 

Pitcairn Island - a steep sided, luscious-green island rising out of the barren ocean like something out of Lord of the Rings. A deceptive sanctuary as it's so exposed to the sea and the elements that it's extremely difficult for boats to anchor here

Pitcairn Island – a steep sided, luscious-green island rising out of the barren ocean like something out of Lord of the Rings. A deceptive sanctuary as it’s so exposed to the sea and the elements that it’s extremely difficult for boats to anchor here

 

 

Us with Ryan and his mum Nadine on the way to Mangareva. All really lovely people, making the best of the difficult situation and an absolute pleasure to have on board.

Us with Ryan and his mum Nadine on the way to Mangareva. All really lovely people, making the best of the difficult situation and an absolute pleasure to have on board.

 

low_taporo

We met the Taporo VIII at sun rise about 120 miles from Mangareva to transfer Ryan and Nadine to the ship. It meant they arrived in Mangareva 12 hours earlier than Bob, closer to medical help if he needed it

 

low_taporo 2

Nadine and Ryan being craned onto Taporo VIII

 

And here’s what we’ve been up to in the Gambier Islands, again in picture form 🙂

 

low_climb to Mt Duff

We climbed the treacherous path up Mount Duff during our first week here. Ropes were installed towards the end to help people climb up the steepest bits. It took us about 2 hours to get to the top – I doubt we’d have made it at all if the ropes hadn’t been installed. We did the hike with Chris – the skipper of a catamaran called Ohana (which Alex talked about in his previous blog). Chris is English but has lived in New Zealand for many years. Now he is sailing through the Pacific towards Panama with another two crew members (Joe and Anthony) – all really great people who became good friends of ours.

 

The view from the top of Mount Duff. Absolutely stunning! Definitely the best view I've seen on this trip.

The view from the top of Mount Duff. Absolutely stunning! Definitely the best view I’ve seen on this trip.

 

Bob looks so small from all the way up here

Bob looks so small from all the way up here

 

A photo taken by Joe from Ohana during a sail to Akamaru. Hmm, I think the bottom needs a bit of a clean...

A photo taken by Joe from Ohana during a sail to Akamaru. Hmm, I think the bottom needs a bit of a clean…

 

This is Jessie and John cooking freshly caught fish on a home-made barbeque for the cruisers and locals at their farm on Taravai (an island with only 7 inhabitants at the moment). They sailed here from England in a 26 foot yacht called Sparrow. They’re now looking after a small farm on Taravai whilst the owner is away. They are on a show-string budget so mainly live off the land. They grow their own fruit and vegetables, go spear fishing, trap chickens and goats for meat, and make their own coconut milk, yoghurt and cheese. They even cook all their meals on a fire since they ran out of cooking gas! They are really cool guys and a real inspiration - we've started to make a lot of our own foods using the skills we've learnt from them.

This is Jessie and John cooking freshly caught fish on a home-made barbeque for the cruisers and locals at their farm on Taravai (an island with only 7 inhabitants at the moment). They sailed here from England in a 26 foot yacht called Sparrow. They’re now looking after a small farm on Taravai whilst the owner is away. They are on a shoestring budget so mainly live off the land. They grow their own fruit and vegetables, go spear fishing, trap chickens and goats for meat, and make their own coconut milk, yoghurt and cheese. They even cook all their meals on a fire since they ran out of cooking gas! They are really cool guys and a real inspiration – we’ve started to make a lot of our own foods using the skills we’ve learnt from them.

 

An afternoon relaxing on the farm – playing volleyball or having a drink, enjoying the excellent view and the even-better company

An afternoon relaxing on the farm – playing volleyball or having a drink, enjoying the excellent view and the even-better company

 

One of the local boys with Fatty the dog (yes, the name says it all!) and her puppy 'Sparrow'. Sparrow was born whilst John and Jessie were looking after the farm, so of course they named her after the boat that brought them there all the way from England

One of the local boys with Fatty the dog (yes, the name says it all!) and her puppy ‘Sparrow’. Sparrow was born whilst John and Jessie were looking after the farm, so of course they named her after the boat that brought them here all the way from England

 

A close up of the super cute Sparrow. I could honestly steal this puppy and take her with us! Even Alex has succumbed to her charm!

A close up of the super cute Sparrow. I could honestly steal this puppy and take her with us! Even Alex has succumbed to her charm!

 

Another afternoon tea on the farm

Another afternoon tea on the farm

 

The church on Taravai. Amazingly the 7 inhabitants here have their own church. John and Jessie even have a graveyard on their farm. Apparently many of the locals believe that this island is haunted and this is one of the reasons why so few people live here. Even those who come to visit will usually leave before it gets dark.

The church on Taravai. Amazingly the 7 inhabitants here have their own church. John and Jessie even have a graveyard on their farm. Apparently many of the locals believe that this island is haunted and this is one of the reasons why so few people live here. Even those who come to visit will usually leave before it gets dark.

 

Our first attempt at making homemade mayonnaise didn't go as planned. After whisking with a fork for half an hour we still had nothing that resembled mayonnaise - so Alex decided to make an electric whisk using two forks and the drill..... Well, it still didn't turn into mayonnaise and we were left with a rather uninspiring oily yolk beverage. We've since learnt that we were missing the key ingredient - acid (either lemon juice or vinegar would have worked). I’m pleased to report that our subsequent attempts have been much more successful.

Our first attempt at making homemade mayonnaise didn’t go as planned. After whisking with a fork for half an hour we still had nothing that resembled mayonnaise – so Alex decided to make an electric whisk using two forks and the drill….. Well, it still didn’t turn into mayonnaise and we were left with a rather uninspiring oily yolk beverage. We’ve since learnt that we were missing the key ingredient – acid (either lemon juice or vinegar would have worked). I’m pleased to report that our subsequent attempts have been much more successful.

 

 

Some might say that the most important day of the year is the 1st August. Also known as Yorkshire Day! This was our contribution to the celebration of a great county - a Yorkie girl holding a box of Yorkie tea with a Yorkie flag :-)

Some might say that the most important day of the year is the 1st August. Also known as Yorkshire Day! This was our contribution to the celebration of a great county – a Yorkie girl holding a box of Yorkie tea with a Yorkie flag 🙂

 

 

Preparing to leave the boat during a rain shower. Alex promised me this trip would be to warm sunny places!

Preparing to leave the boat during a rain shower. Alex promised me that this trip would be to warm and sunny places!

 

 

We had some very nasty weather back in Mangareva and even though the anchorage was very sheltered, we still experienced gusts of 50 knots. Two boats dragged anchor, including this one. This was a boat attempting to smuggling cocaine into the area but was impounded by the police - so it was unmanned, and careening across the anchorage towards the rest of us...

We had some very nasty weather back in Mangareva and even though the anchorage was very sheltered, we still experienced gusts of 50 knots. Two boats dragged anchor, including this one. This boat had attempted to smuggle cocaine into the area but was impounded by the police – so it was unmanned, and careening across the anchorage towards the rest of us…

 

All the men got together and managed to use their dinghy motors to move the yacht to a safe place. Everyone was looking out for each other; such is the community spirit here :-)

All the men got together and managed to use their dinghy motors to move the yacht to a safe place. Everyone was looking out for each other; such is the community spirit here 🙂

 

In other news, I found out recently that a good friend of mine will be coming to visit us in November, so we’ll have an additional crew member for 6 weeks! Her name is Charline, she works in ecology like me, but is also an incredible drunken dancer, crazy motorbike driver, very outdoorsy and French. She joined me and my family for New Years Eve this year in Bradford and had us up until 4am doing drunken dancing in my mum’s kitchen!  As well as being excellent company she’ll also be incredibly useful for communicating in French Polynesia. We’re both really looking forward to seeing her and maybe if we can show the rest of you what you’re missing out on, some of you might also decide to come for a visit 🙂