Friday, August 31, 2012

Island Life

Probably the only Yacht Club in the world where none of the local members owns a Yacht!
I had been planning to leave for Tonga today, but late yesterday Bob sent me an email suggesting waiting a further 48 hours to let some unstable weather get out of the way. The sites I use to look for ideas on local weather seemed to suggest it would be OK to go today, and indeed this morning I see a french yacht with a family on board is preparing to head west. However, Bob is the "Guru" so I am staying a bit longer.  But everything is ready to go,and I was mentally ready to go today so its a bit of an anticlimactic feeling to be back at the Internet cafe when I had said I wouldnt be back yesterday! 

The moorings were calm and protected for most of the time Ive been here but some of the large ocean swell thats been building up is now curling round the top of the island and making everyone roll wildly. there are six empty spots today. One of the boats to arrive  inn the last couple of days was "Brio" a yacht whose skipper and partner I met on the dock at Uturoa. They arrived here via Aitutaki and Palmerston islands, rather than Suwarrow, all of which are Cook Islands. Speaking of Cook, I read yesterday that when Captain Cook landed in Niue it was at the spot immediately in front of Sapphire. He wasn't warmly received and left, naming Niue "Savage Island". 

The other day I motorcycled round the entire island. Several things stand out - probably the most obvious is the depopulation of every one of the villages I went through. I would say for every inhabited dwelling at least four are empty and in varying degrees of dilapidation. Some have their windows carefully boarded up, others have doors and windows swinging  in the breeze, others are collapsed and invaded by shrubbery and vines.

Another feature are the Graves. Polynesians dont segregate their dead into cemeteries but bury them on family land, often out the front of the house, and often with a fence and even a small roof over the site. Some have flowers and various  mementos and decorations lined up, and a number that I saw had colurful windmills turning in the wind. The oldest graves are marked by a pile of coral rocks and an edging of rock, newer ones were slabs of concrete with concrete headstones, and the most recent ones, modern headstones of polished granite with an inset photo of the departed.
A very old family burial ground
Old concrete grave
The Latest Style
The other noticeable feature of these tiny depopulated villages, is that they all have a MASSIVE Church. The one in Liku, a village of, I dont know maybe 100 people, would easily have contained a congregation of  twice that number. When I went to church in Makefu, counting the minister and his wife there were 12 people in a church that could have held 100- so a congregation of 10. Other than the Minister and a small boy there was only one other adult male apart from myself.  All the women wore hats. But something quite wonderful happened after the service : we chatted to a beautiful young woman with a four month old baby and discovered that I delivered her, by caesarean section in Auckland 20 years ago! I dont recall ever before meeting an adult that I last saw as a newborn baby! I said "My word, havent you changed!" ( yes i know, I can be devastatingly witty sometimes!)
The wild  pacific on the north eastern coast, from a cave near Mutulau
Traditional canoes still widely used, stored in the cave, above.

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