Saturday, April 25
We managed to get our visas extended and have finally left Atuona, and what civilization has a foothold here, including the internet, and so are communicating once again via single side band (and the helpful Michael!)
A three-hour sail took us to Tahuata Island and an almost comically perfect tropical beach-azure water, a white sand beach trimmed with coconut palms and lime trees. A memorable place to spend my birthday, which was an indolent day, finished off with an elaborate dinner and mango upside down cake prepared by the wonderful Tavish and Farlyn.
One of the first things we did when we arrived here was to get out the snorkeling gear. (We had all been longing to swim, as the harbour at Atuona was murky and rumoured to be full of sharks.)
Under the seamless blue surface of this bay-a brilliant confusion of fish that look like they have been doodled into existence, coloured in by children: striped, cross-hatched, polka dotted, iridescent, transparent, metallic, rainbow
Schools of tiny neon damselfish flicker like electricity. In the shallows over the sand, sleek little silvery fish dart back and forth in the surf. Once in awhile an octopus materializes then melts back into stone; a couple of black-tipped reef shark cruise slowly by. And all of it shimmers with the constant play of light through the clear water.
You can just hang there and watch it go by like movie, or dive down and let everything flow obliviously around you. I stare and stare, trying to memorize the shapes and colours until I can get back to the boat to look them up in the Reef Fish Guide, a surprisingly difficult thing to do.
Meanwhile life out of water is like being in an endless hot yoga class. But I am getting used to it. This morning, before the sun was too high, we climbed a steep slope to a summit above the anchorage, where we could look up the coast at a series of deep cut anchorages, some studded with boats. The land is volcanic, heavily eroded, densely vegetated, riddled with wild goat and horse trails. Coconut palm forests flow up the valley bottoms. Fairy terns whirl like scraps of white linen in the wind, up the ridges to their nests.
Tomorrow we weigh anchor and sail to Fatu Hiva, the southernmost of the Marquesas, considered one of the most beautiful and unspoiled islands (the only island without an airstrip).