First Impressions of the Tuamotus
18 May 2016 | 15 49.21'S:145 7.13'W, Tearavero Village, Kauehi, Tuamotos
Top - Dee, Deb & John on the beach inside the atoll. Looks like paradise doesn't it?
Left - The "potluck tree" that we used to hold the appies for our cruiser sundowner party a couple of days ago.
Right - the pier and beach in front of the village. Gorgeous colours and perfectly flat water.
We've been anchored inside the lagoon of Kauehi off of the village of Tearavero for four days now. It's been peaceful with great snorkeling! I'll try to get you caught up.
First, a little bit more about atolls. We don't have these up North and they are so unusual that is important to understand how cool these islands are. Coral atolls are the coral reef that used to be around an island, except that the island in the middle has completely eroded away, leaving only a ring of coral as the island and water in the middle. Some of the coral atoll around the edge is underwater, and some is just above the surface by 5-10' or so. These are not small islands either, in circumference at least. Kauehi, where we are, is 8-12 miles across. Keep in mind, that the entire middle of the atoll is ocean and the only land is around the edge, varying in width from a 100' to a 1/4 mile wide.
The atolls that we will visit on this trip all have a pass to the inside, so we anchor inside the ring of the atoll! There may be big waves and trade winds blowing outside, but inside we get the wind but no seas at all. It's amazingly tranquil and gorgeous while the wind keeps things cool.
The ocean inside the atoll varies from shallow to a couple hundred feet. Just outside the atoll is about 4000' deep. The bottom inside is sandy with coral heads sprinkled around. These coral heads make anchoring especially tricky because even when we anchor in the white sand between the coral, a wind shift can wrap our chain terribly around the coral. Obviously we want to avoid that for lots of reasons!
At Tearavero village, here inside Kauehi, where we are anchored now, is a very small village with a couple hundred residents, two tiny stores, a very old catholic church, and not much else. They used to make their income from pearl farming, but pearl prices have dropped, bringing poverty to the area. Most have gone back into the copra (dried coconut) business again. The residents live a very basic existence, but are outgoing friendly, and love to try out a few words of english as we do the same with our french.
The stores are pretty quaint and really only have canned goods, junk food, pop, and beer. In other words, they are nearly perfect in my books! We tried some chicken flavored cheezies from Fiji today and loved them. Dee would like to see some more vegetables, but they are non-existent on these coral atolls. Canned veggies, yes. Fresh, not a chance. And, prices are very high because of the difficulty in getting things here. A can of coke would be $3 and a can of beer is $4. Food is generally very expensive except for pork and beans, of all things, where a large is $2.50. Yes, they are excellent pork and beans as well!
There is a supply ship that arrives, on some unknown schedule, every few weeks with some fresh supplies but the residents buy them up immediately. There is also a plane that supposedly flies baguettes from Tahiti twice a week, but it is broken down so no baguettes!
Even when there isn't much that we want or need, we still try to spend some money at each of these stores. They have a pretty poor economy and need the money much more than we do.
The white sand on the beach is all coral sand so it is incredibly fine and lovely to walk on. The snorkeling is spectacular with very clear water and 100' visibility on a good day. Much of the coral is dead, but there is still enough live coral to attract a wide variety of colorful fish.
Yesterday, we snorkeled several different areas, including a huge coral head a mile out towards the middle of the atoll. It rises up from about 100' deep and has great cliffs of coral tumbling into the depths. Fish of all types were everywhere. I must say that it was very eery floating above the deeper blue water off of the cliffs. I found that I would snorkel much deeper than I would back home because it just didn't feel deep with the clear water. We were snorkeling this coral head with John & Deb from Moonshadow and they both saw a shark. Dee and I missed it, unfortunately, so we are now down in the shark count. From what I hear from others, we will see our fill of sharks at the next atoll, Fakarava.
This afternoon, Dee and I lathered up with extra sunscreen and took a walk about a mile north of the Village. As the atoll narrowed we could see the tranquil lagoon on our left, and the open ocean crashing on the reef to our right. We did head over to walk on the beach for a while. It's gorgeous, but quite disheartening to see all the plastic that washes up from thousand of miles away. They should make anyone back home who litters walk these beaches and they will never litter again. Plastic containers of all sorts, flip flops, plumbing pips, and hundreds of water bottles are everyone. Lettering shows that the litter is coming from Asia and from North America. I've always had a hate-on for plastic water bottles and this really affirms that! It's such a mess and this is just one tiny little island.
Tomorrow, we will up anchor and carefully cross the lagoon to the SE corner where we will likely spend another week. There is no village there, just more motu's - the little islands that make up the outer ring of the atoll. It'll be a careful trip as the coral heads can reach up from the bottom of the lagoon all the way to the surface. They can be sheer towers so the depth sounder is no help at all. Eyeball navigation is king here and the key is to only cross unknown water in a lagoon when the sun is well overhead so we can see the lighter patches - meaning shallow water - before we hit them. It should an exciting day and we look forward to further exploration of our first atoll.