Mopelia, day eight, the atoll of homesteaders
25 October 2020
Mopelia, day eight, September 2
Chris from Le Pukeko, has been here for about a month. He and his family have gotten to know the people on Mopelia quite well. He explained to me how Mopelia "works." We had already perceived the rivalry between the Harry/Norma family and the extended Marcello/Adrienne family. The families compete to "claim" the cruisers as their friends. We have been careful to spend time with both families and certainly enjoy the hospitality that comes with it. Rava and Teraix in the south kept asking us when we would move south. They gave us the delicious plate of smoked fish and local beer a few days ago.
We moved south today and didn't do much else. I'll get back to the history and workings of Mopelia. Mopelia was a France Meteo, weather station in the 1950's. Apparently the French government owned all of Mopelia. This is quite unusual as we are told every atoll, island and motu is owned by some Polynesian family. After Meteo abandoned Mopelia, ownership was turned over to the local government administered out of Maupiti, 100 miles away.
The only way to live on Mopelia is to apply for a homestead and promise to produce copra. Homesteaders may not build permanent structures. We had noticed that all buildings are open air with sand floors. There are a few permanent buildings that are remnants of past construction but mostly uninhabitable. Walls are often orange "snow fence" with thatched roofs or corrugated tin. There is only one freezer on Mopelia at Marcello's. He has enough solar to keep it running. There is also a fuel subsidy for everyone here and many fishermen in FP. They pay about $.40/liter of gas or diesel. We pay about $1.40/liter.
Homesteaders are given 200 meters of shoreline and the land to the reef, per family member. Marcello with wife, two daughters and a son (not currently on Mopelia) "own" a kilometer of the eight kilometer motu. Norma and Harry have just 400 meters. The motu is about half kilometer wide from lagoon shore to ocean reef so these homesteads encompass a lot of land.
Another benefit to homesteaders is free transportation and transportation of copra and supplies. But they only get a supply ship once/year when they have harvested 14 tons of copra. We heard that Norma, mayor, is encouraging Piere to work harder. They need everyone to produce to get that supply ship to pay a visit. Norma showed us the communal, satellite phone which she has charge of. She keeps a book with records of who uses it and for how long. The homesteaders don't have to pay for their air time until the copra is sold.
We also learned that Marcello used to be the mayor but somehow, Norma wrested the position from him. It is a strange situation and vibe among some of the homesteaders. We are sorry to know there is some discord among them but there can be no doubt how outgoing and generous they are to cruisers.