Welcome to Rangiroa
April 12, 2011
We arrived on the atoll of Rangiroa (“long sky” or “vast heavenly skies”), or Rairoa (one of the old names here), this past Friday (April 8). Rangiroa is one of the largest atolls in the world, and located in the Tuamotu Archipelago, just a one-hour flight northeast of Tahiti. Our village is called Tiputa and you have to take a boat across the pass from the main atoll to get here. Our house is situated at 14° 58″S 147° 37″W (we have our GPS ☺).
Here on Rairoa, from the moment one steps off the airplane, you are immediately struck by the quiet and easy pace of life. A definite calm prevails and life slows down... Patience is a virtue. Maeva! (Welcome!)
The spectacular colors of the atoll, as well as the immense sea with all its dramatic shades of blue, immediately strikes your eyes and all senses begin to open. The warmth of the water and the people are very apparent as everyone waves “Bon Jour” or “Iaorana” as you pass by. The stars at night are brilliant pearls and one can’t help but marvel the immensity of nature at its finest.
Our little simple house, just on the outskirts of Tiputa, is named “Raai” and is surrounded by many varieties of coconut trees (Cocos nucifera) sweet fragrant Tiare (Gardenia taitensis), Noni (genus Morinda), Purau (Hau or Hibiscus tiliaceus), and Tou (Kou or Cordia subcordata). We are situated on the family lands of Taumihau that stretches (one hectare) across the atoll from the Pacific Ocean to the large lagoon. Our front yard is adjacent to a beautiful calm coral beach and our back yard the more aggressive Pacific Ocean.
We have been fortunate to make friends quickly here with the family who cares for this land. We have been befriended by Arthur and Lisette Nouveau, as well as their nephew Te‘anoanoa and his wife Jenny, who are relatives of Lynda Taumihau (our wonderful landlord and new friend who currently lives in Pape‘ete). We are very fortunate to have been introduced to Lynda through my friend Heidy Baumgartner-Lesage who is a cultural historian and lives in Tahiti. Lynda is also generously sending us a refrigerator that will arrive on the barge from Pape‘ete tomorrow.
Our new Tiputa village friends have patiently explained to us the local store etiquettes, which include how to get your bread everyday, as well as the barge schedules for fresh fruits and vegetables coming from the Marquesas (which I find very interesting because the time that I spent in the Marquesas everything came on the barge from Tahiti). The village of Tiputa (we’re told it’s about 500 people) wakes up and begins to become active at around 5am each morning. You need to do your shopping for the day at this time or else you will suffer (and no bread!). We have been fed freshly cooked uru (ulu or breadfruit Artocarpus altilis), fried corned-beef, and heaps of poisson cru Paati (raw parrot-fish [“uhu” in Hawaiian, or Scarus sp.] salad, but all kinds of fish are used with this dish, sort of like ceviche made with coconut milk, lime, garlic and onion - but there are several styles) and we are now addicted to their diet. We were invited to a picnic by the Nouveau's the second day we were here.
I am mesmerized with the way of life here in Rairoa. Everything revolves around the ocean. The sun is very strong and I have to be extra careful not to “crispy-burn!” The season of uru (breadfruit) has just finished (dommage!!! too bad....), yet our friends, the Nouveau’s, managed to find the last two left on their more than 100-year old tree for us!
We have met one of the boss fishermen, Teuira (who locals say resembles Yul Brenner!). His bright smiling face draws you in immediately and he has invited the Nouveau’s and us for a four-day fishing trip out on the motus (we plan to write about this later).
Randy is now known here as Nāwa‘a (“of the canoe” - which is one of his mother’s family names). Canoes are a way of life in the atolls. Yesterday we met and had lunch with Captain Punua of the voyaging canoe “Tahiti Nui Freedom.” This canoe recently voyaged from Tahiti to China and back. Punua is now considering starting the “Rangiroa Voyaging Society.” He spoke of his plans to build a 45-foot voyaging canoe to first train the people of Rairoa and then expand to train other Polynesian islanders. While the canoe is being built he wants to establish a fleet of lagoon sailing canoes to begin training. Punua has invited us over to his motu next week to brainstorm. The immensity of the Rairoa lagoon is a stunning training ground to introduce people to the principles of ocean life. Nāwa‘a has also learned that the atoll of Kaukura is the home of superb builders of traditional lagoon sailing canoes, and he is considering a visit soon.
The copra (for the production of coconut oil) boat is in the village now collecting the large sacks of dried coconut. Years ago, a boat used to travel around the different motu (little islands) to pick-up these sacks, but are no longer doing this. The people now have to bring their dried copra to the docks for shipment. This adds additional hardship to an already difficult life. We can certainly see the signs of this industry coming to an end.
Nāwa‘a is swimming farther and deeper now as each day goes by and is preparing his fishing gear to supplement our meals. One cannot usually buy fish in the store (although we've seen frozen fish at the store in Avatoru) - you have to get it yourself and the locals will sometimes laugh at you if you ask (ha!) or sell you a fish someone in their family caught that day...
A local dog quickly adopted us and keeps guard at night (good!), as well as follows us everywhere (not good!). At first he was just another flea-tortured Paumotu dog - until we saw him hunting fish in surprisingly deep water and are now proud that he has adopted us. He sleeps outside of Nāwa‘a’s window every night.
Families are permitted to only have one dog per household, although we’ve noticed otherwise. There is also a law here that says you are only allowed one rooster via a permit! So not too many “cock-a-doodle-doos” all night long (as in the Marquesas and on Kauai!).
The Paumotu sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking! And we are wondering now how many of these photos do one really need??? We don’t care; we will joyously continue to photograph as many as we are able every morning and evening!
Maitaki (Mauruuru, Mahalo, or Thank you!) for taking the time to visit our little adventure blog. We will post more of our adventures when we get back from our motu fishing trip.
We hope everyone at home is well.
***UPDATED January 2012***
***UPDATED January 2012***
Just thought to add a few more of my several thousand photos of Tiputa, Rangiroa here. Missing our many dear friends and the simple, healthy, routine way of life we had there, especially the snorkeling and fishing in the incredible lagoon and its different hoa, along with the heavenly myriad of Rangiroa sunsets...