Monday, July 8, 2013

Aukena: A Mix of Fun, Work, and Pretty Views (part 2)

After our successful rudder project (we’ll do the other one another time), Mark and I lifted both of our anchors and moved Irie back to our original anchoring spot off Aukena. Within a half hour of settling in the tight sandy spot and clear water, we went to shore to meet Antonio. Mark was serious about his work commitment, indeed! We borrowed a rake and a machete (cou cou in Mangarevan) and Antonio showed us the correct location and direction of the overgrown trail to the point. After he brought us a couple of papayas, a knife and a big bottle of rainwater to sustain ourselves, we rolled up our sleeves, put utility gloves on and started the task of clearing and cleaning up the path.

For four hours with a short lunch break in between, Mark hacked away with his new tool, picked up bigger debris on the trail, cut dead wood and overhanging branches and pulled weeds. I followed with the rake, turning the 1 km trail winding through the forest into one that is now easy to find and follow, without having to trip over roots and rocks, fall into holes or stumble over dead wood and fallen coconuts. It was a good workout, concluded with a rest on the pretty beach at the end and – for me – a short (no wetsuit!) snorkel along some amazing life coral and beautiful tropical fish. So far, the coral formations in this area seemed to be in the best shape.

The walk back to Antonio’s shed was an easy one! Our footsteps disturbed the freshly raked area and we hoped many more would follow.  We shared a beer with our new friend, who rewarded us for all the work with a mountain of fruit! In three runs, we managed to carry all the papayas, limes, bananas, coconuts and sugar cane to the dinghy. After splitting the bounty with Pitufa, it would still be hard to eat all this goodness before it went bad. We are still trying. Instead of a pamplemousse a day, we now devour a papaya, some bananas and a couple of limes daily. The project sure was a healthy one for the body, inside and out!

The following day was our last one on Aukena and Mark, Christian and I decided to climb the highest hill. According to Antonio, there was a trail to the top. Based on our experience with “the other trail”, we should have known better. Our guide showed us the way for about 20 minutes and then we were on our own, with no indication of where to go and how to go about it. As we’ve done twice before on other Gambier islands, the three of us ended up bush-wacking, crawling, slipping, scrambling, and scratching our way up, grabbing for roots, rocks and branches (sometimes to have them pulled out, crumble, or break) until we reached the pine trees on the ridge. From then on, the walk was made easier by the lack of vegetation. Once on the top, the view was spectacular. We rested a bit and waited for the sun to peek out, just enough to take a few pictures of the surrounding islands and shades of blue.

The trip down went faster, utilizing our butts often. We had collected a big amount of scratches (why wear long clothes when there is a “path”?), contributed to the pile of dirty cloths some more and were spent yet again. We didn’t mind staying indoors the rest of the afternoon. The sky turned grey and the wind picked up. It was time to return to our base camp in Rikitea to sit out some nasty weather again…

Mark taking a quick dip after the sweaty trail blazing

My personal coral garden along Aukena's south coast

Interesting formations and colors

Coral and fish alive!

Smooth golden trunkfish

Mark and Antonio, behind a bounty of fruit

Long clothes would have been better for this brushy hike up

The island of Akamaru as seen from the top of Aukena

Irie (left) and Pitufa (right) down in the anchorage

Where to store all our freshly obtained fruit and how to eat it all?

 Two pictures are needed to capture our healthy stores!

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