Sunday 8th May 2016
We continue to sit under a veil of cloud, every now and then we see a patch of blue sky but then another squall forms and the rain is back. Despite the weather we are enjoying it here, snuggled in the SE corner of Kauehi Atoll, we are protected from most of the chop and swell, there are a few yachts anchored about a mile away but otherwise we are completely alone.
In front of us we have a string of uninhabited, palm covered motu, areas along the reef that sit above sea level, in this case probably just three meters above sea level, they are extremely pretty. Catching the view through a port light, Rick smiles “it’s like living in a screen saver”.
Ashore however, with dark clouds gathering and a brisk wind blowing in from the ocean, things look a little different. With no waves it is an easy landing for the dingy at the steep beach, we tie up to a palm and then pull the boat a little way off with the anchor, as the beach turns out not to be made of soft white sand but of a trillion small pieces of sharp broken coral. We put on our sand skipper shoes and walk to the end of the motu and a shallow pass towards the ocean outside. It is low tide, the rocky landscape has just a smattering of struggling shrubs, with a grey sky above and the continuous pounding of waves hitting the reef, the environments feels quite hostile.
As we round the corner, we are suddenly, surrounded by a couple of dozen squawking sooty terns and we realise we must be passing a nesting sight, we keep to the shore line to disturb then the least we can. Rick spots a moray eel wallowing in a rock pool and small fish dart in and out with the waves. We find scores of beautiful shells some empty, some not, a hundred hermit crabs wriggle beneath our feet, the scuttle of tiny shells making the ground appear to move.
As the tide turns, water begins to rush through the pass into the lagoon, we return to the dingy on the inner reef. We had to weave through a maze of coral heads to reach the beach and so decide to have a quick look beneath the surface. After all the years we have snorkelled and dived I don’t know why we are still always so shocked, despite all clues from the surface, at how incredible it is the moment you put your mask on and look under the water. Here it is exceptional, the visibility even without the bright sunshine is excellent. In the calm, shallow water it looks almost as if someone has put the contents of a large aquarium into a swimming pool.
There is a good mix of coral in a rainbow of colours, clams imbedded in the rock clamp shut as you approach hiding the luminescent blues, turquoises and purples of their fleshy jaws and soft corals nestle brightly in the nooks and crannies. Being so shallow the fish are small but they are plentiful. Angel fish, butterfly fish, small colourful wrasse, parrot fish and a dozen more varieties I don’t recognise.
Onboard, we relish our isolation and the spectacle of the changing weather.
Snatching the opportunity during a lull, Rick puts on his scuba gear and cleans the hull fittings and checks the anodes. We have two friendly remora or flip flop fish as we nicknamed them in the Caribbean, swimming around the boat. They have a sucker area at the top of their head, shaped a bit like a flip flop and spend their lives hitching a ride, stuck on to the likes of sharks or as Rick discovers, in this case, to the bottom of our hull. We have to think that our antifoul can’t be good for them however they continue to dart out to pick up the scraps we throw them, looking as sprightly as ever.
The cloudy days do mean it is a little cooler so we also set to with domestic chores below. I decide to tackle the cooker, oven cleaning is my least favourite job, so every now and then I raise my head and look out of the hull port, just to remind myself that I am at least, scrubbing, whilst living in a screen saver.
Tuesday 10th April
We arrived at the small town of Rotoava in North Fatarava yesterday afternoon. We have found internet, if you look back you can see the few photos I have managed to insert into the last couple of posts.