When dropping children ashore on a deserted island in the middle of the South Pacific, remember to pack the following:
- sun screen
- copious amounts of fresh water
- machete (sharp... the dull one is not going to cut the coconuts with sufficient speed and enthusiasm)
- swim suits
- ant repellent
- something to feed the hermit crabs
- screw driver
- shoes (exploring the jungle is really challenging in your bare feet as there are "tons of prickly dudes everywhere")
- food (sandwiches are good, fruit is okay, something salty for mid afternoon is appreciated)
- first aid kit
- deck of cards
The girls built a camp site complete with chairs, tables, and shelves. They also did a fair job of gathering wood for the evening fire. By the time we returned to camp, they had attracted 100s of bright red hermit crabs
While the girls homesteaded, DrC and I explored. There was a village here a decade ago that was swept away during what appears to have been a really nasty hurricane. There are surprisingly few ruins left to mark the village. The hurricane and storm surge did a really good job of scraping the island bare. You can tell precisely where the ocean came in versus just waves. While the vegetation has grown back lush and verdant, the main body of the island is mat of interwoven trees, bushes and palm fronds in a distinctive single direction showing evidence of the path of the storm and the directions of the wind and waves. Despite much searching the only vegetative evidence of the former occupants of the motu were an enormous ornamental pampass grass and a bougainvelia as well as a few immature banana trees. We were hoping to find a grand daddy mango or a few papayas, but unfortunately, no such luck.
The waters are teeming with parrot fish and black tip reef sharks. Both swim right up to the shoreline within feet of the beach. It would be really nice to catch a few of the parrot fish, though cigueterra is probably a concern. We're tempted to try it anyway. It feels like you could stand in the water up to your ankles and just flip dinner on to shore. I'm beginning to wonder if black tip reef sharks taste good. They come in all sizes here from about the length of your hand swimming practically on the beach to big four to five feet guys circling the boat.
Lower down on the food chain is a phenomenal coral bed. We walked up the motu to the north and around a bend. A huge shallow opened up with a break in the reef to the north east. From shore, it appears like the entire area is well grown with sea grass and algae. However, when we put our masks on and dipped into the water for a swim, we were astonished to sea that the area is a coral forest with not a spot of algae or seaweed. For the first time, we are seeing stag coral in vibrant, vigorous health. There is a surprisingly limited variation in the reef fish and they are predominantly small (2 inches or less), but the coral is mind bogglingly diverse and vigorous. Even here there are clear signs of storm destruction with tree trunks and broken chunks of coral liberally scattered about. Yet the broken chunks are not dead. Instead, they've settled back down and are happily pumping out coral polyps by the jillions.
We spent the evening on the beach by a campfire. Night Fly joined us for a sundowner and burnt meat. Night Fly is a Dutch couple who are considerably more adventurous than your average cruisers. We enjoyed their company, their fascinating tales of sailing in Patagonia, and their keen intelligence and humor. It is good to be stranded in paradise with capable, interesting people. The steak sandwiches were delicious, the coconut needs to be roasted about twice as long as you think but it makes for a nutty, sweet and delicious dessert.
It's hard to say how we'll spend the day today. Surely we're running out of things to do. Or maybe not... DrC was eyeing the spear fishing gun and the parrot fish, and I still want to find a mango tree.