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The Tuamotu Diaries: Chapter 16 - Becoming Kids Again


rocky beach at sunset

4/28/23

It was an early start to the day yesterday. The boys and I were loaded up in the dingy and were pushing away from Agape just after 6am.


I was joining the guys for a spearfishing mission outside the pass along the ledge. The wind had picked up considerably from the day prior and an outgoing current steepened the waves. We battled through the surface chop to begin our drift just to the side of the pass opening.


The current pushed us along the ledge quite swiftly. The reef passed below us as the surface chop tugged and lifted us up and down. I mostly held tight to the dingy while the boys took turns doing dives. Every once in a while, a powerful wave would roll through taking the dingy with it and nearly ripping my arm from its’ socket.


Josh handed me the gun for a drop. I saw a large uku but it wasn’t curious enough for a good shot. I wasn’t in much of a mood to hunt anyway. I really just wanted to join for a snorkel and film if the guys managed to catch anything.


Other than the uku I spotted and a large barracuda it was a quiet drift. There were few signs of any larger predatory fish.


I took a quick break from dingy duties to explore a bit shallower, closer to where the swell crashed onto the barrier reef. There were a few patches of rosette corals that were brilliant, a little grey reef shark tailing me, and a huge giant clam unafraid by my shadow.


After an hour and a half or so we decided to call it and head back to the boat. As we drove through the pass we noticed the vis was horrific but the current had seemed to stop. Maybe the end of the outgoing tide.


According to Joshua and Rachel the tides here normally work like clockwork. They will empty and flood just an hour later than the day before. We’ve been a bit perplexed by the tides this week. One day they start early, the next they start late, or the slack current will last hours longer than expected. We’ve been doing our best to decipher the pattern but have had little luck.


When we arrived back at the boat Rachel popped her head out to see our catch. With nothing to show she retreated into the cabin.


I decided I would make everyone pancakes. I’m not quite sure why I thought this was a good idea since most of my pancakes turn out shit. Josh has unfortunately fallen victim to my pancakes a few times. I’m not sure why he didn’t step in to takeover or persuade me against trying to make some.


I don’t believe God blessed me with the gift of cooking. When I said this to Josh he said, “well I could’ve told you that,” with a smug smirk across his face.


Even with my lack of skill I moved forward. The batter was lumpy. Apparently, the trick is to break up the lumps even before adding the liquid. Would’ve been a helpful tip beforehand instead of after the fact. I dropped my first pancake in a pot of soapy water as I tried to transfer it to the plate from the pan. A few pancakes definitely weren’t circles. When I went to move the last pancakes onto the plate, I was keeping them in the stove to keep everything warm, the lid caused the whole oven to tilt forward (ovens on boats are on swinging hinges to stay level as the boat rocks). The entire plate of pancakes slid out from the oven and the pot of soapy water on the stove above started to spill over. Half the pancakes ended up on the floor. Luckily the food was spared from the water. I hastily tried to clean everything up. I did my best to hide the frantic tears welling up in my eyes with laughter.


I plated everyone’s breakfast meticulously, making sure the worst of the cakes ended up on my plate and the best on Joshua and Rachel’s. Poor Josh had to deal with the second worst of the batch but if he hasn’t left me from my pancakes so far, I took my chances. After all, I have actually made him worse ones.


Everyone was very kind in reassuring me that they weren’t that bad. They turned out edible but it would be a stretch to say they were any good. I drenched my pancakes in syrup.


After breakfast, we laid around for a while and relaxed. Eventually Joshua got antsy and decided to set up the Seabobs. Joshua and Rachel had been renting them out to a friend but this week they were lucky to both be un-rented.

couple using seabob
photo @bylandandsea

The Seabob is a large handheld scooter that you can control to fly through the water. It’s almost like having your own personal underwater jet ski.


The things are stupid fun! Josh and I started out sharing one, testing the best methods for two-person use. Driving the nose of the Seabob downward we would be dragged to depth and could then level out and zip around the anchorage. Once we each had out own we went to the shallow coral pillars from my swim the day before. The reef served as an obstacle course for us to quickly weave through.


Of course, we tried our hand at breeching. Diving down thirty feet to the bottom, punching the Seabob to full power, and then shooting up and out of the surface. I managed to get fully airborne before getting jolted back down to the water by the weight of the Seabob.


I used to desperately want to be a Shamu trainer. My opinions on captivity have changed a great deal since childhood. Josh drove the Seabob while I stood on its’ nose pretending to be pushed by a dolphin or whale. It seemed like an ethical way to fulfill a childhood dream.


The whole time we played like kids. We laughed and swam around the way I used to with my friends playing pretend in our swimming pool. It was proof all adults are really just big kids.


After zipping around the boat for a few hours we decided to bring the Seabobs into the pass. A few times I took the Seabob to twenty meters or so to join the sharks. As I motored through the school each shark would peel back behind me and chase after my toes. I had to bump up the speed at one point to get away. It was all good fun. The sharks weren’t trying to bite me or anything. They were simply curious of the fast moving, humming object new to their environment.

fakarava coral reef

When we finished messing around in the pass we made a quick stop in the shallows to search for more shark teeth. I wanted to continue my pursuit but eventually I was just too cold.


We headed back to the boat for a light snack for lunch and some rest. Josh and I took a walk around the main motu just before sunset. We needed to escape the boat. Joshua was making chicken pot pie for dinner which caused the oven to heat the inside of the boat to an uncomfortable temperature.


There isn’t much to see on land but it was nice to stretch our legs and spend some time together. It seems like the dive resort is really quiet this time of year. Almost every bungalow we passed was uninhabited and of the dozen buildings on the motu not for resort guests, it seemed only two families were staying there. The gravel walkway winded through palm trees and a few structures. Down the path we eventually crossed a bridge to the adjacent motu. It is much smaller and is likely an expansion of the resort. There were maybe five normal bungalos squeezed to one side and two large double story cottages on the other side. We did a quick loop around, watching not to step on hermit crabs crossing the walkway, and then crossed the bridge back to the main island.

cat on a ledge

I stopped to take some photos of a cat sitting on a short rock wall in the shade of a plumeria tree. He waited patiently for me to finish and them came over. The cat stumbled off its’ wall and greeted Josh. He spent a few minutes scratching under its’ chin.

pig sleeping in the dirt

There was a big brown pig taking a nap in the dirt next to our cat’s wall. He was sharing the shade from the tree. Small white flowers with crisp yellow centers had fallen from the tree and landed around him. He seemed like a nice pig. He was a big pig, probably a meter from head to tail and if he were to stand up I would’ve guessed half a meter tall. His skin looked a more warm, amber brown against the greyish, brown pile of wet dirt he was laying in. He truly couldn’t have been less bothered by us. We of course didn’t try to pet him like our new cat friend but he hardly even lifted his head when we approached. As he snored his snout would wiggle back and forth. It was really cute. We left him to snooze and continued walking.


The motu was quiet. We didn’t pass anyone also walking the property. I think since we’ve been here I’ve noticed a total of maybe ten people that seem to live or work at the resort. Six or seven French Polynesians and three or four French men. Towards the back of the motu there were a few small houses that seemed empty. Josh and I maybe think more staff comes for the busier seasons of the year.


The one home we passed that had people outside must’ve been the pig farmer’s. While a heavier set Polynesian couple sat at a picnic table outside animals roamed the neighboring coconut field. When we first stopped, a little grey dog started barking boldly as if to say, “get away!” As she ran up to us I was half nervous, but when she made it to our feet she rolled over to show us her belly. It was a lot of hullabaloo just for a belly rub. Clearly more bark than bite.

pigs under coconut trees

Under the trees was a pile of fallen, dried coconuts. Two large pigs, similar looking to our friend before were munching away trying to avoid stepping on the chickens and cats also scrounging for coco scraps. Out of the corner of my eye I see a much smaller pig galloping from the back of the property. This one with large brown and pastel pink splotches. The pig came bounding through the coconuts over to say hi to Josh. I was still distracted rubbing the pups belly. After a quick pat the pig walked away, making a quick pit stop to scratch his butt on a rick before joining the coconut buffet. Josh joked that this was real coconut bacon and we went on our way.


We peeked our heads into a small church on the way back to the dingy. It’s orange exterior was equally as colorful as its’ interior. Red, blue, yellow, and orange paneled walls framed the wooden pews. At the front, a statue of Jesus stood high on a shelf above the alter. Each wall was lined with small 8x10 photo frames. I’m assuming they held pictures of saints but I couldn’t tell. It was a bit dark inside. The small chandelier constructed of seashells wasn’t lit. A gecko crawling along the wall preferred the dark atmosphere.

sunset from the beach

Back at the boat we ate dinner and finished our tournament of hand and foot. Unfortunately, I am the ultimate loser which means I will be cooking for Rachel who won.


4/29/23

Yesterday started off slow. I was pretty fine with it though. I could feel how tired I was when I first woke up.


Everyone kind of did their own thing in the morning. I finished up my movies, Joshua worked out on deck, Rachel edited some photos, and Josh read a book.


Around mid-morning it had started to get hot. I suggested smoothies for breakfast as a way to cool down. These would be the last ones of the trip. We are officially out of frozen fruit and we won’t go to the store again before we have.


We’ve been rationing fruit in our smoothies to make it last as long as possible. Our smoothies are more like fruit flavored protein water.


The recipe goes as follows:

- 1 ice cube

- 2-3 strawberries (a banana before we ran out)

- protein powder

- hemp & chia

- fill to line with water


Rachel had made yogurt so that was a special treat to add to our last few cups. Knowing this batch was our last I got a little crazy and put a whole two ice cubes.


I prepped a loaf of bread in the morning to rise throughout the day. That was with the last of our flour.


Just before lunch time we all got in the dingy in hopes of freediving the pass. We were welcomed by a strong outgoing current ripping murky water from the lagoon. It’s been a bit frustrating trying to time our dives with the tides. We talked with the dive shop to see if they had any insight and they informed us there is currently an equinox moon. Apparently that messes up the regularity of the tides.


We ended up wading in the shallows looking for sharks teeth. As we sifted through rubble and sand squinting to see partially transparent white triangles resort guests gave us puzzling looks as they walked over for lunch. The staff had gotten used to the weirdos searching under the docks but the new guests were thoroughly confused. Their confused looks turned to awe when we showed them our collections.


The boys lost interest in that sort of thing way faster than Rachel and me. After patiently amusing us for a bit, hunger kicked in and they asked to return to the boat for fish tacos.


We finished up lunch and went back to check the pass. Still outgoing and murky.


We wait a little longer. Check the pass again. Still outgoing. Not wanting to waste the afternoon we decide to snorkel in the shallows on the far side of the pass. Between healthy and algae covered corals were sticks and branches lodged in the sand by the current. An abundance of reef fish darted in and around the structures as we swam by. My favorites were a black puffer with white polka dots getting harassed by a cleaner wrasse and a school of bright purple, almost magenta, fish. When the puffer got fed up with the wrasse all his spots went dark until he was only black! It was cool.

reef under the dock

Our snorkel along the reef was halted when the boys noticed birds gathering outside the pass. They demanded we go and chase them in hopes of fish. To be honest I don’t particularly enjoy chasing bird piles. It is a lot of driving around, hopping in and out, and trying to anticipate the unpredictable nature of bait fish. When the water is boiling and the ball is tight it can be epic! But that isn’t frequent. On a larger boat, I’m keener to try but on the dingy it kind of sucks. Especially since the boys take the guns and Rachel and I are left to either stay in the dingy or drag it around behind us as we chase the fish. It’s normally an uncomfortable ride for less fun for the girls.


There was a larger fishing boat trawling through the birds. We tried for a bit to pinpoint where the boobie birds would be diving but eventually gave up. It would be too difficult with the other boat breaking up the schools of fish.


The sun was beginning to fall as we drove back through the pass towards home. Josh and I decided to do another night dive before we will move anchorages this afternoon. The first was so fun and we wanted to scuba again so we asked if the dive shop would take us again.


As the sun began to set Josh and I loaded up our scuba gear and drove over to the shop. When we got there Fabien rushed us to get ready. He said there is a special fish migration that happens every evening just as the sun goes down.


We quickly put together our kits and hopped in the water. As we descended just below the dock thousands of blue fish rushed across the coral wall. We sat on the bottom and watched as a wall of fish raced overhead. Through the glimmer of blue you could barely make out the last bits of sunlight trying to penetrate the surface. The curtain of fish would part as blacktips and grey sharks hunted through the school. As they made attempts to catch a fish the group would burst in every direction like fireworks going off. An audible whoosh followed the swift movement of the blue sparkles. A few sharks bumped into my gopro as the fish broke open in the very last seconds before they ran into me. I love moments like this where you can feel the energy of the ocean.

school of fish at night

Our night dive was slower paced from that point on. Fabien was taking his sweet time drifting over the reef. The sharks weren’t as full of energy as the last time but there seemed to be more. They didn’t actively hunt any fish but they were curious of our cameras. We had both used an extendable pole for the gopros and the sharks came in a few times for a closer inspection. I ended up pushing a few away with the camera. It made for nice footage I think.

shark hunting through school of fish at night

Rachel and Joshua had started dinner by the time we got home. Joshua helped to get the bread I prepped earlier into the oven while we were gone. I had asked if he could add some sun-dried tomatoes and garlic to the dough before baking it. Rachel was working on shrimp scampi.


We’ve now had every meal on our bucket list except for Rachel’s sweet potato dish. I’ll be making pizza at some point as a re-do meal. Hopefully my crust fluffs up a bit better than Joshua’s. Unfortunately, it might have to be gluten free crust. There’s no more flour plus that’s what Rachel prefers and it is her winner’s meal.


Everyone hardly lasted through doing the dishes before falling asleep. We all laid down quickly after dinner and went to bed.

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