Tuamotu Islands – December 10, 2014
Pictures include: cemetery with unmarked graves, the paved white street, officials who greeted us and the children who welcomed us to the island.
Landing at Pukarua Atoll provided a most wonderful afternoon with perhaps it was most welcoming island of all. We landed on a Wednesday afternoon and I’m sure that the entire island population of 100+ were involved in our welcome. Greeted by little girls adorning us with leis and big smiles, we were directed to cross to the lagoon side of the atoll for the festivities.
Strange things were on this island along with an unusually warm welcome. The graveyard had sites that were all identical, plastered white with crosses on top. No identification appeared on graves: no names or dates. Was there a huge storm? Did the French atomic blasting only a few miles away kill these people? The Catholic Church stood on the opposite side of the street. But unlike other welcomes that included the priest, there was no priest to welcome us here so we assumed that the priest lived on another island. Secondly, the road from ocean to lagoon was newly paved by the French and bordered with a wall and plastered pillars giving a very different experience from the usual dirt or shell roads.
The end of this concrete roadway opened upon a beautiful inland lagoon where the festivities greeted us: music, dancing, demonstrations and games. We played throwing the long darts to the coconut on the pole, danced with the locals, and swam with the children. They cooked breadfruit for us in open pits covered with coconut shells and wrapped in banana leaves. There was no evidence of pearl farming on this island, but clearly there was a large production of coconuts for copra sale. Since this is a French Island, it was obvious that the French are supporting a large part of their population on this island. We were welcomed by three magistrates: one man and two women—all who talked to us about their island and pride. It was a wonderful day, warm, welcoming, and relaxing. The 80 passengers on the Orion mixed equally with the 100 residents on the island for a day of play.