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Arriving at Mangareva

By Chelsea McBroom

February 9th, 2014

The Picton Castle anchored just outside of Mangareva, waiting until the following morning before we went through the pass and around the coral, which was easier to see with morning light. The Captain announced a swim call and after everyone prepared themselves they peered over the edge of the ship to see the current flowing clouds of jellyfish past. Meg, being one of the bravest, jumped in first with her scuba gear and began to giggle at each little tickle. Noticing that Meg wasn’t being stung, some of the crew followed suit. Although disturbed, I decided to jump in, if only to be able to say I once swam with jellyfish and couldn’t stand the sensation. It got worse as I swam towards the ladder where all the jellyfish were pushed and gathered, and so I hauled myself back onto the ship as quickly as I could. Others like Gustav, Mark, Meg and Maria weren’t as squeamish and marvelled at all the jellyfish they could see swimming around and below them. Even after the swim call was over, the looks of amazement stayed. It was a perfect way to end the evening.

The next morning, another beautiful sunny clear day, the crew hauled up the anchor and motored into Mangareva. The coral was visible with odd discoloured shapes in the water throughout the pass and John and the Captain kept a close eye, giving direction to Pania at the helm. They made it look easy moving carefully around each area and before we knew it we had dropped anchor just off shore next to a few yachts. A wooden shack could be seen, like an island boat house, off in the distance where pearls were said to be harvested. Few houses could be seen along the shore of the island and a hill behind them looked down upon us.

When the Captain and I took the skiff to shore, people biking and walking down the main road called “Bonjour!” and the Customs officials were friendly. We were told the clinic had only two nurses and so we offered our doctor if he was needed during our stay. The yellow stone building at the end of the street was the post office, open from 7am to 2pm, said to exchange money if needed. Cafes and general stores were scattered down the street selling shelves of candy, canned goods and biscuits, sometimes vegetables, but no grocery store. We were told that a boat shipment of fresh vegetables and other necessities came into the down a few times a week, the locals buying out most of it before the stores closed. The café had a small menu with a Russian salad or potato salad, chicken and frites, steak and frites, or fish and frites. The frites always served with a bit of dark ketchup or sauce on the side and a topping of butter.

That night the off watch went to a mobile food stand that was set up by the dock for their dinner, having the same simple menu, and the woman there only began cooking once it was all ordered. There was a wooden roof over a few large tables with chairs, placed over a floor of sand and the walls decorated with palm leaves. Once we were settled with our meals, the people working and cooking there for us came out and sat for a drink, turning on some of their music for us to hear. Although none of us could speak French or communicate very clearly, we looked at each other across the patio giggling as we danced in our seats to the same tune.

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