Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tahiti training

Each afternoon they come like clockwork, 5.10pm. You hear them first, the grunting, the shouting across the calm, glassy waters of Tahiti's Morea Island.

Soon, their black bodies, hardened with honest work and gleaming with perspiration, glide into view, their arms pumping the paddles on their sleek outrigger canoes.

Legend has it Tahitians would race across the Pacific Ocean to the nearby island of Bora Bora.
It tires me to even think of it, as we had just crossed the same passage a few days before in our chartered catamaran, and believe me, the waves and swell are huge out there, beyond the reef. The ocean currents run for thousands of kilometres before hitting land, so the waves have time to build and grow in size.

Our crew for this magical sailing holiday on the 12metre cat are our teenage sons, who soon prove their worth and find their sea legs quickly. Sails are hoisted, anchors set and retrieved with minimum fuss. The only trouble we have is attempting to pick up a buoy outside the famous ‘Bloody Mary’s Restaurant’ in Bora Bora. As we motor around for the third time, we find our Skipper still distracted by the sight of a nearby naked Swiss woman, swimming off her yachts stern.

After sailing for 7 days, now we are landlubbers, relaxing in the arms of luxury in our gorgeous palm-fronded cabin. We can swim right outside our front door, and often do, searching the coral for Nemo and his fishy friends. The sight of the outrigger crews is our unexpected bonus, our afternoon entertainment.

The crews come each evening, straight from work, and train for an hour in the lagoon. We pour cold drinks and watch them from our over-the-water-veranda; it soon becomes my favourite habit, much to my husband’s amusement!

The coach for both crews calls out and encourages each man, to do his best, to stroke! Paddle! Pull! Endure! Beyond the lagoon break, there are shells, growing where the waves strike and fall upon the reef; there are huge swells, and whales, passing on their way to warmer waters. The crews paddle beyond the break, beyond the breaking, crashing waves, beyond the roar of white water and leave the safety of the lagoon’s mirrored waters.

Massive outriggers holding over 200 men would paddle from Tahiti to New Zealand, and return, navigating by the stars, pinpointing these tiny specks of islands with their volcanic peaks reaching upwards, to the Gods.

The lagoons have formed as each island sinks under the weight of their own volcanic mountains, forming a safety zone for fish and corals and shells and people and lush foliage. To enter the lagoon after being at sea, is to enrobe oneself in a mantel of peace and tranquillity.

Safe at last! Drop anchor! The sea is a harsh mistress, at times.

We had planned our Tahiti holiday with as much precision and latitude as possible, allowing for no delays, but plenty of surprises, and this was an unexpected bonus, these outrigger training crews, and their bulging arms, amazing energy and their calls and shouts of encouragement.

Gotta love being on holidays. Cheers!

Other submissions by this author:   Me and Bobby McGee :: Whose Freedom

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