You Can't Get There From Here

Trip to the Pitcairn Islands (Part 5 of 5)

by Lynn and John Salmon

Previous installments: Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3 // Part 4a // Part 4b

June 16, 1997 (Henderson party returns)

I woke up briefly in the night to the sound of howling winds. When I woke up this morning I was surprised to learn the Kialoa was already anchoring. The wind had brought them back in the night.

Eager for news of the trip, I went out in the longboat to meet the Henderson Party. The guys piloting the longboat were joking around about John having on the same clothes as last time, and they wondered whether he would end up in the water again.

We rocked around on the longboat for about an hour while the people on Kialoa got their stuff together and inflated a dinghy. The people transferred from Kialoa to dinghy to longboat and all made it safely. The sea was choppy and rough as we came back and we all got soaking wet.

The weather has changed and rain is ominous. Since it is unclear whether John will have one night or two on the island (depends on the weather) we went out for a walk and did the major island loop that I did yesterday. We took a look at Gannet ridge, but the wind was really strong and we turned back. We made it to Highest Point but it wasn't a day for a leisurely picnic, so we went on to Taro Ground. We came back down the hill looking for Turpin, a giant Galapagos tortoise, but we didn't find him. If he stays away from the rat poison, Turpin will be one of the oldest Pitcairners one of these decades. He was Daphne's pet when she was a young girl, and that was a few years ago. At the moment, he is penned up with the goats to keep him away from the rat poison.

It started pissing down rain in the evening and the road to Tom and Betty's was muddy and slow going. Dave happened to drive by with Mike and took Dobrey and I the rest of the way on the bike, then went back for John. I got pretty soaked and Betty loaned me some dry clothes before dinner.

We had a nice dinner at Tom and Betty's. It was Millie and Warren's 54th anniversary. Besides the immediate family (Tom and Betty), plus Dobrey (Warren's sister-in-law), only the off-island guests (Mike, John and I, plus ozzie Rick) were there. Warren was at Henderson Island during WWII to do a survey. They cut a trail across the north of the island. The brush on top of the island hasn't changed in 50 years. We also learn a little bit about the dead bodies (just bones, actually) that are on the island. The bones were found in a cave in the 1970s, and were placed in coffins by the Pitcairners. One of the bodies was of a very young child - perhaps even still in the womb. Nobody knows who they are, or where they came from.

Dinner was about 12 dishes. Rice, pasta, breadfruit, pumpkin pilhi, beans, chicken, eggplant, beef. The Christian's don't eat meat, but don't hesitate to serve it to guests. We had fruit salad and some cake for dessert. Then we watched a video made last year by an Italian who spent a month or so with the Christian's. It had very good photography, but the voice over was in Italian.

June 17, 1997 (Depart Pitcairn)

There was terrible weather through the night and Frank wants to leave this morning. John went to the post office and bought some stamps and postcards and then got a couple of miro-wood fish carvings from Terry and Viola. We sadly pack up our stuff not yet wishing to say goodbye to Pitcairn. Dobrey quickly baked bread sticks for our trip and other Pitcairners load us down with fruit and bread and other foodstuffs. Everyone's at the landing to see us off. It really feels like we are saying goodbye to old friends.

The transfer to Kialoa went easier than expected. We used a small aluminum boat brought out by the Pitcairners in case they need to dive to unhook the anchor from rocks. It wasn't necessary so they went spear fishing while they had all the scuba gear out.

It rained for 24 hours and there was little wind even though the sea was rough and choppy. Everyone got sea sick except John and Frank.

June 18-19, 1997 (At sea)

The weather is miserable and everyone is grumpy from being cooped up inside. Finally, after 48 hours we arrived in Mangareva and dropped anchor just before sunset. As soon as the anchor was dropped all traces of sea sickness seemed to vanish.

We had an excellent dinner with world heritage fish caught off Henderson Island. Maybe we should make a new goal to seek out world heritage foods. Everyone is much improved in spirit. It's a nice harbor and the boat is pleasant without the heel or the rocking.

June 20, 1997 (Mangareva)

[Frank in the bosun's chair]

Frank makes excellent banana pancakes for breakfast. He is completely changed now that we're not at sea. He's much more relaxed.

We have a few formalities to take care on arriving in a new country. The immigration procedures are very different for those arriving by yacht than by the normal channels we are used to. In the morning we visit the Gendarmerie for immigration. Frank and Cynthia didn't come, but sent their passports along with us and the children. The officer isn't interested in our US or Mike's Canadian passports. The Robben family is more complicated. Frank is a US citizen and is approved even though he is not present. The rest of the passports are Sri Lankan and the gendarme wants to keep them for closer scrutiny.

We walked to Johnny's place and he is in a talkative mood so we stay for a while. We learn there is a pizza hut on the island, or at least a guy who lives in a hut and makes pizzas. Johnny hopes to go to his island with Kialoa since his small boat can't take all the luggage. His two children are home for school holidays, son, Tehuto and daughter, Rayuna. We had Adrian, Dalreen and Maria with us, but none of the kids interacted.

A radio report in the morning from Graham said Te Manu should make it to Mangareva tomorrow morning. That's good, since Rob is on board and plans to leave on our plane. If he misses it, he'll be stuck on Mangareva for a couple of weeks.

The kids and Mike and Cynthia went ashore in search of a beach in the afternoon. John and I stayed on the boat and relaxed and read. Frank stayed on board to work and also talked to us a bit about his days at Berkeley, plans for the kids' education, etc. It was really the first opportunity we had for much conversation. Cynthia made a special meal for our last night and we played backgammon with Maria who has improved greatly after only a few days.

June 21, 1997 (Departed Mangareva)

Te Manu arrived around dawn and we took a look inside it in the morning. It is small, cramped, no storage, and a bit claustrophobic. The owners are really great guys, though, and the boat seems to serve them well.

[Farewell to Mangareva]

Everyone came to the dock to see us off on the boat to the airport. Hugs all around. Johnny said farewell and left me with an order of his to be mailed to LL Bean when we get back to the states. While I'm being postman I took a bunch of letters from the Robbens to post back in the US as well.

We have a 30 min boat trip to the airport followed by a 2.5 hour wait for our flight. Rob did a little snorkeling in the lagoon at the airport. It's not every airport that has an opportunity for snorkeling 50 meters from the airstrip.

The plane came in bringing a vet and 4 botanists. They will be taking Te Manu to Pitcairn and we chatted with them briefly. Otherwise, it was just your typical airport scene: during refueling children were playing with the empty fuel drums, rolling them around on the runway. Eventually we got on the plane for a 4.5 hour flight to Papeete. The plane took off low and we flew right next to Mt. Duff on the way out.

For our 9-hour layover in Papeete we rented a car with Mike. We love Fiats (see our Argentina log). It only cost US$35 so was comprable to one taxi ride. We drove to Point Venus and saw the local wildlife. Venus was visible on the drive there but was covered by clouds by the time we reached the point. Point Venus has a famous black sand beach which is especially dark at night.

Our flight stopped in Hawaii on the way home. Hawaiian Air has a lot of stuff to sell, so you get a lot of free in-flight entertainment all geared toward getting you into the "Aloha spirit". Complete with language lessons: "all together now ... 'Mahalo'." We spent a couple of days on the big island of Hawaii visiting Volcanoes National Park before returning to the real world. We had fun visiting the Volcanoes, but it's an anti-climax after Pitcairn.

The End

Lynn and John Salmon <>{