Up bright + early, time for breakfast, then down to check on the Taporo – that’s the copra boat. It looks quite pretty, especially at a distance, with a red hull, white decks, + a high bridge + cabin area at the stern. Val stayed packing while Bernadette, Ingrid + I went down to check up on space – we met Dave down there. Forgot to take my money down tho’, so when we received the good news that we could get on, I had to make an extra journey. However, we weren’t allowed on board till 5 pm, so we had plenty of time to finish packing, + then go into town. We got a lift from one of the gendarmes, + joined the crowds milling around – the Taporo had dumped quite a few tourists onto land, plus there were lots of yachts in – Rob the Aussie among them. The bad news, once again, was that there was no bread, but we bought a few other goodies, + then got a lift back with the other gendarme – nothing like a bit of symmetry to make you think the universal architect knows what he’s doing. We collected 3 coconuts in the afternoon, had a swim, a shower, + then back to camp, where Bernadette had started the fire. There weren’t any tents up any more of course, but it was still a marvellously comfortable camp-site, with water available from the house (plus occasional entertainment), plenty of wood for fires… we even had stools set up. There was a pleasant breeze, which blew away the bugs (all except the ants – they were the one drawback to the place – they got everywhere), + the place was perfectly safe. All in all, I feel rather pleased at the way things worked out, since the last few days have marked the happiest time I’ve had for ages. The main thing is that we’re free of the demands of others – I’ve had that for the last 4 months, + am heartily sick of it. Bernadette had discovered that they weren’t going to feed us tonight, so for the last time we cooked a meal on Hiva Oa. Sausages, peas, + potatoes – you can’t complain about that.
We lugged our gear down in good time, but clearly they weren’t ready for us yet. Still, it was entertaining to sit on the rocks + watch the people working. The Taporo was anchored out a way, + all the goods had to be ferried in on a barge made out of a platform slung across 2 small boats, + then heaved off manually onto the shore – back-breaking work. And then, without any signal that I was aware of, all the passengers waiting around charged forward + climbed up onto the platform. Dave, Val + I were all considerably overloaded, so this was no mean task. Even more difficult was the job of climbing the ladder up the side of the ship. But we made it.
The next task was to find a place to sleep on. The cabins, if there were any available for mere passengers, were all taken, + there was precious little space in the other designated areas, so, open-air rock concert style, we had to grab what we could, + hope to enlarge on it later. Fortunately, tho’, one large gentleman with an excess available, removed his mat (+ consequently renounced his claim), + we were able to move in. People certainly had done themselves proud – the majority had actual mattresses to sleep on. Fortunately, Dave came to our rescue again, + lent us his sleeping-bag to sleep on. We managed to get a meal too – the cook didn’t seem too sure about things, but he read our ticket, + then dished out plates of rice, meat + a piece of bread. A little later, we settled down to sleep – I for one was exhausted.
As ever, the problem was of getting good information. But in the end, despite the problems actually climbing up a rope ladder with a heavy pack on your back, we found ourselves comfortably established.
So, time at last to say goodbye to the Alma, and to its owners. Not that we did say goodbye, but it did seem that they would be a part of our lives no longer. And actually, my feelings now are not all negative. Most importantly, we continued our voyage, and had found ourselves somewhere we never could have imagined we would be. And now that it seemed we would have no trouble travelling on to Tahiti, it was another adventure, travelling by tramp steamer.