August 1st 1982

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
Fellow passengers

A Sunday, so we were treated to an onboard morning service.  It was informal, and not very long, but there were no good singers on board, so didn’t rate very highly from an aesthetic point of view.  Scheduled to be the last day of our voyage, for which we were all pretty grateful, none more so than Bernadette.  Ingrid is a handful at the best of times, + has been pretty awful during the trip, very demanding of time + attention.  Just one of the many perils + pitfalls of having children, I suppose.  If you bring them into the world, you’re duty-bound to spend a lot of your time + energy upon them.

As we were arriving in the evening, they seemed to assume we didn’t require an evening meal; fortunately, between us, we were able to feed ourselves.  Dave was great, sharing his meagre rations – a can of pork + beans, + a can of baby wieners.  We came within sight of Tahiti just before dark, + shortly afterwards it began to rain – not the sort of welcome we’d anticipated.  There was quite a bit of excitement on board – Dave + I were chatting with a young local guy as we entered the harbour.  He was excited, drunk, + practising his English, + consequently very funny.

Real fiesta time came when we came in to dock, tho’.  Everyone on board rushed over to the landward side, so we immediately developed a heavy list.  At the dockside were loads of happy, excited, waving people – none for us, of course, tho’ we did wave + point a little, just to get in on the spirit of things.  Once we were safely tied up, or before really, there was a hectic scramble – suitcases, infants + animals being hurled over to waiting relatives – only the old, frail + female deigned to use the gangplank.  We had arrived at pretty much exactly the wrong time, for us at any rate.  It was too late to search for somewhere to camp, yet not so late that we could just get off and wait for an hour or two for dawn.  Bernadette + Ingrid seemed set – they had arranged something with Linda, a drippy American girl who’d got on in Nuku Hiva (+ unwittingly gave Dave his nickname of Dick) so that left just the 3 servants of the crown to arrange something.  Once everyone had left, + rather hoping against hope, Val asked if we could stay the night on board.  To our surprise, the guy said yes, so we celebrated by boiling up some soup on our little stove on the dockside.

When we had just about finished, a guy on a motor scooter turned up + asked if we had somewhere to stay.  When we said no, he invited us back to his house.  It sounded suspicious, of course, but we didn’t like to appear too wary, for one misses opportunities that way.  However, our would-be host offered to pay for a taxi (at least, that is what we thought – it is so difficult when one doesn’t have a secure grasp of the language.)  So we accepted, + sure enough he returned in 5 minutes with a taxi, which lugged us + our belongings up the hill to his house.  It was quite a way.

The house, set up in the hills, was very nice – he is at present building it, so it is furnished in rather a Spartan way, but has all that is required, + then some (including a shower.)  We talked for a long time – if one is churlish enough to look for reasons for such hospitality, the answer might well be that he is rather lonely.  And finally we got to bed, around midnight, so we were shattered.  To our amazement, Dave, + Val + I, were given a bedroom each – sitting on the dock we’d been fantasising about sleeping on a mattress, + now we were given beds.  Sometimes, one falls on one’s feet.

All too easy to criticise small children (and their parents) when you don’t have any, and so are unaware of the very limited control you have over them. Plus the fact that she was five!

Arrival in port is always an exciting time, all the more so with excited passengers. For us, it was rather more mixed. Sure we were delighted to be off the boat at last, but it had provided a space where we did not have to think, to plan, to ask questions, to find things out… all of the pressures of travelling once again. One decided bonus does seem to be that our rather unconventional method of entry into Polynesia means that we have evaded officialdom; specifically, any demand for evidence of funds, so that we could travel on. Not that this obviated the imperative to find a way to travel on, but at the very least that moment had been delayed.

And then there is the arrival of a true guardian angel, in the shape of Manate, our benefactor on a scooter. There are so many occasions during our travels when we received unexpected hospitality – sometimes the world is not so dog eat dog as one imagines.

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