Sunday, June 13, 2010

Civilization . . . . . Almost

Rotoava, Fakarava, Tuamotu, French Polynesia
16* 03.5' South
145* 37.2' West
June 10, 2010


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Yesterday we dodged coral heads on our way to Rotoava the largest settlement on the atoll of Fakarava. Actually, if there were any coral heads, we couldn't see them because the light was bad for most of the two hour trip. The charts have a marked channel here, so we were reasonably confident that no big ones would sneak up on us. What we did have to watch out for as we approach the north end of the lagoon were the buoys marking the strings of pearl oysters.
Today, we took a tour of a pearl farm where we not only learned how natural pearls come about, but also how the Japanese devised a way to fool nature and use the oyster to manufacture pearls. It is a very interesting process. Then, of course, after our free tour, we were escorted to the boutique where the farm's pearls were available for purchase at a rate much less than retail in Tahiti! Actually, the man who owned the farm was incredibly nice and patient with all our questions. The Hinano Farm operation that we visited is 6 or 7 km out of town, so he brought us down in his van and we got to see a little more of the atoll.

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We have also taken the bikes ashore and have been doing a little exploring that way also. The boys and I made it up to a structure that turned out to be an abandoned lighthouse. From the drawing of town, we had originally thought that it might have been more of an archeological site – it was old and pyramid-like, but not that old and made out of cement. It was still a great ride for the boys with a few minutes on the ocean side beach before we had to turn around and head back to town.

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The reason that I called this post "Civilization . . . Almost" is the town seems to have everything a small town would need except a bank or ATM. It is a little bit of a mystery how the cash circulates in these small settlements as the locals seem to pay for purchases at the local magasin mostly on account, but we have also seem them using cash. Where do they get it? Is there someone named Pierre or Fredrique who has a vault in his maison where he is able to keep a large supply of cash that the locals can use to change their government checks. Luckily, if you ask really nicely (and make a fairly large purchase), the clerk at the magasin will "try" to run your carde credit.

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