Carving School in Rikitea

The main school in Gambier is located right on the water overlooking the bay. There is an elementary school, intermediate school, and a trade school which includes an agriculture and carving school.  Students usually attend “high school” in Tahiti.  I use quotation marks because the school breakdown is very different than what I am used to in the states.  The school is called College St Raphael Rikitea.

We met the carving school teacher, Hefara at our New Years Eve party.  He has since become a frequent friend of ours as we visit Rikitea.  He invited us to tour the carving school.  The first thing I noticed were the beautiful views of the bay from every building!  I imagine it is difficult to learn while being surround by such beauty.

College St. Raphael Rikitea

College St. Raphael Rikitea

The grounds are impeccably maintained with a huge grassy area between all of the buildings.  There are a few old relic structures on the grounds as well (see bottom left photo and middle right photo).

College St. Raphael Rikitea

College St. Raphael Rikitea

Inside the Carving School

Inside the carving school, I was shocked at how many work stations!  They had 12 stations for carving oyster shells and another 12 stations for miscellaneous carving (wood or special projects).

Inside the Carving School

Inside the Carving School

They also had about 4 grinding stations with 2 grinders each (top photo), 4 grind/buff stations with 2 stations each, and 4 buffing stations with 2 stations each (bottom photo).  They use these machines to clean and buff the oyster shells, wood, pearls, etc…

Grinding and Buff Stations

Grinding and Buff Stations

There were bags and bags of oyster shells, pearls, shells, and wood all over the building.  Ready and waiting to be made into the next master piece.

Teaching the Trade

We arrived just before lunch so the students seemed more interested in us than finishing their work.   We were able to watch 2 students carve oyster shells, one student carve a pearl, and one student buffing a piece.

Carving school students

Carving school students

Creative Outlet

One very creative student was carving eye glass frames!  Can you imagine how spectacular that would be to own a pair?

Another super creative student was creating a dream catcher!  I love this idea!  She had already made the large circle with carved oyster shells on the exterior and two small circles with carved oyster shells.

Dream Catcher

Dream Catcher

The school had beautiful carved wood everywhere.  A giant, life size tiki stood at the door, the Gambier archipelago (lower photo) and of course Christ (it is a Catholic school).

Huge displays held many treasures that were for sale.  Everything from jewelry (necklaces, ear rings, bracelets), oyster shells, key chains, and more.  Each item is a unique piece of art

Display cases showcasing art & jewelry

Display cases showcasing art & jewelry

It is amazing to see what they can do with the oyster shells.  They made these beautiful clocks that were surrounded by carved oyster shells.  In addition to the stunning boxes for your most prized possessions.  The each sparkled when the light hit them creating a rainbow of colors.

Art or Jewelry?

Of course, they had many carved oyster shells and a few super unique pieces including the swimming dolphin (top left photo), swimming manta rays (bottom left) and a beautiful gold painted headshot of Christ (top right).

Intricately carved sets of jewelry sets.

They had striking necklace and ear ring sets.  The photo on the right has hand carved wood and oyster shell!

Hefara wanted me to experience the joy of wearing one of their stunning necklaces!  I swear I felt powerful the moment it touched my skin.  I felt like a queen and could not stop smiling!  It was stunning.  Of course, it only cost 80000xpf ($800)!

I know this necklace was featured in the above collage, but I thought it deserved its own photo because it is so incredibly beautiful.  The student carved wood into the oyster shell on the left of the necklace and into the drop of the earrings!  In addition to the pearls and pearl shells near the top of the necklace!  It is 80000xpf or $800.

It was a fabulous opportunity to see the young generation learning the traditions of the island.  I feel blessed for having the chance to see all of their beautiful work.

Events from this blog post occurred on 2 February 20201.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

One way to move a banana tree

Hiking Across Mangareva

Mangareva, the largest and main island in the Gambiers has wonderful mountains, ridges, trails and paths to explore.  So, we spend a few days hiking across Magareva.

Pt. Mataiutea Hike

The first “hike” for the new year was actually a very gentle 7.2 mile walk along a road.  Good for me as I had not exercised in a long time and needed to ease into it again.  Even though it was long, it was mostly flat and very easy.  We walked along the main road which turned into a dirt road which hugged the coast line along the water’s edge.  It was super pretty, a little breezy, and just what I needed to start the new year.

7.2 mile hike across Mangareva

7.2 mile hike across Mangareva

7-Miles Across 3 Trails

We took Kirimiro to Taku (Pt Teauorogo) to Chemin Ramapiko.  We decided to tackle the hardest incline first so we started on Chemin Kirimiro (which is across the street from the best magasin on the island, JoJo’s).  It is a steep and consistent incline that leads you to Arc de Triomphe de Kirimiro.  Half way up the first part of the hike we had a beautiful view of the Rikitea anchorage.

Rikitea Anchorage-Half way up the hike

Rikitea Anchorage-Half way up the hike

Fun photo of the Arc where we have had the pleasure of visiting before. 

Matt showing off under the arc

Matt showing off under the arc

From here you can walk the ridge to the left or right.  You can also go under and through the arc and continue down to the small village of Kirimiro which is what we did.  Once we got to Kirimiro, we turned right and walked along the road for 2.1 miles until we got to another small village (meaning 3 houses) called Apeakava.  On the road we came across this local transporting a banana tree on a moped!

One way to move a banana tree

One way to move a banana tree

Further down the road, we came across a rocky cliff.  Matt discovered a hidden gem inside the rock’s ledge.  A baby boobie.

Baby Boobie nested in the rocks

Baby Boobie nested in the rocks

We passed several old ruins that were once mighty and majestic.

Old ruins around Mangareva

Old ruins around Mangareva

From here we hiked up and down the Chemin Taku trail which connects with Chemin Ramapiko and leads you back to another road.  From there is was a short 1.2 mile walk back to the dinghy dock.

Mangareva Hikes

Mangareva Hikes

Looking at the map below, we stared just below the little below the small, blue image of a ship, then walked up to Arc de Triomphe de Kirimiro, down the dotted trail to the white road.  Followed the white road to Apeakava (where the dots are), across the trail to the gold star and then back down to the blue image ship.

Hiking Across Mangareva

Hiking Across Mangareva

The French Navy Arrives

The Bouganville is a French Navy war ship that travels around French Polynesia ensuring the waters are safe for travel.  We had the pleasure of touring this fascinating vessel in Makemo (click here to read about the tour).  Our friend Stephan had alerted us of the Navy ships arrival and asked us to clear the channel of all cruising boats.  We did, but that was 3 days before they arrived.  The day before the ship’s arrival, two French cruising boats anchored right in the channel.  The French will do what the French will do.  The ship had to maneuver around them to get to the dock.  But with massive bow thrusters and fancy engineering they made it without incident.

The ship was only here for 1 day and did not allow for any tours.  Must have been a shore break for the crew.

French Navy Arrives to Mangareva

French Navy Arrives to Mangareva

Taravai Bound

We left Rikitea and headed toward Taravai to prepare for my birthday party!  It is always a serene and stunning anchorage.  We visited Valerie, Herve, Alan, and Ariki and procured lots of fresh produce.  Herve was being silly and strategically placed a rather large cucumber…. And we came across a humongous pig.

We were blessed with sunset that streaked across the sky.

Taravai Sunset

Taravai Sunset

Events from this blog post occurred in January 2021.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Seahorse Island

Gambiers Beauty

After several days of hosting people onboard Sugar Shack, partying, and eating like royalty, we needed to decompress!  We also needed to make water, do laundry, and scrub the boat. So, we headed to the North part of Gambiers.

On the way we passed by “Sea Horse” island…can you guess why?  Of course, in a month it will be called something different as the tree will grow and the shape will change…but still it was cool when we saw it.  It’s only in the Gambiers that we see shapes in the trees.  So pretty!

Seahorse Island

Seahorse Island

Our first stop was Two-Palm island.  When we first came to this anchorage there were three palm trees on the motu and we called it Three Palm Island (in April 2019).  One of the palms lost its top so we renamed it Two Palm Island in March 2020.  However, when we arrived in January 2021 there was only one palm tree left.  Not sure how their tops keep getting blown off, but they do.  It still does not take away from the beauty of this anchorage!

One palm island

One palm island

We took advantage of the crystal-clear water and spent 2 days making water, doing laundry and cleaning the boat.  We replenished the house batteries, filled the water tanks, and cleaned the water line. Whew!  And this is our “resting period.”

It was so nice to be back in gorgeous water!  We paddle boarded, swam, snorkeled, and enjoyed lots of water time.

After a few days it was time to meet up with some of our cruiser friends as we were taking them on a pearl farm tour.

Pearl Farm Tour: Dada

Matt and I took 3 other boats on a tour of Dada’s Pearl Farm.  It was Eve from “Auntie,” Seavett and Anaka from “Major Tom” and Russell, Kate, Choloe, Felix and Hugo from “Katherine De Fuego.”  We all anchored across the lagoon just north of Totegegie.  This is the closest anchorage to his pearl farm.  We then hopped in two dinghies and made the 1.5 nm trip across the lagoon to his pearl farm. 

I did not take a lot of photos or document what we saw because I have written about Dada’s Pearl Farm in past Gambiers posts (click here or here) to read more.  We picked a day with light wind and no swell so the journey across the lagoon would be easier and it was!

Everyone had great fun and learned a lot about farming, harvesting, and seeding pearls.

Dada's Pearl Farm Tour

Dada’s Pearl Farm Tour

Taravai Visit

We visited our good friends Valerie, Herve, Alan, and Ariki on Taravai for a few days where they showered us with love.  We had a wonderfully tasty lunch with them and enjoyed the anchorage all to ourselves.  The next day we had them over for lunch on Sugar Shack.

Valerie, Herve, Alan, Ariki

Valerie, Herve, Alan, Ariki

Matt captured some beautiful photos of the anchorage.  This is a photo looking out toward the main pass into the Gambiers lagoon.

Gambiers Pass

Gambiers Pass

This photo shows the beautiful reef

Taravai Anchorage

Taravai Anchorage

And this amazing drone shot shows the entire bay with the mountain reflecting on the water. Valerie and Herve’s house is in the middle of the bay – can you see it (to the right of the church)?

Taravai

Taravai

Taravai

Taravai in Gambiers

Stefan took us to his friend’s house where he runs a little pension (hotel) for island visitors.  They had a beautiful view.  It is called Pension Maro’i.

Pension Maro'i

Pension Maro’i

Spoiling wrotten

For many years I have dreamed of owning a long strand of pearls.  A strand so long that you could wrap it around your neck twice or wrap around your wrist.  But it is hard to pull the trigger on something like that when you are not bringing in the bacon.  I’ve looked at strands all over French Polynesia and the prettiest, most colorful pearls, with the most luster, at the most reasonable prices are here in Gambier.

When we first arrived I did not buy anything because it was our first stop in FP and I wanted to shop around to see if I could find better prices.  The second time I came back to Gambier it was covid and I did not want to spend money during the “unrest.”  Here we are the third and most likely final time and I think I am going to do it. I will just have to eat top ramon for the next 6-months 🙂

I found a long, single strand of pearls that had an amazing variety of colors on small pearls with lots of luster.  Most of the pearls are huge and don’t look well on me.  They look great on the Polynesians!  This particular strand had 130 pearls in near perfect condition.  Not 100% flawless, but colorful, with lots of luster, round, and all the same size.  The photos do not do it justice, but it is what it is.

Plan B?

But then I saw this beautiful, one of a kind creation that was 40% less expensive.  I tried them both on, looked at them in and out of the sun and asked my friends for their opinions.  If you zoom in you can see the gorgeous colors. The two outer strands are purple and pink, the two inner strands are green and blue and the center strand is pearl.  Simply gorgeous.

Funny thing is I knew what I wanted, I just couldn’t pull the trigger because it was more expensive than I wanted to spend (I am unemployed after all).  I was searching for the 2nd best thing which I knew would not make me as happy. In the end, I was able to negotiate the price of the long strand pearl necklace down.  I bought the one I loved and wanted and am thrilled to pieces.

Events from this blog post occurred in January 2021.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.