Goodbye Gambier (na na)

After four seasons in Gambier, we are finally saying “farewell” to the beautiful Gambier archipelago.  We have been unbelievably blessed with all the friends we’ve made here.  So, it was a bit difficult to say farewell.  By the way, “na na” is “goodbye” in Mangarevan (the local language in Gambier).

Our first arrival into Gambier was in April 2019 and we stayed for 6 weeks.  Then we returned in January 2020 and stayed for 4 months.  The third visit had us arriving December 2020 where we stayed for 5 months and our last visit was December 2021 where we stayed for 2.5 months.  So, over the course of our 3 year stay in French Polynesia, over a year of it was in Gambier.  That is how much we liked this archipelago!

We save all of our tracks as we move around.  The image below made me laugh because we had so many yellow tracks all over Gambier!  The green dots are noted anchorages, the yellow triangles are warnings of obstructions, the orange dots are points of interest.  Clearly, we’ve been in and around most of the islands in the Gambier Archipelago.

Tracks around the Gambier Archipelago

Tracks around the Gambier Archipelago

Saying “Na Na / Farewell” is super hard…

Over the course of a few weekends, many drinks, and multiple occasions, we capture our farewells to everyone.    The first person I met here was Stefan (or Tanavai) and his beautiful wife Manu.  We’ve spent countless hours with them at their house, on our boat, at Puaumu, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and more. 

Dada was gracious enough to showcase his pearl farm and all of his spectacular pearls with us and so many of our friends.

Heifera taught us how to carve the pretty pearl shells and gave many cruisers tours of the carving school.

Stefan, Manu, Dada, Heifera

Stefan, Manu, Dada, Heifera

One of my very special friends is Poerani (“Popo”).  She teaches English, art, and dance.  She has brought so much joy to our lives.  It was especially hard to leave her glorious smile.

Poerani a true joy

Poerani a true joy

The top photo is Titoan (he runs a small yacht services and charter business) and Juliet who is the local nurse.  Teva (lower left) is the heartbeat of Gambier and has all the connections.  Danny is a teacher and always has a pretty smile on his face!

We met Tehotu and Noella during our 3rd and 4th visit which is a shame as it would have been lovely to get to know them better.  Truly blessed family with so much love and heart to give. 

Taina (lower left) owns Taina Pearl and Keishi and she is an amazingly talented jewelry designer.  And Atuona (lower right) greeted me daily at Magasin Jojo’s. Always brought a smile to my face.

On our last night in Rikitea (the main, and only village in Gambier), we had our cruising friends over for a final farewell happy hour.  Photo: Matt, me, Dave, Pia, Daniela, Leo.  Front row: Jan, Rita, Doug, Kobe.

We head over to Taravai for our last night.  We invite Valerie, Herve, and Ariki for dinner and enjoy an intimate evening with our good friends.  They loaded us up with lots of tasty fruits and beautiful flowers.  It is Polynesian tradition to gift visitors with a shell necklace and flowers to set in the sea to welcome you back in the future.

It was super hard to capture the flowers in the sea as we were traveling 6kts, but you get the idea.

We have had countless sunsets and sunrises in Gambier, but here are a few of my favorites.  A short farewell to the day made brighter by its brilliance.

The iconic Mt. Duff on Mangareva lit up by the sunset.

A dance, fun run, and raffle during the Valentine’s Day Gambier Fundraise (see passage post).  Events from this post occurred mid-February. Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

Valentine’s Day Fundraiser

The College St Rapahel De Rikitea is a middle school in Mangareva, Gambier.  They host several fundraisers each year to help pay for school supplies, books, dances, and school trips.  We were lucky enough to be present for their largest fundraiser in February.

There were many events held over Valentine’s Day weekend.  Here is an idea of the line up (just from what I heard; we did not have the actual schedule):

Fundraiser Events:

  • Friday evening included movie night and games
  • Saturday day held more games, sporting events, an artisan market, and bake off
  • Saturday evening was a school dance show with dinner
  • Sunday was a “3k fun run and valentine lunch”

We gathered a few of our cruiser friends and met for take away dinner (typical Polynesian steak frites, chicken frites, poison cru, waffles) and grabbed some seats to watch the dance show.  Our good friend Poerani (the English teacher) is one of the MCs for the night.

Poerani (Popo)’s class went first.  They did a traditional dance with about 40 kids (bottom photos in red and yellow).  Then the older classes came out and continued with the “traditional Polynesian” dances.  I loved the costumes, albeit not as flashy as the Heiva dance costumes, still colorful, bright, vibrant, and beautiful.  The kids costumes (upper right corner) were colored leaves and were just beautiful!

The older kids also put on a few “modern / rap” dances interspersed with Polynesian moves – super creative!

The musicians were also students showcasing their musical talents.  Poerani upper right corner and Danny (dance instructor lower right corner)

Then the teachers came out and did a beautiful Polynesian dance.  Poerani captured the show as she radiates beauty, grace, and style!  I was so proud of her!

Fun Run Fundraiser

We managed to convince 4 boats to join us on the “3k Fun Run.”  There was a total of 39 teams and our participation included a T-shirt, flowers, and a raffle ticket.  Everyone had their arms marked with their team number. We were number 1 simply because we were the first to sign up.  This is our cruiser group.

Because it was 13 February it was a Valentine themed event.  All the balloons were red and white, some shaped as hearts, the shirts were red with a big heart on the back.  Matt and I and our friends Jan and Daniela

A lot of our local friends joined in on the race as well.  Teva (center photo with me), Danny (upper right), Poerani and Danny (bottom left), Titoan and Juliet (right center), Poerani and I (bottom right).

As many of you know, I am not a runner!  I don’t even like to run when someone is chasing me!  I do love to walk and I can walk at a pretty fast clip (or so I thought).  Matt wore flip flops as he was convinced, we would go slow.  I was outfitted in a work out top, shorts, and tennis shoes!  Yes, I wore shoes.  As it turned out, our friends Jan and Daniela came in 4th (lost to the 3rd place couple by 9 seconds).  We came in 13th and that was only because Matt pushed me.  It was fun, but let me tell you, not my cup of tea :0

Raffle

After the race there was a Valentine lunch where they did the raffle.  Some how each of our cruiser friends won something, which was super cool!   We won a heart shaped candle set and a photo shoot. 

The weekend was a huge success.  I believe the fundraiser generated to $10,000.  Keep in mind that Mangareva is one of the richest islands in French Polynesia!!!

We showcase Gambier highlights and our favorite spots with our friend Wayne.  Did you see Part I and Part II?  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

Gambier Showcase with Wayne Part II

In our last blog we start to showcase Gambier with our dear friend Wayne.  We tour around Totegegie, Puaumu, Taravai, Tauna, and Akamaru.  Did you miss it, check it out!

MANGAREVA

We pop in and out of Mangareva (the main town) a few times.  It is the main anchorage for the one and only town in Gambier (where the stores, police, few eateries, medical clinic and post office is located).  Each time we swing in we try to do a walk or hike.

We ease Wayne into our first walk right after a big lunch at Jojo’s.  We had flip flops, no water, and were ill prepared.  But we went anyway.  It is a pretty flat walk (until the end) and for the most part on a road.  The walk takes us to the Look out Point / Queen’s Throne at Pointe Mataiutea.  This hike was not difficult or challenging except that it was far and we were ill prepared.  Stats:  17k steps, 7.6 miles, 7 floors.

Queen's Throne

Queen’s Throne

The next day we do the ridge line trail.  We do the majority of the ascension on a paved street, then cut across to the ridge and do a series of up, down, up, down.  Some using climbing ropes, some rocks, but most over pine needles making it pretty darn slippery.  Just as we were nice and sweaty and stinky, we got a massive rain shower.  Free laundry services while you hike.  This hike was not that far, but it was strenuous with the many ups and downs (51 floors).  Stats: 7,200 steps, 2.8 miles, 51 floors climbed. 

Check out the birds (lower left photo) checking me out!

Hike of the Highlights

On the “highlight” hike we hit the weather station (Meteo France), the Convent (Convent de Rouru), the Princess bath (baignoire de princesse), and the 12 Apostle trail.  On the way up the hill we have several beautiful views.  The photo below shows the half way view of the anchorage (top), Mt Duff (with Wayne), and the view from the top.

The first stop is the Convent de Rouru.  We’ve been here several times and it always amazes me how vast the property is.  There are 3 or 4 old ruins that used to be buildings or facilities.  None with roofs. Some of the old brick walls still have the cross visible (middle top photo).

If you continue to walk behind the convent you will find the princess bath (Baignoire de Princesse). It looks like it could have been beautiful at one point, but now it is overgrown and the water inside really gross. (Bottom right two photos in above photo)

Next, we come to the weather station, Meteo France.  As you might recall we came here to see the weather balloon fly away.

Meteo France

Meteo France

We finally make it to the 12 Apostles hike which takes you down by the water and then back up to the road.  It is a really pretty hike through the forest, over the dried leaves and pine needles and next to the water.

One day hike was a good one!  This hike was sort of the middle ground in that it was not too strenuous (only 30 floors elevation) and not too far (only 5.6 miles).  Stats: 15,301 steps, 5.8 miles, 30 floors.

Aukena

Aukena is located directly across from Mangareva and has a population of less than 100 people.  It is a small island that is only accessible by boat.  At the corner of the island is a small, broken down lighthouse.  The build of the lighthouse is unknown.  The focal plane was 18m to alert the locals of danger.

We head to shore and discover a beautiful small church that is still in use.  Along the path, heading toward the lighthouse we come across several ruins, an old seminary (middle photo), and an outdoor oven (lower right corner).

About a half a mile down along the coast we finally come to the beautiful lighthouse situated on the tip of Aukena.  It has beautiful views of Mangareva.  The photos below are from each window facing different directions.

On the way back we encounter a few of the local pigs.  They startled the heck out of us as they blend into their surroundings.

Time to Leave

It’s been 18 days and Wayne needed to head back so we bring him back to Totegegie for his last day.  We were able to show him 11 anchorages on 9 different islands!  It was a lovely time spent with great company!

Beautiful sunset to end a spectacular trip with Wayne

Part I of Gambier Showcase with Wayne can be found on our last blog.  Events from this blog post occurred in February.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.