Stefan and Manu

Nirvana in the Middle of Chaos

We had been quarantined on our boat now for 2 weeks.  We have another 10 days to go as the FP government extended the quarantine for the country.  There are 37 cases hundreds of miles away from us.  Currently there still are zero confirmed cases in the Gambiers.  However, despite that good news, we still are living in about 600 square feet of livable space.  We are still anchored in front of Totegegie (the airport island).  So how did we find nirvana in the middle of all this chaos?

My friend Stefan is a local who I met last year during the Gambier Cultural Festival.  He carves the pearl shells and makes amazing jewelry using pears and the oyster shells.  He normally lives on Mangareva.  However, he moved his entire family to a remote island called Puaumu which is one of the northern most islands in Gamblers.  There are no inhabitants on this island.

Stefan had invited us to visit his little piece of nirvana but we wanted to wait until the full two weeks had passed. Even though we are still technically in quarantine, we thought we could take the risk by exercising precautions (staying 6’ away, no hugging or touching).

Setting up Camp

We could see a small metal structure as we approached the island.  Interesting enough they did not use this structure at all as it was pretty run down.

Camping during quarantine

Camping during quarantine

Stefan had the marinated chicken on the grill when we arrived.  His wife Manu had a feast set up on the table.  They had large tarp with two 3-people tents set up underneath.  There were 10 of them living here for the past 3 weeks.  A small kitchen/dining room set up on the beach overlooking the turquoise water lapping the shore.

Stefan's Campsite

Stefan’s Campsite

The table was packed with food including a rice, pasta, chicken, poison cru (fish), sashimi, and banana bread.  The fish was caught the day before (bottom left photo) and was used for the sashimi and poison cru.  The banana bread was baked between leaves on the grill and was scrumptious.  The chicken had been marinated for a few hours and was incredibly juicy.  Everything was so tasty.  I cannot believe the went through so much trouble for lunch for us.  Keep in mind they have very limited supplies and resources as they are living on a deserted island in quarantine and yet they shared what they had with us.

Exploring Nirvana

After lunch Stefan showed us how to fish using natural resources.  All of the islands are covered in hermit crabs.  Millions if not billions of them crawl around each island.  He showed us how to lure a crab out.  First you whistle to it and it slowly comes out.  Yep, you hold it close to your mouth and whistle any toon and out it comes like a genie from a bottle.   You patiently wait for him to get mostly out and then quickly grab his body and slowly pull him out.  Gentle tug, you cannot pull too hard as you will rip his tail part off and that is the part you need to fish.

You tear the tail part off the crab and feed the crab to the sea (fish).  Attach the tail part to a small hook, which is attached to a string which is attached to a large tree limb.  Toss the hook into the shore and reel in your catch.  This entire process yielded us this beautiful trigger fish in less than 2 minutes.  We tossed him back as he is not edible.

We enjoyed a nice leisurely walk around the island which actually has sand (not coral and rocks) on the shore.

Beautiful beaches of Puaumu

Beautiful beaches of Puaumu

This little nirvana is a bird refuge with lots of baby birds.

Bird Refuge

Bird Refuge

When we returned, the ladies were watching a movie (yep on a mac, in a tent, in a deserted island).

Watching movies under the tent

Watching movies under the tent

It was hard to say goodbye, but they sure showed us with true nirvana is like during this time of chaos.

Stefan and Manu

Stefan and Manu

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