June 10, 2009 - Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva
Another perfect day in paradise for my 46th birthday. Clear blue skies, soaring green mountains… even the water looks clearer than yesterday.
I opened my gifts of the "Built From the Sea" CD from BB, which he's managed to keep hidden from me for 6 months, & the chocolate bar I accidentally discovered on Zen, then enjoyed a lovely breakfast of special birthday crepes with baked apple & banana, butter & cinnamon, & Nutella. Yumalicious.
I read my birthday emails, then we rowed in to investigate the village. There are only 15 people living here; 10 when the kids are off in school, as they are now. Louis-Michel (our neighbor on the French boat) accompanied us to the public phone, which ended up being at Pautu & Maria's house - the very Pautu we had wanted to meet, since we had met his mother Henriette in Taipivai. I made my call home, which was frustrating on both ends due to the static bursts every few seconds, but I felt very lucky to have been able to call at all from such a remote & small village. The phone is only here cuz Pautu & Maria run a camp for 60-70 kids at a time, & they requested a phone be installed so they can make emergency calls if necessary. Pautu is striking to look at with a tattoo across half of his face. I later learned much of his upper body is also tattooed. For her part, Maria also has a few tattoos, the most notable being the bird on her shoulder done by none other than Pautu.
They are both very nice - we sat & talked with them for a while after trying to call Elizabeth, since she always calls me on my birthday, & BB’s friend Steve, whose birthday is also today. As we left to go for a walk, Pautu asked if we needed any fruit, so I requested some bananas - a small bunch if possible, since they always ripen all at once & then we suddenly have too many.
We walked the beautifully-tended properties with colorful flower beds enclosed by coconut palm logs along the footpath marked by stones & croton plants. Everything is clean & organized - a bit of an obsession here in Polynesia. We walked as far as the next beach where I noticed the water was clearer, so that's where I planned to snorkel later.
Upon our return, Pautu presented us with the fruit he had collected: a small bunch of bananas, a dozen oranges, & a mei (breadfruit). As a thank you, I gave Maria a bottle of perfume (the women love perfume here, but it’s very expensive & hard to get) & some American fashion magazines, which seemed equally well received. Since they now knew it's my birthday, they proposed that we have dinner with them. Pautu said he had half a goat in the freezer, & BB said he'd bring the cake. Yippee! I know BB was disappointed when Gillaroo left today & there was no one left in the anchorage to have a party with - he really tries hard to make my birthday a special occasion, which I so appreciate, since, unlike many people, I like my birthday.
We headed to the dink with our heavy bag of fruit, stopping to add a few lemons (full-size lemons, not limes!) from a tree on the way. We had asked Raymond for pamplemousse yesterday, so we went up the hill with his nephew Maru to collect some. He also picked some bright red custard apples for us to try - first time we've seen them here. When we asked for one ripe mango, he gave us two from his own fruit basket. Very generous people.
While BB baked my cake, I went for a 2.5-hour snorkel. I didn't mean to be gone so long, but I wore my full wetsuit, so I never got cold, & there were some areas where the water was quite clear & there was a lot of fish activity. And the big coral heads are surprisingly plentiful - I kept expecting to run out of reef, but this whole bay seems to be filled with beautiful coral. I also saw two turtles, but they did not linger once spotted.
BB had made both my cake & icing from scratch while I communed with the fishes & turtles - what a guy!
When we arrived at Pautu & Maria's, we saw they had decorated with streamers, flowers & a hand-made “Happy Birthday Aline” sign with a drawing of Migration in the bay. Maria adorned me with a sweet smelling frangipani lei, a tiare made from colorful leaves & flowers, & she gave me a gorgeous bouquet with tiny little roses set among a profusion of brightly-colored leaves. She had made all these as well as the gorgeous red ginger table centerpiece just after we'd left. We sat around laughing, talking, drinking wine & eating fried mei with Pautu, Maria, Moiva, & Maru, who was a real jokester. It was a test of my French to try to translate his often-very-clever jokes for BB.
The goat in coconut curry sauce was so outstanding that BB asked for the recipe for the sauce. There was also rice, grilled mei, & bread, all great vehicles for soaking up that delicious sauce.
Instead of ice cream, my chocolate cake with whipped cream icing was accented with diced mango. Wow. Not only did it look amazing, but it tasted so good we ate the whole thing & licked the extra bowl of whipped cream clean. What a feast. I was very content, a little tipsy, & stuffed! What a perfect birthday, topped off by a peaceful row home under a shimmering moon.