By Liz Clark
Editor's note: We're happy to follow up on Dallas Hyland's moving tribute to Patagonia ambassdor Liz Clark -- after she broke her neck bodysurfing -- with good news. Liz's neck has healed up well and she's back in Tahiti living on an organic vanilla farm near the boatyard where she's splitting her time between book writing and boat projects. This story is from Liz's circle of French Polynesia in early 2012, before her injury, and first appeared on her blog. Glad you're back Liz!
March 2012: And so the time had arrived. Cyclone season over, it was safe to head southwest say a final goodbye to the Marquesas. I poured over the chart, locating the tiny, isolated atoll of Puka Puka, 250 miles straight south. Raiarii’s grandfather was the first to colonize this desolate atoll in the late 1930s.
Tehani Henere Papa and his wife, Elizabeth, had 22 children there!! Two sets of twins!?! Tehani delivered each one of the babies in a tub behind their little house. They raised the kids on fish and coconuts and the fresh Pacific air. Tehani worked copra from dawn to dusk year round, and when the copra boats came to collect the dried coconut meat that he split, dried, and collected in the large burlap sacs, he could purchase sacs of flour, sugar, and rice with his earnings.
[Above: A load of bananas for Raiarii’s family on Puka Puka. All photos courtesy of Liz Clark and the Voyage of Swell]
Raiarii’s father, Victor, was number 15 of the 22, and left the atoll at age 17 to find work in Tahiti and had never gone back. Interisland travel is expensive and difficult for locals, with few spots on the cargo ships and high prices for airfare. So Raiarii had never visited Puka Puka, nor met many of the cousins, aunts, and uncles from his father’s side who are still living there. Upon learning this story, I decided we must try to sail to Puka Puka!