Our new Manihi family

In People, Voyages on 18/08/2010 at 20:38

As is the tradition with Helena, we have again accidentally ended up somewhere we didn’t plan to be And again it’s amazing and we’re having a great time with our new pearl farming family on a beautiful part of this atoll. We are considering starting our very own pearl farm on one of these motus. Isn’t that romantic?

After spending a few days in the Blue Lagoon on the east side of the Atoll, yesterday we started on our trip to Ahe. Unfortunately navigating to the exit of the Manihi lagoon is quite difficult, due to the numerous pearl farms and coral heads (check Google Earth to get an idea). To get through this minefield we needed a man on top of the spreaders to look out for these barely submerged obstacles, with the sun from behind to get a good view. Luckily for us we are possession of the ultimate volunteer, Matty! He managed to get us through safely to the Blue Lagoon, but on the way back we ran into a rainstorm. He couldn’t see anything under water that was more than a few meters ahead, so we had to drop the anchor halfway through the lagoon.

As it turned out, our boat was parked in the backyard of a local pearl faming family. We figured we’d better ask their permission to stick around until the weather cleared up. We were happy to find out that this family was amazingly friendly and they had never had any ship parked in front of their house before. They were very curious about us and we were probably even more curious about them. As soon as we exchanged the first hello’s they showed us around their property and gave us some introductions in the local oceanic cuisine. Like snails and brightly colored clams that are embedded in the coral reef. Both raw and fresh out of the water!!!

They then offered to make us some goat for dinner, but since Boukje is vegetarian (except for fish) the kids went off to catch us some fish. One hour later they came back with more fish than our freezer can hold! We were so surprised by all these gifts and their hospitality, that we were literally at a loss of words and had no idea how to repay their hospitality. Thanks to Marie, we had some T-shirts to give away and so we did. The next morning we invited ourselves over to their home to share some of our coffee. However, we ended up with even more gifts: real pearls and some beautiful shells. And grandmere Tematehatoa told us that we now have a Manihi-family!

They also showed us how they grow and harvest pearls. To grow a pearl, a small, perfectly round pebble is placed into the oyster. They tie the oyster with about 10 others to a piece of string and these strings get tied to a long horizontal line that is submerged horizontally in the lagoon at around 5 meters. After 14 months the pearls are fully shaped and the oysters need to be harvested.

This afternoon, we were invited to join in the actual harvesting of the oysters which was pretty amazing. Rolf even helped out by untying the strings of oysters under water so the boys could lift them to the boat. Oh yeah, after the oysters are harvested, these horizontal lines are not at 5 meters anymore, but around 2. So there’s part of our minefield

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