The people of Maupihaa

The eastern side of the atoll consists of one long, narrow motu (7km long) and the people of the neighbouring island Maupiti (140 nm away) have divided this land into 75 lots that belong to different families. Most families leave their land unattended, but at the moment 15 people live here. Mostly they stay for a few months, collect as much copra as they can and return to Maupiti (the supply ship only comes twice a year, but some fishing boats bring supplies too and passing sailing boats also get parcels to deliver), but a few live more or less permanently here. Only two houses have solar panels and electricity, most others are very basic, rather open shacks with a cooking place outside, a bucket for a sink and a few matresses.

The people are fabulously friendly and generous. It seems there’s a competition going on who entertains more cruisers (or maybe we are the entertainment for them, as there is no TV, internet or telephone connection here). The first time we went ashore a young guy (Kevin, 26) who lives here alone spontaneously invited us for dinner (it turned out to be a feast with lobster and fish prepared in different varieties), two days later his neighbours (Salome and Ferdinand) invited us over and last weekend the family who lives at the northernmost house (Marcelo, Adrienne and their grown-up kids Hio, Faimano and Buaiti) invited all cruisers (7 boats by now) for a potluck party at their house. The people here spend 6 days a week with hard manual labour (collecting coconuts, cracking them open, pulling the meat out and drying it to produce copra) and Adrienne and her daughters somehow still found the time to collect thousands of shells and make elaborate necklaces which they handed out
to all their guests as welcome gifts. We keep repeating this, but the generosity of the Polynesian people is just amazing.

On Sunday the wind started clocking around (north, then west and back to south) and we moved around the atoll with it, so we got the chance to spend another day at the western motu with its bird colonies and now we’re back in the southeast corner. All boats have flocked to this protected area, because it will blow hard all week. We will do some indoor projects while the cold southeasterly is howling outside, sending best regards from the southern winter.

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