The Gambier Archipelago

May 2009

From the top of Mount Duff on Mangareva we had a 360° view of the Gambier Archipelago

The hiking was amazing on the island of Mangareva. The volcanoes that formed these islands have not weathered completely away, so there are peaks of over 1000 feet. There are fruit trees all over the island; there is so much that it is free for the asking. We were given breadfruit, grapefruit, mangoes, lemons, and way too many bananas.

Our reward after a climb to the summit of Mount Duff was a 360 degree view of the atoll and the surrounding sea. On the steepest parts of the trail, we hauled ourselves up along ropes tied to trees.

A local man climbed a tree in his yard to throw grapefruit into our waiting hands, scrambled around his yard collecting limes for us, and chopped down a banana tree to give us this stalk--a heavy load to carry a couple miles back to the boat!

The season was heading toward fall, so we had some very wet days. On one of our hikes we collected mangoes, then waded through what was supposed to be a beach trail, but the beach was underwater. On the way we had so much rain that you couldn't tell where the salt water stopped and the rain water started.

There were few vegetables available, almost everything came in on the twice monthly cargo ship from Tahiti. Prices are high--a bag of three heads of romaine lettuce was over $10. If we averaged out the free fruit with the expensive fresh veggies, it worked out to reasonable prices. We are still carrying plenty of canned food that helps keep the budget down, too.

These remoras formed a clean-up crew for biological waste thrown overboard (notice the sucker on the head, for attaching to the surfaces of things like boats and sharks). Cabbage leaves were among their favorites.

Don't leave your car parked too long, or there will be a bit of work getting it uncovered.

When we found the local lady that made a batch of pain au chocolate every morning, we knew we had arrived in paradise.

We had help picking the pamplemousse, a relative of grapefruit, from a couple boys who enjoyed a plate of chocolate chip cookies we brought in return.

Harvesting breadfruit or mangoes requires a long stick and a catcher.

The breadfruit makes great french fries. They are just a bit sweet, but better than any potato.
The Catholic missionaries left churches, monastaries, and a convent on the islands.

Wild chickens are everywhere, and are free for the catching.
We didn't get very lucky.

Families often keep a pig or two to recycle the over abundant fruit crops.

The lagoon is dotted with pearl farming operations.

A school here trains young people from all over French Polynesia to make jewelry and other artwork, mostly setting pearls and engraving oyster shells (mother of pearl). Classes last three to five years.

You can buy finished jewelry as well as loose pearls from locals.
Next Page