We made landfall in Penrhyn on Tuesday 30th August, and it has been a week full of activities and discoveries - some perplexing, some delightful, all fascinating. We entered the pass easily and once we had checked in at the main village of Omoka, we motored gingerly across the lagoon to the lovely anchorage off the village of Tetautua. Here, we have received a welcome so warm and disarming, it has made us feel very special and a little awkward at times. They don't have many yachts visiting here (too far north) and have only had 14 this year to date so we are still rather a novelty. On the second night, we were invited to one of the elder's 79th birthday celebration.
That evening, all the male cruisers were invited by some locals to a lobster hunting expedition on the reef which sounded quite treacherous and yielded 2 lobsters before it finally had to be abandoned due to foot-injury.
So, another day, another trip. This time the health officer, Joseph or 'OJ' to his friends, and two younger men gave up most of their day to take 4 of us (Kika and Noa) to the north of the lagoon to fish and teach us how to look for pearls and clams and to husk coconuts.
These trips are totally dependent on the kindness and generosity of the locals who happily give up their time to show you their atoll. There is also, it must be said, a rivalry between senior members of the village to befriend cruisers. We have puzzled over the reasons for this which, as there is no material benefit to befriending us, must simply be status. This competition fuels their enthusiasm and willingness to give of their time and resources. It's important, we have quickly come to realise, not to abuse their generosity and to try to diffuse any competition by giving some time to all parties - not always easy and sometimes a little awkward. That the town is so small only exacerbates the problem. Everyone seems to know the other's business down to how many cans of beer you have bought from the town on 'The Other Side'. Omoka is a short trip across the lagoon, but the rivalry between there and Tetautua is fierce. When we arrived, though the officials who checked us in were pleasant and helpful, they implied that over on 'The Other Side' we had to beware as the people were prone to theft and other vices which is, happily, complete fiction. It reminds me of the perpetual rivalry between Grimsby and Hull which sit on opposing sides of the river Humber (the south side's the best!) This is paradise with a twist: stay for a couple of days and you see paradise, stay for a couple more and you see the twist. It seems that life in a small town has its drawbacks, whether your view is the Pacific or Pontefract. The population of the town is much depleted - there are only about 60 inhabitants these days. Jobs and adventure in Australia and New Zealand often prove difficult to resist, and as a result there are constant, valiant efforts being made to continue the dwindling traditions and culture. The language is Maori but it is a dialect which is unique to Penrhyn and is spoken throughout although English is also spoken and, of course, this has enabled greater contact between us and the locals. A group of villagers of all ages are involved in taking a tour of New Zealand and Australia where they will perform dancing, singing and traditional music in order to raise money for a new tractor. We were lucky enough to be invited to a rehearsal in the Sunday school one evening. Those performers with small children brought them along and either put them on a mat on the floor to one side where they fell asleep, or else they simply slept in their parent's arms while they belted out the songs. The singing was wonderful and accompanied by some accomplished ukulele playing. The dances were similar to other Polynesian arrangements we have seen but both the group of young girls and boys who danced seemed to enjoy it so much and were so unselfconscious and energetic, it was a delight to watch. We felt so privileged to be there and were almost speechless when the band leader stood up at the end of the rehearsal and thanked the 'yachts' for coming to listen!
In return for all the time and generosity we have been lucky to receive, we have made efforts to help in any ways we can.