Sunday, October 16, 2005

Nukufetau Journal

October 7 - October 16

Due to wind direction (and strength) we decided to anchor in the southeast corner of the lagoon, rather than in front of the small village of Nukufetau.  We were instantly welcomed by the local police officer, Tesio, who checked our paper work and offered to show us the WWII B-17 plane wreck.  We, along with Island Sonata, met him on one of the islets where he was coconut crab hunting.  He took us into a magnificent jungle to the wreck site.  This trek north has really sparked our interest in the second World War.  To try and imagine young men (boys really) landing on, fighting, and defending these small atolls is overwhelming.  To actually see and touch real relics from the war adds a reality to the history.  It's a bag of mixed emotions as we curiously explore the intriguing sites, saddened by the thought of the thousands of men/boys who died.

Afterwards we sat on the beach with Tesio talking a little and enjoying the shade and view of the turquoise lagoon.  He sent us away with two coconut crabs and a huge smile.

Back on our boat Chris got to work cleaning the large Tuna, which I had shoved head first, tail nearly sticking out, into the frig the night before (it was too rolly on passage for us to want to deal with the mess of cleaning the fish).  I hadn't realized just how big the guy was until mounds upon mounds of tasty red flesh started piling up.  We had Island Sonata over for dinner, where we got a little carried away with sesame seared tuna, four different types of tuna rolls, tuna sashimi, tuna sushi, the two coconut crabs, and a cucumber salad (because I was worried we wouldn't have enough food!).  It was YUMMY, and took away all and any guilty thoughts leftover from the act of killing a living thing!

The next morning another local (Famasino) stopped by to say Mauri (hello) and gave both boats some fish!  Barely here a day and we were already overwhelmed by the generosity.  We could also feel a difference between the less populated Nukufetau and the crowded Funafuti ... just in the two interactions we'd had we could sense to higher level of curiosity and felt a warmer welcoming.

Chris went off with John to gather some coconuts and look for coconut crabs while I scrubbed down the cockpit to clear away the lingering fish smell (from the killing and cleaning of the tuna).  Later Chris and MJ grated and squeezed the coconut for fresh coconut milk, which I used to make Kokoda (like Seviche with the fish soaked in lime juice, but served in coconut milk).  We had MJ & John over for another huge feast; more tuna rolls and sashimi, Kokoda, and spicy seared tuna.  About an hour after eating, as we were all lounging around trying to digest mass amount of food, I began to get really really hot.  I tried sitting right in the breeze, but I felt flushed, as if I was having a massive hot flash.  Chris and John took off to check their coconut crab traps (which turned out to be empty) and I went down below to do a few of the dishes ... turning on the light I discovered I was a deep red color - all over my body, as if I had laid out in the sun for 10 too many hours!  MJ and I figured it must be some type of allergic reaction, so I took a Benedryl and returned to the cockpit to lay in the breeze.  My sunburn look continued until about three in the morning, but otherwise I felt alright.

The next morning I took a cursory glance through our medical book, but found nothing describing my symptoms.  I figured it was some fluke allergy, and since it wasn't that bad and the fish was that good, I served leftovers to Chris and I for lunch.  This time I didn't eat very much though (just in case) ... and it was probably a good thing because less than twenty minutes after lunch I was turning red again!  This round was worse, I felt dizzy, a bit sick, and my heart was working overtime -- it was beating so hard and fast I was convinced you should be able to see my whole chest move.  I took a couple more Benedryl (since they seemed to help the night before) and laid inert under our hatch.  A few hours later I was feeling much better, and we had also learned that both John & MJ had had a small bout of stomach problems the night before.  Chris however, with his stomach of steel, didn't have any problems at all.  I hit the medical book again, and this time also used our fish books ... finally I found it ... Histamine Poisoning!  Most likely caused because we either didn't clean the fish soon enough or because our refrigerator wasn't cool enough.  Bummed, we had to throw the rest of the tuna overboard.  We spent the next week monitoring frig temperatures, adding insulation and we added a little fan to help circulate the air and maintain a more consistent temp.  As it turns out our frig is now running a bit less and seems to be cooler.

Starting that night a huge convergence zone hit us, and with it came cloud cover, rain, and lots of lightning.   For three days we kept most of our electronics in the oven and tried to enjoy the impressive show that mother nature put on; blinding flashes followed by crackling thunder, both near and far.  During the rainy periods we played cards with Island Sonata and ate a lot (what else does one do when trapped 'indoors'?)  On the bright side of things we were loaded up with water and ready to do some mass amounts of laundry, should the sun ever surface again!  In between down pours on the 11th, we went in to visit Famasino and his wife Salani.  They are the only locals who live (sometimes) away from the main village (although they also have a house in the village).  Salani  gave us a tour which included dense jungle, a well from WWII, and the airstrip used in WWII -- now so overgrown you'd never guess a plane every landed there!  Afterwards we all went over to Island Sonata where we feasted on coconut crabs, chicken, and rice (all provided by Famasino & Salani).  They seemed to get a good laugh watching Chris as he enthusiastically tore into the crab.  He was also the only Palagi brave enough to try the supposedly eatable intestine thing along with some funky juice stored in the center body of the crab (what we nick-named Butt Butter).  When Chris left to get some fishing supplies from Billabong, Salani laughed and said, "Chris, he likes to eat!".  While they grossed us out with their intestines and butt butter, we did they same when we offered them a coconut-peanut butter balls for dessert ... they were polite enough to try and eat them but they couldn't quite control the nasty faces!  I can't believe it, who doesn't like peanut butter and coconut?

Wednesday the sun finally returned ... the only downside being that now I had no excuse to not do the laundry!

Thursday we took off for a walk around the south side of the islet.  It was HOT!  After making our way around and to the outside (or ocean side) of the atoll the debate as to when we should cross over (through the atoll jungle) began.  No one was 100% sure of just how far we needed to go in order to come out at the right spot on the other side!  Chris would pop into the jungle on occasion to scout it out, and on one such occasion made a very neat discovery.  He found two slabs of concrete buried under layers of bush where Marine Core men from WWII had carved their names.  We could only make out the names of one of the carvings; Al Zuro of the U.S.M.C. dated 10-17-43.  He had also carved what appears to be his wife's name and a heart with A.Z. and M.Z. carved inside.  Standing there images flashed through my mind; a young man maybe 21 max, probably just married before being shipped off to some unheard of atoll in the middle of nowhere, sweating away in the jungle, a cigarette in his mouth, a picture of his new young wife in his pocket.  Probably hadn't had children yet.  I can almost see his face, his smile.  And then what?  It was November of 1943 when the US marines attacked Betio, Tarawa  -- with horrific losses --  was he sent there?  Did he survive?  We hope that perhaps we can find out, who knows what we'll discover.

Finally, still not sure where we should head across we just went for it ... and more or less got lost.  A bit embarrassing to admit if you consider that from edge to edge across the atoll was no wider than a few hundred feet -- But this was some thick jungle ... and we had no compass -- all we had for our sense of direction was the pounding surf that marked the outside of the atoll (which we were trying to go away from).  After turns and loops, we literally cut our way through (via machete), finally finding the white sandy beaches that marked the lagoon side of the atoll.  We had cut across WAY too soon, no big deal as we could easily continue walking on the lagoon side, but farther down we came across the narrow part of the atoll - the part where you could practically see across from one side to the other - the part with a PATH!!!  Well, at least we had an adventure!

On Friday (the 14th), Camira and Freebird arrived.  We all gathered for a swim under Island Sonata's boat.  A local boat was passing and pulled close to say hello -- strange glances from all of them as they puzzled over the crazy laughing white people floating around (on water/pool toys) under the boat!!!  (We call the area under Island Sonata's catamaran "the pool"; we swim there because it's shaded from the hot tropical sun).  After our swim the men went off hunting for coconut crab. Unfortunately they came back empty handed, lucky for us I stock up on all those canned goods!!!

Saturday it was calm enough for a trip to the village.  All eight Palagi's piled aboard Freebird and we motored across the lagoon to the village.  We spent the day walking around the small village, escorted (or surrounded depending on how you look at it) by a large group of children.  We sang songs, skipped, raced, and played games.  For such a small village in such an out-of-the-way place we were surprised at how modernized it was (compared with other such places).  One family keeps their coconuts in the freezer -- what a refreshing drink that is!  Some of the modernization was a bit disappointing.  Camira had brought an old sail courtesy of another boat to be given to one of the families in the village.  The donator had figured they could use it for their canoes or homes, but as we were leaving the guy said, "and thank you again for the sail, it will provide good shade for when my family goes on a picnic".  Well, not quite the functional, practical, necessity type of use we had figured on.  Later Camira remarked that he wished he had saved the sail brought it to Onotoa (Kiribati), where they actually used sails for their canoes which they fished from.  Anyway, the people were once again beyond welcoming & friendly and we really enjoyed the visit.

Sunday we prepared for our upcoming departure.  We also had a goodbye visit from Famasino & Salani and their children.  Then early Monday we departed Nukufetau and Tuvalu, making our way to Kiribati.

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