Thursday, September 10, 2015


After breakfast, the Norfolk guys and I drove around Tahiti Iti (small Tahiti), which is the southeastern portion of the island that extends off of Tahiti Nui (big Tahiti).  We then returned to our hotel for lunch.

Papenoo Valley
After lunch, we went on a four-wheel-drive tour to Papenoo Valley in Tahiti's mountainous interior.  Our tour guide was excited about having Bounty mutineer descendants on his tour.  He mentioned that the mutineers who had stayed behind in Tahiti ran into Papenoo Valley when the British arrived in Tahiti to bring the mutineers to justice.  Unfortunately for the mutineers, the British were able to find them.

After dinner, I took the Norfolk guys to the airport for their flight home.  We said farewell, and I returned to my hotel, ready for another adventure.

Photos from my trip:
Pitcairn Island
French Polynesia

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

After Pitcairn: Tahiti

The Norfolk guys and I decided to drive clockwise around Tahiti.  Our first stop was the James Norman Hall Home, which is a replica of the house where James Norman Hall used to live.

In 1920, the two Americans Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall moved to Tahiti after fighting in World War I, to start a new life in a magical place.  Originally they set out to write South Pacific travel books together, but later on they learned about the mutiny on the Bounty and wrote The Bounty Trilogy.

Today, the James Norman Hall Home is a museum about the life of Hall and his writing.  We were greeted by a Tahitian woman.  When the Norfolk guys mentioned that they were Bounty mutineer descendants, and that we had just visited Pitcairn, she got ecstatic.  She asked us a ton of questions, and then insisted that we eat lunch at her friend's restaurant on the south side of the island because he would also be excited.  As a gift, she gave each of a us an autobiography of James Norman Hall.

Bounty monument at Point Venus
After touring the museum, we continued our drive and stopped at Point Venus along Matavai Bay, which is where Captain Wallis discovered Tahiti, and where Captain Bligh landed to collect breadfruit trees before the mutiny.  There was a Bounty monument there.

Our next stop was the Gauguin museum restaurant on the south side of the island, the place suggested by the woman at the James Norman Hall Home.  We were greeted by the owner Roger, who was excited to meet two descendants of the Bounty mutineers.  He asked them a ton of questions, and then introduced us to an old couple at the restaurant.

The old couple was from Sausalito, California.  They had sailed from San Diego to the South Pacific in their own yacht 10 years ago, and had been sailing around the South Pacific since then.  The husband was fascinated with the Bounty story.  He had the upmost respect for Captain Bligh, both for his humanitarianism for letting his crew relax in Tahiti for nearly six months, and for his outstanding seamanship in making the epic journey across the Pacific in an open boat after the mutiny.

The husband was also fascinated with the early days of Pitcairn.  He discussed three theories about what really happened to Fletcher Christian, and wanted to know which theory the Norfolk guys believed.  The first theory is that he was murdered on Pitcairn, which is the most accepted theory.  The second theory is that he somehow escaped Pitcairn and made it back to England.  There had been reported sightings of him in England after the mutiny, but the reliability of those sightings is questionable.  The third theory is that John Adams was really Fletcher Christian.  Some have said that the real John Adams was not educated enough to convert the island to Christianity and lead the small community, and that Fletcher Christian had disguised himself as John Adams.  But it is doubted that Fletcher Christian could have pulled this off without somebody blowing his cover.

Snowy believed the first theory, but Possum actually leaned toward the other two.  To me, the other two sounded like wild conspiracy theories.

To my surprise, the yachties had never been to Pitcairn.  They were intrigued that somebody like me had gone there.

We continued our drive and stopped at the Museum of Tahiti and the Islands, which is an excellent museum about Polynesian culture.  We then returned to our hotel for dinner.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

After Pitcairn: Mangareva

Our flight back to Tahiti wasn't till the afternoon, so we had most of the morning free.  Anneka, the Norfolk guys, and I decided to climb Mount Duff, the highest peak on Mangareva.

View from Mount Duff
After hiking for an hour and a half, we reached the summit, the highpoint of Mangareva at 1,447 feet.  The view was spectacular.  We could see the village, the lagoon, and many pearl farms over the lagoon.

We climbed down, grabbed all our stuff from the Claymore, and took the water taxi to the airport.  From there, we took a four-hour flight back to Tahiti.

At the Tahiti airport, most of us went our separate ways.  I said farewell to the couple from Wales, and I gave Anneka a good-bye hug.

I planned to stay in Tahiti for a few days before moving on, and I had booked a rental car.  The Norfolk guys planned to stay in Tahiti for a couple of days before flying home.  I asked the Norfolk guys if they wanted a ride to their hotel, and they accepted.

I picked up my rental car and drove the Norfolk guys to the Royal Tahitian, a moderately nice hotel on the northwest side of the island.  We ate dinner together at the hotel, and they paid for my meal for driving them.  During dinner, we discussed our itinerary for the next couple of days.  None of us really had an itinerary, so we decided that we would hang out together.  We made a deal that I would drive, and they would pay for all my meals.  I hadn't booked a hotel, so I checked into the Royal Tahitian.

Monday, September 7, 2015

After Pitcairn: At Sea

Arriving in Mangareva
The Claymore arrived in Mangareva around 5 PM.  We stepped off the ship and walked around town.  Several of us stopped at Cafe JoJo.  I don't drink alcohol, but everybody else ordered a beer.  It felt weird to be back in society.

Our flight back to Tahiti wasn't till tomorrow, so we spent the night on the Claymore.  The ship was anchored in a lagoon protected by a barrier reef, so it did not sway.  It felt unnatural to sleep on the Claymore without getting tossed around.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Day 11

I got up at 7 AM, and Simon cooked bacon and eggs for our breakfast.

At 8:30 AM, I visited the library next to the tourism office at the jail.  The library is open just two hours per week.  It was a small room with a random assortment of books that weren't really organized.  The place was run by Carol Warren, so I asked her about the library.

Most of the books come from passing cruise ships.  Most of the library's visitors are actually tourists, usually the ones coming off a yacht.  The locals don't read much.  Carol said that they were too busy to read.  I rolled my eyes.

I spent the rest of the morning playing more Scrabble with Simon.

At noon, I got a haircut from Michelle Christian, the mayor's wife.  Apparently she is the island's barber.  She asked why I was visiting Pitcairn, and I told her that I was inspired by The Bounty Trilogy.  She responded by saying that people who are familiar with the Bounty story are usually much older than me.

At 2 PM, Simon and I walked down to the landing where most of the island was congregated.  Eight-year-old Adrianna ran up to me, took my hand, and pulled me toward the longboat.  The younger children Cushana and Isabel were near the longboat and wanted me to play with them.  The doctor was there, and she gave me a big good-bye hug.  Finally, Simon said good-bye.  He told me that he would miss playing Scrabble with me.

Leaving Pitcairn
I boarded the longboat with Anneka, the Norfolk guys, the couple from Wales, and the others who were leaving the island, and we were taken to the Claymore.  I went to the upper deck and watched the longboat return to the island.

For the next three hours, I stayed on the upper deck and watched Pitcairn Island slowly disappear from view.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Day 10

I got up at 7 AM, and Simon cooked bacon and eggs for our breakfast.

Weather station
For my last full day on Pitcairn, I decided to walk around the entire island.  I walked to Tedside on the west, then to Highest Point, then to the weather station on the south, then to Aute Valley, then to Saint Paul's Point on the east, then to Ship Landing Point, and finally through town to get back home.  The walk took about four hours.

During my walk, I bumped into the couple from Wales.  They were staying with Vaine and Charlene, and they ate dinner with a lot of Charlene's family, so they got to mingle with a lot of the islanders.  They told me that during one of the dinners, the islanders were saying that they needed to keep the young guy who was visiting for labor.  Apparently my cargo unloading on the day I arrived had made a lasting impression on the islanders.  The couple from Wales told me that I needed to watch out for shackles on my ankles while I slept.

I spent the rest of the day playing more Scrabble with Simon.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Day 9

Loading containers
Simon had to be at the landing again to help load the empty cargo containers back on the Claymore.  I went with him because I wanted to see the process, but I stopped at The Edge for a good view of the whole process.  A crane loaded the containers onto the longboat one by one.  There were twelve containers, but the longboat could hold four only, so three trips to the Claymore were needed.

It was pouring rain when I walked home, and not only was I soaking wet, but my legs were covered in mud.

After taking a shower, I walked to the school to observe the culture class that occurs every Friday.  Possum, Snowy, Robert, and Terry were also there to observe.  Meralda and John the police officer were both sitting at the front of the classroom with their guitars.  All of the children were sitting on the couches with song booklets.  It was time to sing Pitcairn songs, mostly written by Meralda.

The songs were either about Pitcairn history or current Pitcairn culture.  We sang a song called Mussa es the Same, which is about how the culture on Pitcairn is mostly the same as that on Norfolk Island.  We sang a song called Balley se Buss, which is about the fruit on Pitcairn.  We sang a song called The Cause, which is about the mutiny on the Bounty and the founding of Pitcairn.  We sang a song called Rat Pile Pitcairn Island, which is about the rat eradication that occurred on Pitcairn.

My favorite song is The Cause because it retells the legendary story that lured me to Pitcairn.  Here are the words:

From the docks of old England, across the sea Bligh sailed
with his Bounty crew, to Tahiti for a load of breadfruit
The girls with their long hair, Greet the crew with tender care
In canoes they paddled out, King Hiti Hiti with all his royal tribe

The Uru grows high on a tree, A fruit that caused the Bounty mutiny
Without it our history is just ordinary, fire still burns strong after the Bounty

That's how the mutiny started, Christian took the ship
Young, Quintal, Adams, McCoy, they all told Bligh's pile to get out quick
The rebels and Tahitians, Thought Pitcairn was the place
Conflict quickly brewed, The population dwindled to a few

The Uru grows high on a tree, A fruit that caused the Bounty mutiny
Without it our history is just ordinary, fire still burns strong after the Bounty

Adams survived the kill, became a preacher man
The children multiplied, Pitcairn became too small to feed them all
Tahiti wasn't right, Norfolk Isle was it
In 1856, The Pitcairn islanders had to make the trip

The Uru grows high on a tree, A fruit that caused the Bounty mutiny
Without it our history is just ordinary, fire still burns strong after the Bounty

After singing, the younger children had a ukulele lesson with Meralda, and the older children had a guitar lesson with John.  I observed the ukulele lesson, and Cushana tried to teach me how to play.  I wasn't very good.

After the ukulele and guitar lessons, we played a game called Pitch.  There are two teams, and players from each team toss shells at a post and try to get as close possible.  The player with the closest shell then "rolls" the shells and scores a point for each shell that is face up.  The player with the next closest shell then "rolls" the remaining unscored shells and gets a point for each shell that is face up.  So on and so forth.  Supposedly this game was played by the early Pitcairners.

John Adams' grave
This concluded the culture class, and I went home for lunch.  After lunch, I visited John Adams' grave.  Both his Tahitian wife and daughter are buried next to him.  The graves are located where his house used to be.

After leaving the grave, I saw Dave Brown and his son-in-law cutting down some trees by the roadside.  I asked them what they were doing, and they told me that they were gathering wood to carve bowls to sell on the cruise ships.  They had planted those trees, so they were free to cut them down.

I played more Scrabble with Simon.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Day 8

I stepped onto the front porch and saw the Claymore anchored off the island.  It had returned from Mangareva with some new visitors.

New visitors
At 8 AM, Simon and I walked down to the landing to greet the new visitors.  Simon had to be there since he was the quarantine officer.  I wanted to be there out of curiosity.  Only five new people came onto the island - a couple from Wales visiting as tourists, two financial auditors from New Zealand here on business, and Carol Warren returning home.

At 10 AM, I walked to the hospital to say hi to the doctor.  Her name is Gina, and she had been on the Claymore with me to replace the doctor who was at the end of his one-year rotation.  The previous doctor had left Pitcairn on Sunday, and Gina was now running the hospital.  When I arrived at the hospital, Gina was just sitting around, so I had a friendly chat with her.  I also chatted with the nurse Darralyn Griffiths.

Darralyn grew up on Pitcairn, trained as a nurse in New Zealand, and then returned to Pitcairn as the hospital's nurse.  But she earns just NZ$400 per month as a nurse, partly due to the fact that the hospital is open just a few hours per week.  So she also picks up the garbage for NZ$100 per month, and is a council member.

The hospital was closing soon, and Gina decided to leave early, so we went for a walk together.  Gina wanted to walk down to the landing, so we descended the Hill of Difficulty together.  As we walked down, she kept saying how beautiful everything was.  She was in love with the island.  I asked her why she chose to spend a year on Pitcairn, and she said that she wanted to escape to a peaceful place.  To her, a year on Pitcairn as the doctor was like a vacation.

Her husband Kosta met us at the landing on his quad bike.  I asked him what he had been up to since arriving on Pitcairn, and he told me that he had been doing a lot of gardening.  Such is life on Pitcairn.

Gina and Kosta drove off together, so I walked up the Hill of Difficulty by myself.  When I walked through town, I bumped into the couple from Wales.  The husband was an old white guy, and the wife was an old Asian woman.

I asked what had inspired them to visit Pitcairn, and they told me that they had already been everywhere else.  They tried to get to Pitcairn a year ago on a cruise ship passing the island, but they didn't manage to leave the ship due to bad weather.  They did remember meeting Simon and Shirley on the ship though.  Anyway, they were determined to tick off Pitcairn from their list of visited places, so they opted for the Claymore this time around.

I walked by Reynold and Nola Warren's house, and they invited me in for a cup of tea.  Both of them grew up on Pitcairn, and Reynold showed me pictures of Pitcairn from his youth.  There was a picture of the Bounty anchor being lifted out of Bounty Bay.  Reynold had helped drag the anchor up the hill.  The anchor is now prominently displayed in the town square.

Nola complained about Simon and Shirley.  She said that Simon really should be working on the new jetty.  She said that in a place like Pitcairn, it is essential that every able person pitches in.  She said that Shirley was too antisocial.  She said that in a place like Pitcairn, everybody needs to interact with each other.

I played Scrabble with Simon in the afternoon.

At 7 PM, I walked to the public hall in the town square.  Two of the scientists who had gone to Henderson Island were going to give a talk about Pitcairn's marine life.  They were Robert and Terry, and were part of a conversation group.

There were maybe 30 people in the public hall, including the administrator, the mayor, the doctor, Anneka, the couple from Wales, and half the islanders.  First the scientists showed photos of fish and whales around Henderson.  Next Robert talked about fishing around Pitcairn, and encouraged the islanders to record their fish catches.  Then Terry talked about efforts to regulate fishing to avoid a tragedy of the commons where the waters are depleted.

The doctor was the first to speak out, saying that fishing regulation was ridiculous for such a small community.  Terry agreed that 50 people fishing for themselves could not deplete the waters, but he cited lobster catching as something that potentially needed regulation since Pitcairners often trade large amounts of lobsters with passing cruise ships.  He said that rules needed to be in place to prohibit catching a pregnant lobster, for example.

After the talk, I walked back home.  Unfortunately, once I left town, there were no street lights whatsoever, and I did not have a flashlight.  I was actually amazed about how dark the island is at night.  The only thing that I had on me was my camera, so I turned on the flash and took a total of 78 pictures to make my way home.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Day 7

I got up at 7 AM, and Simon cooked bacon and eggs for our breakfast.

The store had finally been restocked from the Claymore's cargo, and it was going to open at 8:30 AM for an hour.  Simon and Shirley needed to restock their food supply, so Simon and I walked to the store around 8:30 AM.  When we arrived, we found numerous quad bikes parked outside the store.  When we entered the store, it seemed like the entire island was there.  Simon bought what he needed, and we walked home.

When we got home, Simon realized that he forgot to buy canned tuna, so he sent me back to the store to get tuna.  When I picked out the tuna at the store, the people at the store made some snide remarks about Simon, about how he couldn't catch his own fish and had to buy canned fish.  This incident made me appreciate the anonymity of a big city.

On my way home, I bumped into Betty Christian, who is Jacqui's mother.  Betty was born on Pitcairn and lived there many years with her husband Tom Christian.  But Tom passed away not long ago, and Betty was planning to leave Pitcairn for good to be closer to her grandchildren in New Zealand.  She told me that Pitcairn no longer felt like home.

Betty Christian's house
After bringing the tuna home, Simon and I walked to Betty's house for a cup of tea.  I learned that Betty's house sits where the house of Fletcher Christian and his Tahitian wife Maimiti used to be.  Betty talked about her early life, about how she did a lot of traveling when she was younger.  She mentioned traveling in the US as a Pitcairn ambassador, telling people all about Pitcairn.

Yesterday, Anneka had mentioned wanting to go to Christian's Cave.  Although I had already been there, I told her that I would be happy to go again.

After lunch, Anneka stopped by my house for the hike.  With her were Possum and Snowy, the two guys from Norfolk Island.  The four of us hiked up to the cave and enjoyed the view.

I played several more games of Scrabble with Simon before bed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Day 6

I got up at 7 AM, and Simon cooked bacon and eggs for our breakfast.

After breakfast, I decided to visit Anneka.  She was staying at her parents' house near the cemetery, so I walked over there.  She saw me on the front porch and invited me in.  Her mother Isabel was there.  Their house was really nice with a modern-looking kitchen.  Isabel served me some tea, and the three of us chatted for a bit.

Anneka's father Alan is a British diplomat and moves around all over the world.  The British had asked him if he wanted to work on Pitcairn for a year, and he accepted the position.  On Pitcairn, he is the administrator, who oversees the island for the British.  In essence, he is one step above the local mayor.  The administrator is always an outsider on rotation to prevent attachment and corruption.  Isabel does not officially work on Pitcairn, but she informally chats with all the islanders and gets a sense of their needs and wants, enabling her to help Alan in his role.

Isabel invited me to stay for lunch.  While she prepared the food, Anneka and I played some two-player board games.  We were later joined by Alan, and the four of us ate lunch together.  Lunch consisted of cauliflower from Vaine's garden covered in cheese, and baked breadfruit.  The baked breadfruit tasted better than the raw breadfruit that I had in Tahiti, but it was still bland.

After lunch, I asked Anneka if she wanted to visit the school with me.  She accepted, and the two of us walked to the school on the outskirts of town.  The school is a small building with a small playground in front.  We entered the building and greeted Jim, the school's only teacher.  Jim is from New Zealand, teaching on Pitcairn for a one-year rotation.  He follows the New Zealand curriculum.

The school currently has five children - Emile, Ryan, Adrianna, Cushana, and Isabel, ages 11, 10, 8, 6, and 5 respectively.  Since all the children are at different grade levels, Jim does not teach with lectures.  Instead, Jim sits with each child individually.

When Anneka and I entered the school, each child was sitting at their own desk, doing their own work.  But once they saw us, they were eager to show us around.  They showed us stuff that they had drawn.  Ryan showed me some of his writing, about what living on Pitcairn meant to him.  He also showed me his little garden behind the school.  He also showed me the school's computer lab, which was surprisingly equipped for such a small school.  I asked him questions about what they learn, and it sounded like a pretty normal school, apart from being in one of the most isolated places in the world.

Jim asked me and Anneka to tell the children about our lives, and what it was like to grow up in our countries.  To the children, Pitcairn was their entire world, and Jim wanted them to hear what the outside world was like first-hand.

I told them about growing up in the US, and how my schools had lots of children with big classrooms.  I told them about freeways, malls, and cell phones.  I told them about my previous job as a web developer.  I told them about snow.

Anneka told them about growing up all over the world, being the daughter of a diplomat.  She told them about her current life in Australia, and about her job in the medical field.  She told them about her hobbies, and what people do for fun in Australia.

The children asked us a lot of questions.  They seemed quite interested in the outside world.  I had trouble imagining what it would be like growing up in a place like Pitcairn.  But the children would be exposed to the outside world soon enough.  After finishing the high school curriculum, they would likely go overseas for university, likely to New Zealand.  And most likely, they would not return to Pitcairn except for a visit.  And this is probably the biggest danger to Pitcairn's future - a population the cannot continue when the entire labor force ages out of existence.

Anneka and I played four square with the children.  Ryan, the only boy at the school, played very aggressively and basically bullied the girls.  I gave Ryan a taste of his own medicine.

After school, I brought Anneka to my house.  Anneka loved whales, and I could see whales from my front porch, so we looked for whales together.

View from Ship Landing Point
She eventually went home to write postcards, so I went for a walk.  First I went to Ship Landing Point for a good view of the island.  Next I went to Dave's Lookout for another good view.  Then I went to Aute Valley, the island's largest flat area where I found a volleyball court and a tennis court.

I played two more games of Scrabble with Simon before bed.