Separate paths but still united
Kia Orana Tatou…
Marumaru Atua is now at Vuda Point, Fiji, joined by our friends on Fiji’s Uto Ni Yalo, as well as the vaka Hine Moana. Since saying goodbye to Watch Captain and resident blogger Alex in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, we have also bid farewell to many of our dear friends from the fleet of Te Mana o te Moana. Santo was a chance for our skippers to consider the next move for the vessels, after the wind decided to set its own path for the fleet. Although the original plan for us had been to accompany Te Matau a Maui, Haunui and Faafaite to New Caledonia and on to Aotearoa, in the end it was decided that we would instead join Hine Moana and Uto Ni Yalo on their sail to Port Vila, then to Fiji and finally to Vavau, Tonga. This was to be the final time with the majority of the fleet still together, so many of us took the opportunity to spend time with our many friends from across the fleet, before the time came to part. Te Mana o te Moana is made up of voyagers from countries all over the world, so we knew that there were some friends we would not see again for a very long time – friends who we had shared the highs and lows of voyaging with and who had indeed become family.
A large group of us took a bus together first to a beautiful beach called Champagne Beach, then to the ‘Blue Hole’ of Matevulu – an amazing freshwater swimming hole with incredibly clear blue and deep water. This was a chance for many to show off their acrobatic and high diving skills off a huge Banyan tree that hugged the edge of the pool, including ‘team Marumaru’ – Numa, Teiti, Peia Jnr and Kura!
Afterwards we went to the rodeo that was on for a few days in town and got to cheer on one of our own, Poi (a member of the vaka Te Matau a Maui), as he completed an 8-second bareback ride much to the delight of the local crowd. On one of the final evenings, a song and dance performance at the Beachfront Resort was a way to show our gratitude to the generous owners of the resort that had hosted us, as well as to the wider community of Santo. But it was also a chance for us to celebrate together as a fleet. And to celebrate in the best possible way we know as Pacific Islanders – through the sharing of song, dance and a whole lot of laughs! As the day of departure inevitably rolled around, the fleet came together one last time to share a moment of reflection, prayer, embraces of farewell and, for some, tears too. The words of our fleet haka rang out in a powerful and emotional final performance of it all together – Eo Te Mana o te Moana! We said our goodbyes and set sail for Port Vila.
Our sail to Port Vila was marred only by a couple of fairly serious rips to our well-weathered sails, so we were thankful that Port Vila was close and had somewhere to get the sails repaired. Our second visit to the seaside town was a great opportunity to see a little more of the place, to re-provision and also for our Captain to review the final decision with the Watch Captains on the best route home. The work and maintenance needed on our mama Vaka meant that the Watch Captains had to consider carefully what the next step would be. The residents of Port Vila were very warm, welcoming and happy people. As with most places we visited, the canoes and the messages of ocean conservation, of reviving traditional practices and of bringing all Pacific Islanders closer together touched the hearts of the people – young and old. Because we were moored right beside a small craft market, every day we would find ourselves surrounded by locals curious about the Vakas, the crews, the countries where we sailed from – everything! Once it was decided that we would indeed continue on to Fiji and Tonga, we concluded our visit with an impromptu performance right beside the vaka where the women of the market presented us with many gifts while we sang – a very beautiful and unexpected farewell to Vanuatu. This was a country that many of us said we would definitely try to visit again and in the end we departed with our hearts touched too.
Our sail to Lautoka, Fiji, was very wet for the first few days but the winds were strong for us so we were happy. Conditions like that can be challenging either physically or mentally for the crew, however working together to overcome those challenges out on the ocean is one of the rewarding experiences to be had as a voyager. As the sail progressed the skies became clearer (“Look – stars!!”), the weather slowly warmed and our master fisherman Captain Peia topped off the last few days of sailing by landing a few decent sized Mahimahi and Tuna… Yum! On the sail, however, our portside bowsprit was badly damaged – so while we are thankfully getting it repaired here in Fiji, it only reminds us of the pressing need for Marumaru to get long-awaited maintenance and repairs completed once the voyaging is done.
For now we are in Vuda Point Marina enjoying very warm weather and visiting the nearby towns of Lautoka and Nadi. It is nice to back in the Fiji Islands enjoying the hospitality of the Fijian people! A few days ago we said goodbye to two of our Marumaru family – Numangatini Mackenzie and Teiti Henry – and those of us who remain await further news as to our exact date of departure from Lautoka. As the voyage of Marumaru Atua and her crew reaches nearer to conclusion after three years of crossing the vast Pacific Ocean, it is a time of reflection, of considering the future and of making the most of every remaining moment out here with our beloved Vaka. While thoughts of home and of bringing Marumaru Atua back to the Cook Islands weighs heavy on all our minds, we still have much more to do before that, including whale-watching in Vavau and making sure Marumaru gets her ‘overhaul’. We know too that once this voyage is over it will be but a memory in our minds and hearts, so we take in every day as fully and completely as we can, knowing we are blessed to be a part of this voyage sailing Marumaru Atua on Te Moana Nui O Kiva.
With much love and blessings to our loved ones and to our beautiful homeland, Te-Akariro-Roa-O-Ngariki, on behalf of the Crew of Marumaru Atua.