From the Uto ni Yalo anchored at Bahia Wafer [Wafer Bay, Isla del Coco] at Cocos Island.
This one of many unspoiled coves and bays that circle this island. With 30,000 visitors each year Cocos is remarkably clean and with a fantastic abundance of marine and terrestrial life. With 16 permanent Marine Park staff and volunteers that come for brief study visits from mainland universities this geographical and geological gem is must on an adventurers list! Unless you sail your own vessel it will cost you US $5000/ week to get here. This is not a limiting factor as in the few days we have been here five dive boats have visited and each had a full compliment of passengers.
It’s a symbiotic relationship as the park gets mail, food supplies and staff that ride free of charge and the dive operators get to take the visitors ashore for hikes to water falls and pools and of course their famous elevated “mist” forest. This ecosystem is unique around here as it is cooler and much more humid than the lower elevations and thus the flora and fauna have become adapted to those conditions. Three endemic birds live there.
The biggest surprise was finding the North American White-tailed deer here. The assumption is that it was introduced as a source of fresh meat for passing whaling and other ships. Pigs are here as they are on most Pacific islands. One of the first meat sources of our distant ancestors, although we have been told dogs, certain rats and jungle fowl were also high on the transported list. It is not difficult to imagine a marooned person living here for extended periods of time with only loneliness as his company. Recall Tom Hanks character in the movie “Castaway” ?[filmed in Fiji]. He started talking to Wilson, his volleyball!
Put yourself in Robinson Crusoe’s position. How would you react to no family and very little hope of rescue? Could you adapt? I’ll bet you could. Long before TV’s Bear Grylls made “survival” a profitable business our ancestors were braving the unknown without a camera backup crew and behind the scenes safety precautions! Hey Bear what about a real voyage of discovery with real survivors braving the marine elements? You up for that? We challenge you………………
The crew of the 5 vakas, one drua and one sailboat have been made to feel right at home here. The Costa Rican park hosts have gone out of their way to extend the true Pacific island hospitality. It is not uncommon to discover “islanders” from many geographical areas sharing and caring. It’s an intuitive thing [I am loathe to say genetic as that would have our arm chair scientists screaming that’s a helix hoax!] “there’s no such thing as instinct or collective memory in humans” or is there? There are strange things done under the tropical sun as yet fathomed by western minds! Ah the genome and its paired bases. The increasing knowledge come understanding of DNA has been a wonderful advance – a blessing that destroyed many myths and created controversy and debate. But “hey” debate and discussion are healthy ways to examine dogma of all kinds. Here’s one for you to digest….the chimpanzee and human share 99.9+% of the exact same DNA! Balderdash you say…..I ain’t no monkey! What most of us fail to comprehend is that the remaining less than 1% is sufficient to make us totally distinct from that primate. “WE AREN’T EVEN BROTHERS FORM ANOTHER MOTHER”!
Sorry for the diversion, but we are on our way to the place that Charles Darwin received his insights into the processes of gradual change that lead to his world shaking hypotheses turned theory turned accepted dynamism [sorry creationists I am not being provocative just reporting history from one perspective]. I hope to share our observations with you when we see the same unique species that he saw. There’s even a related finch here that due to its isolation has become a distinct species! Apologies for the excitement surrounding all of this, but you may take the teacher from his classroom confines and he will find a new classroom called LIFE!
Drua life has taken on certain regular patterns that are so far from the 9-5PM routine that we all have experienced or are experiencing. Picture life revolving around 3 or 6 hour watches on board where when in light seas or anchored becomes a time to think, clean, create, read or simply talanoa with others on board. Boring? Not in the least as time has taken on a new meaning and we are not governed by the rush hour syndrome; the “I dread getting up tomorrow lament”; the “if only something stimulating and different would happen mantra” because we have ascended to a higher plain that has us re-examining priorities in our lives with many rejecting material gain for a cause, a resurrected philosophy or a motivation to make a difference in the brief time we have been given.
What do land based people substitute for this newly found concept of time? One example will suffice. Our beloved Fiji, so different from the USA and its perversions and deceptions, is transfixed when rugby is mentioned. Now with extensive TV coverage all evolve into “arm chair” coaches and selectors dissecting every aspect of the performance of our men in black and white. The talanoa around the tanoa could fill volumes of critiques about coaches, coaching strategies, player work rates, the loss of the “tabu soro” approach, and so many more assessments that if collective wisdom was the key we would be world champs instead of Tier Two aspirants to greatness [which of course we all know we can be!]
Instead of living vicariously through the media [we realise we are the privileged few] we can and will make a difference, just as those in charge of the fate of sporting teams feel they can do. Coaches have that same honour and responsibility as we do in representing Fiji to the best of our abilities.
Our crew has been active helping the OKEANOS film crew, trekking to the waterfalls, searching for terrestrial and marine wildlife while maintaining the drua, collecting fresh water, and in their own way spreading the gospel of Fijian hospitality. We have had Dive Ship visitors; park visitors and even crew from the other vakas scramble to get here in the evenings to listen to our impromptu guitar, ukelele and singing fetes. Wouldn’t it be terrific if we could form an alliance with the Fiji Visitors’ Bureau and have the Uto ni Yalo as Fiji’s Flagship of Goodwill….voyaging and spreading the invite to Come to Fiji, and experience the uniqueness that we know exists there. All it takes is a talanoa with Colin of the FIVS!
Crew updates: Jim dove at the waterfall pool and met a submerged rock. The rock won and Jim now wears a temporary turban to cover his creased cranium! He’s OK so do not worry at home..Kele has christened his new nick name….Crack Head. Salome, ever the ambassador of all things i-Taukei, has made numerous friends here with her smile and willingness to get her hands dirty. She was seen washing park rangers’ clothes with her own! Ah that fresh water. Skipper continues to impress with his dive photography and ability to generate song sessions on board. His reading speed outstrips the novels he has and he’s taken to his newly acquired Kindle for reading material. The younger crew lead by “evergreen” Mausio has kept out water containers full for the short trip to the Galapagos. When someone asks for Kim you’ll find her on shore with an I-phone connected to her ear[can that become permanently attached?] Iva and Filo have become adventurers taking every opportunity to hike and see the flora of the inland cliffs. Filo has two hidden talents that she recently revealed. She can sing solos and she can mix yaqona and serve it with the best of them even beating out Tuks for the award for serving the quickest kava to guests. Kele has learned advanced knot tying techniques as he works his way through the entire book! Moala impresses with his passion for conservation in general and SOS in particular [save our sharks]. He can talk for hours on Fiji shark and shark diving for eco-tourism. Don’t get him started on shark feeding however! Seta has invented Fiji FaceBooking – ask him what that means! LeeAnn has been invaluable around the drua. She is a “take charge” person and has helped many of the crew. And she freely shares her Mac Book with crew. Thanks LeeAnn and Skipper for this generosity.
Jone, high black boots, yellow rugby socks and all has been a pillar of electrical energy quickly moving from one vessel to the next when called to splice, connect, analyse and repair all things technical and electrical. He is currently repairing our on-board HP charger. I am amazed at the solar power potential demonstrated by our six panels. Take note of the outer island opportumities for cheap power as our at-sea environment is harsher than anything on shore.
Seru and Seta are doing fine with Seru, LeeAnn and Jim promoted to Watch Captains for our ensuing voyages. Thanks to Kele, Salome and Moala for their tireless efforts to whip us novices into shipshape. Now the challenging fun begins after Galapagos on the extended leg to French Polynesia! Tuks has taken on some additional carving jobs. Mausio is looking younger and younger as he trims his beard and gets that Rotuman tan! Vahines beware! Ben becomes more creative and patient as our food supplies dwindle and we have about five days sail between here and the Galapagos our next and final supplies stop before the long haul! Soon as we leave protected waters those lines go out and we think fresh fish once again.
Vo sota for the length of this article. With our drua computer going down I’ve had articles pending mentally with more to come……until then tabu soro Viti…think about us as we are thinking about you.
There are many ways to voyage in our lives, this is but one them of them. We pray you find yours.