After the friendly but “indifferent” feel of Rikitea’s inhabitants – busy from the daily work of pearl farming – the warm welcome in Taravai couldn’t have been nicer.
“Yes, yes! They do work too much!” laughed Valerie, after they waved us enthusiastically to land our skiff on the beach next to a coconut tree, in front of their home. “Here we have more time,” she said.
Herve is the husband; his grandfather owned this land in Taravai. “I worked 6 years with the Pearl, to buy a small boat and fix the house, and baff! moved here,” he said, as he showed us around his garden. The word “garden” is a bit of a euphemism, because it is truly an edible landscape. The nicely tended vegetable planters and green lawn give way to orchards and finally the where banana trees, coffee plants, mango trees, guanabana which morph into the jungle of the hills.
Herve sells his produce in Rikitea, and Valerie sells paintings by special order. Herve is Mangarevan but educated in Papeete; he met Valerie in Moorea, where she was a tour guide. “I stole her away from the city lights,” he smiled. Did I mention they were speaking to us in English? Ironically, their English is better, out here in the ‘sticks’, than anyone in Rikitea.
We had brought plantain chips from Ecuador to share, which was soon placed on a table, along with beers, tea, and other delights. “We don’t usually have beer, but it’s my aunt’s birthday,” Herve said, introducing the nice lady next to him. “So enjoy!”
We chatted in English and French (with the aunt, who lives in Rikitea), on a table just feet away from the lapping ocean water. The kids, who are homeschooled until they are 12 years old, are then sent to Papeete where they stay with family (instead of going to Rikitea, which I thought interesting). They played in the water just in front, next to Herve’s moored boat.
That was our first day on land in Taravai- we didn’t make it past the first 100 feet, but we didn’t have to. Everything we needed was right there.
Photo: Herve and Valerie, a precious couple in a splendid place.