The winds were dwindling in the forecast. We were enjoying our visit to Reao Atoll immensely, but if we were to sail the remaining 450 nautical miles to Marquesas, we had to make a move.
After touring us around all day, Marguerite then made a wonderful meal, also inviting the driver and his two companions. Watching the play of light over the lagoon in front of their patio, we felt an overwhelming gratitude at being treated as “insta-family” on this atoll. To add to boot, the driver and his friends prepared two boxes of coconuts and kava (like lychee) for us to take on the journey. What a gift!
Our visit had been too brief – with heavy hearts we bid farewells to our new friends. The goodbyes lingered; and suddenly dusk was upon us. Darkness was descending, and the whole village seemed to rally to ensure our safe departure.
Due to lack of visibility, the skiff captain took us back to Aldebaran in two trips. The maneuver was hair-raising; shining a spotlight ahead, he timed the sets of waves and expertly navigated the tiny reef keyhole to reach the deeper water. Meanwhile, two dozen people milled about the wharf, illuminated by moonlight, taking last minute photos with the rare visitors.
We set sail at 8pm going north with 12 knots of wind from the east. Behind us, Reao’s lights looked small in the vast black horizon. It reminded me of our departure from another tiny place: Pitcairn Island.
I felt that same terrible bitter sweetness. Goodbye, my friends, living in an isolated dot of ocean.
Here in Reao, more than anywhere, we felt extremely appreciated for simply coming to visit. In the “normal” world, it is rare to feel such deep gratitude for our mere presence and companionship – with no expectation of length of time, or exchange.
Besides the many surprises in this atoll – the sunken seaplane, harvesting clams (and octopus), the stages of copra, and the fabulous water – what we learned most from Reao was gratitude. There is no greater gift than deeply appreciating each other’s company, moment-by-moment.