Four Days of Rapa

I'm afraid that words and pictures are going to be stretched a bit to capture this one.

November 5, 2014
Rapa from seaward. A very very romantic landfall, and the four meter seas helped with the ambience Mike Litzow


This is a place that I’ve dreamed of visiting for years, and now that we’re here the experience is, as always, very different from anything that I imagined beforehand, and, because it is true in the particular details that we couldn’t have pictured before, better than we could have expected.

Mike Litzow

The pace of events has made seeking out internet time a second-best priority. But for now, sitting on the porch of some new local friends’ house (he is just now coming in from a paddle in his pirogue…so we will pause this entry while I have a heartfelt discourse for a few minutes, mostly in pantomime) I get the chance to share these pictures from our first four days in Rapa.


As I noted in a couple earlier posts, we were very lucky to find our arrival coinciding with the visit of the Hanse Explorer and the National Geographic crew that had chartered the boat.

The anchorage of Baie D’Ha’urie is infamous for being an insecure place to anchor, and Martin, the captain of the Hanse Explorer, very kindly allowed us to raft up at the dock.

These guys are used to the ways of yachts, and they showed up dressed warmly, expecting to stay in the cockpit for the entire meal

Not to be dramatic about it, but if you haven’t been to sea in your own boat you can’t imagine how utterly alone we were on the 300-mile sail from Ra’ivavae. Just us and our boat and the big, big Pacific. And then suddenly we find ourselves coming alongside this small ship, and climbing the pilot ladder to get aboard, and interacting with a bunch of friendly strangers – what a transition.


The Nat Geo folks invited us to a little party on board that night, which seemed to set the precedent for involving us in anything that was going on for the rest of their stay. Very kind.

And, I said “friendly strangers” just now, but that wasn’t strictly true, as the Chief Mate of the Hanse, Madeleine Habib, is from Hobart and is friends with one of our great friends back there. So it was a pleasure to make the connection with her.

And of course we moved the party downstairs, where things are more comfortable. That’s Martin on the right, the captain of the Hanse Explorer, making an appearance

What’s next – oh yes, the fundraiser for the local youth group that was being held by the community – dinner and dancing, for 3000 CFP a head, or about $35 USD. A bit out of our price range, to be honest, but as it was for a good cause and everyone was apparently going, we would have been happy to throw down…except that, hearing we couldn’t buy much of anything in Rapa, and not sure at one point if we wouldn’t clear out of French Polynesia from Ra’ivavae, we had purposely used up all of our local currency.


But wait – not a problem. Nat Geo was shouting for the entire ship’s crew to attend, and Paul Rose, the Expedition Leader (I maintain that you can’t have an “expedition” to a place that a four-year-old can happily sail to, but that’s a quibble) very graciously extended the invitation to us as well.

Why? I can only guess that the Polynesian worldview is catching.

Our guests brought LOTS of vana – sea urchin roe. A delicacy

Ah, yes – and this is where I mention our pleasant interactions with Rueben, the Togolese public health nurse who is posted here. He and Julie, the nurse on Ra’ivavae, have just naturally assumed that our family fell under their purview during our visits…a “you’re here, you’re human, if you’re sick I’ll help you, here, give this antibiotic to your kid, would you?” sort of attitude. Very French, I suppose, and also the type of interaction that can provide a bit of unexpected comfort to traveling parents.

Rueben in conversation: “Polynesians eat too much. Everyone here gets sick because they ARE TOO FAT. In Africa people die because they don’t eat enough. Here people die because they eat too much.”
A table, somewhere under all the food Mike Litzow

And this was a good one… Alisa tried to invite Jackye and Johnnie, a local couple who have been incredibly nice to us, over for coffee and cake. This morphed into five adults and a child coming over for dinner – they always eat together, explained Jackye. (Everyone has a Rapan name and a French/Western name. The Western names are the ones we remember, go figure.)

Elias before church – I love how this picture captures his wariness in a new village setting. He and his brother are the leading attraction for every kid in sight, and coming to a common understanding of what fun play entails can take a little working out Mike Litzow
Eric and Elias and Armold Jr. and Lucie at Sunday dinner. We really must learn their last name. Lucie is from Tahuata, in the Marquesas. Spouses from off the island seem to be in demand…the population of Rapa got down to about 100 people during the post-contact apocalypse,which is quite a genetic bottleneck Mike Litzow

We were thrilled to have everyone at the boat…except that we are low on “hospitality” food – we’re doing lots of rice and beans and pasta for our family meals – and we can’t buy anything here for a special dinner with friends. AND we’re out of beer and wine, AND we don’t have access to the local foods that are the mainstay of the Rapa diet, AND Polynesians eat a lot, and when you feed someone you naturally want to give them a very good meal. So there was a little pre-dinner angst from Alisa. But we made do with deviled eggs and pasta with our last two jars of New Zealand beef and a cabbage salad and the many things that Jackye and Johnnie brought. No need for concern – we all had a great time.

Meet the crew of Galactic: Mike and Alisa Litzow and their sons Elias and Eric. “When we left Alaska to sail to Australia with our toddler for crew, we thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But then we had our second child, and bought our second boat, and sailed across the Pacific a second time. We’ve been living aboard for seven years now. Sometimes we wonder how long we’ll keep at it, but all we know for sure is that the end doesn’t seem to be in sight just yet.” Follow their story at


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