Tuamotu - Makemo : Robinson’s life

French Polynesia - Posted On

Wind, sea, sun, lagoon, coral, fishes, cocotrees. This is all about Makemo. One thousand people are living on the 70 x 1 kms long atoll, the whole part of the population stay in the village by the eastern pass.

This is the perfect spot for playing Robinson’s life. We have a machete, a spear gun and a basic fishing gear completing our standard equipment for camping. We are set for the atoll’s lifestyle.

Nadège write:

“It has been now a month I have left Auckland to get back to Olivier here in Polynesia.

We are trying to make an old common dream coming true. Living like Robinson and ‘Friday’. It’s not that easy though. We thought we were quite ready for the bush’ lifestyle, but we still have a lot to learn.

Two weeks later, we think we got some points toward our objective: desert sand beach, hammock, drinking rainwater collected from the roof, feeding ourselves with what the nature has to bring us over (fishes, shellfishes, coconuts “all you can eat”…), reading, giving our days and nights the rhythm of the sun…

However, coming here on the atoll wasn’t so easy, and setting down even less.

It has taken three days cruising in bumping water to get to the island. Three days ruled by the watching: four hours watch, four hours sleep, and so on.

Once on the island, local people stay away and look reluctant about teaching us to fish and how to survive with coco trees. It’s hard considering we come from the mountain world and know not much from the sea world.

To get closer to the locals, we get into a “carrying fruits race”: this is about running barefoot through the village carrying 15kgs of fruits on the shoulder for the women, and 30kgs for the men. We are far from thinking about winning, we just do it for fun. Especially after seeing how a standard Polynesian are made of: real giants!

At least they have a good laugh when they see us. We are the first ‘popa’as’ (Europeans) doing this traditional race on this island.

Ready, steady… go! It is very hard, very heavy, but the atmosphere is really on. I am very surprised when I realize I arrive second on the woman side… and Olivier gets first place among the men group! YEAH!

Incredible, they say! “Popa’as had never won that race before! Who the hell are you?” the message spread out through the island very quickly.

Since this, everything has changed. Everybody say hello to us, they give us some “hey, champion!” all the time. They start to consider us and invite us for a drink, offer us some flowers crones, free tickets for the disco…

That same day, we also get to know the ‘MEJ’ group to which we offer our services. They are a group of young Tahitian Catholics here for three weeks in a summer camp on the atoll.

They teach us a lot. We learn a couple of tricks for fishing and making food or panniers from coconuts and coco trees.

Also we are quite surprised to see among them a few young men dressed up and acting like girls. They are ‘mahus’ or ‘rérés’, meaning boys having been educated like girls by their parents. This is very much common and traditional in Polynesia. There is not much in common with the transsexual movement in Europe, even if the result looks the same.

We were especially surprised to see how well they fit with the rest of the group, and the rest of the population on the island. It is important to say they went to church and participated to the service dressed like girls, and no one ever said anything about it. How would react a priest in Europe? There is even a ‘mahu’ working at the city house.

They really have a lot to teach us about opening our mind about this movement. If boys want to dress like girls, or the opposite way, so what?

Blood story: Olivier cut his left thumb off, like I did many years ago. We are now called the ‘No-Thumbs’ team! It’s now getting complicated for hitchhiking by now!

We were camping in a very remote part of the atoll, far from everything, cutting off some coco tree’s palms to make some panniers. The knife slipped off the palm, cutting the thumb nail and some flesh at once. A bit of marketing for ‘Leatherman’: the cut is perfectly clean!

Pain. Olivier feels bad, but is quite chocked (like me I must say). Leaving this part of his body (even so small) is not a day-to-day life normal thing.

Of course we have not a single pharmacy gear with us. The cook John manages to stop the blood dropping everywhere by putting some tobacco on it, closing the whole thing with a bit of coco palm. Tahitian way, and it works very well! Who said tobacco is bad for health?

We have to wait for getting back to the village in the evening for healing a bit better the bloody flesh.

We feel a bit disappointed realizing how much we both are sensible when seeing a drop of blood somewhere. What kind of adventurers are we?

RFO, Polynesian radio.

This morning they talk about major fights happening in Villeneuve (Grenoble), the very neighborhood I come from. It seems unreal to get news from this small part of France, here, on the other side of the planet, on this very very remote atoll, lost in the middle of the Great Ocean…”

Olivier writes:


The 11th. July, a very special event occurs in a narrow area spreading from eastern to western South Pacific: a total eclipse of the sun by the moon.

At 7:30am we start to observe a part of the sun eaten by the moon. The black moon part obscuring the sun rises until 9:36 am, maximum of the eclipse. Unfortunately we are not precisely on the total eclipse area and will get ‘only’ 99% of it.

At this moment we are far out in a wild part of the atoll, just the two of us. There is also the finale of the football world cup happening very far away from us. This is not very much of our business at the moment.

Clouds obscure the sky from time to time but we get to see the sun precisely at the maximum of the eclipse. These clouds are appearing because of the local decrease of the temperature, due to the shadow area.

The light takes a metallic effect, very strange. Still we have a shadow, but every little part of lights on the ground takes the shape of the croissant made by the sun. Temperature gets much colder also.

Two years birthday for the ‘Flynroll’ trip.

This is party time on that day. It has now been two years day-to-day that I have left my house in Grenoble... for the occasion, we are lucky enough to find some Tartiflette (in cans), a typical cheesy meal from our region with Nadège.

Two years during which I have crossed both the Atlantic and half the Pacific oceans by sailing, and crossing the whole South America and the south-western part of Europe by biking.

Two years during which you, readers, have been following the adventures and most of you giving me the strength and the willing to keep on going, never to give up even during the hardest parts. Thank you.

Two years also hooked up with my bike, the ‘Baroudeur’, for the best and the worst, having him as a good companion, even a friend. Like Moitessier said about his boat, I’d say my ‘Baroudeur’ has a soul; it always has when it comes to such a trip.

Thank you and happy birthday to us!

The 14th. July is national day in France… and also in French Polynesia. But they made that day even a bigger event than in France. They placed their main cultural festival of the year during the whole month of July, the ‘Heiva’, in which people compete with traditional dances, sports, music… the whole population takes part of it.

We went to the village on the 14th because we wanted to see the parade. While in France you can see military corpses walking down the avenue, here are happy people with flowers shirts everywhere playing guitar and singing loud the national song in both French and Tahitian … happy day, really!