Monday, July 30, 2007

July 29, 2007 - Apataki

According to Assam, this (the brown spotted guy in front of the coral cave) is the tastiest fish in the Tuamotus:

Luckily for me, Sten has gotten pretty good at spearing them.

We've been meaning to leave Apataki and head for another atoll, but we keep getting waylaid. The wind has been a bit stiff these past few days (gusting up to 35). Neither of us is in much of hurry to have a rough overnight passage. Conveniently, the family keeps giving us reasons to hang around. Yesterday Assam (actually spelled Ah Samg) and MeMei (I got that one wrong too - she spells it NiNi) invited us to gather giant clams for dinner. Let's see, shall we go out and get knocked around or shall we stay and feast on clam curry? That's an easy one.

While Assam and Sten extracted the clams, with their vibrant purple, emerald green and turquoise mantles, from the coral heads growing in the pass between this motu and the next, NiNi set me up with the gear to fish the current (a bucket of hermit crabs and a handline, weighted with a small piece of coral) before she sat down to clean the clams that Assam and Sten brought her. I've gotten over my squeamishness about dragging the hermit crabs out of their shells and snapping their heads and claws off of their bodies. However, I wasn't quite prepared for splattering myself with crab guts as I twirled the weighted handline over my head to get up enough momentum to launch it into the current. NiNi got a good laugh out of watching me wrap the handline around myself. I haven't seen anyone quite so entertained by my attempts to fish since the first time I went saltwater fly fishing with Sten's dad. NiNi and Ah Samg are always laughing. They have such a positive outlook on life. It makes them both seem much younger than their years.

We joined NiNi and Ah Samg for dinner. We were just expecting clams, but she also made fried fish and a dish of bok choy stir fried with corned beef (not a combination that I would have ever dreamed up - it wasn't bad, actually). Sten grated and squeezed the coconut to make the coconut milk. Fresh coconut milk is so much better than the canned version we usually use for curries. My Papeete shopping list includes a coconut grater so that Sten can keep me in coconut milk. As NiNi says, making coconut milk is a man's job. That's a bit of sexism that I'm willing to embrace wholeheartedly. Assam also turned some of the clams into a tasty ceviche of sorts - he used vinegar (rather than lime juice) for the acid and flavored it with mustard and garlic. My desert offering was chocolate chip cookies made from Sten's family recipe, which were a big hit. We've had some requests for the recipe, but I can't add it to the blog before getting permission from Bill and Suzy.

This morning we spent an hour with Alfred combing through bags of black pearls. Black pearl is really a misnomer. The variety of colors was amazing - from aubergine (eggplant), peacock (green and blue), red (a deep purplish red), blue and a tawny golden color. Unlike Ahe, where we traded rum and whisky for pearls, Alfred was interested in cash. He treated our US dollars as on par with the Polynesian franc (CFP). Therefore, we got about an 11% discount for using USD. There was no haggling over prices or bargaining. The price is set by the shape, size and surface quality (the fewer imperfections, the more expensive) of each pearl. Alfred measured and examined each pearl we chose, then applied a grade (A - nearly perfect, B, C, or D - like your dog chewed on it) to each pearl. The largest pearl I chose was baroque (pear) shaped, which is considered less valuable than a round pearl. Thus we paid more for each of a smaller set of pearls (for earrings) of similar surface quality than for the large pear. Alfred explained that the price they charge per pearl in the family's new pearl shop in Bora Bora, which is run by his wife Pauline, would be about 3 times as much per pearl. I'm looking forward to seeing the shop when we are in Bora Bora in September.

We were still thinking about leaving this afternoon, until Alfred invited Sten along on a pig hunt. Hmmm, passage or BBQ? Again, that's an easy one. I gladly stayed behind to do laundry (I just don't need to see my food running around before I eat it) while Sten went off with the guys. Enroute to the motu where the pigs live, they stopped at a fish trap to spearfish. Sten said it was like shooting fish in a barrel. With one shot, he speared three fish. After the fish trap, Sten and one of the guys got dropped off a little ways away. While swimming down the beach to meet up with the boat, Sten speared two grouper. Meanwhile, Alfred, Tony, and Ocean went pig hunting. Alfred shot a pig from a distance, and was dismayed to discover that it was still nursing. They brought one of the piglets back to the family's motu to raise it. The other five were left to fend for themselves.

Dinner tonight included fish smoked over a coconut husk fire. Very tasty. Over dinner Alfred gave us advice on catching lobsters on the reef at night by mesmerizing them with a flashlight. The key is to wait at least 7 days after the full moon when the moon isn't so bright and the swell isn't so big. Actually, Alfred said that he could do it 3 days after, but that we amateurs should wait until the 7th day. We hope to give that a try later this week in Rangiroa. The weather is settling down a bit, so our current plan is to head for Rangi tomorrow.

1 comment:

Zaphod said...

Glad to see that you are doing well. Sten, hope the fishing is good. Sounds like you'll never settle for stripers again.