Tag Archives: pacific ocean

Vanuatu dreamin’.

Throughout human history there have been many interesting moments and fascinating stories. Out of all of them, I reckon one of the most amazing is the story about how homo sapiens settled on remote islands across the Pacific.

Around two or three thousand years ago, from the shores of what is today Papua New Guinea, they sailed in the simplest and tiniest of boats, generation after generation, century after century, to populate island after island, apparently even reaching the shores of South America – 15,000 kilometers away!

Archeological research of this great eastward emigration is a little unconvincing so far, and anyway, surely many of the traces of mankind from back then will have been washed away or submerged under the rising ocean levels and lost forever. However – hurray for the geneticists! – modern-day investigations scientific alchemy now give us a detailed picture of the timing and direction of the two main branches of the eastward exodus and building up of the populations of Oceania.

The first wave of migration (a quick glance at trusty old Wikipedia tells me) took place some 30 to 50 thousand years ago from southeast Asia via modern-day Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, to Australia and the islands of Melanasia. Now, I’m no anthropologist, but something tells me that back then they probably didn’t need a boat to get to Vanuatu or even Fiji – they could have walked, or paddled ). The sea level was much lower then than it is today, and the ocean never gets that deep round these parts (as you can see on Google Maps) anyway. I reckon they didn’t make it further to Samoa as they weren’t sailors.

Read on…

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More Polynesia: Mo’orea.

Hi folks!

As promised, I’m back with more tales from the mid-Pacific. Today, a quick rewind to that very strange place, which goes by the name of Mo’orea, Tahiti’s next-door neighbor.

Mo’orea is another idyllic tropical island of French Polynesia, but it’s hard to compare it with Bora Bora. That island is all about blueness. Mo’orea is all about volcanism, but no less bluetiful for it. Sea for yourself:

Headstrong tourists do climb these mountains, but some of them are deemed too difficult to scale without special climbing gear.

The mountains themselves come in many different shapes and sizes, as you can see. Ahh – the power of natural erosion on soft volcanic rock! The local tribes here have legends about such landscapes due to their resembling different princesses and kings. Here, for example, a princess is looking up at the sky. And can you see that (in the pic, tiny) cave/tunnel right at the top? That’s the princess’s piercing, as our excellent guide explained. I didn’t ask where the nose ring itself had gotten to.

Here’s another princess, beating a drum – as princesses do – to inform the king on the mountain opposite about their guests arriving in the bay. Apparently. Do you see all that?! )

And so on…

As far as I understood, generally, not many folks know how atolls are formed. I didn’t know either. So I consulted good old Wikipedia on the subject. Now I know ).

Briefly, “a coral atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef including a coral rim that encircles a lagoon partially or completely. There may be coral islands or cays on the rim. The coral of the atoll often sits atop the rim of an extinct seamount or volcano which has eroded or subsided partially beneath the water. The lagoon forms over the volcanic crater or caldera while the higher rim remains above water or at shallow depths that permit the coral to grow and form the reefs. For the atoll to persist, continued erosion or subsidence must be at a rate slow enough to permit reef growth upwards and outwards to replace the lost height.”

It’s a slow process – taking millions of years. Here, for example, is Tahiti (as viewed from Mo’orea), whose age is estimated at around one million years.

Neighboring Mo’orea, which is distinctly more ruined, is twice as old. Bora Bora is even older – around seven million years old, while the classic atoll Tetiaroa is around 30 million years old, if I remember correctly.

Btw, the volcano also needs time to grow under the water for it to appear above sea level. And depths here are considerable – from one-and-a-half to four kilometers. So it works out that these atolls and islands are in fact rather massive mountains themselves – not that you’d be able to guess that from looking at them.

Back to modern day, the atolls are dotted with little huts on stilts in the sea. These are hotel ‘rooms’, and they’re all over most atolls, with perhaps Bora Bora having most of all.

Sadly many such cabins are empty; some have been abandoned. Apparently all was well, but then the 2008-9 global economic crisis kicked in; then, in 2010, some kind of catastrophic hurricane hit. This unfortunate combination affected the atolls’ hoteliers very badly.

On the brighter side, the local art is impressive:

And here’s the view from Tetiaroa:

That night we were woken by the hotel staff who were excitedly uttering something about a ‘baby nest’. After some confusion, we finally worked out what they were so animated about: a batch of turtle eggs had hatched and they’d called us to have a look at the newborns!

All the eggs are kept inside metal netting so that when they hatch they can first be counted (for herpetological needs or some such) before the turtles are let go. When they’re set free on the beach, by instinct they all charge as fast as their little feet can carry them into the sea!

The photos are red as that’s the only lighting permitted the baby turtles to prevent them being blinded.

And that folks, is about it, not just from this particular island, but from our French Polynesian trip on the whole. Almost…

…Quick recap of these Pacific islands:
1) Oh my gorgeous – they’re real beautiful in the quintessentially tropical-paradise way;
2) But! They’re reeeeaaaaal far; and
3) They’re very expensive to visit as a tourist.

Getting there: there are just seven (7!) routes there on regular commercial passenger air transportation from afar (April 2018); specifically from:

1) Auckland, New Zealand (six-hour flight, six times a week);
2) Los Angeles, USA (eight-hour flight, two or three times a day; what’s curious is that only Air France (!) and Air Tahiti Nui do the flying!);
3) Tokyo, Japan (12-hour flight, twice a week);
4) Hawaii, USA (six-hour flight, every Saturday;
5) Easter Island, Chile (five-hour flight, every Tuesday);
6) New Caledonia, France (six-and-a-half-hour flight);
7) Cook Islands (three-hour flight).

Given the options, I’d say the best routing goes like this:

From wherever you are > Santiago (Chile) > Easter Island (to check out the moai) > Tahiti (Bora Bora) > Hawaii (volcanism + beaches:) > Tokyo (do I need to add anything here?:). And if you’d set off from Europe that’d give you a round-the-world: bonus! This route, however, would take a long time. Need more route advice re getting to French Polynesia? Let me know in the comments and I hope I can help based on my experience.

One thing I still can’t quite work out is why there are no (0!) regular commercial flights between Tahiti and Fiji. You have to go via New Zealand! Now there’s a promising unoccupied business niche, if ever I’ve seen one :)…

31 hours door-to-door.

Hi folks!

Another month – another globe trot…

The suitcase is packed – and probably right now already in the hold of the plane I’m about to board. Physical preparation – check; moral preparation – check; books packed into hand luggage – check (two in fact). All righty. All set. Off we pop on another multi-long-haul. Get ready – it’s gonna be a long one…

It starts out in Tetiaroa, an atoll of French Polynesia in the Pacific. It ends in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates. I wonder how many hours this is going to take door to door?…

April 2, 09:30 local time (22:30 Moscow Time): we say goodbye to paradise:

Read on…

Four tickets to Aogashima – part 2. Hachijo-jima.

A summary of part 1:

07:00. Flight from Tokyo (Haneda) to Hachijo-jima, then a tight connection – helicopter flight to Aogashima, a day there trekking and climbing about, and looking at and taking pictures of every nook and cranny. Beautiful!

The next morning I had a vague sense of déjà-vu: waking up at the impossible hour of 07:30, but this time ‘Boy Scout style’, accompanied by a lively announcer’s voice from speakers all over the hotel: peem paam poom puum ohayo gozaimasu (that’s ‘good morning ‘in Japanese). Followed by a lot more Japanese chatter, of which I only picked out ‘arigato’ and ‘kudasai’. Then rise and shine, get up from the straw mattresses, breakfast – and back to the helipad.

Just to recap: there’s only one helicopter flight a day – if the weather’s good. If it’s bad, no helicopter flight. The Hachijo-jima–Aogashima flight leaves at 09:15 and arrives at the destination around 09:40 (based on our observations). After landing, a regular helipad bustle: unloading/loading freight from/to the ‘mainland’, boarding new passengers – Aogashima natives and stray tourists – and flying back.

Thus, the return flight dropped us off on Hachijo-jima at some 11:30. Our flight to Haneda was at 17:20, so we had some six hours on our hands. How were we to spend that time? Rent a car and go to the onsen hot springs, of course! At least, that was what some of us thought. Wrong! I looked at the map, saw a track leading to the top of the local volcanic blister, and we all proceeded to climb this local Hachijo-Fuji (apparently, all sacred mountains in Japan are called ‘Fuji’) in accordance with this sudden plan.


2. hachijojima-island-japan-2

Read on: Not a bad sight at all!…

Four tickets to Aogashima.

The other day as I was browsing the Internet I came across a story about a most unusual place in Japan. It’s hard to get to but really worth the effort as it’s both beautiful and interesting. It’s the island of Aogashima, several hundred kilometers south of Tokyo, on the border between the Philippine Sea and the Pacific ocean. ‘That’s worth a look,’ I thought. Next thing… we were there – spending last Saturday on the island. A very curious place; highly recommended!

Now, let’s see what kind of an island it is…

Aogashima is a volcanic still-life made up of an ancient caldera that collapsed inwards, and the rather fetching cone of a new volcano that started to grow within it a few hundred years ago.

Aerial photos report the following:




The first thing I did was call KL Japan to find out the details of this bizarre island, ask who might be ready to risk traveling there with me, and make other travel arrangements, which turned out to be rather complicated.

Read on: Yes, reaching that island proved anything but easy…