Showing posts with label Tahitian Pearl Farms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tahitian Pearl Farms. Show all posts

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Part 1—Takaroa: It Doesn't Get Any Better

It's hard to even know where to begin when writing about our time in Takaroa.  After reviewing my photos, I still haven't captured the feeling of "home" that we all felt the minute AMARA entered Takaroa's atoll.

Takaroa is a small atoll in the Tuamotus Islands in French Polynesia.  The reason that we came to Takaroa was to visit our dear friend and neighbor back home, Joey Buchan, and visit his black pearl farm —Tahitian Pearl Farms.  While there, we met the Palmer family whose sons are business partners with Joey.  What we didn't realize is how wonderful of a stay we would have with this amazing family.
First, before I go further into our visit, I wanted to show an area view of Takaroa and where the town Teavaroa is located in reference to where we stayed next to Robert Palmer's home (not the singer).

DSCN0542 edited 1Looking at where we had to enter, you can tell that it was quite tricky bringing a 56-foot long catamaran (that is 31 feet wide) into this pass.  The atoll's pass is known to be a bit dangerous as it is "L" shaped.  Boats can only enter  when the tide is slack.  Meaning, the water needs to be at the right height and current or it will run aground.

Martin and David studied charts and weather patterns for days trying to figure out when would be the best time to enter into the atoll.  On top of the pass being a bit sketchy, there is also the matter of having to deal with the numerous coral reefs AND tall the pearl buoy balls where pearls are being grown and harvested.  It's like entering a minefield if you don't know what you're doing.
Fortunately, we didn't have to worry too much because our new friend, Louis Palmer, and Joey came out to the opening of the atoll to meet us and to escort us into safe harbor and through the maze of coral and buoys.
When entering the atoll, the first building welcoming us was the red-roofed LDS church (Mormon).  This church is one of two located in the town of Teavaroa and was built by it's members under the tutelage of a missionary and was completed in the late 1800's.
The second LDS church building is much newer (5 years old) and located about 2 miles down the road.  Being that we are also Mormon, it was especially fun for us to come to a community that is heavily populated by wonderful and strong members of the church.
After squeezing through the opening of the atoll, and passing the red-roofed Mormon church, there are all the buoys that you have to contend with.  They look to be scattered everywhere throughout the bay, but Louis assured me that they are all on a grid system and if you know the "system" it is really quite safe.  To the untrained eye though, it looks like one is entering a maze.  They are everywhere.  The buoys mark the areas where pearls are being cultured and will be eventually harvested.
Our first view of the Palmer's home, located on the south end of the island of Takaroa and directly across the water (about 5 miles by boat) from the town of Teavaroa.
The satellite dish is a sure sign of life and and the hammock was calling my name.
Now for a tour of the Palmer's home.  This is not your typical home that we in the states are used to seeing.   The Palmer's home is an "open" floor plan.  Meaning they don't have any walls separating them from the outside.  That way, the breeze easily passes through their home and it also provides a beautiful view from every  direction.
First, there is the Palmer's open kitchen where we spent two nights sitting around their table enjoying Robert's stories and Myna's wonderful food.
Robert is a young eighty-year-old with an infectious laugh and full of stories that you could listen to for hours on end.
Now for Robert and Myna's home.
Their bedroom and sitting room.
Here you can get an idea of their open floor plan and their view.
This is a view from their home.  In the lagoon, you can see AMARA.
When Joey comes to visit, he stays in a little bungalow.  The bungalow is located off of the side of the Palmer's house.  It is quite cozy and quaint.
The nightstand in the bungalow.  I love the rustic look of using natural elements.
Joey showing us his "guest" bathroom and shower.
Meredith getting a coconut out of the tree next to the Palmer's home.
Joey explaining to Meredith the different ways to eat and shuck a coconut.
Of course, Lily found herself a comfy place to play.  She is always game for a swing in a hammock.
This sign is hung over the kitchen in the Palmer's home, reminding them of the Savior and who has blessed them with such bounteous blessings.
When we arrived, Louis and Joey jumped on the boat and Louis proceeded to show us how they harvest the pearls.  Above he is cracking open a pearl oyster.
Right on top of his finger is the pearl in its beginning stages.  Each pearl takes around 2.5 years to culture and then it comes out in the most beautiful colors.  Peacock/rainbow, fly-wing green and aubergine are the rarest of the colors and then they proceed down to a silvery gray (which I loved!).
Next, we went over to the pearl farm.  We got there during harvest season, so we were able to watch the harvesting in action.  Above, a worker is bringing in pearl oysters' shells directly from the sea, where they are organized so that the pearls can be extracted from the shells.
The pearl oysters are marked and used again.  The worker above is actually taking tiny little beads and placing them in the nucleus of the shell so that the oyster can do its work again.  The pearl will be ready to harvest again in another 2-3 years.
A close up of the beads that are being placed in the shell to help the oyster to start creating the pearl.
This worker is extracting the pearls from the oyster shells and dropping them in a bucket where they will be cleaned and polished and readied for market.
At the end of the dock the oysters are brought in from the sea and placed here to wait their turn to be pulled and then harvested.
Joey showing us all the pearl oysters.
Louis brought over an example to us, showing us how the pearl oysters are beaded onto a rope and then he drops them systematically back into the ocean.  Louis does all the pulling and organizing of the shells at the bottom of the ocean floor himself.  He says it is too dangerous to let workers keep diving up and down and not having them decompress.  To cut out the chance of a worker getting hurt, he just does it himself.  Meaning he brings up and plants every string of oysters himself. In fact, Joey had to bring him a pair of new fins because last week he was pulling up some boxes of oyster shells and a shark came up and bit off his fin and swam away with it.  How is that for hard work?
Piles of Buoys
These are a precious commodity for pearl farmers.  Buoys help mark the spot of where their boxes of pear oysters are located under the sea.
…And the end result.  Let the shopping begin!
We could have sat there all day trying to pick the ones that we wanted to take home with us.    It was quite gratifying and so fun!  Here, Meredith is holding the pearls up to her ears and asking us, "This one… or this one?"
This is my kind of shopping.  My happy place.  I found a few that suited me.  The more the pearl is symmetrically shaped and colored, the rarer it is.  I didn't care, I chose the colors that I liked.  My favorites were the silver and beige ones, but I also got two very rare ones because I wanted a keepsake of this special time here in Takaroa.  Thank you, Joey and Louis for such an amazing experience and for your generosity.
After "shopping", Joey took us over to an old ship wreck that had been there for a 106 years.
Sue walking beside the ship.  DSCN9152
Martin and Joey enjoying a stroll on the beach while Meredith, Lily and I hunted for shells.
Meredith checking out what's inside the shipwreck.
After our tour we had a good hamburger at the one (and only) restaurant on the island.  Wait… I think Joey said that there was one more but it is rarely open.  I loved the remoteness of it all.
P.S. The hamburgers were pretty good!
Next, we took a tour of the town and went and saw the old Mormon church.
Then, we got a special treat and went to the post office where there was the possibility of getting online.  There, we got to duke it out for bandwidth between the four of us.  Everyone gets very serious when the word "Wi-Fi" is mentioned.  "No talking!"
Martin coming out of the Post Office with Lily.
Stay tuned, for Part 2 of our visit to Takaroa.