Bora Bora they have tamed Manta Rays that will eat out of
the palm of your hand. Hundreds of technicoloured reef fish
loiter under your hut's glass floor (lured by the nutritious
raw sewage of your toilet which flushes directly into the
lagoon). You can buy black pearls at a boutique in town
and there's high speed Internet any time you want it. It's
So why did I feel the need to escape?
My escape route took me 1300 kilometres downwind from the
hustle and bustle of Tahiti and Bora Bora. At the end lay
an uninhabited island with buried treasure. It was the legendary
atoll of Suwarrow of the Cook Islands.
(also known as Suvarov) was officially discovered by a Russian
explorer in 1814, but excavations uncovered evidence of
visits from swash-buckling Europeans from possibly as early
as the late 1500s. Stone walls, kilns, a musket, gold "pieces
of eight" and a skeleton holding an iron bolt have
been recovered from Anchorage Island. As well, a shipwreck
salvaged on the reef was found to contain a chest of coins
"To me Anchorage Island was alive
with memories of men who had lived in her fastness, had
dug gold, weighed pearls, loved native women, caroused,
fought, and died. Now Time and the Jungle had claimed Suvarov..
now only memories of the old days remained."
- Robert Dean Frisbie (inhabited Suwarrow
with his children in 1942)
that time Suwarrow has only been inhabited by a handful
of people; people that came searching for the edge of the
world where the human trail ran thin and the flood turned
back into a trickle.
"To me.. the island was not an adventure, it
was something infinitely bigger.. a whole way of life."
- Tom Neale (hermit of Suwarrow
intermittantly from 1952-77)
But the floodgates are bulging and always threatening to
the year is out I will clear away the jungle, build houses,
and establish the most unique tourist resort in the world! Instead
of a sanctuary for birds, crabs, and turtles it will be a sanctuary
for sun-hungry white men from New Zealand, London, New York!"
- Captain Prospect, Island of Desire (delivered
Frisbie to Suwarrow in 1942)
Suwarrow is now a national park of
the Cook Islands. It still doesn't have golf courses, glass-floored
huts or honeymooners paying $1000 a night for the view. Any
tame Manta Rays got eaten by sharks.
is not paradise; it is uncensored and untamed nature in
the heart of the Pacific wilderness. For the time being,
there is no price tag on a Suwarrow sunset. The sight of
the sun setting over Suwarrow's outer reef, turning the
lagoon waters into millions of dancing, glittering diamonds
will cost you something entirely different. The price is
time. You pay with a little chunk of your life.
"Welcome to Suwarrow! Want some fish?
- John & Veronica Samuela (current
caretakers of Suwarrow)
summer, a cargo ship drops John, Veronica and their 4 children
off with supplies for their 6-month stay to oversee the management
of the parkland. While sitting on John and Veronica's patio,
munching on freshly speared fish and pancakes made from coconut
sprouts, I learned about what life is like for their family
on an uninhabited atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
- and how hard it is for them to tear themselves away when
the hurricane season begins and the cargo ship returns to
pick them up.
The coral waxes, the palm grows, the inukshuk crumbles.
was very symbolic for me for the reason that it lies right
at the edge of the floodwaters. I felt like I had left the
human trail - even for just a few steps - and looking over
my shoulder, I watched the waves quickly wash away the footprints
I had left behind.
So I did what I always do when I get that feeling; I built
an inukshuk. It might only last until the next hurricane,
but for a brief history in time, it existed in a very special
place in the world.
while snorkeling with Suwarrow's untamed sharks, I thought
about the whole idea of tamed Manta Rays in paradise. Comparing
the vast contrasts between Bora Bora and Suwarrow all boiled
down to one thing: the price you pay to experience either.
Stepping out of the floodwaters and discovering a place
off the beaten track can offer huge rewards, and often the
biggest cost is time, not money. Those who understand the
true value of time and never regret how they've spent it
are quite possibly the richest people in the world.
view of Bora Bora
(ie, LEAVING!) :)
over a Bora Bora Island
Yeah, pretty nice I guess.
Highest person in a 1000 km radius.
My latest ride, a Baltic 58: I insist on riding in style.
Taken from slightly higher than the top of Akoya's mast.
A Coconut Crab!
Scarier than snakes on a plane, and pointier than Drop
The vegetation of Turtle Island.
Polynesians use these to make baskets, roofs, and cigarettes.
Making my mark! 13°12.374S 163°07.550W. Turtle
Island Inukshuk, facing Northeast, back towards Canada.