Friday, May 18, 2018

Ashore at Pitcairn

[Kyle]The swell had died down significantly during our second night after arriving at Pitcairn Island. Still, after seeing the longboats come in the day before, both us and Nemo decided the $50 (each) fee to have a longboat skipper come out and retrieve us was preferable to risking our dinghies and our necks trying it ourselves.

Aboard Nemo were Chris and Elayne. Elayne was having some orthopedic trouble and didn’t feel up to making the big timed jump into the longboat as it came alongside Nemo, so it was just us and Chris for the day.

Arrived at Pitcairn

The local boats are stored in the boatsheds in the tiny harbour

We were met at the harbor by Charlene and a couple of others, who greeted us with hugs and placed leis made of seashells around our necks. We were then invited to hop on board their muddy quad bikes for the trip up the Hill of Difficulty to the town square for clearance, where we were met by more friendly people.

Pitcairn is a lot prettier and more lush than I expected. There were lots of flowers everywhere. The place had the atmosphere of a giant botanic garden. Still, it felt a little weird to be there. Since Pitcairn only has fifty-six residents, every last one of them is famous to anyone who has read anything about the island. The last thing we had read was Kathy Marks’ book, Paradise Lost, detailing the 2005 trials for sex crimes that seem to have been occurring for their entire history since the Bounty. We recognized the names of those who had taken sides one way or the other during the scandal and it was hard to make friendly chit chat knowing what we knew about their personal histories. Maryanne observed that nearly every woman we met with a position of power had been ones who had defended the men with the predominant ‘boys will be boys’ argument.

We met the Constable, a lovely Scottish Woman from the outer Hebrides, serving her two year term on the island. She was very forthright and open about the situation and we all agreed the best thing to come from the trials was to shine a big light on the problem and thus hopefully break the cycle. New children still aren’t allowed on the island and the three that are left are watched very closely.

First sights and scenery, along with some exposure to the Pitkern language and the bells once used to signal to the population any news (before VHF)

Once we had cleared in, Chris, Maryanne and I set to walking as much of the little island as we could for our day ashore. Pitcairn is less than two square miles, so you would think we could have made short work of it, but it is extremely rugged and it quickly became clear we would have to pick and chose what we wanted to see.

St Pools Pool was a little rough on the day we visited, but the walk was great.
Bounty treasures are dotted everywhere (including this cannon)

We started by walking to Ha Point, where we were able to climb out onto a narrow ridge and sit upon rocks perched high above Bounty Bay, with Begonia, Nemo and the supply ship far below. Chris called Elayne on his handheld VHF and told her where we were. We all waved our arms like crazy, but Nemo was so far away, she couldn’t make us out and we couldn’t see her. Oh, well. On to the next thing, St Paul’s Pool.

It was a bit of a walk and to keep us entertained, we asked Chris what was his story.

He’s an interesting guy. He is one of those people possessed of an almost insatiable need to tinker with and modify every mechanical thing within his reach. He was constantly asking us for advice as he kept referring to himself and Elayne as “new to sailing”. “New to Sailing” in their case meant that they had ‘just’ bought their boat five years ago in France and had ‘only’ sailed it this far, across an ocean and a half. Hey, Chris, I think it has probably been safe to take off the old training wheels for a while now.

The real reason he thinks he’s new at all of this is that he and Elayne had spent the previous seven years traveling by road. It wasn’t the usual drive the Trans-Canadian Highway or to visit as many National Parks as you can type of driving, although they did that. Their trip took them to over 160 countries on all six continents that have roads, including a lot of places not on tourist routes like Libya and Afghanistan. His stories would make a war correspondent cringe. Not only did they do all of that, but they did it living on and in a car he had built himself from parts of other cars he found in scrapyards. He wanted it to be fixable anywhere, so it had manual brakes, manual steering ,manual clutch and an engine that could be started by hand if necessary. He says sailing comes less naturally to him, so he still feels new to it.

We walked past Pitcairn’s only beach at Down Rope, where Nemo had sheltered for three days. It was easy to see why they hadn’t scaled the spray covered cliffs to come ashore until now. Further on, we descended a staircase of a few hundred steps to St. Paul’s Pool. St. Paul’s is supposed to be the only swimming hole on the island and we were looking forward to a refreshing dip after our long, hot walk. The swell crashing through the gap between the entrance rocks was forceful enough that that day, the place would be more appropriately named Certain Death. It was pretty, though, so we scrambled over the rocks above and enjoyed the views.

Eco Trail and Christian's Cave

We climbed back up the stairs and then took a meandering route across muddy roads to an eco trail culminating at Christian’s Cave. The cave is where Fletcher Christian reputedly made daily scans for pursuing Royal Navy ships or others with which they might be able to trade. The first part of the trail was lovely, but the last few hundred meters to the cave involved climbing a sheer rock face at a forty-five degree angle. The view from up there was great, but not much more so than the one slightly lower down. I guess the point was that the cave was an ideal location to scan without being seen. Lurker’s Cave.

Getting down was quite scary. My shoes seem to have about a forty-five and a half degree traction limit, so I took the safe precaution of crab walking all of the way down on my hands and feet. It must have looked funny, but almost doubled the surface area I had stuck to the rock face.

Back in town (Adamstown), we found most of the island at the store unpacking containers and inventorying them. We located one of the people we recognized from the morning and announced our readiness to take our weary, muddy bodies back to our boats. In the meantime, we found a couple of things at the store that everybody swore to us wasn’t earmarked for others and walked to the harbor.

The prison is now mostly a tourist shop and a few random offices (with showers)

"All Hands" when the supply ship finally delivers
and we manage to score with a desperately needed new pair of shoes for Kyle

A few minutes later, several quads arrived. The boat was launched and we were given hugs goodbye. We had ordered some fresh produce from Shawn Christian. Rather than ask for specific things, Maryanne had just told him to give us a variety of what they could spare with a $40 limit.

We depart from the dock with a ton of provisions
find places for them all aboard ready for the next passage

As the boat went in the water, a woman showed up with a quad covered in veggies. We thought we were going to be asked to select what we wanted, but the whole lot was for us. Chris’ order came on a different quad. For forty bucks, we ended up with a mountain of lettuce, a few tomatoes, lots of cucumbers, onions, too many eggplants and some fresh herbs – WAY more than we could ever get for that in a grocery store. We were also given two large (and heavy) stalks of bananas, each with about 100 fruits. They were little Apple Bananas, not the big, Stodgy Cavendishes like Chiquitas, but that was still a lot. I had two or three every time I was just the slightest bit puckish, but it still took a while to get through them, even when Maryanne helped by making daily banana muffins.

We made the jumps back to our boats and then our haul was tossed over to us. We were safely back aboard after a busy day. The harbor was much calmer. Between that and all of our exertion, we slept much better than the night before.

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