As seen from above, Tikehau would look like an unlikely place to live. Made up of a string of motus (small islands), the collection of them is a near-perfect circle (an atoll), filled with all shades of lagoon blue and some of the most diverse fish life in French Polynesia. But, yes, people live here, and people visit as well.
Standing on the beach in front of our bungalow, we can see black-tipped reef sharks, manta rays, and schools of fish swimming gracefully in the shallow water by the shore. To join them in the aquatic experience, we strap on a snorkelling mask and observe them from below the surface. The sharks, though of a harmless variety, still swim uncomfortably close. Paul thinks they make great foreground subjects for his over/under water photography. I prefer to observe from a distance, admiring how serenely they wave their back fins from side to side. I wonder how sharp their teeth are.
It’s hot here on Tikehau, the wind moving just enough to ruffle the leaves on the palm trees, but not nearly enough to cool our skin. It is a tough setting for the baby, who mastered walking on the fine sand at Pension Roses des Isles on Maupiti, but can’t handle the larger coral pieces that make up the beach here at Pension Chez Justine. Otherwise, it’s a perfect beach, with views across the blending hues of blue in the lagoon to the motus on the other side.
Apart from a family bike ride around the island yesterday, we’ve had to keep things lower key than usual. And that’s OK. Something’s up with the baby, and no amount of detective work can resolve it at this point. It’s a vicious combination of attachment (particularly to mama), humidity, heat (thank God for fans!), and who knows what else. With baby waking six or more times at night, we have taken to calling ourselves “the travelling zombies”. We could easily be going through the same thing at home, but being on the road makes it a bit harder to deal with.
When days are more of a struggle, or at least when we’re forced to keep things simple to avoid a struggle, our thoughts begin to turn homeward. We have been gone two months now, with just under two weeks to go. Isn’t that the funny thing about travel? When you’re home, you dream of getting away. At some point while you’re away, though, you start missing the comforts, conveniences and familiarities of home. I suppose that offers us yet another good reason for getting away in the first place: you really learn to appreciate what you left behind.
I’m not yet longing to return, but the scale is gradually tipping in that direction. We are missing Banff, our community, our families, the mountains, a well-stocked grocery store, a reliable internet connection, baby’s separate room and, more importantly than we’d like to admit, a good cup of coffee. We’re in the land of instant coffee here in French Polynesia, and between the lack of sleep and just plain old loving our usual brew, we are desperately eager to be reunited with it.
For now though I’m making a conscious effort to absorb my beautiful surroundings and make the most of our incredible location, to visit the fish under the surface of the sea and take a serene paddle in the kayak on top. One morning, I awoke with Maya just before 6 a.m. and brought her outside to watch the sunrise over the lagoon. She sat calmly in my lap – a rare occurrence – and together we watched the sky light up with magnificent pinks and purples before slowly turning to blue.
We snuggled close and I caressed her hair. My thoughts may be turning homeward, but once I’m there, I know I’ll be thinking of moments like these.