After having arrived the evening before and announced to Betio Port Control that we are there we have to wait until 11 am before being advised that we should pick up “the boarding party” in the harbour.
In our case the boarding party consists of the customs officer and 3 lady officers from Quarantine, Biosecurity and Police.
They are all very friendly and immediately take each a copy of our papers, that I have left on the table “to be prepared”. Especially the colour copies of our passports are appreciated, and I regret having put the stuff on the table in the first place…
The customs officer teaches us “Mauri” (Hello), our first word in Kiribati (spoken Kiribas as “ti” stands for an “s”).
After a short look through the boat Reto brings them back to shore. Our next step is to write a letter for asking permission to visit the outer atolls and go to the immigration office on the neighbor island Bairiki in order to get our passports stamped.
The curious thing about this check-in into the country is that every yacht arriving experiences a completely different procedure. We deduct that there are no standard processes existing and it depends on the officer in place.
As the last chore of the day we get our internet running and communication going.
In Wikipedia we read that throughout the year the average temperature in Kiribati is 30.9 degrees Celsius with a min of 30.9 and a max of 31.3. That explains why we are drenched in sweat the whole night through and even more when the sun comes out.
We spend a few days filling up diesel, looking for fresh food which is practically not existing, washing the laundry, writing blog and take a few walks through Betio and Bairiki.
Also we hop on a bus to the end of South Tarawa and back to see a bit of the island.
the shades of grey and green indicate that the ground is not far from our hulls…Inside of the lagoon the boomies are easily spotted with the light blue and a nice sail brings us to the other side.
We throw our anchor in front of the main village where we have to hand over our permit to the local police man.
On our first walk trough the village we are overwhelmed by the beautiful houses, all of them constructed entirely with natural resources from Pandanus and Coconut trees.
The family where we attach our dinghy at the beach is very friendly, we have to sit down in their huts and are invited for tea.
But the idyllic beach in front of their house is full with rubbish. Broken glass and corroded cans stick dangerously in the sand and a well identifiable odor lies in the air. We move She San further south in the lagoon.
I have some tobacco for the father and some cremes and soaps for the mother, who immediately hugs me with great joy and sends the boy for another 6 coconuts. We agree to come back for next doors dancing event in the evening but unfortunately it starts to pour and the event is canceled.
On the second day we explore the island and meet Tinaii from the Terau Beach Bungalow Resort.
She also welcomes us with a coconut and tells us about Nick, a Swiss guy living a few minutes down the road with his wife Lisa who was born in Kiribati.
Of course we have to check that out immediately. Lisa welcomes us “Come on in, come on in. Nick’s not here but in 2 hours he will be back with visitors from Switzerland, you have to come back then.” “But then we only disturb” we are protesting. “No, no, it’s perfect, you really have to come again”.
Two hours later we approach the house on the water front with the Kiribati and the Swiss flag and Nick waves at us from the balcony – “come on in, it is well heated” and we sit down right in the middle of unpacking suitcases. His 84 year!!! old mother Anni and her husband Pete have just arrived all the way from Switzerland! What a voyage around the globe!
In the next few days we often sit with them on their balcony, having coffee, cold water or wheat beer and enjoy their hospitality.
Lisa shows me how to collect the clams on the beach and how to prepare them. I show her how to cultivate the Kefir and how to make fresh soft cheese from it.
One afternoon we speak about what we are all used to eat at Christmas and we are raving about our last years Cheese Raclettes and Fondues during our visit in Switzerland.
What a feast! It turns out to be the best Fondue I have ever had in my life, awesome consistency, spicy and accompanied by some well cooled bottles of white wine and a loaf of my crispy bread baked at last moment.
But also in the resort from Tinaii and Kaboua we eat very well, and for USD 3.50 per person this is not even a luxury.
My target is to see the abandoned village of Tebunginako, that (at least it is claimed) is a victim of climate change.
We continue a bit further north but after 20 km, we decide to head back, the backpadel brake bikes are not what we are used to after all.
On the way back we stop at the Christmas festivities in Koinawa. Here the whole catholic community of the atoll is camping for 2-3 weeks in the “Maneabas”, the big community houses of each village. Today is big soccer champion ship, everybody is there to play or watch.
Back in Betio we do the check out run together with Greg from the Oceanna, again it takes a few hours to get our passports stamped and the customs documents done. On Friday, the 21st of Dec at noon we go anchor up, we don’t have much time to loose to cover the 390 miles in 3 days.
The first 24 hours are clam conditions, we have ok speed and not too much wind and behind Abaiang and Butaritari the seas is rather calm and comfortable. Afterwards it gets a bit more choppy, but still ok.
The following morning though we get hit by a first Mega Squall, a white wall takes us in and within a short time the winds pick up almost forty knots. We reef and reef and when only a tiny bit of genoa still looks out, then of course the wind is over and we almost stand still. So we take the reefs out again, and in again, and out again – uncountable times the next 24 hours.
Little by little he takes in the line manually while I turn the reel, it takes us more than half an hour to get the 14 kg Yellow fin on board. Because of the rough seas Reto doesn’t want me to filet it on the steps, so it ends up in the cockpit.
What a mess – the wind blows the blood and the dark scales to the other side of the cockpit and onto me of course. Frenetically I work to get the filets into the freezer, afterwards we both happily skip dinner…
Still we make enough speed to roll through the pass at 5 am and slowly sail back to the mooring field.
We pick up the last available mooring which is bit close to two large corroding wrecks, water the dinghy and hop into a taxi heading straight to Customs as we are told by the local yacht club.
“You are not supposed to be here. What are you doing on land without permission?” the customs lady barks at us, so we go back to our dinghy to take the customs official out to our boat. After a quick search though our cupboards we are done and he says “Now you just have to pay USD 75 as a fine for going on shore”. I stare at him and say in panic “ But no, we have tried to do everything as we were told – it’s not our fault when we have the wrong information” “You don’t want to pay, ok then it is ok.” I look at him relieved with tears in my eyes.
We walk back, find some veggies and make the next priority stop at the NTH, the local telecommunications office. Christmas eve is approaching, we really would like to communicate with family and friends.
It takes us another two hours until the I Pad is connecting with the WIFI, we are hungry and thirsty and fall into the next store to drown a beer and a cassava pudding.
Until we are back at She San it is almost 5 pm, we are completely exhausted. “Now let’s finally sit down for a welcome beer” suggests Reto. “ I just finish washing the greens that I have gotten from Don, so we have a salad later on” I reply. Don is a sailor who is volunteering in a local garden and he supplies greens and veggies, which is a cool thing.
I am almost finished when I bite into a leaf and my mouth and throat start to burn like hell, I spit out the stuff and take a sip of Kefir (thinking it would help like with chili). Then Reto makes me drink a liter of water and a cup of vinegar as he googles my symptoms to be rather like a chemical burn.
Now it not only still hurts like hell but I also feel quite sick. Then he gives me a few doses of homeopathic Apis globules, I slowly start to feel better.
What a Christmas Eve! At least a while later we have our Christmas dinner finally tasting the tuna we caught the day before…
On the 25th the Mieco beach yacht club organises a wonderful Christmas Potluck, there is plenty of great food and of course even a turkey is not missing.
Our first to do is the repairing of the genoa, the broken seam has to be fixed and since it is already down Reto also improves and repairs many other parts of the sail.
On New Year’s Eve the Majurans make a block party, the street is closed in the afternoon, tribunes for bands and stands for food and drinks are installed everywhere.
A bunch of sailors meet in front of the Formosa supermarket, the time flies and a lot of alcohol runs down the throats. After 12 most are drunken enough, since there is no countdown we don’t even realize the the new year has started…
Many times we walk up and down the road, looking for our permits, some hardware for projects and some good deals on food and drinks to stock up for the islands.
On the weekend of the 5th and 6th of January a depression south of Majuro makes to sailing community become alert, it is called tropical depression TW 01 and at a certain moment up to 60 knots and 18 hours westerly winds are prognosed.
We check our mooring and put some extra lines out just in case, but luckily the center of the depression stays south of us and instead of becoming a hurricane it starts to dissolve again after a few days.
When this system is through and most of the chores are done we start to snorkel and dive the wrecks in the Majuro anchorage as well as close to Anemonet.
There are all sorts of planes, helicopters and dozens of ship wrecks of all kinds in the water and the visibility is surprisingly clear for the inside of an atoll.
In the meantime we are three weeks here and we still don’t have all the permits for the visits on the outer atolls (while another yacht who arrived two weeks later has already gotten the one we still miss).
We find that this is not yet really encouraging tourism after all, but for us it is an experience by itself 😉 and what shall we do, we try to take it easy and enjoy life 😉