A Travellerspoint blog

Rules and life on board of a 15 meter long vessel

sunny 28 °C
View Pitcairn Islands/French Polynesia 2009 on Utrecht's travel map.

Ok, what is the ship like?
It is small for sure, but now that we are only with 6 people we do have enough room for us and our luggage. A great thanks to the 4 guys who weren't ready for a real expedition haha!
There are 12 berths, 6 on each side of the boat, 3 upper bunks and 3 lower bunks. I have to admit, the beds are quite ok although it can get a little damped down there. The lower deck has some chairs to sit on and a lot of 200 liter tanks of water! And then there is the upper deck, or sun deck so you want, though when the boat is out at open sea it is not advice to go there actually. There is small kitchen and a few seats inside and of course the main place for the skipper, with that traditional steering wheel and dozens of instruments.
Rules on board:
1. The skipper is alway right.
2. If the skipper is not right, automatically rule number 1 applies!

Well, time to leave and go out to the open sea. We reached open sea probably several hours after we have left, so time for those seasickness pills. And yes, they do there job quite well. I usually took on in the early morning and one late afternoon, so I was allright until around midnight, when my watching shift had ended and it was time for my bumpy sleep. We all have two hour watching shift between 6 in the evening and 6 in the morning....ship time that is. Man, I am totally unaware of time. Mangareva is one hour ahead of Tahiti, Pitcairn is again one hour ahead of Mangareva, while shiptime is half an hour in between Tahiti and Mangareva time. Hello, still there?

So, the plan is to go to the main island, Pitcairn, and arrive there in roughly 60 hours, so late on Friday the 13th! Unfortunately for us, winds were getting rougher each day and on Thursday the skipper decided we headed for Oeno atoll first, which is the northwestern most island of the Pitcairn Islands. On top of that, we did have quite some problems with the engines and some other stuff, but mechanic Jack (called Check by us) was always there with his skills, and not less important: his extreme patience!
So the next few days were at sea, waking up at around 7 or so, have breakfast, sit on deck and talk, have a mid morning nap, lunch, mid afternoon nap, and diner basically. After a while you really get used to the waves and the rhythm of the sea and boat. And then finally after at least 50 hours of travelling: land! Oeno, the holiday island of the Pitcairners, though during recent years not many people have been there at all.
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Now, approaching Oeno is one thing, but getting ashore is another. Oeno is totally surrounded by a reef and only one tiny stretch of that is actually suitable to go through...by a small rubber boat, a dinghy, that is! And that is exactly what we did on Saturday. Andrew took the 3 of us and some luggage right through the dangerous reef and waves. It nearly went wrong when the dinghy was about the flip over at an angle of at least 45 degrees, but then he suddenly flipped the motor again and we were back to normal again...well, almost, because the motor stopped! And that was not a good thing at all. Fortunately, it was just the fuel line that was loose, so we discovered. If that motor really broke, we had a huge problem going back the next day. Well, it wouldn't have been possible at all. We almost became a modern Robinson over there.
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Ok, Oeno is small, you walk around it in an hour or so, but it is fantastic. Just imagine the world most remote uninhabited island, with a turquoise lagoon, fine white sand, palm trees and clear blue skies. Awesome!. And we stayed there for the night on top of that, just sleeping on the beach, receiving sand in body openings you didn't know you had them!
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Next day, after a coffee with the best view ever, we went back in the dinghy, right across the lagoon and again hitting the waves of the reef extremely hard. What and adrenaline rush that was..o my lord! We got soaked!
Again aboard the Bounty Bay, both mechanical problems and winds avoided us from leaving that same day. We left early morning on Monday though for our 75 mile (nautical mile that is, about 1800 meters) trip to Pitcairn Island. To give an idea: the average speed is just about 5 knots (nautical miles again) and hour, and even less during the next hours. It took us another 18 or 19 hours to approach Pitcairn. After my shift, I went outside, smoked a cigarette and in the near distance, about 9 miles further away, lit by the moon and the stars, I saw the contours of the rugged hills of Pitcairn. And well, that is where I am now, staying at a local home with a great family. Only around 50 travellers a year get to actually stay on the island, mainly going with the Bounty Bay vessel. So, yeah, it does feel quite unique and rewarding to have reached the most isolated country (well, semi-independent) in the world, with the lowest number of permanent inhabitants (just under 50) as well.
Again, for me, it doesn't get (or have to be) any more adventurous than this and it just feels extremely....WOW!
Ok, guys and girls, time to have a shave and a shower after spending most of the week at sea or remote beaches. Get back to you later with more details about life on Pitcairn. Will be here for another 4 days probably, so plenty of time to meet all people of this tiny piece of land in the Southern Pacific.
Cheers!

Posted by Utrecht 11:53 Archived in Pitcairn Islands Tagged boating Comments (0)

On the Bounty with a 7th generation Christian

sunny 28 °C
View Pitcairn Islands/French Polynesia 2009 on Utrecht's travel map.

I hear you think: are you on some kinda religious trip? No, a Christian in this case refers to the last name of one of the mutineers of the Bounty, back during the late 18th century. And now history repeats because I am on a boat called Bounty Bay with Andrew Christian, 7th generation of Fletcher Christian, the mutiny leader on the original Bounty. Luckily for me peace was kept on this boat.
So now I finally reached Pitcairn Island on one of the most adventurous trips I have ever taken and will probably ever take anyhow. Getting here from Europe requires at least 3 to 4 full days of travelling which is almost unheard of nowadays with all those airplanes being able to fly to every corner in the world.
I left Holland on Saturday the 7th of March and after a night at the airport I was ready for my marathon flight from Amsterdam via Paris and Los Angeles to Tahiti, which took a massive 29 hours. Still, due to the time difference we managed to arrive there the same day. After a good 14 hour sleep there wasn't much more I wished to do on Monday, but relax and drink a icecold Hinano Tahiti beer...or two.
On Tuesday, an early flight took me to Mangareva in the Gambier Archipelago, in the southeastern corner of French Polynesia. From the airport, a shuttle boat went to the main harbor where the captain of the Bounty Bay, Austrian Kurt, picked us up. Us in this case meant me and my cousin Eric (erodrigo on TP!), 4 Americans and a guy from Norway.
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And from then on adventure started already. The Bounty Bay really is a basic boat! On top of that 3 of the Americans and the Norwegian guy were surprised that this wasn't a trip where diving was the main thing to do. So, well, after a while they just took off and were about to contact the owner, Dr. Graham, to get some clarification. Basically, my opinion is that they just weren't informed quite well....although everything is on the internet! Because of all this hassle we were not able to leave Mangareva on Tuesday anymore, so we spend the night on board, did some groceries (meaning beer) in the morning and finally took off early morning on Wednesday the 11th of March. So in this case, we meant only one American guy called Tom (great person!), my cousin and me, Kurt, Andrew and last but not least: Jack, the mechanic from Tuvalu. His skills were going to be of extreme importance during the next days. More about that in the next chapter!
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Pitcairn, here I come!

Posted by Utrecht 11:26 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (1)

Island Fever


View Caribbean Islands 2008 & Pitcairn Islands/French Polynesia 2009 on Utrecht's travel map.

Yes, it does exist, island fever. Well, at least in one's mind. Right now I am in between two trips to several of the world's most beautiful islands.

I spend the whole month of November in the Caribbean and although most people go there on a cruise or spend a week doing close to nothing on a package holiday, basically the best way to travel around is arrange your flights between the islands (with LIAT..Leaves Island Any Time) and see what happens next. There really is a wide choice but the best islands are the ones which lack beaches or just have a few. Not surprisingly, these islands don't have any direct flights from North America or Europe, so it's just heaven there. Because yes, for the average person no beaches means no fun. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed a few days at beaches myself, especially Maho Beach where the big airplanes land on Sint Maarten. And finding yourself all alone with your girlfriend on one of the few beaches on Dominica where parts of ' Pirates Of The Caribbean' has been filmed, is just awesome.

Dominica must be the most beautiful island in the region. Amazingly green, quiet and friendly with dozens of waterfalls, thousands of palm trees covering the mountain slopes and colourful villages and people.
Although a little less spectacular, Saba and Montserrat are definately two of my other favourites. So small, you can actually see the whole country at once if you place yourself on the right position on the island. And that is the great thing about these places called small islands: you can actually see and do everything that is possible.

So, one down, one to go. Another trip lasting about a month to one of the most off the beaten track island nations in the world: the Pitcairn Islands. I'll be heading there in March with a catamaran called 'Bounty Bay', leaving from Mangareva, French Polynesia. Getting to Mangareva alone is a long (and expensive!) series of flights from Amsterdam to Paris to LA to Tahiti to Mangareva, probably around 25 hours of flying time. But Mangareva has the airport which is nearest to Pitcairn, about 600 kilometers! There aren't many nations in the world which are so difficult to reach. This might just be the most difficult one, and together with the history regarding the mutiny on the Bounty, that is just the reason to go there. The destination is important, but just the travelling part is much nicer. Well, at least if I don't get seasick too much....

And did you know that the Pitcairn Islands actually consist of 4 islands. Of course there Pitcairn where the busload of people live but there is also Oeno, Henderson (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and totally off the beaten track Ducie. I'll be visiting all of these islands and Ducie is visited by just a few dozens of people every year. YEAH!!!

Posted by Utrecht 01:02 Archived in Pitcairn Islands Tagged boating Comments (1)

Polders and Gouda cheese

Nearby places I have never been

sunny 30 °C

.....so today I visited that friend I mentioned earlier. He lives in Gouda for about a year now, so it became time to finally visit him.
But first I drove for a while in my car without airconditioning when temperatures were hitting a tropical 30 degrees Celcius. Not real fun, as it's just to hot to be honest. I decided to drive through the Dutch polders, more specifically the Alblasserwaard, a typical Dutch lowland area, with pictoresque places, canals and people enjoying a good bike ride or canoing that same canals. Of course, lots of windmills wich make the perfect postcard complete. It is just about half an hour from Utrecht and every day when I drive to work in Breda, I pass this area by just a few kilometers, driving the highway. Basically, it is a very small area between the cities of Utrecht, Gorinchem and Dordrecht, south of the city of Gouda where I went afterwards. First I had to cross a small river by boat, where people were having a good time on some very small beaches. After the crossing which probably took 2 minutes, it was jus a 15 minute drive before reaching one of the best known historic cities in the Netherlands, Gouda. Just like other cities as Edam or Alkmaar, it's known internationally because of its cheese and this is exactly the thing you see when walking across its small but beautifully presevered historic hart, with a central square and the town hall right in the middle of it. Also Gouda is just about half an hour from where I live, but I hadn't been there my entire life!
After a great meal and some refreshing drinks I turned home again. I had a great weekend, being a traveller in my home city and home country. Maybe I should do this more often.....but tomorrow there is work again to be done first.
Cheers! Michael

Posted by Utrecht 12:46 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Utrecht

Travelling in my home city

sunny 25 °C

Sometimes you forget things. Not to say though that Mr. Alzheimer or Mr. Korsakov has paid a visit, it's just a way to speak. Sometimes you forget to really appreciate your own environment and surroundings. I travelled a fair bit during the last 5 or 6 years since I have enough time and money to see the world. Whether it's Australia, Africa or Cuba, the world is a beautiful place to visit and comparable to a book: if you don't travel you only read one page.
But today I really enjoyed being a traveller in my home city. I have been living in Utrecht for about 12 years now since I started my study here. That first year I found my way around the city, knowing places, visiting certain areas interesting for travellers from all over the world. But later on, it is just the city you study in, partying and finishing the same study so you have something to hold onto in life. Afterwards, you start to work, buy a house and like I said earlier, see this massive and fantastic planet earth.
But again, today I actually became a traveller at home. As the other half of my small family is in Prague right know and coincidentally the Dutch enjoyed one of the first true warm and sunny days today, I decided to just walk around the city, from my house, for the whole afternoon. Ok, I had a quick break for some cappucino and a glas of water (hey, it was warmer than I was used to!) but apart from that I just walked and kept on walking. True, Utrecht is more beautiful on a warm and sunny summerday, but any time of year is a good time to visit and enjoy the old canals and wharves, dotted with boats of all sorts (waterbikes, yaughts, tour boats), the windmill, the Dom tower, church and square and the small hidden backstreets and small squares. Combined with numerous terraces where people enjoy a good whitebeer. I must have taken at least 50 photos today, some of them to be uploaded later, so be patient dear reader...
As the Dutch summer is finally here and is going to reach another high tomorrow with temperatures up to 30 degrees, I might just fit in some other places nearby. I got a friend in Gouda......

Posted by Utrecht 11:54 Archived in Netherlands Tagged foot Comments (0)

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