Sunday, May 20, 2012

Deciding Where To Go This Summer

This year, rather quickly, after only about a month of effort, I luckily stumbled upon what I want to do and where I want to go for my summer trip.

For the past several vacations, I have been searching for the “perfect” white-sand-blue-water tropical beach paradise and had been almost totally unsuccessful. Many people that I know like to go off to some cultured dense urban location-—Berlin, New York, Paris, Prague, London, Madrid, Tokyo-—but I already LIVE in a dense urban location, which I can enjoy all year around, and especially during the summer, as well, and I do enjoy it.

And here it is also known as almost the consummate “beach” location, but I guess that at this point I am rather “snobby” about that. I can hardly ever drag myself to the beach around here, which involves a long drive through traffic, fighting even heavier traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway, paying what I think is too much money to park (which is especially galling when I am still so paper-white-pale that at first I can’t even be at the beach more than half an hour without being turned into a red lobster, so why do I want to pay for a full-day’s worth of parking?), only to go to not particularly attractive brown sand, greenish-brown water that in Los Angeles County, at least, is somewhat polluted, and that is also ice-cold? As far as the LA County beaches go, swimming in the water is generally miserable in that all the beaches have a precipitous slope down into the water that causes there to be waves that don’t really break smoothly, but instead pound down so hard on top of you as to smash you down into a swirling “washing machine” of seawater while the undertow or riptide threatens to drag you far out to who knows where?

I think much further out there, where the surfers line up (covered neck to toe-tip in heavy wetsuits), the waves break much better and can carry them in for a thrilling ride. But closer in to shore where I and 90% of the other people at the beach feel more comfortable, it is a mess. Very few beach-goers here actually go into the water for more than a quick wetting of the feet. I don’t know if that is due to the cold temperature of the water, or the uninviting wave action (or both), but basically for the non-surfer, the beaches here seem to be for sunbathing on the sand, playing volleyball, or throwing the Frisbee. Little kids enjoy making sandcastles on the water’s edge.

Beaches beyond Los Angeles County are better. Many like the beaches of Santa Barbara; others like them in Orange County. And those are better, it is true. As for me, I prefer the beaches of San Diego County, especially liking Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, where I truly enjoy myself body-surfing, and San Onofre, which actually has warm water due its proximity to the nuclear power plant. I BELIEVE that the ocean water there flows through pipes in the power plant to help cool the reactor (although for sure I don’t really know or understand the process) and when it comes back out again, it has taken on the heat from the reactor. And no, this doesn’t carry along with it dangerous radiation, just nice semi-tropical-feeling ocean water.

But either San Diego County beach destination is a three-hour or longer drive from here, so good for a three-day weekend trip. When I hated the apartment where I used to live, I was looking to escape from it every chance I could get, so I was a pretty regular visitor to Encinitas and Moonlight Beach. I would stay in a hotel that was only a few blocks away from the beach. But ever since moving into THIS apartment, I haven’t felt the need to escape, so I haven’t been to Encinitas since.

So, any escaping I want to do is from Los Angeles, itself, so, back to the “snob” in me, when I want (or hope) to go to a great beach now that I live here, I have gone to Florida, Mexico, Honduras, Belize, Hawaii, or Micronesia, NOT Southern California.

Key West, in Florida, was disappointing, beach-wise. Any white sand there is not native to the island, but shipped in from the Bahamas and poured into “sand boxes” along the shore of expensive resorts. Also, there are yards of seagrass along the shoreline that is pretty creepy to wade through to get into the water, which is why most of those resorts have piers that extend far out into the water to provide access to the water beyond the seagrass. It’s okay, I suppose, but not my idea of what I wanted. Key West is more for tootling around the cute town on a rented motorscooter, rocking relaxedly on covered verandahs during the heavy summer showers, enjoying delicious meals outdoors on southern patios, and barhopping throughout the warm summer evenings. Going to the beach, not so much. Miami Beach was much more appealing when it came to the beaches and I would go back to Miami Beach in a heartbeat.

Cozumel, Mexico, had some pretty nice white sand, warm water beaches. Terrible snorkeling, though. Some hurricane or other apparently wrecked the snorkeling down there, at least, that was the excuse I kept hearing. There was nothing wrong with Cozumel other than it was for me a cruise ship destination and all that entails, probably the worst of which (to me) is the fact that you are going to be there for only a few hours. So while I enjoyed Cozumel for those few hours, it wasn’t really a full and deeply abiding experience. You’re mostly just lured into shopping.

The same could be said for Cancun. Not so enjoyable from a cruising-in-by-ship perspective, but I could see myself going back there for a longer stay at a large resort. Mexico's not so high on my list these days, though, thanks to the drug wars and so on.

Ensenada, another Mexico cruise-ship destination for me, was inferior beach-wise, really like just going to a California beach except that you are constantly bothered by people hawking jewelry and hair braiding. At least in California you are left alone. I did not go into the water, there, because I had already gotten too sunburned on the ship and the idea of the salt water made my skin crawl. I was the only one of my group who did not go into the water and I was the only one who did not get sick-—a sort of Montezuma’s Revenge that I guess is absorbed through the skin. Instead of “don’t drink the water” (which still holds), it was “don’t get INTO the water”.

When I was doing background work on films the first year I moved back to Los Angeles, I met a ton of people who had been extras on “The Titanic”, which had been filmed at Cameron’s studio in Ensenada where there had been constructed a 1/3-size tipping scale model of the ship. This was around the time that movie had come out, so if I had moved to L.A. about half a year earlier, I would have been able to have been in that movie, too.

At first I was envious, the fact that they got a free trip to Ensenada for the filming and were in that phenomenally popular movie, but they all said that it had been a miserable experience, just floating around in the water for hours and they ALL got sick. So I view that as an incontrovertible fact, now, swim in the polluted ocean at Encinitas and you will get sick. So no, that one is out.

The island of Roatan, Honduras, was a beautiful place loaded with gorgeous beaches. Again, it was a cruise-ship destination with all my typical complaints of going there by ship. But I am quite sure that I will go back to Roatan sometime, again, to stay on land there and find a deeper enjoyment of it.

I never saw the beaches in Belize, because, you guessed it, that was yet another cruise-ship destination. For Belize, I chose an eight-hour inland excursion to see the pyramid at Xunantunich and it was well-worth it. I climbed up to the top of it and could see over into the jungles of Guatamala. I studied Mayan culture before I went on that trip, which helped me all the more appreciate and enjoy what I was seeing. Belize definitely has a reputation for having very good beaches, so I will have go back there someday to experience that, although the attraction in Belize that interests me more is cave-tubing (so I would do both).

Without a doubt I love the Hawaiian island of Kauai and for sure very seriously plan to return there. I want to kayak the Na Pali coast and camp on those isolated beaches in the Na Pali Wilderness. I was a millimeter close to going there this summer, but learned that camping permits for that region usually fill up over a year in advance. So, some other time.

Beach-wise, though, I have never been to a place that was more “dangerous-beach-warning-centric”, to the extent that even beaches that LOOKED okay (and had some people swimming in them) nevertheless kept me enough on edge that I couldn’t enjoy them. It’s funny, though, because clearly THE MOST DANGEROUS BEACH on Kauai, and maybe in all of Hawaii (excluding the North Shore beaches of Oahu during the winter), that was constantly warned against, was Hanakapiai Beach, two miles into the Na Pali Wilderness, and in 1975, I spent one of the most enjoyable days of my life body-surfing Hanakapiai Beach, totally naked, I might add, for several hours, all by myself. I had no idea that it was supposed to be so dangerous, so I had no fear, only an amazingly great time. Was I lucky, or was this fear-mongering just so much the way life is, now, in the 2000s, where every American is meant to be scared to death of any and everything and the cherished status of becoming a victim is always just around every corner? I don’t know, but as wonderful as Kauai is, to me, it is not a place for great beaches, now.

Palau is mostly “photographic hype”, looks like the most wonderful place on the planet, and I imagine that all those hundreds of beaches and hidden lagoons in the Rock Islands are as fantastic as you’d expect them to be, if only it would stop raining! I never thought to check out the weather pattern in Palau, assuming that like every other tropical destination I was familiar with, that when it rained, it would be an immense and gloriously exciting tropical downpour that would be over in half an hour, once a day. This is something that you WANT to have happen. But in Palau, as I am sure I have said elsewhere, it rains, on average, every day but four out of every single month. So a beautiful beach in the midst of a constant tropical downpour is anything but a vacation pleasure.

Another odd thing about Palau, for a place that I would expect would be wedded to the sea, and especially with the awesome treasure of the labyrinth of the Rock Islands, there would be more boats than Los Angeles has cars. But there were hardly any boats at all in Palau, and any that I saw belonged to the touring companies for the purpose of trucking boatloads of tourists in and out of the Rock Islands region. (Not even any private yachts were seen, which I for sure expected to see a lot of.) This gave me the impression that the only people who ever went into the Rock Islands were tourists who were paying money to formal excursion companies for organized and standardized trips. And from my driving around everywhere on the main island of Koror, I found basically only TWO non-commercial beaches on that island. By non-commercial, I mean a beach that isn’t owned by a very expensive resort hotel (to whom you must pay for day use if you aren't a guest there). There was a beach that was owned by bar and restaurant that was owned by a scuba diving company, that charged an admissions fee for their tiny beach.

The two “free” beaches that I am referring to were one kind of polluted one in a formerly industrial area near an old ice plant, and another one that I would have been quite happy to use that was in the vicinity of the large bridge that connects the island of Koror with the island of Babeldoab. It had white sand and beautiful water and was on the “lagoon” side of the bridge instead of on the “ocean” side of the bridge. I saw some local men fishing there, and asked the man at the car rental place about it, who confirmed for me that that was the beach the locals use and a good beach that few tourists even knew about.

I think a possible rule of thumb about beaches, which I apply to Palau and I believe also holds true for Kauai (or anywhere else), is that one ought to go to the beaches that the locals use, because who would know better which beaches are the best? There are only two potential ticks against that idea, though. One is that it is possible that the very best beach areas were co-opted by the wealthy international resort builders who came in, scoped out the best locations, and wrested them away from the locals. So that would mean that the locals were pushed onto having to use beaches that were not their chosen ones previously. I don’t think that is true of Kauai, though. For one thing, what had been the most famous and glamorous resort in Kauai prior to its being destroyed by Hurricane Iniki was the Coco Palms Resort, which I noticed was ACROSS the Kuhio Highway from a beach that the LOCALS used. One would think that the Coco Palms would have to be ON the beach (al la Miami Beach resorts, for example), but no, a popular and extremely-well-used locals’ beach was left undisturbed. Maybe there were protections in place for the interests of the locals?

Interestingly, the captain of the zodiac raft I rode in the Na Pali Coast excursion I went on on my last trip to Kauai, who was born in Kauai and never has been anywhere else in his life, told me that HIS absolutely favorite beach, and where he and all his friends go every chance they get (so they never get tired of it), is Polehale, a very long beach on the west side of the island, the last beach before you get to the south side of the Na Pali Wilderness. Next to Polehale is Barking Sands beach, controlled by the military and available only for those in the military. So here you have the United States military claiming a beach, but they left Polehale alone. The closest resorts to Polehale are the south shore resorts, further away, in the area of Poipu. Whether the locals preferred Poipu long ago, I don’t know, but according to this guy and his friends, you couldn’t possibly do better than Polehale.

The second potential tick against going to a locals’ beach is what the reaction of those locals might be when tourists come in. Some people have reported violence. I definitely would NOT fear violence at that locals beach in Palau that I found. But a locals’ beach on the east side of Kauai, Anahola, I might worry about (there have been some negative reports), but my guidebook, written by a local, describes this beach as a “Designated Homelands” (I’m not sure what that means, but I think it refers to something that is reserved as native land). But he says that while few tourists ever go there, tourists are “certainly welcome”. And of all the beaches I saw in Kauai, this one was absolutely the one that was the most used. And that generally has been true of all local beaches I have seen, such as in Fiji or in French Polynesia. I did not go swimming at Anahola, although I do plan to go there next time I go to Kauai.

I think whether a tourist is accepted or not has to do with attitude. Are you an “ugly American” (although I think the “ugly American” was replaced by the “ugly Japanese” in the 80s, only to be replaced by the “ugly Germans” in the 90s, and now THEY have been replaced by the “ugly Chinese” in our current time), or are you respectful of the culture you are visiting and of the people who live there?

There is a kind of a “trick” useful in entering a realm of the locals, and by that I don’t mean “fooling” them, but by being sincere in your respect of them as having “ownership” of the space, a kind of “asking permission”, and that can easily be done, by, for example, coming up to an obvious local, let’s say the biggest, strongest, most “alpha” guy you can find there (who, in a culture like the Hawaiian, will be a sight to behold, believe me), greet him with a broad smile, and say something like this: “Wow, what a beautiful beach this is! I sure would love to go swimming here, can you tell me, is there a good place to body surf, I am kind of afraid of undertow, so can you point me to where maybe I could go?” I did that at a beach on Kauai, but instead of asking about body-surfing, I had my rented snorkeling gear with me and I asked a local about a good place to see a lot of beautiful fish. The guy smiled back broadly and said, “You’ve come at a great time, the fish seem to be back right now and the best place to see them is over there near that spit of land, see, it’s not too far, and a lot of fish gather there to feed. But be careful, don’t go too far around that tip, because that’s where the tide comes in and out and the current might be a bit strong.” I thanked him sincerely and went exactly where he told me to go and the fish out there were quite numerous and they were all eating madly, something I had never seen before snorkeling elsewhere! His guidance was perfect. I had hoped to see him again when I came back to shore so that I could tell him how great his idea had been for me, but he was gone. Still, what I had done WOULD make anyone welcome, I think, because I had legitimately positioned the local man as the expert and the one who “belonged” and I was clear about being the “stranger” seeking help. And if there had been some resistance to my presence there, I think it would be clear from his response. For example, he could have spat, or looked at me angrily, or actually said, “You shouldn’t come here, you’ve got other places where you could go.” But, no, he tells me exactly the perfect place to see what I wanted to see and what danger to watch out for.

I think what angers locals against tourists is that the tourists feel that THEY own the place, and with that ownership they are demanding—they want the weather to be good, the conditions to be picture-postcard perfect, they want bathrooms and showers and plenty of parking and maybe a snack bar, and somehow it is the fault of the residents that things aren’t “right”. Yuck!

One place I definitely hope to go to someday, but I just wasn’t ready for it this year, is the Solomon Islands. Now there they take this idea of the “locals” to an extreme that gets to be kind of tricky (and a little beyond my current expertise). You go to the outer islands or even go for a hike beyond the more populated or “civilized” places and you come to regions that are as primitive as anything from a couple of hundred years ago. There you will encounter “kastum” people who for centuries have been shrugging off every manner of westerner, European, missionary, colonist, or technologist, who continue live close to the way they have done since forever. They have a sense of “communal” ownership of the land and of everything, and that includes the trail you are walking on, the waterfall from which you might drink, the forest from which you might pick a fruit, the rock you might sit and rest on, the shore you might land your kayak on, and even (or especially) the lagoon that you have been paddling on. So anyone you encounter may demand (or request?) a payment from you of what you have used. This “payment” will be in money (a sense of “valuable exchange” is actually a pretty ancient concept), probably measured only in cents (from our point of view), or maybe a very, very few “dollars”, but it will involve a brief but tricky negotiation (especially if one does not understand this and attempts to refuse to pay something) and sometimes violence has come from that. Frankly (although it may just be my own fear, not a true understanding of the situation), I feel that such a situation is absolutely rife with danger, because there you are, the white-skinned stranger, utterly alone out in the middle of “nowhere” and they know you have a pocketful of money yet are restrained and fair enough to ask for something quite reasonable, and yet, what is preventing them from slicing your head from your neck and taking it ALL? Who on earth would care about you out there at all? And while I am not afraid of cannibals, it doesn’t hurt to remember that these people WERE cannibals in the not too distance past, and some government officials think that they actually still are in some of the more isolated villages. I mean, if “kastum” means that they live in the traditional ways, then it's not inconceivable that they still might also continue to practice cannibalism.  Of course, though, they have been exposed to a wider perception of the matter, so who knows how their attitudes and customs may have changed.

And associated with all this is a fascinating concept that I had never thought of before, and that I feel is alien to our own way of thinking, and yet, it does make perfect sense. To them, only THEY are “people”. Every other living thing is something else, NOT people. So a white man from California walking through the forest is an animal, different from, say, a pig, only in that the “value” of that white-skinned animal is different from the “value” of the pig. The pig has really good meat, but no money in its pocket. But we all know that to a cannibal, the two-legged animal has quite delicious meat, too, rather on par with the meat of the pig. So anyway, that wasn't a situation I was ready to just jump into.

But travel writer Paul Theroux was able to go there and discuss religion and customs with tribal chiefs and go on fishing trips with villagers and presented himself in such a way that the people there found that he had a value to them other than “meat” or “money”; such as, he was different, he was interesting, he was a curious oddity that made the day special, and he wasn’t irritating. He also was clearly there with a genuine interest in who they were and how they thought, which I think is a great sign of respect, maybe the greatest sign of all. The people were very helpful to him, and guiding him further on his way toward others whom they thought he would like, people who were just like them, which I think is quite cute, and I think he thought so, too. To me, it indicates that he had found a “home” among them, was welcomed as a kind of “almost them”. How could any traveler do any better than that?

So, here I entered into the spring knowing full well that I still had that unfulfilled “white sand beach, warm blue water, tropical island” desire and was mucking about through travel books and magazines, and the Internet, trying to figure out a great place to go, and spending most of my time attempting to fashion a trip to St. Lucia in the Caribbean, or to Vanuatu or the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, but none of it was gelling. I did, however, realize something, and that was that if I (for some reason) really wanted a white sand beach, what I wanted to go to was a CORAL ATOLL, not a VOLCANIC ISLAND. Now, it may be possible to find white sand on a volcanic island, although I would venture to say that 99% of the time, that white sand is artificial; that the true sand of a volcanic island would be black or brown sand, because it would be made of lava. WHITE sand is coral sand.

This was a very important revelation, because having this understanding helped me to track my desires down deeper. Mostly where people go is to volcanic islands, and they are certainly phenomenally beautiful, with their high green mountains lush with waterfalls. Probably the best example of that kind of beauty may be the afore-mentioned Kauai, but certainly also Moorea and Bora Bora and Tahiti are three well-known amazingly beautiful volcanic islands that people yearn to go to. I have been to them, myself.

But still, the most beautiful place I have ever been is the Yasawa Island Group of Fiji, which anyone who has ever seen the movie, “The Blue Lagoon”, has seen it, because that is where that movie was filmed. I visited the islands via a small cruise ship line called “Blue Lagoon Cruises”. Very wonderful (and very expensive). They took us to some of the most wonderful beaches I have ever been to, and then (like almost all cruises), took us away from them far too quickly. So THAT’S what I had been looking for, to stay on a “Blue Lagoon” type of island for more than a few hours.

But that whole Yasawa Island Group is really pretty far out of my price range, and is at this point not a particularly “rarely-trod” tourist path. I unreservedly recommend it to anyone, but I wasn’t too sure that I wanted to go back there, myself. I wanted something like that, but something kind of OFF the normal tourist track, but still someplace I had to be able to get to, of course, since I don't have my own sailboat.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I had a desire to go back to French Polynesia, but not back to the islands that I had already been to. French Polynesia is HUGE, with several different island chains spread out over an immense amount of Pacific Ocean. Where “everybody” goes when they want to live out their Tahitian fantasy is the Society Islands chain. I had been quite curious about another Tahitian island chain, the Marquesas, but they are all volcanic islands, and while they look phenomenally spectacular as seen from the sea, they aren’t really all that great to stay on. At any rate, they weren’t what I wanted.

It was my very, very great fortune that I happened to stumble upon the website of the perfect place. A “pension” (think “bed and breakfast”, Polynesian style) called Raimiti on an island in French Polynesia’s Tuomoto islands chain, coral atolls, between the Society Islands and the Marquesas. (If you check out their website, please be sure to click on the 360 degree virtual tours...fantastic!) The Tuomoto chain is somewhat dangerous for ships to sail in and around due to all the reefs, so they have remained somewhat isolated, which is a good thing, I think. But they ARE accessible via Tahitian Air, at least, Fakarava is, the island that I am going to.

The island of Fakarava has only about 250 residents. No roads. The whole island is like a snake formed into a rectangle, surrounding a gorgeous lagoon, and is only about 36 miles long down one of the longer legs of the rectangle. You fly in from Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia (direct flights from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui, an international Tahitian airline that is different from the local Air Tahiti), and are met by the owner of the pension, who takes you to his place via an hour and a half boat ride down the blue lagoon.

There you find an island paradise, all virtually hand-made from woven palm fronts. What electricity they have, they generate from solar panels. The guests sleep in individual bungalows on either the ocean side or the lagoon side, with each bungalow’s bathroom being a small building next to the bungalow. The bungalow that I will have is the smaller of the two sizes available (there are only 10 bungalows in all), for one or two people, and the shower for my type is an outdoor one, surrounded by a curtain. In my dream house, even if it were a multi-million-dollar house, I would have at least one shower outdoors (which I think is so sensual). I would also have an open-air bedroom in which to sleep, that is exactly how these woven-palm-frond bungalows are, with no glass windows or wooden doors, but instead, a woven screen that can be closed for privacy, and a gaily colored Tahitian cloth curtain at the door. You sleep caressed by the perfumed breezes. They also provide a mosquito net, but mosquitoes are only a problem in the rainy season, but I am going in the season that has the least rain (after Palau, that is how it would have to be!).

The bungalows have no electricity; light in them is provided by candles and kerosene lanterns. Very romantic.
All meals are provided and even in the few on-line reviews by people who did not like this place (because they wanted a more structured resort) the people revealed that they loved the food, which will be the largesse of the sea and the tropical wonderland cooked up in the French style.

There is total freedom to simply be left alone Robinson Crusoe style to allow all tension to be sucked out of the body (which is how I felt simply looking at their website), to go walking along the beach (there are no roads and no motor vehicles, only boats), swimming in the delicious lagoon or the ocean, enjoying spectacular snorkeling right there at your doorstep, and kayaking wherever you want to go in the lagoon, such as across the water to a vacant “motu”. What I love is the idea of being able to swim in the lagoon or ocean day or night-—at night under the brightest stars one has ever seen, and they say that sometimes dolphins come swimming over, and even whales that have come to the Tuomoto islands to give birth have found their way into this lagoon with their newborn babies (and I'll be there during this "season"). After my enjoyable experience with the dolphins in Palau, I crave to swim with wild dolphins, and the idea of maybe even swimming with a whale, if it happens, is spectacular.

There are organized adventures, too, all at the whim of the owner whose personal guest you are. You do whatever he feels like doing that is a good idea of something to do that day, including any of the following: a picnic on a pink sand beach, fishing (huge fish!), visiting the small town, visiting a pearl farm, snorkeling at a particularly interesting place. You can go along on these, or not, as you wish.

One excursion that is fantastic to do is snorkeling the South Pass. You can scuba dive it, also, but if you want to do that, you contract with the dive shop that is on the island.

The tide flows in and out of the lagoon via two different passes, the large North Pass and the smaller South Pass (Raimiti takes people to the South Pass). Every manner of sea creature is there during these tide changes to take advantage of the concentrated food supply. Not only are tens of thousands of every kind and color of fish there, but also huge fish, such as the Napoleon Wrasse, and also schools of dolphins, manta rays, sharks, and sea turtles. The sharks are (apparently!) the kind that are not apt to attack humans. The way I have doped it out is that some sharks absolutely do NOT attack humans (such as Nurse Sharks), other sharks absolutely DO attack humans (such as the Mako or the Great White), but there is third category that never really attacks humans (such as the Black Tipped, which is what I think these sharks are), but MIGHT if molested. A magazine article I read about the favorite tourist thing to do in these islands, dive the passes, warned that it was dangerous to touch the sharks, but that they otherwise were safe. My guess about them is that they have more than enough food to fill their bellies without any trouble at all, so there is no need to go to the effort of attacking something large and weird like a human. Just leave them alone and they will leave you alone. At any rate, these sharks are considered a definite attraction, not something to fear or avoid.

What I would fear more is the current, itself, and, again, magazine articles warn to NOT dive these passes when the current is going OUT of the lagoon into the open ocean, and the reason is that they cause tornado-like whirlpools in the ocean that can suck divers and snorkelers down very deep into the watery depths…into “oblivion” as one article frighteningly described it. You don’t have to tell me twice. After all, I realize that a whole “reservoir” of water is flowing out through a very narrow nozzle and you're just a floating leaf in the immensity of it all.

The tide coming IN, though, does not generate those whirlpools, but the riding of this current is like riding a locomotive and is quite a thrill, well worth flying halfway across the Pacific to get to experience. So, I am sure that one of the days that I am there I will be able to do this. Good thing I have a Casio Gulfmaster watch that reveals the movement of the tides, though, just to be on the safe side!

The experience of being on an atoll is the pure stark closeness to the oceanic elements (I mean, really, when a whale can just pop her head right up and look at you sitting on the step of your thatched bungalow…!). You are on a beach, flat down near the surface of the ocean and the lagoon, in the middle of an ocean that covers one half of the entire planet, no tall valleys to hide in. I love the idea of that. No hiding from nature, no hiding from our own selves.

I think the way Raimiti is set up is exactly what I want…just the right combination of activity with others and opportunity to be at peace and quiet with paradise. One couple who wrote a five star review of the place had planned to spend two days there, but ended up staying for seventeen days! I won’t have that luxury, but I love the idea of somebody being taken by a place to that extent. Maybe that means I will love it, too, as I expect to. I may not want to ever leave, but at least I could always go back. I imagine that IT will stay with ME forever.

No comments: