The Tuamotus Diaries #39, Day 75 – August 11th 2016
I’m pretty sure I have mentioned it many times before, but it doesn’t hurt to say that Provisioning – the fancy name given to the exercise of Finding, Buying, Transporting and Storing groceries and staples on a boat – is a matter of chance, rather than choice, here in French Polynesia.
Having said so, I confess to have been positively surprised when we were in Makemo – mostly for one particularly entrepreneurial gentleman who runs a pretty well stocked Magasin there. Except for Eggs, which were more difficult to find than diamonds, we could stock up quite well off his store. From Nutella to Beef, Pasta, Juice for the kids, basic types of Cheese and Spreads, and even some Fresh Fruit.
We were then cautiously optimistic when we came to Fakarava, which counts with daily flights (Makemo has 2 per week), numerous hotels (Makemo has one that we know of) and almost 5 times the population of Makemo. Accordingly, on the last week in Makemo and first few days in Fakarava, we eased off on our controls and were more deliberate in the use of fresh supplies, particularly Dairy.
It was with a sobering surprise then that we discovered that Fakarava’s two Magasins weren’t as well stocked as the one in Makemo. Part of it we attribute to the entrepreneurship of the gentleman in the other atoll, but the core reason – we speculate – is the fact that the hotels in Fakarava import their provisions directly from Tahiti, leaving the two Magasins to provide for the sole needs of the locals.
And locals don’t seem to care much for Dairy, particularly Cheese.
With despair, we couldn’t find cheese in ANY form in either Magasin. We even pleaded to the managers whether they had any remaining boxes in their stock, which they confirmed to not have. The only, consistent answer we got was that they would get some Cheddar – not cheese – when the supply ship came to the island.
Incredulous, we went about asking locals to cross check the information, and consistently the answer was that the “supply ship might bring some Cheddar – not cheese – to the Magasins”. Our final cross check was with the crew of Fakarava Yacht Services. They told us that they import their own cheese directly from Tahiti – but didn’t have much left to spare – and that we might get some Cheddar, and Cheddar only, when the supply ship came to town. They did spur a sliver of hope, though, by mentioning a charter yacht in the island which had arrived from Tahiti and might have some extra cheese to share, Cheddar or otherwise. The next day we ran into the crew of such yacht and, despite Adriana’s commercially aggressive bid on their cheese, our hopes were quickly shred to pieces, the crew wisely choosing to hold on to their precious cargo.
Our only chance lay then on whatever Cheddar might come aboard the supply ship. Luckily, Cobia3 was scheduled to arrive the next day.
When it did, in the morning, I was there early to buy some fuel for Pesto, and while I did so, I watched with interest and anxiety as the cardboard boxes came out of Cobia 3’s hold and loaded on each of the Magasins’ trucks.
In the end of the morning, we took a tactical position at a simple, local eatery right in between the two Magasins, watching attentively like eagles as they unloaded their new stock. No sooner had the cardboard boxes landed on each Magasin than we initiated our attack. It had been carefully planned: we would first go to the largest Magasin, for we speculated it had the greater probability of having Cheese – and hopefully something other than just Cheddar. Only after scouting it would we go to the second, smaller Magasin, to complement the loot.
As fate has it, as soon as we got to the first Magasin, a group of Argentinean cruisers engaged me on conversation – one of them being a renowned Yacht Designer, one of his designs having belonged to my family many years ago – and inevitably a lively conversation started there and then. Adriana, Paulo and Raquel remained focused on their task tough, and as I continued my chat in a mix of Portuguese and Spanish, I could see them scouting the Magasin’s aisles like beasts chasing their pray. As each of them found anything Dairy, they would come to me with joy, interrupting my conversation, and showing off the precious find, leaving my Argentinean interlocutor with an expression of curiosity and amusement. By the time I finally joined them, they had literally grabbed ALL cheese that the store owners had managed to place on the shelves, and the lady at the check out even questioned Adriana whether she REALLY needed four large bags of shredded cheddar. The dairy onslaught continued on the second Magasin, and by the time we loaded our dinghy up, it was swollen with dairy. Onboard, Cheddar in all possible variations: shredded, in triangles for quick snacks, and in small inexpressive bricks wrapped in tin foil for bulk use. Adriana was even able to find a few bits of Emmental, and some cups of yoghurt.
Our breakfasts, pasta, snacks and the eventual pizza are now happily dressed with Cheddar as if it were Brie, Mozzarella or the finest Parmesan, and as we feast on it, we watch anxiously our inventory of Nutella, the next staple which is unavailable here, as it nears critical levels. Will it last ‘till Tahiti?