Time is flying by, I’m almost half way into my 5 month stint on Raoul Island as a volunteer and already I don’t want to leave!
I am getting used to island life now and haven’t experienced a second of boredom yet. These first few months have been fairly action packed with a visit from 14 German ham radio operators in November, an air drop as well as Xmas and New Year celebrations – all of which successfully distracted the team from, well, ourselves mostly!
Hamming it up
The ham radio guys (and one geek lady!) were an interesting pack. I didn’t know a lot about ham radio before they came – and actually I still don’t! They spent three weeks solid tapping out their call signs in tents that were pitched among a web of aerials. They worked as a team, on a rotation of twelve hour shifts, to make contact with as many other ham radio operators around the world as they could (apparently they did quite well with 140,000 odd contacts made).
We had a number of social gatherings with them and a few of our team took them up to the highest point of the island, Moumoukai, and along the beach near our accommodation. I did not get to know them particularly well however, and the day they were packing up, Sian and I walked passed their camp and saw one guy that both of us had never met before – a strange concept on an island that only had 25 people on it!
Into the blue
Jess, Toby and I managed to go for a dive while the Braveheart was here (the boat that brought the radio hams up) as they had a compressor and gear on board.
Unfortunately the visibility wasn’t great and an absence of any logical sense of direction (or a compass) hampered our efforts to navigate from the boat to the edge of the Meyer islands. By the time we got to the best part we were getting low on air.
Nevertheless we found ourselves in an undersea world with an intricate abundance of life only a semi-tropical marine reserve could produce – sharks, thick schools of docile kahawai and king fish, fluorescent wrasse, giant groupers and many more creatures all dancing in time with the surge of waves. Magic!
The marine environment here is just awesome! It’s rugged and dynamic and overflowing with life; we’ve been swimming with dolphins, seen huge sharks, turtles and whales, and been kept awake at night with cries from sea birds and crashing waves.
The sea temperature is up around the 25oC mark and whipping down to the beach for a swim, at least twice a day, has become part of the normal routine.
To the other side
Not long after the radio hams left, the weeding crusade took us west over to Denham Bay for a week. The bay stretches out 3km or so with a black sandy beach adjoining a thin strip of flat, pohutukawa-laden forest that is jutted up against steep cliffs and the edge of a caldera.
With a west facing outlook, we spent every evening on the beach immersed in golden sunsets, magnifying the natural beauty of the bay.
Denham Bay is an area of the island that is particularly steeped in history; remnant fruit trees and artefacts from the Bell family era that began in the late 1880’s, graves of various sailors succumbing to sickness and shipwrecks, and the tales of slave ships dumping plague-ridden slaves overboard in the bay as a means of sorting the weak from the strong.
These stories of the past all give the bay an eerie tinge of harsh unhealed realities – a feeling that is now often masked by the development of our relatively luxuriant lifestyles (at least it is in NZ). It is these, remote, raw and untouched aspects of the island that I have come to love the most.
Come the end of December, Christmas and New Year festivities were in full swing on Raoul. We kicked off on Christmas Eve with a golf tournament generously organised by our mechanic, Tim.
There were a number of stringently enforced rules – no using names, attire had to be inappropriate, losing your ball resulted in the consumption of a beverage blindly chosen from a substandard selection of beer – as did taking a swing and missing the ball, cheating, and arguing with the organising committee (aka Tim).
The nine hole course was challenging with the second tee-off at the top of a cliff with the hole on the beach below while the fifth required an accurate and highly elevated shot over top of the workshop. Most surprisingly my ball landed closest to the pin on more than one occasion and I began to set my sights on the prestigious Green Jacket.
A couple of slips ups – missing the ball – of course due to the increasing unbalanced set of golf clubs – resulted in my high sights being dashed down to second place which I shared with Maree . Toby took away the Green Jacket by four strokes and is now the new holder of the prestigious ‘Raoul Island Golf Tournament’ trophy
I’ve enjoyed the first half of my stint on Raoul so much – I can’t wait to see what more I can get out of it in the next half!