Pandemic in Polynesia

Today we received an email saying

It is great reading your blog – what a fantastic trip and I am sure you must be thinking what timing compared a pandemics and lock downs in the populated parts of the world !  Have you seen much impact on your travels because of COVID or are you pretty much missing it ?

Until now, we have tried to avoid too much Covid-19 or Corona or pandemic or whatever in our blogs. It appears to be all the rest of the world writes about so we don’t need to add to the flood of negative news spewing out of the media and Internet. But just this once.

Our current plan is to sail round the world. We had thought we would now be in New Zealand cycling the 3000 kilometre trail from north to south. Polynesia was going to be where we would visit a few islands and atolls to get a flavor before continuing on downwind. But instead, because of border closures further west, we have now been here almost a year and it appears we will be staying a while longer. So yes, the pandemic has massively impacted our travel plans.

Our “refugee pass”. Thank you Hiva Oa!

But it is equally true that we arrived in the perfect place at the correct time. French Polynesia spent most of last March and April in lockdown. We were at sea for 54 days so missed the whole affair and were declared “virus free” on arrival during the last days of April. The border was officially closed so we spent a few months in “official limbo”; we could not clear in to the country but were allowed to stay and move freely among the hundreds of islands. Sort of high end refugees.

The Marquesas islands were completely isolated by hundreds of kilometres of ocean so, as the world spiraled in to chaos, we continued living normally. No masks, no social distancing, no anything. The internet to the Marquesas is slow and expensive so we weren’t even aware of what we were missing.

The Tuamotu Archipelago is really remote. At times we were anchored off uninhabited atolls, sometimes there was a small village but Covid was not a theme for us. Once we reached Fakarava we finally found good Internet and slowly learned of the world wide chaos. We even had to sew masks as the local shops insisted. Many fellow sailors began to go Covid crazy with worries about everything imaginable. Heidi & I decided we were going to be in Polynesia for longer than expected so began to learn French.

With the chief of the Gendarmes and a local councillor. Good masks, bad social distance.

The city of Papeete on Tahiti was a bit of a shock as there were people wearing masks everywhere and even police reminding you to cover your nose. But the shops and restaurants were all open. There was apparently a curfew but as sailors go to bed at nine, that wasn’t such a problem. During our time in Tahiti and the the neighboring islands we saw everyone strictly observing the rules while out in public but living life as normal “outside office hours”. Despite this typically Polynesian attitude, the numbers of cases is now tiny and death rate microscopic (0.05% in the last year).

First vaccination of two

Yesterday we both received our first Covid vaccination and the next one is planned for three weeks or so (depending if the wind is good to sail back to Tahiti). Vaccination is open to everyone over 18 so it was the sensible and responsible thing to do. Maybe it will even help us start moving west again one day.

So back to the questions. The short answer is we are pretty much missing Covid and getting an unplanned chance to enjoy exploring paradise. And we are definitely happy to be far far away from the real world.

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