French Polynesia has 115 main islands and uncountable islets spread over an area the size of Europe. It has a population of a few hundred thousand people and five of them were difficult. All the rest were amazingly friendly and helpful to us.
When we needed a safe harbour at the start of covid, the mayor of Hiva-Oa and his crisis team around Marc, welcomed us to their island and gave us refuge.
On Hiva-Oa and the following twenty five Islands that we visited every one gave us fruit and vegetables. Mostly when we asked about the price they just laughed and said “You are sailors. It is free.” Even those who live from selling their produce always gave us as much or more than they sold us.
On Hiva-Oa a local man spent an entire day driving us around the island, showing us hidden treasures and explaining his culture to us. At the end of an amazing day, he would take nothing but our thanks.
On Makemo Atoll the ladies from the bakery lent us their tricycles to explore. During the annual dance festival, the mayor took the time in her speech to say how happy they were that we sailors were also present. At the furthest end of the atoll a hermit let us use his island to barbecue. He even joined us briefly until retreating to his lonesome home.
In Tahiti, when we were cold and wet, a hotel owner fed us, gave us warm drinks and organized help to escape the flooded valley. We would have paid but she insisted it was all free as the hotel was closed that day.
On Raivavae a local offered to bring us some bananas to the dock. When we met him he had two trees of bananas, a few other fruits and drove us to his fields to collect manuk (a root vegetable). Everything for free and when we gave him a banana cake as a thank you he said “Pour moi? Pourquoi?”
A welder stopped mending a garden gate to repair a broken bracket off our engine. When he was finished he laughed at the idea of us paying. “You are sailors. It is free.”
In Tubuai the captain of the Gendarmes spent three days introducing us to his island and the islanders by mountain bike. The restaurant owners treated us like family and the dentists wife showed us her mountain, nature and culture. She also organized an invitation to the official banquet with the president of Polynesia.
Back in Tahiti, we were both vaccinated against Covid before any one we knew in Germany even had an appointment.
In Rurutu we were given so much local produce that the farmer had to tie an extra sack on my back. And when it started raining we were invited in to a local party and given coconuts to drink while we waited for it to stop.
Everywhere the people did their best to understand our stumbling French and talked slowly with lots of hand signs to be sure we understood them.
We can never repay the kindness of the people of French Polynesia. We gave away a few t-shirts, invited people on board to visit or sail with us and rescued a broken down fishing boat but these were just one offs between the flood of help and joy that Polynesia presented us.
We will never forget our seventeen months with the people of French Polynesia.