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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Atafu

TOKELAU | Tuesday, 8 November 2016 | Views [419]

As I awoke early this morning, this was my opportunity to have a decent amount of time on one of Tokelau’s three atolls. With permission to land on Atafu I thought I’d seize the opportunity to try and stay for two or three nights on the island since the boat will be returning to pick up James and his family. After a light breakfast I brought along all of my gear on the first barge.

A dead shark would be directly below our barge as we landed! When I spoke with the police chief about possibly staying the night, he said I’m supposed to arrange a homestay before arriving so it looked like I’d be back on the boat this afternoon. For now I’d have nearly eight hours to look around, meet some people, get a couple of postcards, shoot some photos, and get a passport stamp. James, the Black Tokelauan I met on the ferry, advised me to go past the cemetery for a nice view of the sea. For helping him carry some gear I was given a coconut, and then I went for a hot and steamy walk. What shocks me is the amount of rubbish lying round: cardboard boxes, spent batteries, milk cartons, plastic bottles, old chairs, and broken cement mixers are everywhere. There seems to be more junk vehicles than there are operating ones. James would later tell me he was here 20 years ago and there wasn't nearly as much rubbish lying around then. As I walked for a bit, a middle-aged man named Bill would invite me in for a coffee. He's a wood craftsman and has recently remarried.

We sat and had some good chats and noted how visitors are few and far between here. The view from his veranda is very colourful!

If you ever visit Tokelau you’re in for a real surprise. I’d learn today that due to the massive injection of government aid (mostly from NZ) and family remittances there is no real push for tourism in Tokelau. There are no fishing charters, pizza restaurants, dive operators, souvenir shops, taxis, hotels, or even a sign saying “Welcome to Atafu.” Don't even think of searching for a key chain or a magnet as there is only one shop and it regularly runs out of its scant supplies and even change. If you plan on doing anything outdoorsy (camping, snorkelling, etc.) be prepared to bring all of your own equipment, and bringing some of your favourite foodstuffs such as a bag of coffee isn't a bad idea, either. Hot and thirsty, a Kiwi bloke named Ross stopped to chat to me. Since the boat is returning on Saturday morning, he advised me to speak with the police sergeant about staying for a couple of nights and that I’d be welcome to stay with he and his wife, Akaiti (Katie). Finding a postcard took awhile, and the “postie” (in the same office as the police and transport officer) didn’t even know how much it cost to send a postcard to Australia; he had to make a call and have someone check the price. The information was old and the postcards even older as all of them had a bit of mould on them. Three postcards I had ready: one to myself, one to Jo, and one to María. Sending a postcard to Australia costs about $3 and to London it's a whopping $7.50 (and I had to search around a bit to find exact change). A few months ago, María put a photo of herself up and I could see all the postcards I’ve sent her on her refrigerator so I know how much she appreciates them. She said North Korea is the most exotic one she’s received but Tokelau will be even more exotic since North Korea receives many more foreign visitors than Tokelau. I wanted an Atafu passport stamp from the transport officer but she only had a departure stamp, not an arrival one. Afterward I sat with these women near where they play bingo, and I was offered a plate of rice with sausage and gravy. Due to the lack of topsoil, very few fruits and vegetables grow on the islands and the Tokelauan diet is rather bland; mostly coconut, rice, and fish. Tokelauans smoke heavily as well. Earlier today I asked myself if all the effort I put forth justifies a visit to Tokelau. I made the decision to ask around to try and stay the night. The transport officer advised me to go to the Atafu office. Hana, the officer called the pulenuku and he agreed to let me stay until the boat returns! With an opportunity to meet him in person I thanked him and then walked toward Ross’ home. I’m placing the first geocache in Tokelau, so I had the perfect place to put it and Ross said he’d maintain it. Resources are few in Tokelau but Katie told me what’s important is the concept of inati (sharing). Fishing is central to the lives of Tokelauans and inati is the practice of communal fishing and distribution; the system ensures that all households have some fish. Inati applies not just with fishing; Ross orders large boxes of oranges and apples (both a luxury in Tokelau) and Katie loves to bake, so they often share what they have. Katie baked a cake to bring to school once and with 184 students, the students made sure everybody had a piece! How did I even find out about Tokelau? It’s one of the last countries I ever learned about, and I was asked by a juggler on a bus back in 2005 if I had ever heard of Tokelau. He came here for work and showed me a necklace he received whilst here. The only other person I "know" who has been to Tokelau is my friend Oliver. He and I have never met in person but we've been in communication for years regarding Pacific travel. Tonight I had another fabulous sunset to add to my photo collection.



Instead of sleeping on the boat, I’ll be sleeping in Tokelau for a few nights. For all the effort, sweat, and tears I put forth, I vow to make this journey 100% worth it.   

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