When I now look back on what was behind my reasons for returning to the South Seas. One of the things that I was influenced by was a particular lucid dream that I had in Sydney. We were living in an apartment on Anzac Parade, and I was working on series of large paintings, (40 days and 40 nights). In that apartment I had many intense dreams and even one that I thought must have been a direct sort of telepathic communication. However the lucid dream to which I am referring is a simple image of two naked children running in play along a beautiful beach in the bright sunshine, I saw a radiant turquoise lagoon, white sand and luxuriant palm trees. In that moment I realized a number of things that were dear to me. One was that I wanted my children, if I ever had any, to experience that great freedom and life style that was absolutely back to nature, and two, that this was what I was truly seeking, a comfortable life in the Islands.
When I decided to return to the South Pacific on the Caledonien for a second time the question was where to get off. Nuku Hiva seemed like a good choice because I remembered it as being unspoiled, and uncivilized. The kind of place where you could go back to nature.
But my recollections of our first visit to Nuku hiva were not very reliable. The night before we arrived we had such a wild party that I slept in on the arrival and when I finally looked out the porthole, the boat was already moored in Taiohae Bay and people were being shuttled off to shore. By the time I got ashore, time was scant, and my first thoughts were to just find some fresh fruit. Really I was still in a smoky haze from the night before, I didn't even notice if there was a store, possibly because I didn't have money to spend even if there was. Our visit consisted of simply wandering up an old road looking for whatever fruit we could find, and shortly after we were heading back to the ship.
So now almost two years later, I was planning to go back to Nuku Hiva, but as I didn't see a store there, I decided that it would be best to take with me, everything that I would need for an extended stay in the jungle including food, and a full set of drums. I made a very thorough list of things that I would need (see list) as well as a complete set of diagrams for the tree house I hoped to build. Not long after I bought a huge sea trunk and started filling it with all the items on my list. By very good fortune I found in a local shop a good set of drums that fit one inside the other so as to take up a minimum of space in the trunk. Further to this I found, one day, in our alley, the perfect industrial two wheeled trolley. With this a single man could move even a very heavy trunk, which by the time I was ready leave, was the case, for my baggage weighed in at over 180 kilos. This included a magnificent English Raleigh (Sports DL-22 Black) bicycle tied onto the trunk.
Still, even though I could easily wield this amount of baggage around once it was on the trolley, that did not prevent me from running into one giant and unforeseen problem just as I was embarking on the beginning of this journey.
I had been packing and preparing for months ever since booking a confirmed berth on the Caledonien departing from Marseille mid January 1971 (this was to be one of the last sailings, Messageries Maritimes retired the Caledonien in March 1972). To catch this boat I would have to take a train from Victoria Station in London down to the ferry crossing, cross the English Channel and then get another train and traverse the length of France to get to Marseille. Fortunately you only had to buy one train ticket and in that was included the ferry and transfers. The baggage would be transferred from the train to the Ferry and then from the Ferry to another train on the other side that went across France via Paris. Normally this would be a simple trip but with 180 kilos of baggage that contained all your supplies for a life in the South Seas, there was no room for error. If the baggage was lost or even temporarily delayed my entire trip would be toast. I was traveling again with no money, therefore I booked everything so that I would go across France and get to the boat on the day it was leaving with no waiting in Marseille or elsewhere. Because there wasn't money for hotels or frills. How is this possible? Well my plan was to go to the Marquesas with all that I needed to live in the jungle permanently, once I was on the boat I no longer needed any money, or so I surmised.
So on the fateful day of my departure, the taxi dropped me off at Victoria station; I packed everything onto the trolley, and wheeled the lot down to the baggage registration booth. The total weight was over 180 kilos; the agent said that I had about 100 kilos more than is allowed, something I hadn't thought of, a baggage allowance. He said that I would have to either pay a heavy surcharge or leave most of it behind, neither one of these options was possible as I had no money for this additional expense and needed everything! In a panic I started to think whether or not it would be possible to reduce the weight and actually started unpacking things, because he was adamant that he would not register my overweight baggage. I knew that the train would soon be leaving. It was like my whole life was on the line and my dreams fading fast... just then I heard the train whistle blow, signaling an immanent departure. Instead of unpacking, I quickly repacked everything back onto the trolley and rushed down towards the train where I spotted the baggage car and signaled to the steward to help me throw everything on. Which we did, and I think I said something to the effect that I didn't have time to register it. He didn't seem bothered and a moment later the train pulled out of Victoria Station. It was a bloody miracle; I didn't know how I actually managed it. In that moment I went from a very desperate state to one of supreme thankfulness. A guardian angel and great good fortune, had me at last, on my way to a unique voyage that few had dreamed of and even less attempted.
See the next page, my departure for Nuku Hiva on the Caledonian.