Finally, by August of 1974 we had enough money for a trip that I had been thinking about since a chance meeting with Aki Sinoto, three years earlier in the isolated valley of Hakaui on the Island of Nuku Hiva. I was living in the jungle on my own in a rather isolated nitch, and I think he must have heard me banging on my drums, otherwise it is a bit mysterious how he showed up at my camp especially as he was coming down from the interior of the valley. The back of the valley is so flanked with steep cliffs that a person would have to be part mountain goat to be arriving from that direction and I was surprised by his visit. He explained that he had been sent by his father, Yosi Sinoto, a well-known Pacific Archaeologist, to look for clay samples in the mountains. He had arrived in the Marquesas with the research vessel "Westward" a 30-m schooner that he had been working on for the last several months. They had been documenting fish fauna in a wide range of locations, including the Society Islands, Tuamotu Archipelago, Pitcairn, Mangareva Henderson, Cook Islands, Austral Islands and the Marquesas. He told me that they were now on their return leg to Hawaii which is where he normally lived.
At this point, after the past few months in the harsh conditions of the Marquesas, I was anxious to know if there wasn't some place better to live than Hakaui, and put the question to Aki very directly "you were born in Hawaii and now you have visited all these great islands, where is the best place?" There was no hesitation in his reply, the best island was Rapa in the Austral group.
Now more than three years later and a complete circling of the globe, I was at last, booking the tickets to Rapa. Just as a chance meeting on a bus in Central America had first sent me on a journey to the Islands of the South Pacific, so too, was this chance encounter in Hakaui, now sending me to another mysterious destination.
However getting to Rapa in those days was not easy. I was advised by the French Consulate in Vancouver that to get to Rapa one first had to get to Tahiti, then fly to Tubuai and wait for the Government boat (Astrolab) that sailed down to Rapa on an irregular monthly basis. The Astrolab sometimes took additional passengers depending on space and the Administrator who was in charge.
Anyway I was determined to try to get there and booked a flight to Tubuai via Tahiti. The trip started out very well for as soon as we landed in Tahiti we had the good fortune to stay at a fantastic inexpensive Hotel in Punuaauia called the Tahiti Village, beautiful white sand beach with a magnificent view of Moorea, small local style bungalows that were picture perfect. The price of the food and drinks as well as the lodging, all very reasonable. After a few paradisiaque days swimming in the crystal clear lagoon and near perfect weather, we headed off for Tubuai.
Now over 35 years later, I can not remember my first impressions of landing in Tubuai, perhaps due to the fact that I imagined it as only a stop over, perhaps due to the fact that it was cooler, and cloudy. We looked for around lodging, there was no Hotel, the choices were not great, the first place we visited was just a big room with plenty of beds that was maintained by the Chinese who owned one of the two stores on the island, the price was excessive compared to the deal we had in Tahiti. So we keep looking and at last found a small room in a private home, the room wasn't too expensive but breakfast cost more than the room!
The Astrolab was due within a few days and the Administrator seemed friendly. So in the mean time we decided to look around Tubuai. We walked entirely around the east coast to the southern part of the Island where there is a road that cuts back across the middle of the island. It was cloudy when we started out and the road, which was just an unpaved coral track was everywhere so close to the lagoon that there was generally not enough room for houses on the beach with only one or two exceptions. Anyway houses were few and far between, the island seemed almost deserted on the east coast. There is also, on this side of the island a wide shallow reef flat for much of the way. So it wasn't anything to compare to our fabulous visit in Tahiti. On the road back across the middle of the island the sun came out and when we reached the top of the first small hill we were greeted with a magnificent view of the countryside as well as the bright colors of the lagoon on either side of the island. Patchwork farmlands cover a wide plain that separates the two mountain ranges. The sun was just coming through the clouds and playing across the landscape that looked almost like something you might see in the English countryside, except for the occasional palm tree of course. It dawned on me that of all the places I had seen in Polynesia this was not too bad at all.
When we got back to our lodgings we discovered that dinner was ready and that it was very expensive! The next day I set off hoping to find something cheaper and by chance I met a girl in the Post Office who was in fact maybe looking for me. I think she may have heard that we were looking for lodgings, as she right away offered accommodation on the other side of the island that sounded ideal. Her father had just completed the construction of some small bungalows, each with their own cooking facilities. She said that she would come with a car to pick us up.
And so it happened that as she was driving us back across the Island, and with the absolute plan ever in the back of my mind, I casually asked if it was possible for a foreigner to buy land here. She said that she thought it might be possible and that her Father was in fact trying to sell some land. By this point we had just about reached the small hill with the great view and I said "do you see that hill, we were there yesterday, the view is so beautiful, if I could buy anywhere that's where I would like to buy" To my great surprise, she replied "that is my Father's land, that is the land he is selling! This wonderful news made my hairs stand on end; it was an amazing coincidence that I immediately recognized as a sign, a destiny and inevitable path that I must follow.
Within 24 hours of our settling into our new bungalow, I was thrashing out the details of buying the land with her father, a retired politician who was at one time President of the Assembly in Tahiti. He assured me that it would be possible for me to buy the land, and that I could have what ever part of the hill I wanted and that I could pay for it later, in monthly installments! Because he knew everyone in the assembly and had contacts in all the right places, the deal went smoothly from start to finish. When I left Vancouver, the absolute plan and the absolute base were only wishful speculation, but now, suddenly these plans were not just on paper but were taking on a life of their own.
Postscript: When I was writing this story some years ago, I ended the story here. While I could have gone on to describe the events that took place afterwards, of our continued trip through to Sydney Australia, where I found a job, and the money to pay for this land in Tubuai. It struck me then, that the rest of the story is rather normal and not much of a Mystery at all. In fact however many wild and wonderful things did happen, perhaps I will tackle the rest of this story one of these days. However I want to just point out once more that at anytime in our lives, an influence may enter, perhaps quite unexpectedly out of nowhere, that will completely change everything, our direction, our thinking, our destiny. Sometimes we have a choice, sometimes we let that influence change things, sometimes we actively pursue it because it feels like something we should do or need to do... my life has been far from ordinary and yet in many ways quite normal, I surmise that I followed my dream of a life in paradise even though at the start of the journey I had no idea of what it looked like, or where it was to be found. I could claim however, that there was something mysterious behind it all. When I was still in school, perhaps 14 or 15 years old, one of our art class projects was an oil painting of our choice. I cannot honestly say now what inspired me to paint a canoe and palm tree in a sunset. However that painting turned out so well that we hung in the den where I consequently spent many hours on the telephone in my teens, (which was a huge passion of teenagers in the 60s much as the internet and facebook are for kids today). I must have idly gazed upon that painting thousands of times without ever imagining that one day that image would become like an iconic emblem of my destiny, that is to say, that I would pass most of my adult life on a remote island in the south seas.