The title of this post is a reference to The Lord of the Rings. Yep. Let that sink in and read on.
John and I were lucky enough to be in French Polynesia during Hawaiki Nui Va’a, which is an international canoe race championship. It happens once per year, and is the biggest sporting event of the islands. It’s a three-day outrigger extravaganza; 80+ sponsored canoe teams of 6 men paddle between two islands each day. The longest race day is from Taha’a to Bora Bora, over 68 kilometers (which is probably a LOT of miles). The resort had all sorts of special things planned, from event-related excursions to a ridiculously extensive tiny-food lunch display to a fantastic dinner buffet, featuring cuisine from around the world. So fun!
We had planned on trying to paddle out in sea kayaks to see the canoes go by. We learned that there was an excursion available where we could board a motor boat and follow the race from start to finish on day two. That day’s race started on Raiatea and ended on Taha’a. We wanted to be a part of this special local event, so we signed up!
The morning we left was simply gorgeous. Though there had been sporadic rain showers in the week that we’d been there, it was a sunny, blue day. Perfect for being on the water!
As we approached Raiatea, I started to realize that this was a pretty big deal. We paused at a dock to stock up on water and beer, and everyone AND their grandmother seemed to be in a frenzy to board a boat and get out on the water before the race began. Music was pumping from giant yachts and tiny motorboats. You could feel the excitement in the air!
Suddenly, we were moving, and there were colorful canoes everywhere- 87 total. The race had begun! As we cruised along the shoreline, I was more intrigued by the local people lined up to see the boaters than the actual race. They’d come out in droves. This was a BIG deal. The further out into the sea we went, the more this became apparent.
The men in the canoes were paddling with all of their strength. And they were FAST. I wondered how they could keep up this degree of effort for the entire race- they had miles and miles to go!
Motorized boats were literally everywhere. HUGE catamarans and sailboats and jet-skis. There seemed to be no traffic rules on the sea- boats were weaving in and out of each other’s paths, creating waves from their wakes for the racers. It was madness! When our guide opened the cooler and offered us a Hinano (Tahitian beer), we accepted. Cheers! It was, after all, just like the Superbowl!
We cheered for random canoe teams and sipped our beers and laughed with the other people on our boat. It was really the best people-watching experience ever, seeing boats of all shapes and sizes cruise by carrying people of all shapes and sizes. It was a blast!
Toward the end of the race, we pulled away from the massive crowd of boats. Nature called for a few of us, and the only option was over the side! In we went, giggling away. What a day.
The guide helped me back onto the boat quickly- it wasn’t very safe to be in the water, even off to the side of the race. As I dried off with a towel, John boarded the boat with wide eyes and a pale face. He held up his left hand.
It was bare.
“It’s gone. My ring. It’s gone!” As he’d reached up to grip the hand of the guide and board the boat, he’d felt his wedding ring slip off and go flying into the sea. There was nothing to be done. It wasn’t safe to be swimming around, and the water there was over 100 feet deep.
He’d worn that ring proudly…for just a week and a half.
Sympathetic eyes surrounded us on the boat. A few people offered their own stories of lost wedding rings, in support. We were quiet on the way back to the resort, thinking about our wedding day. There was no point in being angry or upset. Despite the sentimental attachment to the actual ring, it could be replaced. John rubbed his ring finger repeatedly, and I could see the grief on his face.
We had an incredible meal when we returned to Le Taha’a. The chef had turned out a feast of tiny food, everything imaginable. We poured wine and toasted the lost ring, now a sparkly decoration on the ocean floor, our thank you gift to the island of Taha’a for such an amazing trip so far.
And with that, we headed into the spa. We had a unique couples’ treatment scheduled. A scalp, hand and foot treatment was followed by a massage under the warm rain-like sprinkles of a Vichy shower. AMAZING. We sat on a private patio after the massage, sipping lemon water and soaking in the scenery.
We’d had so much adventure on our trip so far, and it was only halfway through. Sure, his wedding ring was now Tahitian fish food. But we’re married. And we don’t need a ring to prove that.
And you know I love a good story.
Next up: New digs and the end of an unforgettable trip!