South Seas - 2003

The Aranui Adventure Begins
June 14, 2003

I’ve always dreamed of journeying to the South Seas where giant coconuts drop onto your head, emerald waters invite you to snorkel among iridescent coral reefs, and bronzed Polynesian islanders beckon you to escape over the far horizon in their hand-carved outrigger canoes. But I never expected these larger-than-life childhood dreams to come true.

So when an unexpected opportunity fell in my lap to actually travel to my own tropical “treasure island,” of course I jumped at the chance.

There I was on June 14, 2003 headed for a unique “journey to paradise” as it was poetically described in travel literature.  But this wasn’t a traditional cruise on a five-star luxury liner or a stay in a romantic overwater bungalow in Bora Bora.  It was an invitation to sail aboard the Aranui III, the famed “freighter to paradise.” This cargo ship labeled the umbilical chord between Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands is the freighter that literally is the lifeline to the people of these remote islands of French Polynesia.

My travel friend, Jean Krebs, and I had stumbled across a brochure about the Aranui III published by the Companie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime and couldn’t resist the invitation.  We had settled on this freighter trip as the next potential adventure after our recent challenging journey on the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Mongolia and Siberia.

“Join us for an unforgettable South Pacific adventure, discovering the
intoxicating beauty of these lush, untouched islands,” the Aranui brochure claimed.  Immediately, I knew this  had to be the realization of my childhood dream.

Only, as it turned out, the description didn’t exactly match reality.  The
experiences we eventually would live through proved to be far different—but in some ways, better.

But we had to get there to find that out.

[Go to South Seas Part Two]