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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

Flag of the Republic of the Marshall Islands THE MARSHALL ISLANDS


Mar 16. PACIFIC OCEAN Our departure day for Ailinglaplap had finally arrived.  We invested in a good breakfast at the Flame Tree and sorted out some of our belongings to leave there during our trip. 

Our “ticket” stated that we should be at the docks by 3:00 and the boat would depart at 4:00 . We caught a taxi at 2:30 to get there early only to find out that they hadn’t specified which dock.  The dock where we had purchased our ticket was near the downtown area.  The larger dock where our ship was going to depart was back in Delap, not far from the hostel.  When we pulled into the Delap dock around 3:30 we were relieved to see the bow of the Litakbouki sticking out from behind the warehouses.  

The Litakbouki must have been a 200+ foot cargo ship with a crane attached. It had seen better days and had the residual smell of its cargo, copra (coconut meat).  After some fuss they showed us to our cabin.  It was down a set of stairs next to the engine room.  It took some maneuvering to get our packs down there. The cabin was a six person set up and while we weren’t really impressed with the accommodations they weren’t terrible.  They weren’t filthy but not very clean either.  One of our lockers had a large object rolled in tinfoil stashed away in it.  It had to go.  Rob stashed it in some closet next to the bathroom.  We later learned that it was a baked breadfruit.       

We waited in our cabin for a long time so we could be sure to maintain our bunks but only a few people poked their heads through the door, more out of curiosity about us than anything I think.  Nobody else joined us so we were hopeful that we’d have the cabin to ourselves.  The ship was entirely Marshallese men and I felt conspicuous every time I wandered up to the deck.  The 4:00 scheduled departure came and went.  The boat didn’t move.  A large white passenger boat pulled up next to us at the dock.  We recognized it as the Oleanda.  We’d read about it in the local paper. It was a dive boat they had brought up from Fiji to use for Rongelap’s new eco-dive resort.  The article invited everyone to come out and welcome the boat to Majuro, and they did.  A tent was set up with rows of chairs and cars and people began to file into the wharf. 

As we observed others boarding the Litakbouki Rob noticed many of them had a supply of water.  We thought our meals were included and didn’t bring water so we asked one of the crew.  He advised us to go to Gibson’s store near our hostel to get some water and that the boat wouldn’t leave until 8:00pm.  I was not keen on hanging around the boat by myself.  Every time I returned from walking up on deck by myself some guy came and peeking into our cabin.   So, with our bags locked in the storage lockers we bolted to Gibson’s and bought a bottles of water and a greater supply of food for the voyage, all the time hoping that the boat was in fact leaving at 8:00 and wouldn't be gone when we returned.   In the taxi on the way back we heard a US official, probably the Ambassador, speaking on the radio.  It was the event taking place at the wharf for the Oleanda.  He was welcoming the boat and wishing the people much success in their new tourist enterprise. The Oleanda was purchased with money provided to Rongelap by the US government.  It was all part of an effort to revive the atoll and promised some pristine diving.

Not long after we loaded our goods on the ship, we felt the boat pull away from the dock.  We breathed a sigh of relief thinking “ 8:00 , yeah right!”, but the ship only turned around and two outrigger canoes pulled up along side to be loaded.  Feeling pretty confident that we had the cabin to ourselves at this point we went up top to watch the canoes be carefully loaded onto the ship.  They sat on the cargo lid, stacked on top of one another.  Around the outside of the cargo hold there were scraps of copra lying around. I had slipped on them getting onto the boat, much to the entertainment of a local man. They provided a very specific smell that stayed with us for the duration of our trip.

As we sat up on deck the crowds of people that had assembled for the Oleanda show began to dissipate.  Small children yelled “Yokwe” and “Hello” to us from the shore. 

It was now approaching 9:00 and with the outriggers loaded it looked like we would finally be setting sail.  Apparently we were the only people who knew that the boat wouldn’t leave at 4:00 because large numbers of folks started to board the boat, including women and children.  We soon found ourselves sharing our cabin with a rotating group of Marshallese.  We had the two bunks by the door where the light was ripped out.  This looked like a disadvantage initially but it was fortunate because the other light in the cabin didn’t go off for the whole trip.  That is probably why our light had been deliberately removed by a previously annoyed passenger. 

It was a very long trip.  We covered our dodgy bunks with ponchos and sleeping pads and slept as much as possible.  I found myself staring at the graffiti.  By the end of the trip I was totally convinced that Francy Johnny did love Heather Makita and visa versa. It was published all over the cabin like a New York subway car.  Every time I woke up there were different people occupying the other bunks.  They were always quiet and polite when entering and leaving, and the children always said “Hello” or “Good Night”.  We weren’t sure what had happened to dinner.  We had seen the kitchen earlier and it didn’t really make us hungry.  We made ourselves content with some bologna, cheese and crackers we gotten at the store.  The bathrooms were just best avoided.

MARSHALL ISLANDS Majuro March 11 March 12 March 13 March 14-15 March 16 Alinglaplap March 17 March 18 March 19 March 20 March 21 March 22 March 23 Majuro March 24

FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA Kosrae March 25-26 March 27-28 Pohnpei March 29-31 April 1-2 April 3-4 April 5-7 Chuuk April 8-9 April 10-11

GUAM April 12-23