Our day started with a morning routine – just as I like and need for things to be when training or preparing for any big swim. It was 8am and we had the privilege of seeing a beautiful sunrise as we swam out of the harbour at Hanga Roa. It was a relief to finally get into a bit of routine after all the admin and meetings running around doing food prep and organising logistics.
After breakfast, John showed Sarah H and I the charts. Friday (tomorrow) was looking like a window had appeared. We agreed that it looked like the best available option and started to get things into motion. We contacted Kayak Rapa Nui to check their thoughts. They suggested an alternative route, but after discussing their reasons and chatting to Marta, the boat captain, we agreed to stick with our first route option, which wasstarting and finishing at the harbour of Hanga Roa. It was an area I was now familiar with and so I was comfortable to start and finish the swim from there.
Our next stop was to chat to the navy and get their permission before shopping for supplies for the crew. We had lunch at Le Pere – our new local hang out (Poke bowls for the win) and agreed that if it was our last meal it was a good meal to have!
We had 3 hours to then prep all our gear, feeds for me and the team to pack and load onto the boat that night for an 8am start on Friday morning.
After loading the yacht, we were invited to a local blessing ceremony at a music school called Toki. We thought it was to be a quick 5 minute affair and be home for an early dinner and early bed. We only got to Toki after 7pm and ended up having dinner past 9pm.
Toki is a music school with a building made from 6 years of rubbish from the island. It is completely self-sustainable with solar panels and a roof which allows the water to drain into handmade Jojo tanks (made from local stone) built to hold up to 60 000 litres of water. The school is set on a hill overlooking the ocean surrounded by veggie and fruit gardens. They even had herbs and pineapples growing on the roof! The design was circular and aimed to be really sound enhancing with incredible sound quality. The centre was an area which honoured the ancestors and people that had gone before. The Rapa Nuins have a massive respect for their heritage respecting ancient traditions and their ancestors.
The woman who started the school is an internationally renowned classical pianist who learnt to play in Rapa Nui, but had to leave the island at the age of 9 as her piano teacher left. She returned to the island to create opportunities for the local kids giving them an alternative to drugs and alcohol which is apparently a big problem on the island. The school is totally dependent on volunteers for survival and is an incredible inspiration to see.
It was inspiring to see someone with such talent and passion giving back to the community. We were then treated to a blessing ceremony where we were given steamed chicken and sweet potatoes. It was all steamed underground with a banana leaf. It was a form of communion – sharing what they have with one another. We were all in a circle in the centre of the school and John and I were bought to the middle. A beautiful song was sung in Rapa Nuin and we all had some chicken and potato. It was a beautiful experience and humbling to be so welcomed into the small local community with such generosity. As a Christian, I was a little apprehensive participating, but I know that God is a god of love and loving these people, to me, was to honour them by participating in something that to them was so meaningful. They invited us into a glimpse of their world and I don’t think Jesus would have been bleak about that. I recognise that there is only one God, but to share in such a special custom was a real privilege for me and the team. What I experienced in that moment was not bondage or religion but a peaceful expression of a people including us into their culture showing us the deepest form of love for us by allowing us to participate in that experience.
As we left there was a rainbow in the sky – a sign of God’s promise to us and another indication that God had my back on this swim as I stepped out, in obedience, into the unknown for His glory.
We got back to the hotel for a late but delicious dinner of spaghetti bolognaise.
By 11pm we eventually got to bed and I slept intermittently. I managed to get some oats into me for breakfast, albeit reluctantly.
Sarah lathered me in sun cream and we met the rest of the team before heading to the harbour. It was 7.30am. It was dark. Marta loaded the first crew of people while I nervously paced and warmed up. We lathered some Vaseline and anti-chafe ointment onto my neck and arms and painted my face with thick white eco-friendly sun cream. The song ‘Thunderstruck’ was played as I did a nervous dance, a few push-ups and then it was go time. The second crew group was collected in the zodiac and John jumped into the kayak. It was 8.07am. I dived in with a whoop and Sarah H followed behind.