After visiting so many volcanic, lush islands, the flat landscape of the Rangiroa atoll seemed stark and desolate. This atoll, the second largest in the world, boasts some of the world’s best scuba diving. On the cloudy, humid day I visited Avatoru, one of only two main villages, the intermittent storms and wind made for some choppy surf.
I rented a bike to travel the single road that connects several smallislets for about 6 miles. Tucked among some palm tree groves are some pensiones, and a few places serving food for the tourists who come to dive or relax at the sea. Although Avatoru is not rustic—it has running water, cars, and electricity—it definitely represents “island life” on a very small scale.
At the far end of the island, after pedaling through the village “center” [it had a food shop and a bank], I came upon an old church overlooking a pass. An abalone altar andwaterfall added to the stillness of this refuge from the sudden burst of rain. The ride back, into the unforgiving wind, gave me some time to view the pristine beauty of this tropical paradise. The wind, the waves, and the salt air felt pure and cleansing. When the sun appeared later in the day, I floated out in the lagoon to look at the beautiful fish hiding in the coral.
The end of this idyllic day included a walk to the beach on the other side of the island. Some entrepreneurial young villagers had set up a stand selling purples shells, and they practiced some French and English they had learned to drive a hard bargain. The beach nearby had huge chunks of coral and shells that would eventually be pummeled into sand by the fierce waves on that side of the island. The contrast of the fierce, roaring waves with the strong wind to the peaceful surf of the lagoon only a few minutes’ walk away was mind-boggling. Sometimes nature reflects life.