Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Blogger has an acute lack of acutes, alas

I'm writing about Mare, in the Loyalty Islands near New Caledonia, today, and wondering if Henri is still with us since that was in 2005 and he was 75 then. He was a character, but a scary driver, hurtling us around the narrow roads with cows wandering along them, waving hello to people and dogs and keeping up a running commentary all the while. He was very proud to serve us this - well, it looks exactly like a giant orange head-louse, doesn't it? - but it's a coconut crab, the world's biggest arthropod and able to take off a man's finger with those fearsome pincers. They live to about 60 and can reach almost a metre across, claw to claw, and really, since they're getting rarer, we shouldn't have been eating it at all - but what can you do? Rude not to... It was absolutely delicious, coconut-flavoured, with grated green pawpaw "for the digestion" and a dollop of glistening home-made mayonnaise. Mmmm! (Not such a great fan of the next night's fruit bat casserole, however.)
I was thrilled to come across something even rarer the next day as we did a bit of beach-combing: these nautilus shells just lying there surrounded by the much less welcome plastic rubbish that washes up everywhere these days (though nice Boniface, who was guiding us and pointing out the coconut crab bait in the woods - they live on land, you know, and only go to the sea once a year to lay their eggs - was delighted to score a fishing net float and a face mask). The water in the lagoon there is gin-clear, truly, because there are no rivers flowing into it, and it's so shallow that even the aquatically-challenged (or those the worse for wear after a long outdoor lunch with plenty of French wine) can snorkel safely to their heart's content. Which, on a day when a shark-attack fatality has been reported here in NZ, the first confirmed death since 1976 and only the 14th ever recorded, makes it seem even more appealingly safe.

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