Milt Abel is a stand-up comedian traveling the world, and places closer.


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Rangiroa 12-12-09

By Milt Abel | December 13, 2009

| December 13, 2009

Yesterday we were at Rangiroa, the second largest atoll in the world. I was told which atoll was the largest, and where it was, but I’ve forgotten and I’ll just have to happen across it like I did this one. Atolls are rings (mostly) of coral that once surrounded islands where the central land eroded or sank leaving the ‘ring around the collar’ to establish themselves as the inhabitable, or at least the throw yourself on the beach-able, part. Many atolls were formed in the last Ice Age when the oceans retreated, being sucked up to make ice, and when you sit on these hot, atoll beaches with an iced cocktail in your hand, you sense a grand plan.

I learned all this from the naturalist on board, Douglas Pearson, who is one of the more memorable characters I’ve run across in my life. Almost unbelievable in his breadth of knowledge. Last night I attended his stargazing lecture out on a purposely darkened upper deck. That was at eight-thirty, when I saw him this morning he had held another stargazing gathering at 4am to lecture about stars that appeared only at that hour. And on top of that, he will lecture about the islands almost everyday covering subjects from history to mythology to botany. Serious, if I walked up to him, pointed to a wall, and said, “Douglas, tell me about that paint.” He would be able to go on for ten to fifteen minutes, although rarely staying on topic. Consider a fifty-eight year old man with ADD who used all that energy throughout his life to learn about whatever crossed his path. He still has the energy and tentative approval-seeking of a child and is utterly a fascinating joy to listen to the first hour, then you start wondering if Ritalin is available on the ship.

The Rangiroa atoll measures approximately 55 by 18 miles, so you could herd all of the metropolitan sprawl of Portland inside; collared by intermittent land that never gets over 15 feet high or a couple hundred yards across. When the Pacific Princess sailed inside to anchor for the day we stayed overnight because it wasn’t until 8am this morning that the tide would be deep enough for us to sail back out in the single navigable passage for our ship -small though it is for a cruise ship.

I tendered ashore and walked nearly a mile to a lovely beach. This atoll is just fifteen degrees off the equator and it’s summertime here, so I took, and used, an umbrella with a bright red and yellow and green Scottish plaid pattern that was left in my cabin by its previous occupants. There were stretches of the paved road where I was completely by myself with nothing but the ocean on one side and palm tress on the other. Once I was passed by an open jeep filled with men jeering and laughing at my silly umbrella and un-island-like appearance. It wasn’t until they passed that I recognized my fellow entertainer, juggler Jonathan Stamp, and the ship’s videographer and shore excursion manager. My feelings weren’t hurt, in fact I was pleased to get a laugh just walking somewhere, and to distract me from swinging into melancholy a dolphin jumped completely out of the surf, straight up, then back in with surprising little splash just a couple dozen yards away. Maybe he wanted to get a look at me too.

I got to swim a bit, the water stays shallow for hundreds of feet from the shore, but becomes a swimmable depth within twenty. A couple middle-aged ladies were snorkeling there as well and when I pointed out a stingray I had spotted we began chatting and I learned they were from the ship and hadn’t seen my show but had heard such nice things about they implored me to share a joke or two with them right there, waist deep in the tropical surf. I did and they enjoyed most the moment when I lost my train of thought because a big fish was nosing toward my swimming shorts.

It rained on the walk back so the umbrella didn’t look as silly as it did on the way out. I took a different route, weaving my way along the shoreline, which involved crossing the few scattered homes’ properties. Despite the heavy rain clothes weren’t pulled from clotheslines and when I thought further, it made sense. The rain was the same temperature as the water, which was the same temperature as the air, so what difference did it make? The locals I passed stood as casually in the rain as they did under cover; unless you were wearing crepe paper, there was little damage to be done.

Topics: comedy, cruise ship, humor, travel | No Comments »