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Waka crews taking break at first stop

Monday 1 Oct 2012 8:25 p.m.

The Waka leaves Waitemata Harbour in Auckland on Friday August 17, 2012 (Photo: AAP)

The Waka leaves Waitemata Harbour in Auckland on Friday August 17, 2012 (Photo: AAP)

Two traditional waka on an epic journey across the Pacific have recounted experiences on their journey so far after reaching their first stop-over at Tubuai in French Polynesia.

The two double-hulled waka, Te Aurere and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti, sailed out of Auckland in August without modern navigational aids in a bid to re-create a Maori ancestral journey to Rapanui (Easter Island).

The crews reached Tubuai on Saturday where they received a warm welcome from locals. They will rest there for a few days before setting off again.

Waka Tapu organiser Karl Johnstone says the crews have battled storms and extreme swells in recent weeks.

"As predicted by our captains and navigators, the weather conditions have been very challenging," he said.

"There has often been little or no wind available to help push them east but then they've also encountered heavy seas and extremely cold conditions, resulting in broken equipment and items such as coffee mugs and spoons being lost overboard."

Mr Johnstone said the crew were in high spirits and good health.

"The fishing has been excellent, lots of albacore tuna caught, and they've managed to celebrate four birthdays on board with a birthday cake and fresh fruit or hangi each time."

Pods of humpback whales and grey nurse sharks had been spotted by the crews at sea, he said.

The next stop is Mangareva Island, also in French Polynesia.

Depending on weather conditions, that journey will take two weeks.

The 20 crew of the two waka are using only the stars, moon, sun, ocean currents, birds and marine life to guide them.

However, each waka does have a tracking device on board, as well as a satellite phone, in case of emergency.

NZN

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