There’s an old saying about the journey being more important than the destination. This story is about one of those times when that saying really rang true for me, when the journey to get there was (almost) as interesting as the place I was going to.
When I was offered the chance to visit Pitcairn Island, I knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Pitcairn is one of the most remote places in the world, a tiny speck in the vastness of the South Pacific and famous as the hiding place of the Bounty mutineers.
In 1789 a sailor called Fletcher Christian led a mutiny on the British naval vessel HMS Bounty, taking the ship and setting the captain, William Bligh, and his loyal crew members adrift in a small boat.
Several months later, the nine mutineers and 19 Polynesian men, women and children, landed and settled on Pitcairn Island, one of the most isolated islands in the world, about half way between New Zealand and Peru. It is roughly 2170km (1350 miles) east south-east of Tahiti, just over 6600km (4100 miles) from Panama, and 5310km (3300 miles) from Auckland, New Zealand (around the distance from London to New York).
To avoid detection, the ship was burned, an act which marooned the men and their families but kept their secret until 1808 when a passing ship discovered them. By then, the only survivors were one mutineer, John Adams, 11 Polynesian women and 25 children. Today, almost all of the 50 or so inhabitants of Pitcairn are direct descendants of the Bounty mutineers.
To get to the Pitcairn Islands (there are four islands, only one inhabited) these days is a long and expensive journey. Pitcairn has no airport, so a sea voyage is the only way to get there.
From Australia, the first step is to fly to New Zealand, where flights from Auckland connect to Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, on the island of Tahiti, where the Bounty story began.
After arriving at midnight, I found the next day was a public holiday, with most things closed, so spent a day relaxing at the Manava Suite Resort Tahiti.
Taking a ferry to the island of Moorea for two nights, I stayed in a gorgeous bure at Manava Beach Resort & Spa. The next day, I picked up a rental car and explored the island.
There were lots of lovely little surprises and flashes of colour along the way as I drove Moorea’s one and only road, taking 60km to circumnavigate the island.
I chanced on a traditional umu (earth oven) Sunday lunch at Pineapple Beach (which only happens once a month) and lingered for a while enjoying the sea view and laid-back atmosphere.
As we sat in the longboat, looking up at the stark island rearing from the sea, the visitors among us exchanged excited grins, feeling perhaps a little of the elation that those English sailors felt centuries before.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Pitcairn Island will remain the most remote and isolated place I travel to in my life. It was an unforgettable experience, both for the journey and the destination. To read more about my time on the island, go to this article I wrote for Vacations & Travel magazine.
NOTE: Pitcairn Island is currently closed to visitors during the coronavirus pandemic. At other times, the only access is aboard the supply ship MV Silver Supporter, by private yacht, or cruise ship (which generally only stop for a few hours, weather conditions permitting). For details and updates, check the website.
A Glass Half Full travelled to Pitcairn Island as a guest of Pitcairn Islands Tourism.