300 Days alone… – The Movie

it was only upon my arrival at the Geneva Airport that I realized it was over. over there it was difficult physically but mostly psychologically and if I had to do it again well… I don’t think I would. in September 2008 I left Switzerland and it’s comfort to spend 10 months alone in the archipelago of Tonga in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to live, I brought with me a machete and my swiss knife I also had a medical kit satellite phone, solar panel and battery to supply energy for my camera. it’s a dream I wanted to realize I’ve been working for 14 months for it and now, now I’m here but I think the most important thing is to stay zen and to keep calm because whatever happens, I’ll be alone the archipelago of Tonga is lost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean the island of Tofua is about 250 kilometers away from the capital, and its last inhabitant left more or less 20 years ago Tofua is a caldera, a former volcano which exploded in the middle there is a lake of sulfuric water and north of the island, you can see the smoke from the still active volcano That’s only 24 hours I’m here I’m missing food I’m missing drink water I’m missing everything it’s horrible no it’s not horrible but it teaches me that you cannot do it at the first time you have to go step by step and I have to learn and it takes much more time than what I expected. the next day, I installed my solar panel to charge my batteries and I went back fishing. At sundown, I still hadn’t caught anything. But just as I was about to give up I cought my first fish. to top that, it was big enough to feed me over the next two days I feel good, I feel much better than this morning because I could get a fish I could eat it and I still have a little bit for tomorrow then I’m happy I will just finish this fire again five minutes, ten minutes and after I go sleep because I don’t want to waste some wood there is many but it’s… it is not dry. all the wood is wet Hello hello It’s full of ants I can not even eat it anymore. Oh yeah, right, I was sure, they got it all There weren’t many friends on the island. I had to find a way to preserve my fishing. At home in the Alps, the elders use to use two ways to preserve they meat, salting and smoking. All right, the target is to make something to smoke the fish because I hope to have many many fishes no many many fish and I need to to smoke them. Building the smoke house didn’t take too much time it worked perfectly my grandfather would have been proud of me for the first two days I sleep as I could using the curved trunk of the coconut tree but I wasn’t going to spend ten months like that. I had to build a shelter for myself. I started with the roof. Latice work, coconut lashes, new or dry the usual lock or the unusual one for the roofing, I used coconut branches that I played it through the paneling hoping this wouldn’t let the water through and four days later, my shelter was built and I was able to move onto something else. I still had to accomplish an important ritual in order to live at nature rythme. I had to stop time the thing is, I should find a nice place for the watch not too far from the ocean so even if it’s underground, it can get a good vibe from the sea yes It’s beautiful so from now on I will be here for nine months and 20 days aproximatively by myself, where I have stopped the time At the beginning, fishing took most of my time. I wasn’t catching fish every day and I was spending long hours waiting for them to bite I imagined a system to free myself from this chore the principle was simple a very heavy branch as a fishing rod one heavy stone as a counterweight the fishing line and the bait and that did the trick. all right that’s finished, I’m exhausted it looks very easy I know how to do it but I don’t eat so much now because I don’t have the choice and my drink that’s okay but every time I have to do a physical effort I feel tired very easily now I will I will have a rest I’m not in a hurry neither anyway when you are hungry, you’re less picky I found some sea snails, well, only a few of them not enough for fest. well, bon appetit the lack of food the sudden solitude No point of reference I don’t know what weighted on me the most but after eight days I cracked My family is missing me everything I know is missing me actually. Here it’s nice but I… I cannot discover I have no food… I have water yes but it’s so hard it’s very hard and… in my house I have everything, then I say why, why are you doing this, you know? you could, you could, you could stay at home, cool with your friends, girlfriend family it just hit me without warning I was down in the dumps twenty-two thousand kilometres away from home far from my friends, my family my fridge and worst of all, this was my idea. fortunately I had the flag of the motivation on which my friends had written me messages reading them gave me the courage to go on and to top this, it was that day I saw whales for the first time and when you see this I can tell you you forget all your problems. I miss many things here and there is many things I have here that I cannot have home but in the morning it’s very hard to to put this in mind but in the evening I feel this again and I feel very happy I feel quiet I think what I have to learn is to go slowly now I have to learn to… take the time to do everything here still everything I do I want to do it fast to make it finish as quick as possible and it’s not the way. I had to put this, this plastic which was the protection of my solar panel because I realized that my roof is not waterproof at all and I really need a waterproof roof for all the material I have, that’s why I put this I will start today doing to work with the coconut sleeve to do a waterproof roof. the first step was to reach the top of the coconut tree but if climbing up the tree seems to be rather easy reaching the palms of that tree with such a smooth trunk is a different kettle of fish. Having accomplished this exploit I stripped the tree of its palms I had chosen them because of their length which pretty much matched to the one of my roof. Then comes the weaving the method is simple once above, once under once above, once under In the Tonga islands, the roof of the shelters are covered by layering lattice work which makes them waterproof. Obviously quite a few of them are needed anyway Another major problem I had was the mosquitoes there were thousands of them in that forest so the best way to keep them away from my camp was to clean around the shelter and to open up the space so the wind from the ocean could create a natural protection but it didn’t work. Since this morning I hear the volcano and I didn’t know what happened and I was a bit worried because we never know and that’s why I I came to the top I have to find a way I came to the top to have a look at the volcano the way up to the volcano isn’t really a piece of cake especially when it comes to walking through the jungle but once you reach the side of the crater the sight makes you forget the effort. It’s beautiful You really feel humble in this kind of moment It makes me cry it’s true that sometimes I feel lonely the only thing who didn’t change here it’s me at the beginning but I’m here for one month and it’s true that I miss pretty much everything I’m in the middle of the nature but in the middle of nowhere I’m alone I’m really alone, that’s not easy. After my first visit to the volcano I decided that every day I would extend the known perimeter to an extra few hundred meters I’m always looking a little bit around There is always things to discover, to find always, always Today it was a mango tree enormous, bending because of too many fruits To find those fruits almost ripe felt like getting Christmas presents in order to reinforce my roofing, I needed some rope and on Tofua, the rope tree existed. I only had to find it oh no that’s not solid at all that’s not it this is completely rotten and after several attempts, I finally found what I was looking for yeeees I only had to cut some long straps out of the bard and let them dry under the Sun I finish one side of the roof today we still have to see if it’s waterproof of course but at least I did it with nothing, with my hand and the coconut sleeve and I am proud of this and you know the life here it’s very simple but it’s not as easy as that… everything you have to do yourself and I learnt a lot about this it gives me a new perception of the world since fishing didn’t bring me food every day I added a new dish to my diet small coconut sprout cooked over charcoal dressed with ashes and bran. The coconut was easy to cut open. The inside looked like a fruit compote It is hard to describe the taste soft a bit sweet but with no taste of coco a and warm it was excellent after more than one month on the island I was able to survive and get organized the essentials There was only one problem left the lack of human contact what I realize now is that I start feeling lonely because I have nobody to talk I have nobody to change opinion and then I talk to myself but I always agree with me then it’s not fun and nobody can give me more information about what I know already and I’m just alone whatever I do I am alone I cannot say you know no I think in my mind I have enough I start to be bored now alone, lonely and bored. I found a very nice place there but the access is very hard to go from the beach because of all the stones then maybe I can find the easiest way to go from inside yeeeesss sitting on that beach I contemplated the vastness of the ocean savoring my victory but taking a look around me I found myself faced with the worst of our civilization so much trash thrown into the ocean thousands of kilometers from here and carried away by the water streams to end up along the shore. I even found a bit of bamboo. what could I use it for… I decided to bring it back to the camp until I find a use for it but I already had my idea… and now, in theory, I have… I have a digeridoo if you forget the mosquito life on Tofua may seem to be quite mellow but every day, when going fishing I took the risk of wounding myself walking on the rocks. I regularly scrub myself during my exploration in the forest I ended up having numerous infection beneath the skin that didn’t heal anymore. I had to use my satellite phone to call Dr. Richon in Switzerland he did the follow-up from there. Yes, Jack, this Xavier Rosset calling Mentally speaking, I’m fine I can pretty much do whatever I want but it’s physically, I have a small technical problem I need you either… I decribed him how things looked he told me what to use from the medical kit that he helped me to put together in Switzerland now I go, I go for it I really don’t want to do it because it hurts already so much maybe after it will be better. the dirt comes out every day, every day I have to wash every day to the seawater after I have to boil the… flat water, I have to clean again with normal water I have to put betadine which is special cream I am in the middle of nowhere and I’m taking antibiotic!!! in five days, if it not goes better I have to call back the doctor thanks to my doctor’s advice I’m taking special care of my wounds they healed within a few days however even if I was busy every day I started to suffer from another problem that medicine couldn’t heal. I have no motivation to do anything anymore now because I am alone I didn’t even try to do the fire yet with the wood you know because… because I’m fed up I don’t have any… I don’t know why, why should I do this I am alone, who I should share this with nobody nobody. I came because I coming and need some help to for my friend in my village was cutting his fingers like this break the kawa and break his fingers too just as if he had heard me, Lofi appeared in my life. a few days per year, farmers from the neighbouring island come to Tofua to cultivate kawa a plant whose root is used to produce a bitter drink luffy was one of them he knew more or less where my camp was he came to me hoping that I could save his friend’s finger but their camp was more than six hours walk away all right now and on the way back to the village of my friend Lofi because one of his friend had a big cut and fingers a little bit of the finger went out and maybe I can do something I will try to do my best but if the infection started already it will be too late. The best way to see is to go and have a look. Lofi prefered to follow me so he could adapt his speed to mine rather than looking over his shoulder to avoid losing me very sweet eh? the middle uh? It’s very very sweet. It’s so good Once we reached the camp I was quickly able to measure the gravity of the case You’re okay? Maloa lele I couldn’t administer first aid but I knew that he would have to get to a medical center as soon as a boat would be able to pick him up In the meantime, I did my best with the medical kit and my little knowledge All right, I think I did my best with with your friend until tomorrow I can do but after it’s better he goes to hospital. okay thanks I’m a doctor on Tofua but I did my best. Chimy’s finger is going much better now and for me it’s time to to go back to Hokula to my to my house in Hokula It’s true that it makes me strange to leave these people every nice people and to go back again alone in my place I don’t know but now it’s time to go and I am on the way very warm day You don’t always find solitude even when you look for it. there is about arriving a sailing boat it it looks like it comes near Hokula For me it could be an extraordinary visit and I really look forward to see them the same boat brought along a group of Norwegians They were completing two months of sailing in the achipelago. for one time it’s not me in the camera No, it’s visitors what do you think about the house? You saw it yeah? Not a lot of luxury real good I guess for you, for the next… half a year or a year you have a bed and you have somewhere to hide from the rain if you’re finishing the roof Before finishing my roof, I took them to the volcano they had the day, … and I I had all the time in the world. It wasn’t the first time I was here but until now I stayed on the crest. With them, I went even closer to the crater I like this. in a remote Island in the middle of nowhere yeah one one inhabitant that’s kind of cool you like machete you like the work with the machete pretty cool way to work in the forest I could guide these people, very nice people I could guide them up to the top of the Island bring them down to the volcano and spend the day with them they have to leave today unfortunately but we spent a nice day together and now I get a bit of rice I get onion, I get one garlic, I get two beers and I get also a coca-cola then I’m really happy that I met them It was cool because today I wasn’t lonely anymore to talk to people I could exchange opinion, I could… you know I I was not alone anymore Now it’s sure that I feel very happy because they were here but in the other way I feel also a bit sad because they’re leaving but what I have to keep in my mind is that they were here with me and they changed my day thank you norwegian people, thank you very much My visitors were right In December, the rain season begins and I had to make sure my roof was waterproof once the job done and the last branches is fixed I decided to treat myself to another smaller luxury the view on the ocean. All the work with the machete ended up blending the blade. The machete doesn’t cut anymore at all and to sharpen it, there was nothing better than the volcanic stones polished by the sea. Once wet it worked perfectly After a few months on the island I had enough knowledge. So that something like a routine had settle in. I was quite good at providing food for myself and the perimeter around my camp had increased considerably, as well as the loneliness… on Christmas day I decided to use my satellite phone to leave a message to my parents It is the first Christmas I spend without you it feel a bit bizarre but that’s the way it is I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and Daddy, I hope your hips goes better that everything goes fine and I wanted to let you know that everything goes well here don’t worry for me and I wish you a Merry Christmas. To spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve alone on an island, is really depressing. I was thinking about my friends my family, the foie gras champagne and sparkles all those things usually I don’t really like. I was here for another six months of solitude well, not exactly because Gael, my best friend promised to come over here and spend the two last week with me. But meanwhile I was alone. that’s what I thought because there are rival of surprising company lifted my spirit. his name is Sugar and he’s nine months old it’s the father of Lofi who gave it to me because he thought that I was too much lonely here in Hokula. Luffy the farmer who came to ask me for help came back one morning to give me these dog as a gift. He wanted to thank me for having saved his friend’s finger. My motivation was back on track A little garden would add diversity to my diet. so I become a farmer always using what I could find around. It could be strange I chose the front of the school to make my plantation but it’s strategically very well thinking because first of all here it’s the only place where there is no big tree another thing also is that it’s 15-20 minutes walk from my camp. Then I can come every day because of the of the wild pig and if I don’t come every day, they will eat all the things that I do here. Also one more reason is that the water tanker is here I will use it to to give watered to my plantation. I need to work more useful than beautiful. I had also kept the watermelon seeds that Lofi gave me along with the dog. The ground seemed fertile and the temperature ideal. So while waiting for things to grow, I decided to continue exploring the island. Looking for new fruits or vegetable, beaches cave or simply new landscapes I walked along the coast to the west along the rocky cliffs, blocking the access to the sea. Here I am on the west side of the island, the target was to discover a little bit this part of the island which is very different than the part where I have my house. here there is no big trees there is a low vegetation and very dry vegetation and also one of the goal is to find the Captain Cook cave because it’s near the ocean but it’s so big here that to find it not not impossible but very hard okay, now it’s time to go home to cook dinner and to be able to eat I need a fish. That evening, I got a super-sized surprise… I cought this I’m a little scared to see this little beast. I saw another one approximately one month ago quite the same size I think it’s quite big you see. Apart from the animal being impressive suddenly I had a large amount of food. I tried my humu, it’s a hole in the ground in which you prepare a fire. you put the pieces of fish over hot amber, and covering it up completely just like an oven the heat that comes from it is supposed to cook everything slowly over hours The Shark spent the whole night being cooked I prayed that no insect will invite itself to a meal at my expense. Upon removal of the leaves and earth that covered it up I won’t believe it, its hot it’s still hot! The slow-cooking was going to preserve the fish for two to three days but I was frustrated from only eating fish these past months. So I decided to go hunting for wild pig. I tried to find a pig path, there is many many paths for the pigs around here and the pig used this path and for us it’s it’s not possible to… to follow all the paths because if they are 60 centimeters high no more but if I find, one I want to make hole on it, like 80 centimeters long 40 centimeters large and maybe one meter 20 deep I want to hide and put some coconuts on it and if maybe I can get a pig. Following the path, I wanted to find the right place where the ground was soft and close to water and where pigs would pass by for sure. Water… I think I found a good pig path and now I have to find a good place and make a hole While waiting my little garden had started growing. the first sprouts were visible. It was a great success and the final result looked quite promising. Great here are the watermelons and here, there is the little onions. Only one week after my gardening efforts, everything was above ground Ok, I didn’t have a great selection but I could see that my work was bearing its fruits. The trap was ready the garden growing it was the perfect time to pay a visit to the volcano I woke up this morning and I had nothing to do then I say… why not to go to to see the volcano and on the way from the top I could hear very big noise from the volcano… already When you’re down here, it really looks it really look like the moon moon place. And now I go to see the volcano A feeling of deep humility characterize each visit to the volcano I was in contact with the center of the earth water air earth and fire all the elements were gathered. thousands of years of tropical rain had forged this magnificent landscape. As I was walking through the canyons I was thrown deep into the incredible story of the island formation scratches were part of my daily number of little inconveniences to which I payed little attention. but when one of them started to swell and I couldn’t even bend my finger, I started getting concerned. Aaaaaïïïeueeeee It was really painful. Over the phone, my doctor explained the move I had to carry out to try to stop the infection. In 24 hours, if it doesn’t look like it’s better, I go to the hospital it will take me between five and ten days until I can reach the first hospital that they can do something for me. then… you know I don’t have to wait too long if the infection doesn’t stay really in the hand it can go up to the to the arm and goes into the blood and it can do a general infection and if I have a general infection, it’s my life which is in danger and I don’t want to die I’m not scared to that but if I can do something against, I will, you know On Tofua, it rains nearly every day. Since some time now my roof had proven itself to be waterproof so, well protected, I waited for the rain to stop and was leaving my hand a rest. There is nothing really special to do this is the kind of day you have to learn to do nothing. then I do nothing. the next morning, when I arrived at the trap it was a nice surprise to see it wasn’t covered anymore. It was a baby pig a female surely its mother passed next it but the little one fell inside. You know what, I made such a big hole, just for you small pig like you I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it but I certainly wasn’t going to leave it to die here alone a few days later, when my finger was better I decided to continue looking for Captain Cook’s cave. When the Tongan brought me to the island they had shown me where it was this time, luck was on my side. I could feel certain vibrations and I had the feeling I had finally found it In my garden the plants were making me happier and happier here is one and here another one very small who just started I’m really happy and I made it with my little hands and that’s the result Normally when I go walking, the pig follow me but today I am doing a quite a big walk and the pig follow me but it follow me just for one kilometer something like this and after it goes in the bush and start to hide and for me takes me maybe two hours to to take the pig back. and after I have to carry it and the pig doesn’t like to be carried then is shouts and to carry a pig to carry a pig for two hours three hours like this shouting is not possible. and it’s very noisy, a pig and that why next time I will buid a little cage in front of my house to put the pig because… you lurn how to be patient… this for two hours now ! Horrible !!! Each day, the island was full of surprises. From waving my machete around I ended up cutting some strange vine. yeah it’s coming yeah for sure it takes a little bit more time than to drink water in our countries but… at least we have water and here and we have time It’s very good it’s a little bit sweet When I go in the forest is really important to have a this because the there is not many coconut around and I need to drink Since I’m on Tofua, it’s really the first time I see this big waves crashing it’s very big waves. There it’s the place I go for fishing today the waves are like 10m higher It looks like the beginning of a storm or I don’t know oh la la ! Big waaaaaave it’s really amazing Seeing the storm coming in, I wondered if my heart was going to survive the waterproof ability is one thing but there were other issues to consider like the roof flying away or a coconut tree falling on it. I have to get my solar panel out of there. The next morning, coming back to the same spot there was nothing left. the ocean had taken everything away. in the evening the wind had become even stronger and by nightfall my ordeal really began. The cracking noises were pretty scary but the worst was when the wind turned. The rain hit me straight in the face there were no place to hide anymore. I was soak… Hi everybody Now the morning starts to come again which it’s very good because most of the night, I didn’t sleep I could not see around me and I didn’t know what happened but I could hear a thunderstorm thunder lightning many noises, thunderstorm, thunder, lightnings and everything. I slept a little bit but every time I was falling asleep something wake me up again very short night now I’ll not be today’s coming again because I start to be able to see again what happened, it’s important New day, new day I’m happy because my shelter is still on that’s good This is the thing I use to clean in front of my house I decided to do a two path in front of my house. I know it’s not very useful to do these paths because every day I have to do it again because the leaves from the trees are falling down a lot and I need to do it again but then I have something else to do because sometimes, the time here sometime it’s very long, then I don’t know what to do. I also had to put my solar system back together Apparently there is no mistake it is fully charging I was not sure that the adaptator was working because of all the humidity was with the storm maybe I thought it was he was broken but it still work and it looks like it works good. But there were casualties from the storm anyway. at first sight everything looked okay. the sugarcane had grown as well as the onions and the taro the watermelons however didn’t make it. they were rotten it was terrible everything was destroyed I drove my affliction in a new artisanal project I’m quite happy because now I have a bench. sometimes it’s hard here to get the motivation but today I woke up and I said yeah cool I’m gonna do the bench and now in the evening I have a bench I have my bench I’m happy. I was close to the end of my adventure soon Gael will arrive to help me adjust back to a social life and get ready to go back home. so I started scanning the horizon. in this world nothing can be taken for granted. Baby had a bad surprise in store for me as usual got out of the pan but this time, she disappeared. Today I went in the island, maybe 500 meters this way, 500 meters the other way I tried to find her but… The island is too big you can look for how long you want… it was not possible to find her. but at least I tried. When I cought her in the hole I did she was something like three weeks old maximum was very small I had to feed her the best I could and after one week she started to eat by herself that was a great victory for me I feel like like parents who need to let the kids go out. and if it was her decision to go back into the nature and split with me and start doing her life again in the wild it’s her decision I’m happy with it and now she’s gone I have no trouble around my shelter. I’m missing a little bit this… I mean you know, it’s part of the game. I just hope everything is okay for her. and if one day before I leave she wants to come back to say hello I’d be very happy Gael’s arrival meant the end of my solitary life and that truly revived my energy. I wanted to show him everything and when it think it back I tell myself it was something incredible. it’s very nice because since Gael arrived I can start to eat again like the food I used to eat in Switzerland and here there is dry meat and and cheese and it’s paradise of Nirvana Christmastime One of Gael’s first challenges was finding his way through the forest Eh, Gael, where is the path ? During a little other two weeks, I tried to share my experience of the nine last months with my friend fishing the volcano I told him everything my joice my sorrow my loneliness The final departure was closing in. There was one more task to accomplish before leaving the island When I put the box in the hole, I stopped the time and what I realize now is that even if I wanted to stop the time the time is still running but you don’t have the same perception and for me it was important always to know what was the day And I know that every experience has a beginning and has an end. and when the experience start when the adventure start You always have to push forward, forward and in the end, you have to accept that you have quit all this. And it’s part of the game to quit all and to go back to the life I had before. when I came here I didn’t know anything about this place anything and now I can say after nine months and a half I feel home yep I feel home

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