Monday, 17 October 2011
Sunday, 21 August 2011
We were unable to get on a ferry to our next stop, Moorea. We discovered we were travelling on a holiday weekend and everything was chock-a-block. In the end we flew Air Tahiti which was a quick half hour hop with wonderful aerial views over the islands.
Only in Moorea for 24 hours, we rented a car and toured the island. First we had to find somewhere to spend the night and our hearts sank when we stopped at the first 3 or 4 pensions and hotels to find them fully booked. Luck was with us when we found space at Fare Maorina in Haapiti. A rainy afternoon curtailed our sightseeing on Monday but we enjoyed listening to some live jazz that evening at a restaurant on beach. The sun was shining on Tuesday and we were able to see the breathtaking views from Belvedere of deep bays and dramatic mountain ranges.
A fast catamaran took us across to Tahiti where checked into Pension at Punaauia. It was quite a contrast to be on such a populous, busy island. We went souvenir hunting in Papeete – a difficult task as everything is so expensive – and managed to find some goodies for the family and a few things for ourselves. I am now the proud owner of a stunning necklace of black Tahitian pearls (an early birthday present!).
We hired a car again and embarked on another round the island tour. Not impressed by the limited views from the coastline road I suggested taking a cross island route through the Papeno’o Valley. It took us through breathtaking scenery of high mountains running with a multitude of waterfalls, rich vegetation, river fords and no sign of habitation. As we progressed to the centre of the island, the road deteriorated and our little Peugeot was struggling with the rough terrain. We pressed on, ignoring signs warning against the road being only suitable for 4 wheel drive vehicles, feeling we were now too far along to turn back. Somehow we made it to the other end but it took all day and was slow progress as we had to construct ramps of stones to enable the car to make it over some of the ridges and ditches; at one point we had to jack it up to move forward.
The whole experience was made more stressful because we were due to return the car at the airport that evening and fly to London! It was dark by the time we reached the south of the island and we found a chain across the road and a local family was demanding 2,000 Polynesian Francs (about 16 Euros) for us to pass. Apparently the road crossed private land at this point but there was no warning sign for anyone approaching from our direction. We pleaded with the family for sympathy to our plight but they wouldn’t relent and we had to pay.
Somewhat exhausted we boarded our Air Tahiti Nui flight to Los Angeles where we enjoyed a great lunch at the wacky Encounter Restaurant at LAX. Then we flew on to London with Air New Zealand having covered about 9000 miles. We are now adjusting to the 10 hour time difference but enjoying a warm and happy reunion with the family. We will return to Irony in Trinidad at the beginning of October after spending September in Ibiza.
Future news and pictures will be posted on our usual blog site: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/irony/
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
We were unsuccessful getting a ship to Huahine on Thursday; the Taporo was full and we had to get the Hawaiki Nui the next day. We spent our extra night on Bora Bora at Chez Robert & Tina, a pension on the very southern tip of Matira Point with panoramic views from our balcony of the lagoon.
On one of our journeys to the quay on the local transport (a kind of open truck with seats in the back) Nic struck up a conversation with a French economist and found out some interesting information about how French Polynesia works. Apparently 60% of the population are unemployed but everyone receives a “salary” (guilt payment for the decades of nuclear testing) and is able to live extremely well. We have been impressed by the quality of the houses here (not the shacks seen in the Caribbean) the multitude of impressive private gardens (not usually evident in the third world), the number of new vehicles on the remotest, tiniest islands and the prevalence of toys such as outrigger canoes. It would seem the French population is largely unaware of how much money is paid in subsidies to this area. Additionally, French civil servants receive 3 times their normal salaries in “hardship” pay to come and work here; needless to say it’s a popular posting. Sadly the whole set up makes these island incredibly expensive to visit (especially in comparison to somewhere like Thailand) and the economist said that Polynesian culture in the process of being destroyed as no one feels the need to work anymore.
The Hawaiki Nui was a fascinating experience although rather slow, taking a day to reach Huahine about 60 miles away. The quayside at 7am was bustling with passengers and people ready to pick up their incoming produce and supplies. When the ship docked we watched the seamless operation of unloading containers and palettes by a multitude of small forklift trucks racing in all directions with no obvious supervision and certainly none of the worry about safety that one would see in Europe. At 11:30, once the ship had re-loaded, we joined the other passengers on the top deck where most of the locals set up camp in a central area on mats and blankets with their picnics. The views leaving Bora Bora were spectacular and it was interesting to see both Tahaa and Raiatea on our next two stops.
It was after sunset when we arrived at the small quayside of Fare on Huahine. We managed to hitchhike to our pension, Chez Henriette, and were lucky to have a patient driver because it was very difficult to find in the dark. We had our own little fare with a kitchen, basic but clean and sweetly decorated with lots of coloured materials. The next day we hired a car and moved to Pension Te Nahe Toe Toe in Parea, further south. We are now installed in a gorgeous thatched bungalow overlooking the beach and will stay here until we island hop to Moorea on Friday. There are communal cooking facilities in the garden and we have free use of kayaks and bicycles.
Human habitation on the island dates back 1300 years and a number of marae (chief’s encampment) have been found and restored here, easily seen at Maeva. They are made up of stepped coral stone platforms that served as raised seats for the gods; there are also ancient stone fish traps in the river. We stopped in Faie and saw the sacred blue-eyed river eels which congregate under the bridge; legend credits them for bringing fresh water to the village. They were surprisingly large, very similar to morays, and plentiful.
So we are happily settling into island life, facing the difficult choice of how to amuse ourselves each day in paradise and feeling very privileged to be here.
Thursday, 4 August 2011
An overnight sail took us across to the next and largest archipelago of French Polynesia, the Society Islands which include Tahiti. We arrived in Bora Bora, the pearl of the South Seas, on 1st August and sailed through the Te Ava Nui pass marvelling at the luminously turquoise waters of the island’s famous lagoon which even gave a remarkable blue hue to the clouds above. The spectacular colours and dramatic scenery here are a testament to Bora Bora’s popularity.
Our first stop was at Vaitape, the main “town”, not the heaving tourist centre we expected although much busier than anything we have seen in the Marquesas or Tuamotus. We anchored for the night off Toopua Motu in what can only be described as “cruisers’ corner” but a gorgeous spot with a view of the striking Otemanu summit and perfectly situated to watch sunset across the reef.
On Wednesday we departed Spiip and will spend the next couple of weeks island hopping down to Tahiti. We couldn’t have been more fortunate with our first pension, Chez Nono on beautiful Matira beach. We have a lovely thatched hut built out over the water, incredibly romantic and the perfect place to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. Our champagne lunch of a delicious baguette, cheeses and salamis overlooking the white sand beach will be one to remember
Today we rented bicycles and made the 32km circuit of the island. The road is pretty flat and well-paved and winds its way around the jagged shoreline. Once again we were impressed with the effort the Polynesians put into their beautiful gardens; they have a wonderful sense of the aesthetic. Flowers are everywhere and even the woman at the check out in little supermarket in town was wearing a fresh flower wreath in her hair.
Tomorrow we are hoping to take the cargo ship, Taporo, to a neighbouring Huahine. Somewhat different to a super yacht but it should be fun as it’s the local mode of transport between islands. It’s not possible to buy a ticket in advance so we have to be there when it arrives to secure one of the 12 places available for passengers.