Pacific Crossing 2010-11
Huahine, Tuesday July 26th –Friday August 5th
For me the overnight from Moorea to Huahine was quite pleasant. For Roger, who was still feeling the effects of “The Cold” it wasn’t so nice. The wind varied in strength from twentyish down to twelve and swung through a variety of angles requiring several jibes. We covered the seventy-five miles by mid-morning Tuesday and headed into Passe Farerea on the east side of the Island. We took a left once inside the lagoon, heading south to anchor behind Motu Muri Mahora, a fairly large motu where a variety of farming takes place. There were more boats than we expected but still far fewer than at Moorea. Amongst our neighbors was Elbe, our Panama Canal partner. We waved from afar as they too were suffering from colds.
After a day of relaxation we headed ashore with Spirare. Within minutes we were being trailed by a sizeable group of local kids. Joanne chatted with them and was able to extract the all important location of the “Ice” vendor. We followed them as they gathered outside the kitchen window of a very elderly woman who had a freezer full of homemade flavored ices. It was a real score on a warm day. From there we were shown the trail to the top of Mt. Puhueri, all 462 meters of it. That would be a trip for another day.
Thursday morning Joanne and I decided to try our hand once again at a local bus system. We went ashore with some fairly threatening clouds scuttling overhead. I’m not sure why we persisted with our plans but we did. Our goal was to make our way to the town of Fare on Huahine Nui (the big island), about eight miles away. This required finding transportation from the little town of Tefararii on Huahine Iti (the little island) where we were anchored. As usual we were unable to locate a bus and wound up hitchhiking. We got a ride fairly quickly and in twenty minutes we were at our destination. Naturally the weather chose that moment to degenerate completely. After a quick dash down the main street we found shelter in the grocery store.
Among the curiosities we encountered in the store were Styrofoam trays (think meat department) filled with gardenia buds. These were packaged up with a covering of cling wrap and looked by the display to be selling quite well. After several months in Polynesia I knew just what these were for. The wearing of gardenia buds behind the ear or wreaths of flowers around the head is not something that’s done just for arriving tourists. On any day, for any activity the Polynesian passing you on the street may be accessorized with a flower. An outfit of flip flops, a pareo, a t-shirt and “la tiara” behind the ear is commonplace. Men as well as women sport these wonderfully scented beauties. The tray of gardenia buds was for those whose backyard gardenia bush was not able to provide enough flowers for their Sunday go-to-church leis or perhaps the decoration for the alter . The most impressive flower adornments are the crowns. Each is carefully woven out of an exotic array of blossoms and greenery. They are not just for special occasions folks. You can even sport them at the veggie market. The wearing of flowers is a lovely tradition that every country should adopt. Plant your gardenia today.
After buying all we thought we could reasonably transport home via as yet undetermined transportation we made our way outside. The weather was no better. Lunch in a covered restaurant was in order. Café Mahi Mahi was perfect. We spent a leisurely amount of time eating giant lunches and watching exotic soap operas on the big screen behind the bar. When the rain showed no signs of abating and our prospects of getting home without drowning looked grim we got lucky. Joanne explained our plight to the woman who ran the restaurant and she suggested we throw ourselves on the mercy of the couple three tables over. It turns out that the couple, with their two year old grandson, lived at the very southern tip of Huahine Iti. After running a few errands they would be pleased, they said, to drive us home. Hurray! After a quick, dry trip south we were graciously deposited at the Tefararii quai. Grandmother gave us each a mango and a hug. We had successfully completed another cruiser outing.
Friday was hike day. We headed ashore with Joanne and Serge as well as David and Leslie, guests of the French boat Tara. The six of us headed down the road to the trailhead. In the process we picked up two strays, Marama and Jacques, local kids who wanted to go along. Once we were assured that permission had been granted we were on our way. A bulldozer had recently made its way up the trail to drag some timber down so there was a fair bit of mud involved in the hike’s lower stage. Before too long the allure was gone for the boys and they headed back down to the village. After much longer than expected we reached the mountain’s top and its spectacular views of both sides of the Island. The trip was well worth the effort. As we squished homeward on the village road in our muddy shoes our posse of kids returned. They enjoyed pointing out the various fruits that grew by the side of the road and presented us (via Marama’s Dad) with three giant hands of bananas as a sendoff. Before we headed back to the boats Marama and Jacques got several high speed dinghy rides which they thoroughly enjoyed.
Sunday we went for our first snorkel since the Tuamotus. The coral on the east side of Huahine wasn’t in great shape but the drift through the lagoon was still enjoyable. The current was strong enough that we flew like supermen above the bottom. The fish were beautiful as always.
Monday, August 1st we headed back out the Farerea Passe and around the north end of Huahine to visit the west side of the Island. As we entered the Avamoa Passe on the northwest side we saw a boat we recognized. Quicksilver had arrived from Moorea. We were very happy to see them.
We spent our first several days on the west side anchored at the southern tip in a spot called the Baie d’Avea. It was a very lovely anchorage which probably explained the six charter boats anchored nearby. They were the first we had seen in recent memory. We walked around the southernmost point of the Island to the village of Parea where we managed to locate the flavored ice vendor before making our way home.
Our second stop on the west coast was at a place called Hana Iti. This stop was recommended by a family friend who had lived on Huahine for several years. Hana Iti or “small bay” in Tahitian was the name of a resort which existed on this peninsula in the mid-nineties. The architecturally exotic spaces were developed by a wayward American and catered to the rich and famous during its brief existence. After three years of flying high the whole place was wiped out by a cyclone in a matter of minutes. The location is spectacular. Access from the land side is a fairly time consuming affair so most of those who come do so by boat. There is a lovely little sand beach fronting the bay and looking out toward the Island’s encircling reef. The hilly interior is loaded with fruit trees and exotic flowers. The ruins of the resort have for the most part been swallowed by the lush growth. Philip, the caretaker, showed us around the property. He pointed to where the restaurant, the pool and the tennis courts had been. Not a stick to be seen. Only at the lofty overlook could we see the remnants of some stone steps. After two days we tore ourselves away but not before being loaded down with more gift Pamplemousse. It was a beautiful stop.
Raiatea &Tahaa, Saturday August 6th – Friday August 12th
After one swirly night anchored in Huahine’s largest village, Fare, we headed out the passé and west twenty miles to the sister islands of Raiatea and Tahaa. These islands share the same encircling reef and lagoon and are separated by a bank of coral which can be navigated. We had a great downwind sail with the whisker pole up and made the Irihu Passé on the eastern side of Raiatea by mid-day and anchored behind the reef across from the Baie Opoa. On Sunday August 7th we went ashore to see the Marae Taputapuatoa, one of the most important religious sites in Polynesia. Amazingly enough the power of the Polynesian priests reached its zenith in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The timeframe seemed unlikely for such a primitive looking place. In the afternoon we sailed inside the lagoon down to the south end of the island, anchoring behind Motu Nao Nao. We and Spirare enjoyed a dinner aboard Quicksilver. On Monday Serge, Roger and I went for a drift snorkel in front of the Motu. The coral was in reasonable shape and the fish were plentiful and lovely. I was making the most of the GIANT guide to tropical fish I bought in Papeete even if it was mostly in French.
On Tuesday we were on the move again. This time we made our way inside the lagoon to the west side of Raiatea to anchor north of Motu Toamaro. The anchorage was beautiful white sand with a spectacular mountain backdrop. Being on the west side we were also able to catch our first glimpse of Bora Bora in the distance. In the afternoon we snorkeled Toamaro Passe. Despite the unhappy looking coral the fish were amazing. There was a nice wall and in the depths we were able to see several spotted eagle rays. On the shelf there was a wonderful array of sea life from moray eels to giant clams. It was a great snorkel and my fish guide got a workout.
On Wednesday we left Spirare and headed to the north end of Raiatea. We wanted to top up our fuel tanks and the conditions seemed right for what was purported to be a tricky fuel dock. Happily the wind was under fifteen knots and all went smoothly. We headed across the Grand Banc Central to the Baie Apu on the south end of Tahaa and picked up a mooring at the Taravana Yacht Club. Sadly the restaurant had recently closed and we wound up having to pay for the mooring ball instead of getting it free with dinner. In hindsight I’m not sure it was worth it given that we bumped into the French boat next to us at ten p.m. There’s nothing like standing naked on the bow trying to extricate your bowsprit from the dinghy davits of your neighbor. On this particular occasion I was glad I didn’t understand a lot of French. In the dark we moved to another mooring and I spent the night in the cockpit watching our stern swing back and forth by the side of a big catamaran docked nearby. Strangely enough the French boat left at the same time we went to pick up a new mooring. Did we both think we were at fault? We’ll never know. Moorings seem like an easy solution at the end of a long day but are often a misery. After two more days around Tahaa we waved goodbye and headed for Bora Bora.
Bora Bora, Saturday August 13th –
Sadly there was no wind to speak of for our short hop to Bora Bora. Nonetheless we enjoyed watching the silhouettes of Mounts Otemanu and Pahia grow in stature as we approached. They are truly something to be seen. We entered Passe Teavanui by two p.m. and dropped the anchor west of Motu Toopua soon after. The lagoon was gorgeous and there was plenty of room to anchor despite a fair number of boats. We spent the night under a full moon surrounded by the glowing sand and purple smudges of coral below us.
Bora Bora was possibly our last stop in French Polynesia. If we decided to skip Maupiti and Mopelia we would soon be heading out of the baguette zone. On Monday we headed into town and picked up a mooring at the Mai Kai Yacht Club. The Club was relatively close to downtown and we spent several days walking and biking around the Island. It seems that Bora Bora is a victim of its beauty. When it was first “discovered” by well to do vacationers, hotels sprung up along its shores. As more tourists arrived things probably got a bit hectic and new, more secluded hotels were built on the motus, or small islands, which are part of the fringing reef. Tourism being what it is, economic booms and busts took their toll. The original hotels, located on the main Island, faded and closed. The bulk of the tourists now seem content to stay out on their Motus while shops and restaurants on the big island languish. Despite that we have found the locals to be friendly and helpful.
One day while I was picking up our wet (too expensive to get it dried) laundry, Roger waited for me in the dinghy. By the time I returned he had struck up a conversation with a group of young paddlers gathered at the end of the dock. “I’ve secured you a va’a ride” he beamed. A fellow whose name meant “the King” in Tahitian passed me his paddle and sent me off into the bay. It was only a brief spin but one I had been longing for since we first arrived in the Marquesas. The boat was long and light and effortless to paddle. The most difficult part was changing sides with the paddle. Canoeists will snicker at this but as a kayaker it is a new skill for me. After my trip around the immediate neighborhood I returned King’s boat in one piece having accomplished one of my fondest Polynesian desires.
One Polynesian experience I decided I could live without was the climbing of Mt. Pahia. Bright and early Friday morning the 19th several crews, headed by Reality, headed up the trail. Joanne and I waved goodbye to the group and turned around after a nice twenty minute walk. Back at the bottom we met an angry gendarme who pointed to the sign that said “Guide Strongly Advised”. Ask any cruiser and they would say “but not required.” Joanne tried to explain this to the upset fellow but he’d have none of it. Happily there wasn’t much he could do since he was about a half hour behind. Our climbers were in the clear.
Roger returned home in one piece seven hours later with descriptions of cliffs and ropes and sliding down on his bottom. He did have a grin on his face though.
After the hike we moved around to the east side of the island and anchored in the southeast corner of the lagoon. It was a beautiful anchorage. Unfortunately after dark all of the resorts on the motus were lit up like Christmas trees. I had the sense that I was on the hook off of the Jersey shore (without the roller coasters of course.) By Monday we thought we could see a weather window to Suwarrow. It was time to head back to town to do some final provisioning and update the log FINALLY! We had a sad parting with Spirare who was taking a slightly different path to the same destination of Tonga. We had spent several enjoyable months together and with luck we’d see them again soon.
Our time in French Polynesia was relaxing and vacation-like. Now it was time to get back to the business of sailing. We were off to the Cook Islands.
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