Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bye Bye Bora Bora & Farewell French Polynesia

Perfect sunset in Bora Bora's MaiKai Marina mooring field.
Hiva Oa, Marquesas, our first French Polynesian stop is the best smelling place I've ever had the pleasure of whiffing.

We're at the tail end of our French Polynesian sailing as our visa expires July 21st so by the time this blog posts, we will be officially checked out of the country.  We're ending our French Polynesia visit in Bora Bora.

There's a certain irony in that Bora Bora, one of most iconic places we've stopped, kind of stunk, literally.  We had the crappy luck of being downwind on two garbage pickup days in less than a week.... Lots of oh-da-fish odor further "enhanced" by baking in Bora Bora's tropical heat.  Just not what you'd expect in the land of hoity-toity $700/night over water bungalows.
Bora Bora's Mt Otemanu viewed from
an atol through Maui Jim sunglass lens.

Yet there's no denying between the towering saddle-topped Mt. Otemanu to Bora Bora's beautiful blue water-sky pallet from turquoise pool-water blue to midnight and seemingly every hue in between the island is a stunner (click here for more beautiful Bora Bora photos).

If I were asked about the snorkeling though I'd say Bora Bora falls far short of Tuamotus. Closer to the States, the US and British Virgin Islands or in the States, Hawaii (for those of us who prefer warm water) are rife with much greater density and variety of sea life and corals.

I would also pick the US and British Virgin Islands or in the States, Hawaii and the Bahamas for great walkable, swimmable beaches over the oft coral strewn and narrow beaches of Bora Bora.

While far harder to get to, the Marquesas' Fatu Hiva Bay of Virgins gets the runaway prize for most spectacular and certainly surreal anchorages.  Bora Bora's not even in the running in my book.

Bora Bora's Mt Otemanu viewed viakayak from just offshore
Viatape's Robert Wayne Pearls dock.  Nice coral.
nd yet. we would've felt we skipped a must-do if we didn't stop at Bora Bora.  

But if I had my 90 day French Polynesia visa all over again, this would be my itinerary - assuming no need to go any place to replace or fix anything broken.

  • Fatu Hiva - Bay of Virgins & Omoa (1 week)
  • Hiva Oa (but only 5-7 days, explore over land, recuperate and reprovision)
  • Tuahata - Hana No Mae (3 days swimming at least once with the manta rays)
  • Nuku Hiva - Daniel's Bay and Anaho (1 - 1 1/2 weeks)
  • skip - Ua Po and the other parts of Nuku Hiva

  • TBD - at least 1 month with a full 2 weeks in Fakarava
  • note: Tuamotus photos coming when my Mac gets resurrected in American Samoa

  • Tahiti (big city/culture fix and provisioning at Carrefour)
  • Moorea (1 week with multiple anchorages but for sure at least 3 days in Cook's Bay)
  • Huahine (at least one week for both overland and various anchorages and just to relax and provision before Tonga's passage)
  • Maupiti (TBD how much time - a week to relax before the long passage to Tonga)
  • skip Bora Bora
If you've traveled this track. what's your recommendation?

If you're yearning to make this trip, what qualities are make your "bucket list" stops?

MaiKai Marina pool; Wayne was johnsin' to check it out but
instead he humored me for an afternoon at an atoll.
Location Location
This post was written in Viatape, Bora Bora (S16.20.995 W151.45.388), our last stop before our 90 day visa expired July 21st. We stopped at a nearby atoll S16.30.314 W151.46.438 for a better view and snorkeling. By the time this posts we'll be on our way to Tonga with a stop in American Samoa and potentially Cook's Suwarrow on the way. Will set several catch-up blog posts to run while we're on passage, internet permitting.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Marvelous Motus of Maupiti

My trusty West Marine kayak was the perfect choice to reach
the motu nearest our Maupiti anchorage.  The other two kayaks
were from pension guests on that same motu.

Maupiti, one of French Polynesia’s less visited Society Islands, is ringed by protective reefs and paradise postcard little islets known as motus.  Motus are small islets that were  formed on the coral reef encircling the lagoon (click here to learn more about the difference between an island, an atoll and a motu).

This Maupiti motu has its own lagoon, u-shaped, with
the tide flowing in on one side, and out the other.
With more of a “go fast” dinghy than ours, or a second kayak, we’d have spent more time exploring Muapiti’s motus. 

We toyed with camping on a Maupiti motu, and instead were dissuaded by getting in some last minute internet before our wifi hiatus and then later by some wet, blustery weather.  Somewhere down the road we’re due for a motu all to ourselves, where we plan to work on eliminating our tan lines and enjoying sunset and sunrise from our nearby tent.

View from the Maupiti motu beach across the lagoon.
In the distance on the left is another motu, on the right
is the “mainland” of Maupiti.

Location Location
Written in Maupiti, our last stop in French Polynesia (S16.26.838 W152.14.690) and set to post while we’re underway on an 1,100+ mile passage to Pago Pago, American Samoa.  We hope to stop for some R&R at Suwarrow in the Cook Islands along the way, though we expect no wifi in that remote location.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Beer Bling for the Birthday Boy

Wayne's birthday hat and shirt from
Papeete Tahiti's Hinano clearance store.
Wayne is not the kind of guy who goes for prominent logos, and the idea of paying to advertise for someone is definitely out of character for him.

For every rule there's an exception.  

Still, I was surprised when Wayne asked me for a Hinano t-shirt for his birthday.

Cool and refereshing, Hinano is the sole locally brewed beer in French Polynesia.  There are other beers sold; Heinken the most prevalent.

There wasn't much in his sizein t-shirts at the store, and what there was wasn't suitable.  The Papeete Tahiti Hinano store is a clearance shop; no returns.  Instead, Wayne got a button-down shirt and hat.  He was a a happy birthday boy. 

... en stock de brasserie de tahiti hinano 33cl 3 50 eur la hinano
Hinano beer, made in Tahiti.

Location Location

By the time this posts we expect to be on our way to Tonga with a stop in American Samoa and potentially Cook's Suwarrow on the way. Will set several catch-up blog posts to run while we're on passage, internet permitting. When in Tahiti we stayed primarily at the city marina in Papeete  (S17.32.393 W149.34.219).

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bora Bora - Beautiful or Overblown?

View of Bora Bora's iconic saddle-shaped Mt.Otemanu
from our anchorage
.  A rare ray of sunshine on this
typically cloudy peak
We blew in to legendary Bora Bora with a 25 knot headwind on our nose and gratefully accepted a mooring ball at the amazingly affordable MaiKai Marina.  Normally, we anchor, but much of Bora Bora's lagoons are over 80 feet deep -- too deep for us to feel comfortable -- or dangerously shallow and dotted with boat--eating coral heads.

Muddy road of Bora Bora's big town of Viatape. No sidewalks.
This is the "dry season."
Locals and tourist alike dot \Bora Bora's Matira Beach.
Nice but not any more special than Bahamas or BVI beaches.
We were surprised that
  • Bora Bora is wet -- not quite what we'd seen in postcards!
  • Everything* was more expensive, more than Galapagos, Tahiti, Marquesas, Moorea (though for $50/week for a well maintained mooring ball is a killer deal in our book - Mai Kai Marina is a notable exception).
  • The paved roads were in the worst shape we've seen on any island., though we suspect it's because they're laying pipe under the road and will then repave.
  • We saw more garbage here than we've seen anywhere since Panama.
  • Community buses are all over but reserved for cruise ship passengers and school children though we've seen plenty of those busses empty.
This overlook on Bora Bora was only about 100 yards from the view below.
This is by far the best view we saw on our island scooter circumnavigation.  We hear the view from the motus which form the outside of Bora Bora's lagoon are more spectacular.

Glassy anchorage view,Bora Bora.  Good thing I took it quic
- it rained shortly after.
*Examples of Bora-flation
  • Scooters were $64 for 4 hours; it was $35 on Huahine and $64 for 24 hours on Moorea.
  • A SCUBA tank fill from Top Dive was quoted at $30; it was $5-10 every place else we asked.
  • The same pareos selling for $20 at Tahiti's market place were $27-29 in Bora Bora.
Journey, our \Pearson 365 ketch, on a mooring ball at
Boa Bora's MaiKai Marina - only $50 for a week!
We've heard great reports on hanging out on the other side of Bora Bora, away from the main island, on the motu side of Bora Bora's lagoon ringing the entire island.  Beautiful coral, colorful tropical fish and leaping manta rays.  Sadly, we were more concerned about getting our ducks in a row before we set out for our next passages, without wifi and with a chance to set up a drop of U.S. internet ordered products in American Samoa.  Still, we do find it strange that the Bloody Mary Bar makes Trip Advisor's top 5 Bora Bora picks.  Just not our kinda island.

Location Location 
By the time this posts we expect to be in Maupiti, 30 miles outside Bora Bora French Polynesia. Then it's on to Tonga with a stop in American Samoa and potentially Cook's Suwarrow on the way. Will set several catch-up blog posts to run while we're on passage, internet permitting.  Our Mai Kai marina mooring ball was at S16.20.995 W151.45.388.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Eating Orchids & Betcha You Do Too!

Vanilla flower - an orchid - in greenhouse
on Tahaa, French Polynesia.
What foodie could pass up a chance to check out an organic vanilla farm from the area that supplies the majority of vanilla for the world?

Vanilla greenhouse, Tahaa, French Polynesia.
Hand pollination is required for this vanilla crop.
Taha'a was the perfect stop to break up the passage between Huahine and Bora Bora.  Tahaa's atolls boat some great coral garden snorkeling.  But it was pouring when we were passing through and I'm a fair weather snorkeler as without good sunlight I find it hard to spot much reef life.

Closer view of  vanilla hand pollination process.
Vanilla beans ripening, slowly at a  Tahaa French Polynesian organic vanilla farm.
Taha’a is known as the "Vanilla Island" as it produces 70-80% of all French Polynesia's vanilla. While French Polynesia isn't considered one of the major volume player in the vanilla market, it's still important to Tahaa's culture and economy.  Click here to learn more about the evolution and role of vanilla in Tahaa.

Ripe vanilla beans at a Taha'a French Polynesian organic vanilla farm.
More pragmatically, sunshine is not required to enjoy vanilla, so I toured one of Tahaa's vanilla farms.

The vanilla didn't like the rain any better than I did,  Due to all the rain in this year's "dry season" current vanilla production is down 50% as compared to a good production year. 
It takes three months for ripe vanilla beans to dry.
Drying vanilla beans are hand straightened.

Nice POG )power of God) light from the mooring field
outside Hibiscus, Haamene Bay, Taha'a, French Polynesia.
Location Location

We're on our way to Tonga with a stop in American Samoa and potentially Cook's Suwarrow on the way. This is one of several catch-up blog posts to set to run while we're on passag, to American Samoa.  This post is a recent retrospective from our stop on July 14-16, 2015 on Tahaa (S16.38.713 W151.7.404).  We tied off to a mooring ball outside Hibiscus as Tahaa's Hamene Bay is very deep or far too shallow for anchoring.  The mooring ball was free though I paid a steep $30 for a round trip ride in the pouring rain from Hibiscus to the vanilla farm 7 km away.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Different - French Polynesia Steering

Boat in local dock near Fare, Huahine, French Polynesia.
Wayne noticed in French Polynesia the local motor boats don't have steering wheels.  Instead they use more of a joystick.

We've not seen this before in our travels and wonder if it will remain unique to French Polynesia.

Typical seating area for Polynesian motor boats
with joystick steering.
Location Location 
By the time this posts we expect to be in Maupiti, 30 miles outside Bora Bora French Polynesia. Then it's on to Tonga with a stop in American Samoa and potentially Cook's Suwarrow on the way. Will set several catch-up blog posts to run while we're on passage, internet permitting.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Huahine: Kodacolor Delight!

Huahine Iti view, near a large marae.
For a mere $35 we rented a scooter for a half day* island tour of Huahine, French Polynesia.

Huahine high point a little above the prior photo. 
These colors are not photo-shopped!
Surfer inspiring waves just outside Huahine's protective reef.
For play, Huahine's simple beauty, friendly locals, relaxed pace and affordability, it's our favorite French Polynesian Society Island -- over Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea.  Kind of like a really comfortable pair of well-worn jeans that fit perfectly.  If that;s up your alley more than its glitzy neighbors, check out Huahine!

A more peaceful stretch of idyllic Huahine, French Polynesia.
Photos don't quite do this Huahine spot justice!
*Our scooter rental came from the little shop to the right of the Super U grocery store in Fare, Huahine.  It wasn't as comfortable as the Puegot Tweet scooters we rented in Moorea or Bora Bora but then they were almost twice the price.

Another stunningly beautiful Huahine overlook.
Want to see more of Huahine?  Check these posts
Tiki telephone
Blue-eyed eels of Huahine
Caution - coconuts ahead in Huahine
Location Location
We anchored outside Huahine's most populous town, Fare (S16.42.943 W151.02.321) and left there this morning. We're currently in Viatape, Bora Bora (S16.20.995 W151.45.388). That will be our last stop before our 90 day visa expires July 21st (unless we slip off to Maupiti first). Then it's on to Tonga with a stop in American Samoa and potentially Cook's Suwarrow on the way. Will set several catch-up blog posts to run while we're on passage, internet permitting.