Huahine, Raitaia & Bora Bora
I’ve written an article for the Westerly Owners Association magazine which included a report on Raitaia and Bora Bora so I’m posting it on the website for you to read. I’ll leave it at the top for a day or two before correcting the date.
We sailed overnight to Huahine, the least touristy of the Society Islands, and anchored close to the village of Fare just inside the reef. Hiring a car for the day with two American friends we were able to explore the island and visit the famous archaeological site of the royal Maeva, seat of the island’s eight chieftains. The backdrop of a beautiful blue lagoon enhances this interesting collection of aligned stone slabs, paving and terraced platforms.
Driving on to visit the village of Faie, home to a colony of sacred eels; an amazing sight as they wriggled out of the holes in the bank of the river for the fish food we bought to feed them. Some were more than a metre long and came right up out of the water to eat. One of our days was used to explore the reef behind us that had some beautiful coral and lots of fish.
The next island we sailed to was Raiatea. Mooring on the main town quay of Uturoa was easy and it turned out to be a nice town with some good shops and an excellent market. It was great to get away from the normal tourist centres to discover a more remote and enjoyable South Pacific. The pace of life was getting much slower.
Raiatea shares a transparent lagoon with its neighbour and sister island, Tahaa. We Motored across the lagoon and picked up a buoy outside the Turtle sanctuary. While in French Polynesia we heard that our beloved spaniel Nike had died. Our goodbyes had all been said before leaving but it was still hard to accept. We wanted to do something to commemorate him and decided to ‘buy’ a turtle. The turtles are rescued from local fishermen and nursed back to health. When they are ready to release back in the wild they are tagged and measured and ‘sold’. One was a beautiful reddish brown, the same colour as Nike, so we chose that one and called him Nike. We took him out to one of the islands that surround the lagoon to release him; it was a very emotional moment. Nike lives on.
Tahaa is known as the Vanilla Island. The potent pods of this orchid species produce 80% of the famous Tahitian vanilla. Joining a tour with some other cruisers it was explained how the flowers are pollinated and the pods are selected for quality and dried. The aroma of vanilla was intoxicating. On the north west corner of the lagoon surrounding Tahaa was the most amazing snorkel site. It was very shallow so care was needed but the colours of the coral and the amount of fish life was amazing. We anchored off the site for several days watching the sun go down over Bora Bora each evening and pinching ourselves to make sure it was not just a dream, being surrounded by such beauty.
Our standing rig had further problems in French Polynesia, which may have been a result of the jury rig we had to set up after our lower shroud broke on the way to the Galapagos Islands. During a routine rigging check Bill discovered a loose strand of wire close to one of the upper terminals of the lower shrouds, which meant that all three had to be replaced before we could put to sea again. They had to be sent for from Tahiti both delaying us and preventing us from continuing on with the rally for the time being. We took Camomile carefully back across the lagoon to a small marina on the other side of the island of Raiatea. While waiting for the rigging to arrive Bill unpacked our bikes for the first time since the Caribbean. We “enjoyed” several bike rides around the island one of which was 60kms long though when invited onto an Australian boat for drinks that same evening I took my soft cushion to sit on! After a week the rigging turned up but unfortunately the upper terminals were the wrong shape and Bill had to spend a further day modifying them. Finally they were fitted and Camomile was safely able to set out for Bora Bora.
We were disappointed with Bora Bora; it’s very commercialised and expensive. It was a day sail from Raiatea and we picked up a buoy at the Bora Bora yacht club. The lagoon is a dazzling blue with beautiful coral reefs but the surrounding ‘motus’ were all covered by hotel complexes with over water bungalows, many of which have closed down during the recession and the main town of Vaitape mostly consisted of shops selling tourist tat or they were empty.
We cycled around the island and enjoyed lunch at ‘Bloody Mary’s’ where the film stars eat and drink. Despite the wall being covered in photos of ‘celebrities’ eating there we didn’t see any one famous.
The weather was not kind to us during our stay in Bora Bora, there were several rainy days then it closed in on us, predicting high winds and steep seas for our 2 week passage to Fiji. Although the main rally were well ahead of us now, three other rally boats who were also behind caught us up and, together with three Australian boats, we formed the ‘Tail End Charlie’s’ rally. During our 10 day stay we celebrated two birthdays and a 40th Wedding Anniversary at the yacht club within our little group. On the day of the Anniversary we had planned a barbeque at the Yacht club but rain threatened again. It was suggested that we call it off but with true British grit we continued to barbeque in the rain, I think the Aussies thought we were mad! The usual round of conversations about the weather took place every day until finally on 22nd June a window opened up and we could get away.
Our time in French Polynesia was really enjoyable but it was over all too quickly. The lagoons were bluer than we imagined but the weather wasn’t as good as we had hoped for. The people were very friendly and welcoming; we have a lot of good memories.