Day 242, Year 1: Yesterday’s Tour of Moorea—The Details
Date: Friday, June 16, 2006
Weather: Still Sunny and Beautiful
Location: Cook’s Bay, Moorea (Society Islands, French Polynesia)
This is the continuation of yesterday’s log. I had promised to get the details out early in the day, but as always, one thing led to another, and that didn’t happen. So I am just including the details of yesterday’s tour with today’s log. I’ll start with the details of yesterday and get to today later in the log.
Although Bora Bora has the reputation as French Polynesia’s most beautiful island, many think Moorea should hold that distinction. Moorea has beautiful white-sand beaches, a turquoise-blue lagoon encircling it, and lush volcanic peaks that make for very dramatic scenery. And all of this is mixed with a relaxed lifestyle. There are no high-rise glass and steel hotels. The resorts are big but they fit into the landscape with their thatched-roof bungalows on the water’s edge and sometimes over the water. The island’s shape is triangular with the flat top of the triangle cut deeply by two bays. It has an encircling coral reef which forms the wide blue-green lagoon. In places the colors are very vivid from a bright turquoise blue blending into a deeper turquoise and then a bright blue. As you drive around the island, the side facing Tahiti has surfing waves rolling in over the coral reef. Tahiti is only ten miles away and at night on that side of the island, you can see all of Papeete lit up like a Christmas tree. It looks huge from here.
The road that goes all the way around the island hugs the coastline and is 59 kilometers in length. Instead of mile markers here, you have kilometer stones. These are slabs of stone with the kilometer carved into the stone. The kilometers are indicated as PK’s. I have no idea what a PD is, but I will use that terminology to indicate distance as we traveled. If you drove and didn’t stop a lot as we did, you could drive it easily in an hour. We started our trek in Paopao at the Club Bali Hai Hotel. As I have mentioned before, this resort is just a very short dinghy ride from the boat and they are very welcoming to cruisers and let us use their wharf. We rented the car in the lobby of the Bali Hai and headed north to the top part of the island. The first little town is Maharepa. It is about 4 kilometers from Paopao and since it is an easy walk from the Bali Hai, we had been there on foot before. Once we left there, however, we were in unfamiliar territory. We continued to Temae where there is a huge estuary on the coast that is being “reclaimed” and developed into a US$75 million 18-hole golf course and 150-room five-star hotel. The residents here fought this for many years, but in the end, development won. Since other hotels on the island are closing, it is hard to figure out why another bigger hotel is being built. But we all know that is the way of “progress”. Next we went past the airport and then up a hill to the Toatea Lookout across the Sea of the Moon which is the pass between Moorea and Tahiti. It was our first view of Tahiti since she was wrapped in clouds when we sailed past on arrival. The view was beautiful. You look down on the Sofitel Ia Ora Hotel which costs $780 per night to stay in one of the thatched huts over the water.
The next stop was in Vaiare. This is home to the very busy ferry terminal connecting Papeete, Tahiti to Moorea. Cars were parked everywhere along the road and in a large parking area. It reminded us of the ferry terminal on the Cape going to Martha’s Vineyard. There is a marina in Vaiare, so we stopped to check out the local boats. There is also a large supermarket there, so we stopped to check that out. We bought bread and cheese and had this as an early lunch in the parking lot. Then it was on to the next town of Afareaitu. This is located at PK10. The views of the lagoon from here were really beautiful. There is a small motu, Motu Ahi, out on the reef here and the views of the lagoon with its turquoise waters were just beautiful. We were supposed to stop and visit Tahitian Gold here. We understood this to be a vanilla plantation and processing plant that produces some of the best vanilla in the world. Unfortunately, it is no longer in production here. We were told Tahitian Gold is now in Tahiti. This part of the coast of Moorea reminded us of the west coast of Florida prior to the development of high rises. This, of course, was only true when we looked out over the water. When we looked inland at the towering mountains, we no longer had that “Florida” feeling.
We were now driving through tiny little villages and coconut plantations. At PK24 in the town of Haapiti, we visited the twin-towered Eglise de la Sante Famille built in 1891. This was once the head church of the Catholic mission on the island. The setting was idyllic, but were were not able to go inside the church. By this time we had rounded the bottom of the island and started up the west coast. There is an anchorage here for boats entering the Matauvau Pass and surfer waves out on the reef. Beautiful place. We stopped at Linareva’s Floating Restaurant, Le Bateau, to have a cold drink and enjoy the views. It was a really unique little restaurant in a floating boat at the end of a long pier. You could watch the tropical fish swimming in the water as you walked out to the restaurant. Just a couple of kilometers further on, we could tell that we were entering a more developed area. We passed the Tiki Village Theater which is like a miniature Disney Polynesian World and then we saw this huge cement Tahitian warrior beside the road and a big sign that said Painapo (Pineapple) Beach. We just had to stop and check this out and we were very glad that we did. Pineapple Beach is a restaurant and the thatched roof hut with all of the tables was a beautiful replica of a traditional house structure. We met the owner who welcomed us to paradise and then went down by the beach. There was an older man sitting on the beach weaving the strands of coconut fiber into beautiful little rings. He said someone was coming to the restaurant for their 50th wedding anniversary and wanted rings for all the guests as favors. He was wearing a ring that was a black pearl woven into the braided coconut fiber. I loved it and we tried to find a way to meet with this man again so I could bring him a pearl and have it woven into a ring. He said he would be heading to Papeete soon for the month long Hieva celebration and I will try to find him there. He spoke very good English and explained that his name was Bozoo-not like the clown but indicating a beautiful small boat.
Next we came to the northwest coast of the island where most of the hotels and small tourist shops are located. The town here is called Tiahura. We had been here with the Quantum Leap crew a couple of days ago, so we were familiar with the touristy feel of this part of the island. We then headed back across the top of the island, down around Opunohu Bay and back up to Pihaena at the tip of land between Opunohu Bay and Cook’s Bay. We drove past the Sheraton where we had planned to snorkel and headed first to the Distillerie de Moorea Fruit-Juice Factory. All of the juices are made with no preservatives and they make 40-proof fruit liqueurs. The nice thing about this visit was the taste-testing. They were very, very generous with tasting, giving us a full shot of each product they had to sell. I ended up buying a few bottles for gifts, and then we were off to the Sheraton. We had heard that there was great snorkeling off the beach there and we were not disappointed. This Sheraton has thatched roof huts that go quite a ways out into the lagoon and the snorkeling around them was nice. The coral was as colorful as any coral we have seen on this voyage.
The final stop of this trip was all the way back to Cook’s Bay and back to the Vaire ferry area to the grocery store. By this time it was almost 7:00 PM. We had just enough time to make our 7 o’clock reservation at Alfredo’s. We had a great time listening to Ron Falconer sing and play the dulcimer. We made the reservations so that we could hear our friend Kathleen from Quantum Leap who had been invited to join Ron for a few songs. Kathleen plays the guitar and sings and it was a great combo. By the time we got back to Windbird, we were exhausted, but we had a great day.
Today we took it slow. Mark took down all of the canvas in the cockpit to reinforce the stitching and I cleaned the stainless. That was all we did today, but it took most of the day. Tonight we went to Quantum Leap. They had invited Ron, the singer from Alfredo’s, to join a few of us tonight. We learned more about Ron’s sailing adventures and he was very helpful in giving us advice on South Pacific cruises. We are anxious to read his book, “Together Alone”.