Day 262, Year 1: Circumnavigating Bora Bora
Date: Thursday, July 6, 2006
Weather: Mixed Rain and Sunshine
Location: Bora Bora (Society Islands, French Polynesia)

The sun was shining this morning which made us all very happy, so we took off in the dinghy to travel all the way around the island of Bora Bora. Our first stop was in town for some French pastries, but on our way in we realized that we were headed right into the start of the one-man canoe races that are part of Heiva. The guide boats motioned for us to head to shore, which we did, but that put us in very shallow water with lots of coral heads. We had to turn off the motor and paddle our way to town carefully. That was a bit of a hassle, but we were very excited to have a front row seat for the races. There were the one-man junior and senior races, and the 12-man (actually not “man”, but vahine) race. Once the races were over we left the town dock and headed further north. We made a stop at a resort called Top Dive, which is a dive resort, in hopes of finding a guide to reef fish in the South Pacific. This was our last hope, but that book is no where to be found in French Polynesia. As we traveled on, the sunshine disappeared and we once again had rain. None of us had expected to be wearing ponchos and foul weather gear in Bora Bora, but that has been the case. With the rain came the clouds, but we could still easily see the shore. The mountains, however, were veiled in clouds. When we were about half-way around the 32-kilometer circuit, the rain stopped and sun tried hard to peek through. That made us all very happy. Once we rounded the southern tip of the island, we prepared to snorkel our way back to Windbird. I, of course, was in the dinghy but hanging over the side with my mask on. The current carried the boat faster than Mark, Mary Ellen, and Lee could swim, so once in a while, I would start the engine and back track.

The snorkeling here is just fantastic. The fish come right up to you and the water is just so very clear. We are going to try to work in two snorkels tomorrow before going out to dinner at Bloody Mary’s for Mark’s 64th birthday. Could he really be that old?!!!

We went to Monica and Felix’s boat, Makani, for sundowners before going into town for another night of Heiva competition. The other thing that is amazing here is the dancing. How people can move their bodies like these people do is simply beyond understanding. The singing and dance presentations were once again just spectacular, and the drumming and music is just wonderful. In the log for Day 259, I explained about the different types of dances. I guess I should also explain about the different types of singing. I’ll do that here and sign off for tonight.

The first himene (singings) created in the early 20th century are a sort of mixture of Polynesian traditional polyphonic singings and religious hymns brought by the first British missionaries. There are three types of himenes: 1) himene tarava is very complex and is sung by 60 to 80 singers with 6 to 10 different parts, 2) the himene ru’au is sung acapella and has a slow tempo with all singers sitting in a semi-circle facing the chorus chief, and 3)and the ‘ute which is much more light-hearted and sung by two or three people accompanied with traditional or modern instruments. Every night when we attend the Heiva presentation, we see all three kinds of himenes performed. There are only about five thousand people on this island and each town competes. The singing groups have at least 80 singers and the dance groups have at least 60. We’re not sure where all of the people are coming from. We assume that almost everyone in some of the little towns are performing, but they perform like professionals while making their culture come alive for the visitors to the island.

060706 Day 262a Circumnavigating Bora Bora in a Dinghy
060706 Day 262b Society Islands, Bora Bora–Heiva Races and Eve Performances