Monday, July 22, 2013

Bora Bora, baby

By Nicole

After leaving Moorea and its cuddly stingrays behind, we bounced through the rest of the Society Islands, pinball style, quickly hitting the islands of Huahine and Tahaa before settling in on Bora Bora.

DSC_5907Looking back at Motu Toopua and the peaks of Bora Bora from the lagoon

The island, an extinct volcano fringed by a barrier reef and a handful of motus, is actually quite small – just 32 km around. And as it turns out, that’s the perfect distance for a bike ride. Spurred on by Mark from s/v Compass Rosey, we rented bikes and peddled our way around Bora Bora.

P7041140Circumnavigating Bora Bora by bike … the ideal way to see the island and meet a few locals.

P7041129Aaron poses with the powdered sugar sand and turquoise water off Matira Point

P7041123Consider Bora Bora conquered!

P7041131One of Bora Bora’s craggy peaks

P7041136We parked our bikes and walked down a short trail to this gorgeous overlook

So we’re riding along when we spot this blue cooler sitting on the side of the road. The sign taped to the front advertised iced coconuts for 200 francs (about $2US). Being that it was a warm day (and that we love coconut anything), we turned our bikes around and skidded to a stop. A family – dad, mom, son and a passel of dogs – came hurrying over from their house next door. We turned over the cash, and the dad hacked the top off a chilled coconut and inserted a bendy straw into the hole. The icy cold coconut water was slightly fizzy and incredibly refreshing. Gotta love a coconut break.

P7041142Iced coconuts? Yes, please!

P7041144Oh, yeah. That’s tasty.

Once we’d finished sucking down a liter or two of coconut water, we handed our now-empty coconuts back to the dad. He expertly sliced them open with a huge knife and scraped out the thick, sweet layer of coconut meat for us. So, so good. In the process of removing Mark’s coconut meat from the husk, a few prime pieces accidentally fell on the ground (where the dogs ate them). We weren’t worried about it, but they wanted to make sure we got what we paid for. So the dad grabbed two new coconuts and proceeded to fill a bag for us with the delicious coconut meat. While we were waiting, the mom ran off into the house and sliced up a fresh mango for us to snack on! How nice is that?




P7041147Aaron eating some coconut jelly with a spoon

P7041152Happy girl with a bag (and belly) full of coconut

P7041164We couldn’t resist stopping at a roadside maritime museum

P7041163Admiring the tanbark sails. Wait, is that Bella Star?

Ever since I first spotted them for sale in the Marquesas, I’ve wanted to buy a Polynesian pareo. It always felt a little touristy, so I resisted … until we rode past this woman selling hand-crafted pareos from her house.

P7041173The artisan (and her cute kid) showing us how she makes the pareos. First the white cloth is soaked in water, then it’s transferred to the white tubs (on the right), each full of a different color of dye. Think “tie dye.”

P7041174The dyed cloth is placed on a table to dry in the sun. Meanwhile, cut-outs of words, flowers, turtles, geckos and other images are placed on the damp cloth. The dye is absorbed by the cut-out material and voila!

P7041177Pareos blowing in the breeze

P7041178Decisions, decisions. I could’ve spent a good 30 minutes looking at all the designs, but I had two boys in tow.

P7041181So I picked this one and got lessons on how to wear it.

We were starving by the time we made it back to town (especially Mark, despite the fact that he stopped for two ice cream breaks along the way), so we grabbed baguette sandwiches at a little lunch spot. Right next door was an arcade, and the guys couldn’t pass up an opportunity to play foosball.

P7041190Mark hustling Aaron in the arcade (Aaron wants a rematch)

Oh yeah, and it was the Fourth of July! So that night, we took a mooring outside Bloody Mary’s restaurant and splurged on an delicious seafood dinner. Despite the fact that there were only three Americans and no fireworks, we still had a great time. Sand floors and a flip-flop check (no one needs a coat here) made it all the more fun.

DSC_5861Local canoe race in front of the Bloody Mary’s dock

P7041191Arm shot! On our way to dinner at Bloody Mary’s restaurant for the 4th of July.

P7041200The restaurant has pictures of all the famous (and moderately famous) people who’ve dined there.
This one was my favorite.

So, okay, we’d done the relatively easy bike ride around the island, hugging the base of the volcano. Now it was time to venture inland for a little hiking. Rising over 2,000’, Bora Bora’s peaks tower over the lagoon below and provide an impressive backdrop from any vantage point on the island.

DSC_5902How could we resist?

Sure the sign says that we’re strongly advised to hike with a guide, but where’s the adventure in that?! Besides, we read that a guide would cost over $120US, so we decided to go it alone. How hard could it be? Well, let’s just say that the goats who first trampled this trail didn’t believe in switchbacks. So, yeah, that basically means the trail goes from sea level to 2,000’ feet in a hurry. Going up was one thing, but coming down … holy quad workout! I’m still sore a week later. :)

DSC_5870The trail started out easy, with a saunter through a banana grove

DSC_5872Green bananas

DSC_5879 But the trail quickly turned into a Bravo-style, four-paw scramble up tree roots and rock walls with a few strategically placed ropes along the way. This is the only picture we got during the hike, since our hands were a little busy keeping us attached to the mountain. At least we wore real shoes this time.

DSC_5880Lagoon and motu views from nearly 2,000’

DSC_5896Aaron builds a super cairn so future hikers can find their way

DSC_5890Sweaty arm shot. And look! Aaron got a haircut! From a Parisian dude with a downy-soft white poodle named Lulu who sported a glitzy pink collar and sat on my lap while the coiffeur worked his magic on Aaron’s locks.

Let’s transition to food for a minute. I’m a long-time sushi fan, but Aaron is a newcomer to the cuisine. For years I tried to get him to taste sushi, and for years I failed (“raw fish, ewww!”). But friends on s/v LightSpeed showed him the proverbial light by making us tuna rolls and sashimi when we reconnected on Hiva Oa a few months back. Lo and behold, Aaron loved it and couldn’t get enough. Which means he’s been pestering me to make sushi, like a lot. We’ve eaten sushi on Bravo a few times since Aaron’s awakening, and he came up with the clever idea to ask Cindi to give me sushi-making lessons. Our friends aboard m/v Mystic Moon joined in, and Cindi proved to be a stellar instructor … sushi night was a hit!

P7181259Sushi-making lessons aboard m/v Mystic Moon. Apparently it take the utmost concentration.

P7181257Cindi showing us how she rolls


P7181274Wine and wasabi … Mystic Moon's lovely table is set for sushi night

P7181278A prime specimen, moments before being dipped in soy and wasabi and inserted into my mouth.

Time flies when you’re having fun, and French Polynesia has been a blast. Our three-month visas are expiring, though, and it’s time to decide what’s next. We thought we had our answer – sail straight to the tiny island nation of Niue more than 1,000 miles away – but after chatting with friends and analyzing the weather, we’ve changed our minds. What? We’re allowed to do that.

Now we’re playing the waiting game, letting some super-strong winds move through so we can head to Suwarrow, a remote atoll and national park in the Cook Islands. Niue is most definitely still on the itinerary, but visiting an isolated, far-flung atoll – one with such a rich maritime history – is a rare opportunity. But we still may change our minds! Ah, the perks of cruising.

DSC_5911It’s time to head west toward that setting sun.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


By Aaron

We left Papeete for a boisterous but quick day’s sail over to Moorea and were again impressed with the beauty of French Polynesia. 

Moorea has some great hiking with rewarding vistas

We anchored in Opunohu Bay where we enjoyed our morning coffee with a proper view.

We shared the anchorage with a sailing camp for local kids that had dozens of Hobie Cats and prams out sailing every day.  They were quite good, and no doubt could teach me a thing or two about trimming a main.

The big thing to do on Moorea is feed the stingrays.  As soon as they heard our dinghy drive in to the lagoon, the line formed up for some free goodies

“SO CUTE!!!” Says Nicole.  It was all I could do to keep her from loading one up in the dinghy and bringing it home with us.


We even threw in some belly rubs for good measure.  They are super soft and cuddly.  Except for the poisonous barb part.

Of course the sharks smell the water getting chummed up and make their appearance.  Fortunately they keep a respectful 5 foot distance and don’t try to get in on the hand feeding, so to speak.

While snorkeling nearby, we discovered some Polynesian tiki artifacts!  They must have been uncovered by a storm or something and likely date back thousands of years!  Nicole says they put them there for tourists, thus crushing my amazing contribution to the archaeological community.

Cindi from Bravo inspecting a tiki… knowing these guys she’s likely checking to see if it can be lifted out and mounted on their bow pulpit along with the rest of the creepy stuff they’ve got up there.

I found Nemo.  He was a lot more angry than I expected.

We enjoyed a nice hike with Mark and Jacqui from SV Compass Rosey and got the obligatory conquering done.  Palarran is catching up fast!

Nicole and I enjoying the view.  (I have since trimmed up the mullet on Bora Bora)

Leaving the anchorage in the evening for an overnight sail to Huahine.  The forecast called for 18 knots, which is perfect for a nice relaxing downwind run.  Of course it ended up being a steady 25 with gusts to 30 and some pretty big seas.  One of those sleep on the floor kind of nights.  Good times!

Our stop on Moorea was a relatively short one.  With some big winds coming in we wanted to get further on down the road.  Too bad, in retrospect it definitely deserved more time.