Tantalizing Tahiti and Magical Moorea.
19th – 31st June 2018
Wow! Towering mountains, vibrant green hillsides dotted with homes, outrigger racing canoes, fast ocean going ferries and superyachts everywhere. Welcome to “This is Tahiti”.
What a contrast it is to the sleepy Tuomotus where we spent the last four and a half months. Compared to the rest of French Polynesia this island is on steroids.
A place where you can spend serious amounts of money. It’s a big chunk of reality and a real wake up call for most cruisers, us included, that we really do have a slice of paradise with the lives we lead out here. Papeete, the capital of Tahiti has cars and lots of them with erratic drivers behind the wheels. The golden arches of McDonalds have staked a claim here, the first seen since leaving Panama over 12 months ago.There is also an abundance of people, moving at the not so leisurely pace to that of the outer islands.
Throngs of tourists pour into downtown Papeete daily from international flights, ready to embark on their south pacific adventure, be that on a cruise ship or headed for a sun lounge at a ritzy hotel. A faint brown haze of pollution hangs over the island like a curtain in the sky, mind you putting it in perspective it’s certainly nothing like that of the world’s major cities, but it is evident none the less.
On the upside this is the only port of call when crossing the South Pacific between Panama and NZ where there is major retail therapy available at the drop of a hat, well stocked chandleries for purchasing boat spares and the chance to feel like a wide eyed kid again as you enter the doors of the mega supermarket chain, Carrefour.
After months of going without all of the above it’s rather confrontational, but we have slipped back into the shoes of consumer life fairly easily I must say. We both had long lists of must do’s and only a short time frame to tick off the boxes. In less than a week we’d be heading across to Moorea to participate in this year’s Tahiti - Moorea Puddle Jump Rendezvous. So rather than bore you with how we filled in our hectic week I'll jump to the fun part, The Rendezvous.
Moorea, nonstop fun.
The rally organizers had clearly done this before, in fact ours was the 13th such event to be held for those who had crossed the “puddle” leaving from either Panama or the east coast of Mexico. Included in the sign-up fee was a show bag of info for the remaining major western pacific destinations, a rally t-shirt, dockside welcome party the evening before the rally departure and a host of activities once we arrived in Moorea. We thought it was pretty good value and most made sure they got their money’s worth.
First up was the skippers briefing which was pretty ho-hum given the course was a mere straight shot of 15 miles to the finish line in Cooks Bay on Moorea.
A dockside cocktail party followed at the downtown marina in Papeete.which was way more entertaining. As dusk fell a traditional band fronted up and the drums began to rumble. After the warm up, a mini Polynesian dance show began. Randomly selected younger rally participants, we’re talking the thirtyish age group, with well oiled hips and knees were plucked from the audience and led by the professionals to the dance floor.
Old farts like us were left on the sidelines to cheer on our fellow sailors, some of whom were now turning red faced with embarrassment as they attempted to imitate the pros. Sometimes being older had it’s advantages after all. After the show a variety of drinks and nibbles were served until the supplies were exhausted. If this was anything to go by the remaining two days would be a hoot…and they were.
The morning of the big race, we made our way from the marina Taina anchorage along the channel towards the airport runway. You need a mandatory clearance from the Port Authority on VHF radio ch 12 when approaching both the eastern and western ends in either direction of travel. It’s a quirky little rule but you do get a great view as the silver birds soar over your head, After all who wants to be made famous by having their mast lopped by an arriving or departing aircraft? That would surely ruin your day big time.
As we approached the eastern threshold we were advised to hold station until an Air Tahiti landed and French Bee aircraft became airborne, then we would be cleared to proceed. We waited and waited twiddling our thumbs while the rally fleet, a mere 10 mins away and in plain sight, started the pre race maneuvers and count down until the start gun fired.
As soon as we got the OK over the radio we gunned it out of the harbour and made it to the back of the fleet just as the race started, There were 59 boats in the race and 58 of them were in front of us. Still being at the back of the fleet gives you the drive and if you are lucky the satisfaction of plucking each boat off one by one. And that’s what we did bar three boats until the wind turned fickle and eventually died altogether.
By the time the last few boats arrived in the anchorage the sun was pretty well kissing the horizon and most of the rally crews were already ashore imbibing and settling in for dinner and another dance show, neither of which disappointed.
Sunday was a full line up of activities starting at 9am with the rally outrigger canoe races. Having never paddled an outrigger it was a good thing that we were all given a brief lesson on how to do it without breaking the paddle.
Each canoe had a crew of six including four rallyers, In our case there was us and friends Chris and Elissa from Bare Feet with a local guy seated at the rear calling the shots and a budding young girl racer at the front. There were five canoes in each heat, the winners of each heat moving closer to the finals. Sadly our team ran out of puff on the down hill leg and only managed a 4th place. Believe me racing an outrigger is much harder than it looks!
After racing was done and dusted a buffet lunch was served under the shady trees of the host resort. The use of all hotel amenities was extended to the rally participants, and the kids of the fleet made very good use of the pool. Following lunch there were more activities including team relay banana races where you are handed a long stork of heavy bananas with which you run a dogleg course, coconut husking, well that ones pretty self explanatory, clean and jerk rock lifting to shoulder height, women’s rock 40 kilos and men’s 80kgs.
Then there were tug- of- wars mixed adult team events, kids teams girls v boys, traditional dance instruction for all age groups, basket weaving for the craft enthusiasts and yet another incredible dance show. To wrap up the rally, prize giving, none for team GWTW this time, group photos and a couple of speeches and that was that. It had been a fun 3 days of events and now we really needed a rest.
To watch the Video of the Rendezvous go to pacificpuddlejump.com click on link under Announcements
Time to see Moorea’s sights
First up was a drive up to Belvedere lookout with an ensuing easy-moderate hike to three pines lookout through lush forest and small streams. The view at the top was magnificent albeit a tad cloudy but you could see both Cook’s bay and Opunohu bay.
Next up was a lunch stop at a small beachside café , Snack Mahana, where the setting and food were wonderful. From there we backtracked towards Cook’s Bay as we wanted to do a tour of the juice processing factory and rum distillery. Free tastings of the various juices and alcoholic beverages are available in the gift shop where purchases can also be made. Needless to say our little group spent quite a few bucks here. From there it was a leisurely drive around the rest of the island stopping for a sundowner at the popular beach resort, Les Tipaniers.
Over the coming days were moved on to the reef anchorage in Opunohu Bay with it’s very pretty palm tree backed sandy beachfront park and a backdrop of soaring mountains.
We snorkeled the coral gardens, played with the stingrays at Stingray City near the Intercontinental Hotel and glided over sunken Tiki sculptures.
There were sundowners ashore and juicy fresh prawns procured from the farm at the head of the bay. Sadly the day came when it was time to leave and head back to the hustle and bustle of Papeete. We were hoping to get one of the first come best dressed slips in the downtown marina as my sister Helen would be joining us for a month in a few days time. More on that in our next posting.
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