Fakarava : Moving north up the eastern reef.
20th – 28th November 2017
Hirifa, a little slice of heaven.
After one last drift snorkel and a bite to eat we dropped off our mooring in the wonderful South Pass area, unfurled the jib and enjoyed a slowish sail roughly six miles to the north east. Our reward for such a grueling passage was plopping the anchor down through 27 ft of clear water and watch it bury itself to it’s roll bar in the beautiful white sand below.
A small dwelling sat nestled in the shade of the trees while the calm waters lapped laconically on the shore a few feet away. We had arrived at the much talked about cruiser hangout known as Hirifa.
There is no village here, no shops, no internet, no tourists and no way to get here other than by boat. So why come I hear you ask? It’s because of the legendary hospitality of one larger than life individual. Her name is Liza.
They run a small beachfront snack shack and offer excellent inexpensive meals for both lunch and dinner in a family environment. As a courtesy, advanced notice for those wishing to dine is always appreciated by Liza and as is the norm in these parts, mother nature and stock on hand plays a hefty roll in what is available on the menu each day.
Together with the crew of Lumiel and of course Liza, we had a great evening ashore for dinner. Liza’s hubby manned the BBQ cooking up parcels of parrot fish and grilled chicken while Liza busied herself in her huge kitchen preparing some very tasty morsels for appetizers, along with fresh garden salads. It’s a BYO establishment which suited all of us down to the ground.
For groups of 10 or more Liza will roast up a pig providing she has at least 24 hours notice. She can be reached at cell ph +689 8779 87 56.
We stayed at Hirifa for a few days more just kicking back and soaking up the serenity of the place. Liam flew his drone a few times and we went back to visit Liza and present her with our Aussie flag,
She was chuffed at receiving it and said her hubby would get right on to hanging it up on her wall. We said our goodbyes, mentioning that we hoped to drop by again next season. Liza said she be right here waiting for us.
Pakokota: the halfway stopover
Moving on from Hirifa our next destination was just a dot on the map called Pakotoka, a sedentary broad reach under screecher a mere 16 miles further along. With clear skies and the sun overhead, conditions were excellent for spotting keel crunching coral bommies along the way.
Unless you’re an absolute fool, you always need to be vigilant even when you are in a marked channel. So when transiting any lagoon in the Tuamotus, the way we do it on GWTW is that Liam is usually on the helm and the more agile and keen eyed Annie takes up a higher vantage point on the coachouse roof, binoculars in hand ready to call back a course adjustment if need be. So far so good on that front.
Husband and wife team Agnes and Matthieu run Pakokota Yacht Services: 16.13S / 145.33W, and they are in the infancy of building up their yacht business and bungalow style pension. They offer free mooring balls and wi-fi, both of which are huge drawcards for cruisers, us included. Having recently installed a new user friendly dinghy dock, they also serve cold drinks and beers while you clack away on your keyboard looking over the lagoon. A trip to the main town can be arranged for a fee to pick up provisions etc if their car is available.
Agnes, the quintessential French cook, is excellent in the kitchen and dishes up mouth watering home-style meals for a moderate price. Matthieu is a charter cat captain and has a wealth of knowledge and experience with the way things work and break on boats and has many resources if need be. And for those without washing machines on board, Agnes will also do your laundry. Now that gets a thumbs up. It really is your one stop shop midway between the north and south passes on Fakarava. Call on VHF 72 or ph +689 877 47118 / 99526. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Wanting to patronize their fledgling business in exchange for the mooring ball and wi-fi that was costing us nada, we organised with Agnes to have a meal ashore. She was most apologetic, telling us all she had on hand was duck. Would that be OK she asked? Well if that was all she had she’d hit the jackpot with us. A bit of Daffy is always on our shortlist of fav foods.
We dinghied in around sunset and the dinning table was already set and garnished with fresh vases of frangipani.The heady scent adding to the ambiance of the night. We shared the table with with Agnes, her toddler and Mathieu's mum. Matthieu was away on charter for a few days.
Family style dining is definitely the way to go in the Tuamotus. Once dinner was served we were surprised by the mountain of food awaiting our taste buds. Potato (Pomme de Tere) au gratin, crispy garden salads, coleslaw and chocolate banana moose for desert. But the “piece de resistance” was the canard. And Ooh La La was that meal ever sooo good. We still talk about it months later.
We stayed another two days before deciding we should really get a move on to the main town of Rotoava at the northern end of the atoll. Once again we had a great sail up, passing lots of modest and no so modest resorts along the way. We could tell we were nearing the “big smoke” just by the abundance of properties dotting the shoreline.
Rotoava: the not so bustling main town
Ok, so we are talking Big Smoke Fakarava not Big Smoke NYC. The two are worlds apart. But to the people who live on this 30 mile long atoll, Rotoava IS the bright lights.
To us it’s pretty much like the main towns on the other atolls except here there are three Magasins (small mixed grocery stores), a medical clinic and a couple of small restaurants / bars and a café or two. Being a mega dive destination, Air Tahiti has a daily air service direct to Papeete and twice daily in peak season. The cruise ships come for a look see a couple of times a month and the supply ship pays the town a weekly visit.
The people and dogs are, as always, friendly and most folks get around riding bicycles. Once again this cruiser orientated atoll offers free mooring balls just off the town centre for visiting yachts, which really makes a change from many of the first world countries we’ve visited.
Stephanie and her husband Aldric run Fakarava Yacht Services, (FYS) just a short walk from town, You can contact them on ph+689 877 53484 or VHF 77. They had been holding onto our Carte De sejour or temporary resident cards since they’d been approved and mailed there a month or more ago. We were very pleased to have them in our hot little hands at last, to prove that we were legal in the country in case we were stopped by the police or customs.
FYS also provides free wi-fi to their clients, bicycle rentals, airport shuttles, laundry services, a book exchange, diesel refills by jerry cans and a host of other services. Aldric also filled up our propane bottles during our stay.
While at this end of the atoll Liam took the chance to make another entry in his dive log, this time diving the North Pass. In his opinion it wasn’t a patch on the South Pass. Mind you conditions were pretty lumpy during his dive.
We hung around Rotoava for four days and walked the length of town, visited the lovely blue and white church, the artesian centre, the tourist office and made many early morning visits to the Boulangerie for fresh baguettes and yummy pastries that no amount of will power could resist.
We spent our last night in Fakarava anchored just inside the pass so that we could get an early morning departure on the outgoing tide.Come The next morning, November 29th we made our second last passage of the season. We stopped overnight and for the following day at Anse Amyot on the atoll of Toau,
We snorkeled and swam and then on Dec 1st, pointed our bows towards Apataki where GWTW would be hauled out for the coming cyclone season.
Fakarava had been such a blast that we’ve already decided to return there for a bit more fun in early 2018.
But for now it’s time to get our heads out of the clouds and start thinking about closing GWTW’s systems down for the next few months.
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