The Marqueses, Tuamotus, Tahiti

Beer of the moment : Hinano ($2.25 - $3.50 for a 500ml can)

Thursday 1st July

Decided to drop in on Tahuata, which the famous yachtsman Eric Hiscock described as one of the three most beautiful anchorages in the South Pacific. Its easy to see why, great sand and only palm trees on the beach. We did some snorkelling and just caught sight of a huge manta ray as it sped away.

Tahuata

Friday 2nd July 

Set sail just before dark for Nuka Hiva, the Capital of the Northern Marquises. It's a 70 mile journey so it wasn't possible to do it as a day sail. It was a wonderfully clear night and as the sun set we could see the high peaks of Ua Poa in the distance some 25 miles away. It's silhouette against the sunset was an amazing sight.

The wind was so light that we had to motor but we used the opportunity to make some water en route as our tanks were pretty low.

Trade Secret, Meander and Pamina also set sail from Tahuata at the same time and although we were headed in different directions, it was comforting to see their navigation lights in the distance.

As we reached Nuka Hiva in the morning we decided to take a detour and stop overnight at Bay du Controleur before heading for the main town of Taiohae. It was a magnificent bay about 3 miles in from the sea so it was incredibly sheltered. We were very excited to see that we were the only yacht there - the first time we had been anywhere on our own. We anchored right in the middle of the bay with tons of space all around us. We slept very soundly that night with no fear of dragging onto another boat.

Nuka Hiva

We knew there was a small village with some old Tikki's and a Maeae (ceremonial platform) in the valley so headed out in our dingy to investigate. At the corner of the beach we spotted a fresh water stream running into the sea and dodging a few breaking waves headed up it. The river curved through some coconut groves for 200 yards or so and then we reached a small dock where we were able to disembark and leave the dingy.

The village was situated in a pretty valley, houses on either side of a single track road - most were prefabricated made out of wood and steel and greatly varied in quality. A stream gushed down the valley. Our guidebook had been pretty vague about where the old relics were and it took us 2-3 hours of searching to find them. We asked many locals but language difficulties made it hard to understand them even though they were friendly and tried to help. We actually trekked up a steep mud bank behind some houses and past a large bull at the side of the road 4 times before actually finding the small path that led into the woods and up the hillside. Here we met a young mother living a subsistence lifestyle in a corrugated iron shack, washing her baby outside in a bucket. Despite her lot she seemed very happy and well fed. We assume that many of the poorer locals live off the coconuts and fruit (banana's in particular) that grow in abundance and from fish and keeping their own chickens etc... 

Half an hour later after a steep and humid uphill climb, dodging bugs en route, we reached the site of the Maeae. It was pretty well preserved although heavily overgrown. It would have been used by the Chieftains for worship, burial and even human sacrifice. There was still cannibalism in French Polynesia until 100 years ago. The platform was surrounded by several large Tikki's - the Polynesian God. It had been well worth the climb and seemed even more special because it hadn't been polished up for tourists to see.

Daylight was fading as we headed back and many of the local men were out in the streets playing boules, the children playing football. As we headed down the river a local man was fishing with his two daughters. They laid across the net they had strung across the stream so that we could safely pass. Unfortunately the freshwater seemed to play havoc with the outboard engine and it stopped halfway back. It took Allan some time (to the sound of much cursing from him) to row us back against the current! 

Saturday 3rd July 

Over coffee we sat watching swarms of fish jumping out of the water and swimming fast to avoid a predator. It looked like a shark but it was hard to be certain as the water was a muddy brown from where the rain had washed soil from the land. 

We were sad to leave our deserted bay but time was pressing so we pulled up our anchor and set sail for Tahuata. 

On our way into the bay we had spotted a few goats stuck on an incredibly sheer cliff face. There are a lot of wild goats in the Marqueses and we had seen many of them clinging onto seemingly inaccessible parts of the high volcanic peaks. However we found it hard to see how these goats would be able to move from their current position as there had been a landfall. None the less as we left we were pleased to see that they had been able to make a bit of progress albeit slow. Still at least they were safe from the locals who have a penchant for goat slow cooked in coconut milk!  

Taiohae was only a 5 mile sail away and as we were head to wind we just motored there admiring the dramatic green peaks on the way.  Many boats crossing the Pacific make landfall here so we were not surprised to see maybe 40 boats at anchor although there was still lots of room in the large bay. There is a bit of swell in the bay so boats lie a stern anchor as well to keep them facing directly into the swell. 

We had just anchored when we spotted Luc and Emma from Eaglewing rowing over too see us. They had come bearing a VERY welcome gift - a French bread stick. We hadn't had freshly bought bread since Galapogas and no sooner had they left than it was devoured with butter - magnificent. Thanks Eaglewing.

That evening following sundowners aboard Bagpuss, we headed ashore with Eaglewing and Meander to watch a local dance competition. As advised by a local we arrived early to get a seat (6.30pm) although the dancing didn't get going until 8. We had front row seats and although there were lots of other cruisers there, it really felt very much a local as opposed to a tourist event.

Nuka Hiva Dancers 

Unlike the dancing we had seen in Fatu Hiva, this was much more male dominated and dramatic. There were two dance troops with approx 30 people in each group, plus musicians. All were dressed in traditional grass skirt type costumes made from local vegetation. Many of the men were heavily tattooed and the girls had the traditional Polynesian long flowing black hair. The loud beating drums gave the event a hypnotic air. The men danced warlike with their spears making deep throated grunting sounds; the women sang sweetly, clapping their thighs in accompaniment and doing their bottom wiggling dance. It was magical to watch.

Meander invited us back to their boat and Mel conjured up a great coconut shrimp and vegetable dish. Following a quick lesson Emma and Bev became experts at shelling the raw shrimp. Mel then decided to dump the waste over the side and tipped all the bits out of her kitchen window. Unbeknown to her Luc had moved their beautiful wooden tender Feather there a few minutes earlier so they had great fun picking all the grungy bits of shrimp out the next day :) A great evening was had and it was nice to swap storied with Luc and Emma who we hadn't seen for some weeks.  

Sunday 4th July

After a lazy morning we decided to hunt down our post. Bev's Mum and Dad had sent it to Rose Corser, a cruiser friendly local lady who runs the museum at the  Keikahanui Inn. We stopped en route to pick up Stephen and Karen from Trade Secret who were waiting to collect a spare part. The museum was a mile or so from town so we decided to risk the surf and make a crash landing on the beach nearby. Unfortunately Rose was not in so we headed into town to take a look around and stretch our legs. The small town stretches along the length of the bay with steep dramatic hills in the background. People seemed relatively well off; everyone seemed to have a new 4x4. On our way back we were tempted by a local van cooking chips, steak and chow mien. As it was still early we all opted for a portion of fries. They were freshly cooked and delicious. Near the dock were a few local 'bars' where we decided to stop for a 'cheeky' beer on our way back. Sunday was obviously a happening night for the locals so we stopped longer than planned to soak up the local ambience. It also started to rain heavily outside - another incentive to stay put. We couldn't work out why the locals all drank cans and we drank bottles as our bottles worked out cheaper per unit of alcohol. They looked blankly at us when we tried to explain this. 

By the time the rain had stopped it was pretty late so we wandered back to the dock to collect our dingy. The tide was out and it was a long way down over some very rickety steps. However there was no sign of our dingy or anyone else's. We couldn't believe it. As we looked around - difficult in the dark with no torch - we spotted a dingy tied to a local boat in the bay some 50 meters or so away. We couldn't make out whether it was ours or not so Stephen jumped onto a local speed boat which was tied to the quay and used that to pull himself over in a very James Bond like fashion. Sure enough it was our dingy. The locals must have taken it to get to their own boat and left it there. It's bad enough to use someone's boat without asking but to take a boat and not return it is a bit of a cheek. After 30 minutes or so and some dangerous manoeuvring Stephen managed to retrieve it and we were on our way. Over the next few days we saw several other dinghies tied to the same boat!  

As we passed Pamina,  Meander were just departing and invited us aboard their boat for a cheeky goodnight cocktail. Matt was apparently a star at making 'Painkillers' and it seemed rude to refuse :). Painkillers are a famous Caribbean cocktail made from 2 parts orange juice, one part pineapple juice, one part coconut cream, ice and rum. Delicious. After one drink Allan had fallen asleep so we left everyone too it.

Monday 5th July

Managed to check in with the local Gendarmerie and then spent a frustrating couple of hours in the internet cafe. The line was very slow and constantly bombing out. The $9 an hour charge made the experience all the more painful. Afterwards we headed along to Rose Corser for our post but missed her by 15 minutes. Still it was a nice walk around the bay and we passed a delightful park that contained a number of interesting old Tikki's figures made from stone on the sea front. 

Had a sleepless night and had to do anchor watches as our kedge anchor (tied to the back of the boat) dragged and was no longer holding us into the swell. We swung pretty close to a French boat moored next to us and as the night had turned pretty rough and squally decided it was safer to keep a watch. Normally we would have gone out and reset the anchor but the swell was pretty bad and the night very dark so we decided it was safer to wait until morning.

Tuesday 6th July

Reset the kedge first thing using 100 meters of rope. Its never an easy job to do as Allan has to lift the anchor and chain by hand and then take it and the rope to the appropriate spot without running over it with the dingy prop. As its usually covered in mud you and the dingy always end up in a bit of a mess. You also have to have the boat facing the right way, directly into the swell when you set it.  We would have to reset it one more time before we left as the wind and tide changed direction, so we were back swinging too close to the French boat again.

Another visit to the internet cafe which turned out to be just as much fun as the day before ! The internet cafe is set half a mile or so up a steep hill so the exercise at least did us good. But we did manage to get some of our post today which was great news - it had taken a month to get here. Rose was very friendly and it was great to look round her small museum which contained some amazing Polynesian artefacts.  She had a wooden tool on display that was used to break prisoners necks before they ate them !. We were taken by a little carved wooden tikki (Polynesian God) that she had on display in her shop and bought it as a little memento of our time in the Marquesis.

After an afternoon of devouring the post, we went ashore to a little restaurant we had spotted with Meander for a wood fired pizza. We had read that there were quite a few transvestite's in this part of the world and that they were an accepted part of the culture, none the less we were a little surprised to see our waiter dressed in female clothes with a flower in his hair. We subsequently saw many more - some of whom were very pretty indeed. 

The pizza's were fantastic and cost about the same as they would in the UK. We also shared a salad - fresh green vegetables have never tasted so good. It had been ages since we had had a salad (probably Panama) as its not part of the local diet. No one could finish their pizza's as they were so large so we all came home with little doggy bags. 

Wednesday 7th -Wednesday 14th July

The weather has changed and has become very wet and squally - it rains very heavily several times a day and the roads have all turned to mud. No wonder its all so green. From the boat we can see several steep waterfalls gushing down the hills - its a very pretty sight to see - although we would prefer to have more sun. We rig our rain catcher ( a tube that collects the run off from our roof and filters it into the water tank) to collect some free water. Pamina managed to collect 80 litres in one night.

We normally end up very wet and muddy whenever we go ashore and the boat is festooned with clothes that never seem to dry.

On the Thursday evening we invite everyone aboard Bagpuss for a few drinks to welcome Conor's Dad, Brendan.  We are pleased that we manage to finish off the bottles of Vodka and Malibu that had been collecting dust in our house for several years.

By 9.00 everyone is hungry so some of us retreat ashore for steak and chips/chow mien at one of the local bar/restaurants. For $8.00 we got a great meal. As we strolled home we stopped to watch a local dance troop practicing their dancing on the keyside. 

The rest of the week was taken up with more visits to the internet (searching for an electric scooter for Callum's Birthday), trying to track down our parcel from Fountaine Pajot which eventually after much investigation turned out to be with Rose Corser all along !, trying unsuccessfully to sort some flights out back to the UK and doing some standard chores.  

Allan took the gas bottle to be re-filled to the hardware store by the internet cafe. A local lady stopped to give him a lift and asked him to knock on her door for a lift back when he was finished. Everyone here is very kind and expects nothing in return.

He also did a fuel run with Matt - its not easy to fill a 300L tank from jerry cans.

Most mornings we are up early to buy bread as it's sold out by 9.30. We also manage to buy some fresh eggs, potatoes, onions, peppers and carrots in readiness for our trip to the Tuamotu's. 

On our second to last day the sun breaks through and we decide to go ashore to use a tap on the beach found by Trade Secret to do our washing - by this stage nearly 3 weeks worth. Getting it all dry between showers turned out to be fun.

Unfortunately on the beach we were bitten to bits by no-no's. The Marquises has a lot of them and they leave very nasty itchy bites, much worse than a mosquito. Within a day about 15 of Bev's bites had swelled to the size of a one pence piece and were weeping uncontrollably. The bites were mainly down the back of her legs and around her elbows so she constantly knocked them however hard she tried. Sleeping was uncomfortable and they were pretty painful.

We had stayed longer in Nuka Hiva than planned as there was a low pressure system passing over bringing bad weather. As soon as the forecast changed and Bev had pre-prepared a few passage meals, we were off as did most of the boats in the anchorage.

We left Nuka Hiva at lunchtime on 13th July for Rangiroa, an atoll in the Tuamotu's some 570 miles away. As we passed the end of the island we could see the Vaipo waterfall that Nuka Hiva is famous for in the distance. Its the third largest in the world with a straight drop of 2000 feet. It was truly spectacular. We had wanted to see it close up but had been warned that it would be too dangerous with all the rain that we had had. To get to it you have to wade across the river several times which on a good day can reach neck height. 

We had thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Marquises. Our 3000 mile journey from Galapagos had transported us to a place that was culturally and scenically very different from anything we had seen before.

Thursday 15th -Saturday 17th July

The first couple of days of our journey were very squally - we constantly saw them on the radar - sometimes up to 8 miles wide. Luckily we managed to miss most of the rain showers. We were also beam on to the waves so it was a little jumpy and unpleasant as well. By day 3 conditions improved and we made good time. Bev was still feeling the effects of her no-no bites which showed no sign of improvement. 

Allan decided to check into the Polynesian net for the first time. Its a net run by and for cruisers like us. It was started by Guy from a boat called Street Legal. We had listened to it many times and knew many of the people on it. Betty from Sundance was the net controller on our first day. She remembered us from Isabella - we had bought a few spare parts for our engines from them and had had a tour round their boat. David, her husband had taken 7 years to build the boat himself and it had everything from a full size cooker to a proper double bed. All the boats on the net had had to sing a song when they reached the half way stage of the Pacific crossing. We could still remember Betty's song '........this journey's taking too damn long...' Our presence on the net was to become a regular thing.

We realised that if we headed for Rangiroa as planned we would need to wait outside the pass for 8 hours or so before tide conditions would let us in so decided to divert to Ahe to avoid another night at sea. Although we had only been at sea for 4 days it felt like far longer; 3 weeks rest had not been enough to get us over our 3000 mile journey.

The Tuamotu's are a group of 78 islands, all but 2 being coral atolls which extend for 1000 miles. In contrast to the lush vegetation of the Marquises, the atolls have little greenery except for palm trees and short grass. These islands are called the low or dangerous archipelago because their low lying character makes them visible only when close.  

Ahe is a small wooded atoll 13 miles long and 5 miles wide. Basically there are a number of motu's (very flat small islands like a thin strip of land) set around a lagoon protected by a coral reef. Less than 200 people live in the village. There is only one pass into the atoll in Ahe and currents can reach up to 8 knots. You have to time your entry for slack water. We were a couple of hours late but as the sea conditions were calm we decided to give it a go.   Bev stood at the front of the boat watching for coral heads and could clearly see the bottom - it dropped to 3-4 meters in places. Meanwhile Allan tried hard to keep us fairly central as he was swept through doing 8 knots. We spotted a number of rips and slicks but it was hard to avoid them. Luckily the pass is fairly short and we were soon through to the calm of the lagoon.

Ahe Pier   

We threaded our way through the clearly marked coral heads and pearl farms to the village some 5 miles away. The atoll is spectacular - white sand beaches, clear blue water, coconut palms everywhere. The coral reef protects the lagoon from the Ocean swell and the water inside was flat calm. 

By lunchtime we were at anchor enjoying a cooked breakfast. It was so nice to be in a calm anchorage again with clear turquoise water. There were just 5 other yachts in the lagoon. 

That afternoon we took a stroll ashore and purchased some doughnuts and coconut bread from a local stall. The stallholder was a jovial, elderly local lady with one top tooth. Her smile and good cheer were heart warming. The coconut bread was a cross between a bread and cake - it tasted great toasted with butter. There were one or two small shops in the village - the old fashioned type where you ask at a counter for what you want and they go away and get it. They had very little fresh food available though and we were glad we had provisioned so well before we left. 

The village was only small but people seemed to have an idyllic albeit cut off existence. Again we saw an abundance of the steel pre-fabricated kit houses that we had seen in the Marquesis, some of which were very elegant, plus a few more basic shanty dwellings. Everybody smiled and greeted us warmly. As we returned to the boat the locals all seemed to be out, many taking a swim in the cool crystal clear water. 

That evening there seemed to be a local event on the shore. Loud music blared but it didn't disturb us - we were asleep by 8.00, exhausted by our journey and relieved to be in.

Sunday 18th July

Meander and Pamina decided to stop at Ahe as well and arrived late morning, both anchoring next to us, taking time to avoid the coral heads.

Late in the afternoon we decided to have a refreshing dip and were immediately invited over to Meander for an arrival drink, shortly followed by Henri, Connor and Brendan. Stories of the crossing were quickly swapped.

Monday 19th - Friday 23rd July

Spent a relaxing few days in Ahe. We stayed longer than planned - the wind was in totally the wrong direction so we decided to wait for better weather.

The anchorage at the village is actually like a small atoll within the bigger atoll so it affords good protection from waves, but not the wind, from nearly every direction.

Had a nice evening aboard Pamina on Monday. We had stopped by for a quick sundowner but were still there at 9.00 as it was raining so heavily.

On Tuesday morning Pamina left along with all the other boats in the anchorage bar Meander and Hippocampus. Hippocampus are Brazilian and have a small boy of circa 10 years old. Ever since we had been in Ahe their boat had been the centre of all activity for the kids in the village.  Early in the afternoon Allan heard a tap on the side of the boat and met one of the older children who asked permission to come aboard. He wanted to sell us some black pearls but they were pretty irregular in shape and we weren't interested. Nevertheless he came on board with his friend and we gave them a packet of sweets each. Five minutes later a dingy full of 4 more children arrived and again more sweets were handed around. Before we knew it we had 15 of them all happily munching packets of starburst. After much haggling for more sweets and hats we gave them 4 more packets of sweets and two hats and in return they gave us their black pearls which they said they had got from diving beneath the pearl farm huts and collecting their rejects. The kids all stayed for at least another 2 hours drinking cans of fizzy orange and diving from the boat. They were great fun and very inquisitive.

Ahe kids 

Allan even had a go in one of their traditional canoes which has a stabilizing bar to the side. This helps it to not roll and to steer in a straight line. Matt swam over to help supervise the fun and ended up staying for dinner - Mel had a most welcome quiet afternoon and evening on her own - a rare thing on a boat. After a while the older kids left along with most of the black pearls which slowly disappeared from the table ! Allan took the younger one's back to shore in the dingy. At 7.00 am the next day they were all back on the dock waiting to come back !

Ahe Canoe

Next morning a supply ship arrived and weaved its way between Meander and us with only a few feet to spare. It was lucky that we were by then the only boats left as we would all have definitely had to move. It tied up to the small dock and unloaded a forklift truck. The whole boat tilted over at a precarious angle as it did so. A few minutes later all matter of things were being unloaded from new outboard engines, drums of diesel, planks of wood etc... The villagers were all out in force to collect their stuff. Small boats would arrive and depart to far parts of the atoll laden with supplies. There was a real buzz of excitement in the air. The supply boat arrives weekly on most islands and the Navy supplies islands too small for a commercial operator.

While it was unloading we took a walk to the pearl farm that we could see from our boat with Matt and Mel. It was basically a small white wooden hut at the end of a long wooden pier. It was fascinating to see how they opened the oysters and seeded and removed the pearls. There were only 8 or so people working but they worked at quite a pace. Interestingly both of the seeders were Japanese. It's a skilful job and they bring in experienced seeders to work at the farms. A good Seeder has a 70% success rate. On our way there we met most of the local kids who had been on our boat the previous day and except for their ring leader they were all pleased to see us. He had his head under his tee-shirt in that 'you don't know me way'. We soon found out that he was the son of the Pearl Farmer and we then questioned quite how they had come by their rejects !

On our last full day in Ahe we decided to have a barbeque with Matt and Mel. They supplied some burgers and shrimps from their freezer and we baked bread, made some vegetable couscous, fried potato's and dug deep into our stores to uncover tins of Heinz potato salad and coleslaw. It was fantastic to have the barbeque on again - we would have loved to have a fresh green salad as well but you can't have everything in paradise :)

Unfortunately Bev's nono bites were still looking very bad and showing no sign of improvement. They were still inflamed and weeping badly. Henri had kindly given her some Piriton (antihistamine) to try which helped a bit but eventually after 2 weeks she decided to take a course of antibiotics from our medical kit. We were concerned that if we had left them any longer a serious infection could set in. We dressed the wounds with antiseptic cream and plasters (very attractive) and she decided not to swim in case that infected them. It took at least another 2 weeks for the bites to dry up, scab over and to start to heal. 

On the Friday morning, the wind changed direction and we decided to do an overnight sail to Rangiroa with Meander. We left the pass at low water. At  the entrance we met a wall of current coming towards us which slowed us down considerably but didn't present any real problems. We were on a broad reach and with full sail were doing over 8 knots. As nightfall fell we decided to put a few reefs in so that we could better time our arrival for the Rangiroa pass. 

Saturday 24th July

The crossing was rather bumpy and neither of us slept well. Still by 8.00am we had covered the 80 miles there and were waiting off the pass for slack water. Freefall came out of the pass whilst we were waiting and confirmed that conditions were OK, so we ventured in, two hours before high water. The pass was pretty big and deep but rather bumpy half a mile in. Bev was up the front looking out for coral and had to cling on tightly as the boat pounded through the waves. Once through the steep peaks and troughs we headed towards the anchorage - white sand palm fringed beach, crystal clear water and the beautiful Kia Ora Hotel with its thatched suites on stilts above the water. Idyllic.

That evening we ventured ashore with Meander for a meal at the hotel. It was great to be able to relax in the comfortable surrounding's of an upmarket hotel. The service and food were superb and the prices on par with a nice hotel in the UK. We had become accustomed to eating at cheaper establishments so for us this was a real treat. 

Monday 26th July

Took a trip into the main town - Avatoru - some 6 miles away on our folding bikes. We hadn't used them since the Canaries and Allan's needed a bit of TLC before we could set off.  The road was nice and flat and it was great to explore the atoll. On one side was a fringing reef, pounded by the Ocean, on the other white sand beach and the lagoon. Coconut trees were everywhere. 

Rangiroa is a much larger atoll than Ahe - in fact its the second largest atoll in the world. It measures 40 miles by 17 at its widest point. As a result depending upon the wind direction you can get huge fetch across the lagoon resulting in some fairly sizeable swell inside. Luckily our anchorage was fairly well protected from the North and East but we knew that if the wind direction changed we would need to move. 

Houses were dotted along the shore as were several dive shops, pearl showrooms/farms, tourist shops etc... The village also had 3 small shops for provisioning where we stopped to buy a few things. On our way back we decided to stop at a local pearl farm which did tours but as it was closed for lunch we decided to call at a local restaurant and have some pizza for lunch whilst we waited. The pizza was great and so large Bev couldn't finish her's.

The Pearl Farm was much larger than the one we had seen in Ahe. The guide was fantastic and explained how everything worked. Basically they breed the oysters until they are two years old. Then they bring them into the farm where they use a special tool to open the shell slightly and insert a wooden wedge. The oyster is then passed to a Seeder who inserts a small shell bead into the oyster along with a small piece of flesh from another oyster of good colour, creating a pocket for the pearl to grow.

Pearl Farm 

The oyster in then put into a net pocket and returned to the sea for 6 months to make sure that the oyster does not get rid of the shell bead. After 6 months the oyster has a hole drilled in its shell and is tied to a rope using plastic wire. They then go back into the sea tied to a buoy for a further 2 years. After 2 years they are brought back to the farm where the pearl is removed. Another seed shell the same size as the pearl that was removed is inserted - this time no additional flesh is needed as the colour has already been established. The whole process is repeated again. Oysters are typically seeded 3 times during their life - 4 in exceptional circumstances. If the Oyster hasn't managed to coat the shell in pearl, they are opened and eaten.

Pearl Seeding

The Oysters in the Pearl Showroom were very expensive and are graded based on roundness, colour, size and imperfections (A-D). A misshapen pearl with many imperfections would sell for $30. An 18mm perfect pearl for $3000 ! The necklaces we saw were beautiful - their luminousness and differing colours amazing - but at $6,000+, unfortunately beyond our price range. We later discovered that the prices in Tahiti were even higher.

Apparently there are over 1 million black lipped oysters in this atoll alone so the Pearl industry is obviously big business and a major revenue earner for the islands.

Tuesday 27th July

We took a stroll ashore at about 3.30 - just as the heat of the day started to cool. We first walked along the beach past the holiday makers from the hotel reclining in the hot tubs on their patio's, past the fishermen de-scaling their catch and stopped at a little shop for an ice-cream only to discover as we were half way through it that we had left the cash on the boat! Allan quickly went back whilst I chatted to the pleasant owner (who spent half her time here and half her time in Paris - bliss) and then we continued our walk. As we reached the entrance to the pass we could see that this was not slack water. The waves were pounding into the lagoon with quite some force. We spotted 3 huge dolphins jumping high into the air and crashing loudly into the waves. It was a special moment to see them having so much fun in the waves and current. The beach was strewn with broken coral.

Rangiroa Beach

We had arranged to meet Matt and Mel for a drink in the hotel bar so hurried back to the hotel. The bar is set on stilts over the water and under each table is clear glass so that you can see the beautiful fish below. Lit up at night its truly beautiful. By the time the olives, nuts and fried strips of fresh coconut (fantastic) had been served we knew the lour of another meal at the hotel would be too much to resist and succumbed. Again we had another fantastic evening of being pampered.

Kia Ora hotel

Wednesday 28th July

Spent a lazy day on the boat feeding the fish and sharks that have taken up residence under our boat. The fish were very large, colourful and exotic and regularly bashed against the hulls as birds dived for them making quite a racket. The black tipped reef sharks swam upside down as they came to feed. They seemed to enjoy crackers a lot but the Golden Grahams (sweet American cereal) were only picked at. It did put us off swimming from the boat. Matt and Mel went diving and said that they saw 50-60 of them !! We saw one large shark about 4 foot long through our glass escape hatches on the underside of our hull.

Thursday 29th - Friday 30th July

Although we had greatly enjoyed the amazing Tuomoto's, time was pressing so we set sail for Tahiti, some 200 miles away at 8.00 in the morning. We hoped that we might be able to make the journey in two days and one evening if we were lucky - but timing was tight. We motored down the length of the island and were shocked to see a yacht newly washed up on the reef as we passed the second pass into the lagoon. It was a poignant reminder of how dangerous these atolls really are. As night fell and we were clear of all obstructions from the outlying islands and reefs we hoisted the sails. With 3 reefs in we still made 7 knots. It was a bumpy night - we were sailing at 60 degrees to the wind and swell - Bev couldn't sleep below so  'dozed' outside. Allan slept in the saloon. Still we consistently made good speed and shook a reef out in the morning as the wind dropped slightly. For much of the second day we averaged 7.5-8 knots and felt like we were flying. By 4.00 p.m we were coming through the pass into Papeete, the capital of Tahiti.  

We were very excited as we had dreamt of Tahiti for a long time. Its the Capital of French Polynesia and part of the amazing Society Islands (Bora Bora, Moorea etc.. the places we most wanted to see in French Polynesia) Tahiti has an hourglass shape with high spectacular, sharp peaks rising to 7,340 feet. The valleys between them are striking because of their depth and size. The entire island is surrounded by a coral barrier reef with many passes. Papeete is the largest city in French Polynesia and is a meeting place for Yachts as its the most sheltered harbour on the island.

After getting clearance to enter the busy pass/harbour by the Port Captain we proceeded around the edge of the reef 4 miles or so to Maeva Beach. We checked in again as required just as we passed the end of the runway to make sure we didn't get hit by any planes coming in to land. Outside Tahiti we had had strong winds and 1-2 meter swells. Inside the reef in the shelter of the land there was no wind and it was flat calm. We dropped anchor next to Clare and sat admiring the awesome uninterrupted view of Moorea just 20 miles away.  

After some chilli and rice we were soon fast asleep and slept very well, relieved to be here at last - some 800 miles from the Marqueses.

Saturday 31st July

Early on Saturday morning we dinghied over to  Clare and towed them to the dock as they had problems with their outboard engine. We hadn't seen Billy and Tiffany since Hiva Oa so it was great to catch up with their news and exciting adventures. We caught the local 'Le Truck' bus into Papeete - $1.30 each way - with them. The buses are pretty basic - a wooden cage with wooden benches mounted onto a small lorry - but they are a great way to get about and taste local life. 

After a quick visit to the local and very helpful Tourist Information Office we set off in search of the Chandleries and Hardware shops. We hadn't been able to buy any items since Panama so we all had a long list of things that had broken and needed repairing. Money seemed to run through our fingers very quickly. You can get pretty much anything you need here at a price. 

We stopped at the Three Brewers, a micro brewery for a welcome sit down and lunch with Billy and Tiffany and then spent the rest of the afternoon at the internet cafe booking our flights home for Christmas/Marianne's (Allan's sister) Wedding. The connection was fast but at $10 an hour it wasn't cheap. Still after lots of investigation we managed to work out that there were no cheap flights home and so bit the bullet and booked with Air New Zealand. We will be home from 17th Dec to 21st Jan and are very excited about seeing everyone.

The good or bad thing about Le Truck is that they drop you back at Carrefour - a large French Supermarket like Tesco's. We wandered the isle's ogling the displays and prices. It was a long time since we had seen fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and cheeses in such abundance. It was also great to be able to get fresh bread at 5.00 on a Saturday afternoon. Our visit to Carrefour was to become an almost daily occurrence but you have to be choosy about what you buy. Prices really do vary. A small bag of freshly washed salad was $9.00 - we quickly put that back ! 

That night on the net we gave instructions on how to get onto the town key at night to Pamina who would be arriving later this evening. Moments before a squall had kicked up and we had had to re-anchor -  we had dragged our anchor and were only 3 feet away from another Catamaran.   Next day we started to drag again and decided to move to a buoy which had just become free as we reckoned that we must be sat on top of a patch of coral. Although the water was clean it was hard to see the bottom as we were in 16 meters of water. 

 

© Copyright Allan & Bev Dornan 2016