Tahiti and Moorea

Tahiti – Wonderful Paradise Rose

We met Jane and John originally in Baiona, Northern Spain during their 12 year circumnavigation in Tara III, and they followed us to Povoa da Varzim in Portugal in 2008.  After that we returned to the UK for six months leaving Pipistrelle on the hard.  John and Jane continued their passage and returned to New Zealand on Tara in 2010.  We invited them to join us in Tahiti, and they were delighted to escape the Kiwi winter, and enjoy the South Pacific again with us.

J & J

In Tahiti the main priorities were the genoa and main sail repairs, and getting the 15HP Yamaha fixed.  Despite rigorously following the manufacturer’s instructions, the stainless steel drive shaft had seized on an aluminium sheath at the top of the drive shaft.  Perhaps more about this later…..

We also wanted to see the island, and of course reprovision.  First though was meeting up with our friends on Marionette IV, who we found ourselves berthed alongside.  Despite being up for half the previous night, Pipistrelle’s galley closed that evening and we enjoyed an excellent Italian dinner in the Casa Bianca restaurant at the marina.

The Marina Taina looks straight across to the tropical island of Moorea, volcanic and striking at dawn and sunset, and it provided the perfect setting for sundowners.

Sunset over Moorea

‘Hinano’ – the local brew

Close by we enjoyed the delights of a huge Carrefour superstore, with fresh delicacies imported from France, such as Pate de Campagne, Brie, Camembert, and locally made baguettes and croissants.  We could have been in Brittany!  After the months since Panama of buying good but indifferent food, eating took on a new meaning but at luxury prices.

In Papeete, a bus ride away from the marina, we enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the fruit and vegetable market with its local artisans and met the owner of an excellent pearl workshop, where he has a thriving business setting locally produced and exquisite black pearls.  We also savoured the unique cuisine of the Roulottes, vans driven mainly by the Chinese community, who set up shop in one of the main waterfront squares each evening, set up tables and chairs, and produce the most amazing evening dinners, an experience not to be missed.

One evening we took a walk from the marina to a nearby resort hotel to watch a very colourful and professional outdoor display of Tahitian dancing for the price of a delicious cocktail.

Colourful costumes

We also enjoyed a tour of the island in a very reasonably priced and comfortable hire car, taking in a museum dedicated to the French artist Paul Gauguin, who spent a considerable part of his life in Tahiti.  Sadly there were no originals on display but the museum was well laid out and traced his rather colourful life.  His final island in the sun was Hiva Oa in the Marquesas, as he believed that Tahiti was becoming too westernised.  He died there aged 54 in 1903, and like so many artists, it was only after his death that his works became really famous.

The Gauguin Museum

More spectacular waterfalls on the east side of the island were also on the itinerary, and late in the afternoon we visited Venus Point, named after Captain James Cook landed in Tahiti on October 27th 1788, and used Venus Point to try to track the planet.  It was also where Bligh landed on the Bounty before the famous mutiny.

Lighthouse at Venus Point

Commemorating ‘The Bounty’

Jane and John were soon busy assisting in getting Pipistrelle ready for her onward passage, servicing all the winches (John), making the most delicious chocolate brownies (Jane), and helping to bend back on the genoa and mainsail.  Jane also created Pipistrelle’s own herb garden, a replica of her efforts on Tara III.

What a task!

Double quantity brownies!

Skipper’s final touches to repaired main

Parsley, mint and basil….

We were finally set to move on, in fact more than ready with the continual noise and wake of speeding motor boats through the anchorage.  It is only a short sail to Moorea, 15nm, just as well as what wind there was, was on the nose!  We anchored in Cook’s Bay, where Captain Cook did not in fact land!

Cook’s Bay

The scenery here is stunning with towering mountains surrounding the bay.  However, at the head of the bay the water was deep, and good snorkelling beckoned in Opunohu Bay some 2nm away, where Capt. Cook did land!  Here we anchored just inside the reef, in swimming pool clear water.  Snorkelling on the nearby reef was a different experience with several fish, shells, and corals that we had not seen before.

Pacific bannerfish (Heniochus chrysostomus) **

Blackbar triggerfish (Rhinecanthus aculeatus) **

A couple of miles to the west there is a sand bank between the protecting reef and the shore, and here we found some 20 large stingrays that are used to being fed by tour boats, together with schools of black tipped sharks, all swimming within feet of us, and the sting rays actually swimming against one’s body, in the hope of being fed.  An incredible experience!

Black tipped shark at close proximity!

Snorkelling with sting rays

Big and fierce looking moray eel

Bob & Elaine also took a very long hike up past pineapple fields, the Agricultural School and several archeological sites (marae) to the Belvedere look out point (790 ft above sea level), which has magnificent views of both Cook’s and Opunohu Bays.  Our hike down took us  through the shady rain forest with its wild bamboo, sweet chestnut trees and giant ferns.  Back at the head of the bay we took off our walking boots and bathed our weary feet in warm seawater.

Marae site en route

Opunohu Bay from Belvedere to left of Mt Rotui

… and Cook’s Bay from Belvedere to right

A shady route down

Flora …..

Giant fern

Pineapple sold in ‘bunches’

And finally, a close up of an older Moorean lady in a traditional Polynesian hat, usually worn on Sunday to church.

Pretty hat

** Footnote:  names of fish in English and Latin kindly provided by our friend Oliver Straub.

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