As we approached the island from the south, the twin peaks (Otemanu and Pahia), with waves crashing on the surrounding reef provided a magnificent backdrop. After entering the lagoon we made our way to an anchorage between the island of Toopua and the reef, and were soon joined by Bernd and Elli on Elbe and Lutz & Gabi on SuAn. Sundowners followed. It was good to catch up with them again.
The next day we met up with Adrian and Jackie on Oceans Dream, who were on a Mai Kai mooring and setting off for the Southern Cooks the following morning. After an exploratory walk ashore, when they showed us the sights of Vaitape (laundry, wifi, supermarket, bank, restaurant!) we all enjoyed an excellent supper on Pipistrelle. We look forward to meeting up with them next in Tonga, before the final passage to New Zealand.
Bora Bora is a parting of the ways for most yachts, with a few staying on for a further year, most heading west for the Southern Cooks and Rarotonga, and some heading north west for the Northern Cooks and then Samoa.
Sunday saw us heading south west to anchor completely on our own in what else but crystal clear water close to good snorkelling. Looking out over the reef and towards the now defunct Bora Bora Hotel one way and Toopua the other was relaxing.
We took the southern route the next afternoon past the Hilton Hotel Resort for a delicious farewell dinner ashore at the Banana Café organized by Wolfgang and Ellen from Abora. Apart from Wasabi, all the other German yachts in our ‘group’ were there, and it was a very convivial evening with local Polynesian fare. SuAn, Sailaway and Elbe are also sailing towards NZ in the next few days. We hope to meet up with Abora and Wasabi next year at some point as they are leaving their yachts at Raiatea over the winter months.
After a quick pit-stop again at Vaitape for inevitable groceries, we pursued our objective for the day to head for the anchorage in the south east off Motu Piti Aau. Tricky eyeball navigation complete with a couple of slaloms between channel and cardinal marks AND 2.3m under the keel (we touch at 2.2!) had Pipistrelle making 2kn under engine and the adrenalin running! We congratulated ourselves on a safe passage made in excellent light at the right time of day. However, the heavens opened later so no sundowners or dinner in the cockpit.
Next day a jaunt by dinghy to snorkel at the nearby ‘coral garden’ beckoned. A popular site visited by mainly Japanese tourists in hotel launches. We managed to steer clear of both boats and people to admire yet another aquarium!
After two days we retraced our steps – or rather passage – to return to Vaitape and this time had to anchor in 20m as no moorings were available. Here we did the final round of provisioning, mountains of laundry, cleared out at the Gendarmerie and Bob wrestled unsuccessfully with trying to extract and replace a bearing in the generator.
The local rules and regulations as always are perplexing, they seem to make them us as they go along! Our Visa was only valid for 3 months, but after several visits to Gendarmeries, Mairies (Town Hall), and finally a sub office in Raiatea, we found that as Europeans we could stay as long as we like, but the boat can only stay for 2 years before tax is payable. We also had a visit from the Douanes at 0800 on our last day, who were totally relaxed and amicable, purely a paper justification exercise. They did not even ask about duty free booze. Ours is still under bond and untouched. But it was Sunday, and the French Customs officer wanted an enjoyable quiet day without any problems!
We are fast running out of superlatives to describe these islands. We thought we may not enjoy Bora Bora as much as Huahine or Taha’a but the reality is quite different. Proof is that we have stayed for 10 days instead of the planned 3 or 4! Adjectives risk being overdone. The lagoon is just beautiful, the water clear with contrasting shades of blue that even without polaroids are intense. That is why travellers from all over the world come to visit, staying in those sumptuous over-the-water bungalows. Shoreside it is less impressive and though the people are generally friendly, it lacks the soul we have enjoyed on all the other islands – apart from the ‘hub’ of Tahiti.
Having completed the tasks in Vaitape, we had to experience speciality cocktails and lunch in Bloody Mary’s, a famous restaurant and bar with a thatched roof and sand floors in the south of the island. They provide mooring buoys, and also a dock where we could fill up with water. The lunch was delicious, we both chose fish in different forms, and whilst there were very few other customers, we thoroughly enjoyed the totally relaxed atmosphere and excellent service.
Our last day was spent publishing the blogs, and preparing Pipistrelle for her 690nm passage to Suwarrow, population 2, in the Northern Cooks. More about that in the next blog.