Our second apartment, near the marina, was a lovely building, just 3 floors high, with a private pool and a marvellous view over the Taina pass. We threaded through this pass just a couple of weeks ago, being greeted by baby dolphins playing in our bow wave.
The stairway of the apartment was filled with a group of skittish cats observing our every move. Probably the ‘house’ pets of one of the other tenants, even-though the group always seemed to live outside. But after living at the apartment for a couple of weeks, the cats, especially one, grew very accustomed to us. We started to call the little rascal scruffy, as that was they way he looked.
Soon Scruffy became so familiar, even to a point where he sneaked his way into our apartment to enjoy the attention of Linda. Not very good for my allergies, but so cute.
From our balcony we had a lovely view of the Pass, where every weekend a great many speed boats and other forms of water transport gather at the shallow waters to enjoy a couple of beers whilst wading in the shallow lagoon. Very similar to the weekend events at Fuik baai that we used to enjoy back in Curacao.
During our stay we occasionally saw a yacht pulling into the Marina, but hardly ever did we see one leaving. The world around us was still in a paranoid lock downs, and Tahiti was one of the few locations that accepted yachts in transit without too much fuss. As a result boats accumulated in the packed anchorages and marinas. This manifested some stress upon the locals. As you can imagine, the anchorages were extremely busy and some of the cruisers misbehaved inexcusably. Dumping their grey water and trash in the pristine reef lagoons and stealing mooring balls from local fishermen and boat owners. The feeling towards the sailing community grew more hostile as the situation worsened, even to the point that the local government decided to close certain anchorages and insisted on boats to leave once they had the possibility of passage onwards.
Our days on the island seamlessly fell into a routine. Groceries, visits to the down-town area for some food, grabbing a meat at a roulotte, meeting with our newfound friends and occasionally trying to work remotely. Although we started to feel at home on this beautiful little rock, there was a rising need to return to Asia. For Linda she needed to attend to some business in person in Hong Kong, and for myself I was about to loose my chance of permanent residency in Macau. I was closing in to the 180 day yearly absence limit to qualify for consideration.
Driving through the heart of the Island
We tried to enjoy our stay in paradise to the maximum. We filled our days with as much sight seeing and activities as we could, as we knew we would need to leave at the first possibility. On one occasion we exchanged our trusty cheap Fiat Panda from a robust tourist 4×4 Jeep.
With this red monster the challenged the inland roads of the Island, the RT20. An exciting experience as the road took us along the river up into the island interior. We passed many small hydroelectric power plants along the deteriorated mountain road. As we climbed higher into the mountains, the weather dramatically changed. Tahiti has it’s own mini Eco system in the interior. A wet humid place where there is a constant layer of fog and frequent rain accompanied by the occasional thunderstorm. A true tropical rainforest micro climate on a rock in the middle of the Pacific. The vegetation also reflected this, as thick green trees and bushes covered the mountain sides. But since Tahiti is a volcanic Island, about as far away from any mainland as possible, there are no deadly critters to be found. No snakes, venomous spiders, hungry cats or other surprises.
The road brought us to the centre of the Island where at the time there was a small hotel. It looked closed down, so we didn’t bother to stop for refreshments. Driving onwards past many waterfalls and lakes we reached the summit of the road, passing through a small tunnel. From here it was all down-hill. It was not for another couple of hours bouncing around in the Jeep before we found civilization again, on the opposite site of the island. Who would have thought that an Island in the middle of the Pacific would boast such a diversity of climates nature.
One other sunny day, we made the crossing to Moorea, an island just west of Faaa. we have been looking at this island for weeks on end from our balcony, enjoying the spectacular sunsets. As travel restrictions within French Polynesia eased up we tried to make a booking to head out towards the famous island of Bora Bora. But we were not the only ones that were locked in for weeks. It turned out that the entire population of Tahiti decided to make use of the opened air routes. The booking office was jam packed and there was no way to get a ticket anytime soon. Bora Bora was of the agenda for now. But Moorea was only a short ferry ride away. So with some help of JP we managed to get tickets for ourselves and the car.
Getting the car on the ferry was an interesting experience. All cars had to enter through a side door up a steep iron ramp, guided by loud screaming loading officials giving directions in French. Once aboard the cars where packed together as close as possible to make space for more. All the loading went in record speed so it was quite a frenzy. But once everything was aboard, the boat roared its enormous turbines and started to make way towards the Papeete pass.
The ferry we took was a ‘fast’ ferry, similar to the ones peddling back and forth between Hong Kong and Macau. It would take us to Moorea in just about thirty minutes. One out of the pass, it revved up to full power, steaming forwards at about 40 knots.
Unloading the boat on the other end was just as frantic and efficient as the loading ritual. In no time the cars and cargo was unloaded and the ferry was on it’s way back to Papeete. Our first order of business was to buy some nice things for breakfast and head out to a beach for a morning swim. JP knew his way around the island very well as he came here frequently to enjoy a couple of days of calm.
We stopped at a small supermarket to stock up on some foods and drinks. Bernadette, JP’s wife, packed us a thermos of fresh warm coffee. After getting some supplies, we made our way to Tamea beach, not too far from the ferry pier. A wonderful shallow lagoon to wade in. Here we enjoyed some breakfast on the beach and our morning swim.
After being replenished we drove up into the mountains for a birds-eye view of the Island. The winding Belvedere road across the mountains takes you across the small island from one side to the other in just about half an hour. There are many hiking trails in the interior, with spectacular viewpoints. But as we only had a day and we wanted to see as much as possible, we didn’t take the time to go hiking on Moorea.
From there on, we drove along the beautiful North side of the island passing the Cook bay and Opunohu bay which we just have seen from above at the viewpoints in the mountains. We drove all the way towards the western tip near the (now closed) Intercontinental Hotel.
Here we found a snorkel and boat rental place where we rented a small skiff with some snorkel gear. The waters around the west point up to the Tiahure island are filled with stingrays and little reef sharks. A bit like the stingray city in the Cayman islands.
As soon as you enter the water from your little boat, the rays come up to you to see if you have any food. Then they quickly loose interest, once they find out there is not much to gain. Along with the rays there are dozens of little reef shark ominously circling the boat. Curious to see what is going on. we played with the rays and sharks a bit before heading to the shallower sands of the Tiahure island. Here we found some more rays to play with in the shallow lagoon. As it was a weekday, and Tahiti and Moorea were still closed off from the world, there were no other people around except for us three.
After our playtime in the lagoon, it was time for a simple lunch at the resort next to the boat rental place. A place that normally would have it’s fair share of tourists now only server 2 tables. Before we back to the ferry to make our way back to Tahiti we make a quick stop at the distillery to do a little tasting of local rum. But unfortunately, also due to the lack of tourists, the tasting was closed down for the moment. We did buy a bottle of liquid gold though for consumption at home.
Moorea is one of those little gems. People that visit Polynesia think of Bora Bora or other far flung exclusive and popular islands. But this little island, right next to Tahiti is definitely worth a couple of days. I am sure we will be back one day.
Faarumai waterfalls, Tahiti