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Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Before we left Tahiti for Moorea we paid a last visit to the roulottes and to the final night of rehearsals for Heiva in the outdoor stadium at the end of the waterfront promenade. I highly recommend trying to catch the free rehearsals two or three nights before the official start of Heiva. Some of the younger dancers didn't appear to have their act together yet, but an older troupe was very good. We arrived before sunset which was too early. We should have eaten first and then walked down to the stadium. As it was we watched a couple of numbers and when there was a break in the action we walked to the roulottes for a crepe and a hamburger. We returned to the stadium after 8 PM and stayed until 11 PM for the grande finale (in full costume).

We paid our bill at the quay and officially checked out of French Polynesia. Papeete is the center of all things official in FP, and we need do nothing more than check in and out with local gendarmes at each subsequent island (we're even stamped out in our passports). We then made the five mile trip to Marina Taina past the Papeete airport where we filled up with gasoline and duty free diesel. We exited a nearby pass for the 20 mile sail to Moorea. It was a terribly uncomfortable motor sail with confused seas in the channel between the islands. But as we rounded a point on Moorea John looked out over the distance just in time to see a lot of wind coming our way. He reefed the sails before we got hit with 25-30 knots of wind, and it was a quick sail to the well marked and easy pass at Opunohu Bay (past Cook's Bay). We anchored in 12' of water next to the coral extending out from the reef inside the pass. In most of these bays you can also anchor at the head of the bay where the water is much deeper and you are more shaded by the high mountains. If we were to do it again we would anchor closer to the beach side because all the tour/dive boats speed between Nakia and the reef on their way back and forth between Cook's Bay and our pass and beyond.

We made a brief visit to Stingray City where the tour boats don't mind if cruisers join in the melee of feeding rays and black-tip reef sharks (there were easily over two dozen of the latter darting in between people standing in the shallow water). We had done something similar in the Bahamas with a smaller group and fewer sharks and this was a bit too chaotic for me. We took the dinghy farther down the bay to try to find some snorkeling but the wind suddenly kicked up and we needed to go upwind back to Nakia. We managed to get in the wake of a small speedboat who "broke trail" for us. Then we passed a smaller dinghy with four people going very slowly. They were having trouble with their motor and motioned us over. We offered to take their two Belgian guests aboard our dinghy, which improved their situation, and we led the way back to their boat. Of course not much later, the wind calmed down and it was a beautiful afternoon.

In fact every day has been absolutely gorgeous and it wasn't until yesterday afternoon that we had any clouds. After our trip to Stingray City we went for a snorkel on the shallow reef next to Nakia, but most of the coral was dead and covered with some kind of strange weed. I counted five crown of thorns sea stars so that is part of the reason for the poor condition of the coral.

Since the snorkeling isn't very interesting we've concentrated on land exploration. On Saturday we made a five hour round trip hike to Belvedere (lookout) and Three Pines for stunning views of the two bays and the pineapple fields in Paopao valley. Sunday we took a walk after the solar eclipse to Jus de Fruit in Cook's Bay, but alas it was closed. And yesterday we caught an early morning bus to the ferry terminal in Vaiare. I was under the mistaken belief that it would be the biggest city on the island, but there wasn't even a bank. Instead the main city appears to be Maharepa where the post office and a few banks are located. Without much to see in Vaiare we walked to the Super Champion grocery store and then back to the terminal to wait for the next bus. The bus schedule is tied to ferry arrival/departure times so we waited for over an hour just people watching. We caught the bus going to the south and west sides of the island even though we were fully aware that it only went as far as Hauru at the northwestern tip. Hauru was a little tourist town where we bought a couple of fresh baguettes and started walking towards Papetoai with our thumbs stuck out for every passing car. Finally a pickup truck slowed for us and we hopped in the bed. But the driver motioned for us to get in the cab with him because it's illegal for people to ride in the back. Our driver turned out to be a city councilman who spoke excellent English. We told him how much we were enjoying Moorea and he told us that there's been a big campaign to get the garbage off the road sides and beaches. He said the next big job will be to build some new schools.

It's nice to be out of the big city, but this is also a busy place probably because it may be a holiday week for many people with Bastille Day coming up tomorrow (Wednesday). Saturday night a place on shore right next to the anchorage blared awful music literally all night long. The volume went down a bit some time in the wee hours of the morning when we think someone might have complained. We suspect it could have been a solar eclipse party since it was still going strong later in the morning. The eclipse was fun. We had our commemorative glasses and a clear morning for viewing it. As the shadows lengthened the air became significantly cooler. While we weren't in a zone of totality, it got pretty close but not close enough for an actual solar corona.

Tonight we leave for Huahine which is reputed to be a quieter, more laid back place where we hope to find better snorkeling.


{GMST}17|29.346|S|149|51.082|W|Opunohu Bay|Moorea{GEND}