Astra Blog: Bora Bora (Part 2) 31.08.08 - 04.09.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Wed 24 Sep 2008 19:52

Astra Blog: Bora Bora (Part 2) 31.08.08 – 04.09.08



The rest of our time in Bora Bora was dominated by the weather. The itinerary told us that it was time to be moving on, however the waves breaking outside the reef and the weather forecast told us that the sensible thing to do was to stay put: with gale force winds blowing through, the 20 or so yachts at Bora Bora Yacht Club were storm bound!


We found a range of activities to fill in the extra time. The most popular of these was discussing the weather and many afternoons were spent in BBYC scrutinising the sky for indications of an improvement in the weather, and using the available forecasts to try to pick a ‘weather window’.


It also gave us time to conquer one of Bora Bora’s famous twin peaks, Mount Pahia (the other being un-surmountable). George and Ash made the first ascent with Bruce (Ino) and Yan and Jeff (Ogopogo), followed the next day by Jeremy with adventure’s Sean, Tara and Casey, and Findlay from Zulu. The photographs do some justice to the spectacular colours of the lagoon as viewed from the summit but it is a struggle to do justice with words to the hard slog it was getting there; fortunately Tara has captured brilliantly the significant effort required to get to the top of Mount Pahia in her account of the walk which is given below.


George and Ash became converts to clothes shopping after Sally took them on a shopping trip to one of Bora Bora’s fancy boutiques. They did not get quite so far as actually buying anything but were more than happy to wait around while Sally made a few purchases: not only did the very attractive shop attendant try on bikinis for demonstration purposes, but she also was more than happy to hand out glass after glass of decent champagne – what an excellent establishment!


Standing around jabbering about the weather also gave us the chance to make some new friends. In particular, we befriended a Canadian boat called Zulu. While one of Zulu’s crew members, Findlay, was off conquering Mount Pahia with Jeremy, the remaining four lads took Ash, George and several members of Ino out for a sail in the lagoon. It was a cracking afternoon with decent winds (in the shelter of the island) enabling us to whizz up and down in the sunshine enjoying the weather, some good music and a few beers.


Other highlights of our extra time in Bora Bora were a quiz night and a petanque competition, both organised by the cruisers for their fellow cruisers storm bound in BBYC. The ever industrious Ino put on a quiz night which we can proudly say that Astra won (thanks in no small amount to George’s knowledge of cheesy pop music!) Teiva and Jessica from BBYC kindly donated a bottle of champagne to the winning team which helped to point the evening in the right direction.


We were slightly less successful in the petanque doubles competition – Ash and George lost out in the final, citing an ‘excess of sunshine’ on their day sail on Zulu as the reason for their substandard performance.  


We must have been running out of things to do to entertain ourselves because eventually we decided that we were going to have to leave Bora Bora and head on. It was a shame to leave friends old and new behind but someone had to be the first out of the anchorage, and where Jeremy’s calling the shots you can be pretty certain that it will be Astra who is first to make the bold move!


Summitting Pahia (by Tara O’Neil, aged 14)

I looked down at the leaf-littered ground as I trudged foreword. I cringed
as streams of sweat poured into my eyes, stinging them like little needles.
My lungs threatened to burst, my hands were scratched and red, and I still
had to conquer the huge mountain in front of me.

On the small Island of Bora Bora, there is a mountain called Pahia. It's not
exactly Mt. Everest, but I haven't heard anyone call it a hill. It's lush
and green. Its size is intimidating. My Dad, Jeremy, Finley, Casey and I
were climbing it.

We'd been at it for about an hour, huffing and puffing. Comments like, "I'm
so *gasp* out of shape." and "how 'bout another break guys?" were not

Jeremy, the most organized among us, had it all figured out. He'd planned
that if we hiked for seven minutes (which was just about all your body could
take before collapsing on the spot) and took a break for three, then we'd
get to the top around noon.

I climbed slowly on. It wouldn't be too bad of a hike if the mountain wasn't
completely vertical and the folk song "she'll be comin' round the mountain
when she comes" wasn't mercilessly stuck in my head. I'd adopted a routine:
Step. Moan like a soldier with his legs chopped off. Gasp like an old man
having a brutal asthma attack. "She'll be..." Step. My limbs are on fire.
Pant like a dog. "...Comin' round the mountain when she comes..." Step. I
hate this stupid mountain. Suck in air like a vacuum cleaner on high power.

I grabbed onto another root. My handhold. It seemed to have grown there just
for me to use. The dead leaves crunched and crinkled under my shifting feet.
I grasped another root and pulled myself up.

"She'll be ridin' six white horses when she comes..." Smart woman, bringing
six horses. I wish I had a horse right now. I wish I had six. And a slushy.

"Alright guys, break!" Jeremy's voice boomed through the still trees. A sigh
of relief escaped the lips of all the weary hikers. These breaks were a good
idea, but I couldn't enjoy mine with the thought of having to get up and
start moving again in a measly three minutes. Who made up this time limit

I took a gulp of water through my hyperventilation and looked around the
group. Everyone had beet-red cheeks and beads of sweat streaming down their
foreheads. Their hair was matted down and drenched. Everyone sounded like
they were having panic attacks. Jeremy lifted his wrist like it weighed a
hundred pounds and read his watch. He grimaced. Everyone else grimaced at
his grimace because they knew what was coming. "Okay team," he tried to
sound encouraging even though he sounded like a suffocating fish, "time to

As I climbed, I had a sudden flashback to the Tahiti guidebook. "If you're
experienced and determined, it's possible to climb Mount Pahia in about four
hours of rough going..." Me? Experienced? Not a chance. Determined? Maybe.
Four hours? Four hours... I stopped hiking for a moment to have a silent
mental breakdown. Then somehow I moved on...

There was no wind. We were all aware that there wasn't even a slight breeze.
The air was thick and humid. Or was that just the sweat running down our
backs? Also, it was dead still. No sound. Just the common rustling of leaves
as we climbed. The trees blocked out the sun and gave us the pleasure of
shade. We hiked in silence, with the occasional grunt from a climber in
extreme pain.

I was desperately trying to motivate my body as I clambered forward. I told
myself that whatever I wanted at that moment was at the summit. A slushy. A
massage. A cold shower. They would all be waiting for me at the top. I
climbed forward choosing my path carefully.

Pretend, I commanded myself, that there's an army of deranged islanders out
to kill you with their spears and the only way you can escape them is to get
to the top, where a rescue helicopter can bring you to safety. They're right
behind you! You'd better climb faster! I shook my head. Now I just sounded
crazy. Delusional. I decided to just climb.

Jeremy and I had taken the front of the group. We hiked as fast as our legs
would take us. The trees were clearing and a whisper of wind became somewhat
apparent, cooling our skin and making us less pink. The beaten trail was
getting flatter now and our legs were under a slow flame instead of complete

Soon, after we'd climbed the last rock wall, there was an open space. A
clearing, where the grass was smashed down, probably from hikers that did
exactly what I did when I got to the top.

I didn't do a victory dance; I didn't have the energy to do that. I didn't
toss my hands in the air and yell "we made it!" I threw myself down and
promised never to get up again. I came round the mountain. Except I didn't
do it with six white horses like that wuss in the folk song. I hiked, I
climbed, I had dirt on my face and I wasn't just round the mountain, I was
on top of it.

After a small lunch we were off back down the mountain, despite the solemn
promise I made to myself. I slid down mostly on my backside and my shoes. It
was sort of like skiing without skis. I just shot down without stopping,
grabbing onto trees and roots, hoping that I wouldn't trip or die.

When we all were down the mountain, Jeremy took us to The Saint James
Restaurant for a celebratory round of drinks. We toasted to our victory, the
mountain that we'd conquered and (secretly) the fact that we'd never have to
climb it again.