Tahaa with Devar

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Thu 12 Sep 2013 22:47
Tahaa with Devar
Located in the same lagoon as Raiatea, the high island of Taha’a is nevertheless very different from her big sister. The five thousand three hundred islanders are vey proud of their island, the people are spread in eight villages along the shore and live in harmony with the trade winds. There are a few hotels and guest houses, a few visiting yachtsmen and charter boats. The many motu circling the island are said to be some of the prettiest in French Polynesia. The lagoon has a depth of ten to forty six metres all the way round, hence the skippers wish to circumnavigate the island – one of the few that makes this’ feat’ possible. From the small port of Uturoa (north end of Raiatea), shuttles provide transportation to neighbouring islands as Tahaa has no airport. Freighters bring supplies to both islands.  
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This morning we were on the quayside at eight thirty and soon we were being welcomed by Devar, who had brought his friend Yo to help with our tour of the island. Leaving the bay behind on a fairly good road. Then the road followed the edge of the bay and later, a more natural terrain........
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We passed several houses on stilts.
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All the gardens we passed were clearly very proud of their flowers. The roof in the centre, was actually a cover for a van that had been converted into a restaurant kitchen, with al fresco dining.
We stopped at a small quay to pick up two couples who were staying at a small motu resort opposite. The sky went very dark and the rain fell.
That produced a nice rainbow........
.........but a very drab view of Bora Bora. The weather, especially the wind has been so bad there that many yachts have stayed put.
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Devar showed us a medicinal plant while Yo fetched a cock tupa (land crab), that are happy here in there thousands. Marvelous.
Devar stopped so we could see various bits of smashed coconut drying in the sun, at this point called copra. When completely dry, it will be bagged and sent to the one treatment plant in Papeete, where some will be used to make essence, some to be ground as fertiliser. We thought the drying sheds - roof slides over in the rain - looked so much like the coffee and chocolate bean driers in we had seen on Grenada.
Then up a steep, bumpy road looking down into a forest of mape trees.
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From the Vaitoetoe Pass we had spectacular views out to sea and Haamene Bay.
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What was exciting for us, we could look down on Beez Neez.
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Whilst admiring the view, with a fresh coconut drink, Bear was presented with a new ‘beak’.
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Here we watched Devar and Yo de-fur a coconut, which became the platter, add a few leaves as a doilies and begin to chop the fruit they had been gathering along the way.
By the time they were finished we had a royal feast of pomelo, coconut, papaya, mango and finished off with star fruit. Once eaten the whole thing was chucked into the bushes, completely bio-friendly for the awaiting chickens to peck over. Wonderful.
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A little way down the hill, we stopped once more. This time we were held spellbound as Devar cut a piece of wood, added a notch, made a score below the notch, twisted and stripped the outer bark and handed it to Yo. Then he cut completely through the stick, made a pointed end – rather like sharpening a pencil. Next he put the bark sleeve back on and inserted (pointy end first) the bit he had cut off. He placed the notch to his lips and blew. As he pulled the inner bit in and out the most amazing sound of a flute going up and down the treble clef sounded – he says after six beers he gets to concert level – well if we shut our eyes James Gallway certainly has competition. Devar said his grandfather, who taught him, insisted he play with his nose (which he showed us) “as bad words can come out of a mouth, but, the breath from a nose has come from ‘she’. ” We thought that was rather lovely.
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Next stop was to be Grandfathers vanilla plantation. Off the track we passed many cockerels in tiny cages. Mmmm. Then Devar pulled over and pointed through the bushes. Very well hidden was a cock fighting ring. Apparently a Chinese man who speaks like a native, runs a very lucrative business here. A winning cock (no knives attached) fights fairly and wins two thousand dollars for his owner, such is the stakes. The winner is declared when his opponent flees the arena, which is very good news, as this means no fighting to the death (phew), although a determined opponent may choose to fight on......... A very traditional sport in these parts and its been going on for centuries.....
Vanilla is the major economic industry here on Tahaa, (own blog) where he patiently showed us how to open and pollinate each flower.
  The college or senior school just behind where Beez is anchored. We passed a primary school in Patio known locally as Tepapa I Ahuroa, north of the island, and saw most of the eight village schools.
Home, where wife Linda welcomed us with fresh juice, sliced pineapple and an intriguing purple fruit. Linda explained more about vanilla, its drying, preparation and uses.
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Fat, fat & skinny and skinny vanilla pods. 
Each day Linda puts the vanilla beans outside in the sun for three hours. Daily massaging has to occur to straighten them. Each afternoon they are wrapped in their protective sheet and put in a box to sweat out much of their water content. Then they are ready for vacuum packing, adding to rum, put in containers to sell, ground for candles, soap, cosmetics and a whole raft of uses.
To end our time here at his home, Devar gave us a red ‘bean’. We had to strip the skin in our mouths with our teeth, eat the pulp from the seed inside and hand that over for planting. Then we were given a chunk of lime to suck, very sweet taste – the bean had changed the tongues perception of bitterness completely.
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Our last stop of the day was to walk across the road from Devar’s house, to the pearl farm opposite. There a lady welcomed us and gave us a talk about oysters. Black pearl farms are a recent introduction to the island, the temperature in the lagoon is just right but few youngsters want to enter this world of tending the creatures with constant care and snorkeling everyday. We learned more and got to watch Linda expertly prise the shell of one chap open with a blunt knife, insert half a peg, then the tool for holding the shell open. We saw inside as she pointed out the gonads. Nice. The pearls here were very good but terrifically expensive, no fear for the captains purse losing its cobwebs and bats.......
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Devar (right of picture) and Yo, dropped us back at Baby Beez after a thoroughly good day.