French Polynesia in a nutshell/ diary

Bob & Sue Dall
Mon 20 Aug 2012 05:36
Over 3 months ago we arrived in French Polynesia. Our first landfall, Hiva Oa, in the Archipelago of Marquesas set the scene for the following months. The lush, scented vegetation and powerful landscape of sharp peaks, deep valleys and waterfalls, the friendly people adorned with beautiful tattoos and fresh flowers, and the archeological sites of paepae platforms and sculptured Tiki.
We sailed to Fatu Hiva,its stunning anchorage surrounded by vertical rock faces. trading clothes and spectacles for local handicrafts was a great way to meet the islanders.
Tahuata had some beautiful bays, swimming with the manta rays in Baie Hanamoenoa was special!,
Ua Pou is probably my favorite island with its spectacularly serrated skyline. The open ended church has a glorious view up to the mountain top and beyond!. We had a great hike accross the island with Jerome, our guide, who explained Marquesaian life on the way!
We took a very memorable car journey arround Niku Hiva,the principle island of the Marquesas, 57kms of the road was built by the French , the remaining 70kms wasn't built at all! Every island of the Marquesas archipelago we visited, had its own unique flavour.

On June 8th we set sail to the Tuamotu Atolls. This is the largest of the French Polynesian archipelagos, consisting of 76 islands and atolls extending over more than 20,000 sq km. A complete contrast from the towering peaks of the Marquesas, these 'sunken' islands, generally have just a ring reef remaining enclosing a lagoon. Barely visible from a few miles distant, the prospect of navigating around them and entering the passes ( gaps in the reef) was quite daunting! But we had heard the diving was good. . . . . . Next time will visit many more atolls! We spent a very memorable 2 weeks in Fakarava, having only intended on staying 3 or 4 days! The diving and snorkeling were fantastic, we had an in depth guide of a pearl farm, hired bikes, had some great meals, and even found some coconut crabs! Before leaving the Tuamotos we sailed to Rangiroa to do some more memorable diving, including my favorite to date, our encounter with wild dolphins ,who were as inquisitive as we were!

At the beginning of July we left for Tahiti in the Society Islands, a group of high tropical islands surrounded by lagoons. Tahiti, the largest Polynesian Island, has 2 major volcanic masses, the largest, RI over 2000 m high rises in the heart of Tahiti Nui. The other rises 1300m in Tahiti iti, the islands are connected by the Taravao isthmus. They provide some of the best hiking in French Polynesia.
We were lucky enough to coincide our visit with 'Heiva Tahiti, a celebration of life. Dancing and singing performances, as well as sports and games competitions, take place in Papeete for the month of July. The size of the troupes, the splendour of the costumes, and the strength of the music, provided brilliant performances, as artists from all the archipelagos came together.
Tahiti was also a very sociable time for us, for the first time in 4 months we were connected to dry land! Lots of yachts we had come to know over the past 6 months were sharing the same pontoon. It was a simple pleasure to walk to a shop without getting your bottom wet in the dinghy , chat to your neighbour without using the radio, or just luxuriate in a shower of 10 litres instead of the normal 2litres!
We spent 6 weeks exploring the Society Islands, (not adhering to our schedule!)The nearest island, Moorea is just 17kms from Tahiti. This beautiful heart shaped island seems a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the capitol. We walked the '3 coconuts' (now only 1 coconut) and The Pines trails, through gentle valleys covered in pineapple and citrus fruit plantations and waves of elegant Mape trees. Wish we had spent more time there! The same would go for our next stop, Huahine , home to the Sacred Blue-eyed Eels, some very impressive Marae (archaeological remains of ceremonial cites), ancient fish traps, Melanie's Art and Ice cream shop and some of the best surfing in FP.
We spent 5 glorious days in Raiatea and neighbouring Tahaa, hiking, visiting a vanilla farm ,exploring the lovely underwater coral gardens Dinghying along the beautiful Faaroa river, we met Andre a local farmer who laidened us with bananas, coconuts, yam and flowers!
Then the time came when we had to decide between another snorkel. . . . or a sail to Bora Bora!
The silhouette of Bora Bora is impressive, surrounded by a jade green lagoon fringed with Motu's, the colours paint paradise. The wall to wall 'over the water' hotel rooms stretch out across the lagoon, but there's still space left for the Giant Manta Rays that move majestically up and down their 'cleaning station'. We used up our last 8 dives here, with the Manta Rays, and outside the reef, with enormous Lemon Sharks and a very friendly turtle, in crystal clear water, magic! Out of the water we climbed Mt. Pahia, or rather, scrambled it. This was the most challenging hike yet as it was very steep in places, but the views from the top were breathtaking, and we did get back all in one piece TG!.
Our very last stop in French Polynesia is the small island of Maupiti. Still recovering from the Bora Bora hike, we didn't make it up Maupiti's peak, instead we circumsnorkeled a motu, swam with more Giant Mantas, exchanged our last francs for some memorable lemon meringue pie at the gas station, and admired the beautiful scenery from the cockpit of Evergreen over dinner!

So many things create a lasting image of French Polynesia, The canoes and coconuts (the key to life in the islands), tattoos and tikis, scented flowers, pamplemouss and pineapples, wild chickens, stray dogs, mountain peaks, waterfalls, black pearls, bicycles, drumbeats, dancing,smiling faces, simplicity, abundance, friendship. . . . MAURURU!
We are now on passage again, 690 nms, to wherever the wind takes us. . . .

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