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Date: 30 May 2010 04:05:04
Title: 16:29S 151:45W

Bora Bora, Society Islands

The tempo changed on leaving Moorea as we entered a world of much more
traditional Tahitian
culture in the islands of Huahine, Taha'a, and Raiatea. However this could
come to an abrupt halt at our next stop, Bora Bora, which, despite being
spectacularly beautiful, is also reputed to be dreadfully over-developed
with hotels catering for foreign tourists.

This last couple of weeks the weather has been very changeable, with a lot
of rain and very generous allowances of wind, so we've had to aim off both
in terms of selecting anchorages and in our choice of activities, but we've
had some brilliant days as well.

Our passage to Huahine was overnight so as to arrive in daylight, and we
were obliged to motorsail much of the way, but the new day dawned with
plenty of wind and torrential rain. Things improved, however, and we
anchored on the western side of the island off the main village of Fare
inside the encircling reef amid the oft mentioned tourquoise blue water.
Fare is a very small quiet place, though it is gifted with a magnificent
supermarket. We booked ourselves a tour of the island for the next day with
a friendly American ex-pat, Joel, who is a very long time resident of French
Polynesia. He drove us around Huahine Nui (Big Huahine) and Huahine Iti
(Little Huahine) and gave us a full account of the culture, the history, the
archaeology, and the growing of Vanilla, which is claimed to be the best in
the world, so we duly invested in same. Despite frequent showers it was an
lovely and very informative tour and Joel provided us with a fascinating
insight into traditional Polynesian life. Thanks, Joel. Our subsequent
snorkelling was disappointing because we chose a nearby area which only
offered a very limited selection of fish.

On the 20 mile passage across to Taha'a we were pursued by heavy showers,
but easily found our way through the pass in the reef which encloses both it and the island of
Raiatea. These reefs are amazing in that they lie up to a mile or more
offshore, and there in the middle of the ocean iyou come on this line of breaking
water with the swell pounding in. Go through a pass and you're still in
open water but it's quite flat, and you can sail about in this huge area around
the islands in calm water. We entered Haamene Bay and picked up a mooring
buoy in front of the Hibiscus Hotel. This excellent establishment is run by Leo, an elderly ex-pat Frenchman, who is evidently held in high regard by regular visitors there. We arranged for the hotel to take us on a snorkelling tour next day and had a very convivial drink in the bar, meeting some German sailors who were chartering a yacht from Raiatea.

Next day was wonderful. After a breezy night with showers it dried up and at about 08.30 the four of us set off in the hotel's launch, together with two delightful Czechs, Michael and his wife Dominica, who both spoke faultless unaccented English. Our guide and driver was a local lad, Eric, assisted by his friend Tangaroa, and they took us at high speed round to the west side of the island where there was a shallow pass through the reef. Walking along the shore to the outer end of it we entered the water and drifted slowly through. Eric handed round bits of dead fish with which we hand fed the reef fish so we were contantly surrounded by the clouds of brilliantly colloured fishes of every shape, whirling about like autumn leaves in the wind. At one point Eric seduced an octopus out of a hole, where it was lurking colloured deep purple with spots. As it swam off over the coral its colour changed to khaki within less than 5 seconds. After a drink of excellent rum punch with fresh Papaya and Passion fruit and a snack, we went to another site for a repeat performance. The sun remained bright all day and the colours of the corals and the water were out of this world. Eric referred to it as a coral garden, and it really was. That evening Leo gave us a marvellous meal in the hotel, though afterwards the bill when it came created some severe transient wallet pains.

On 28 May we motored through the lagoon to Uturoa, the capital town of Raiatea. Raiatea is the spiritual home of the Polynesian people, including New Zealand's Moaris, and indeed one of its temples is so sacred that a stone from it had to be incorporated in all the temples built on other islands. That evening we were treated to a master class in traditional dancing, apparently provided for the local women, in the town square. To the accompaniment of some amazing drumming the instructress gave a wonderful display, followed by taking the class through a whole series of complicated choreography which was demonstrated movement by movement by what we took to be two young students - who were brilliant. Another million or so pounds was spent on groceries before we were ready to set off again.

Having discovered that there are usuallyquite a number of people looking for a berth on a yacht sailing along this route, and that crew members regularly jump off one boat to try another, we put the word around that we were after an additional crew member to help us out from Bora Bora through to Australia. This provooked a very rapid response and Phillipe, a French Canadian from Montreal, joined us at half an hour's notice. We have agreed on a mutual let out clause if it doesn't work out for either party, but potentially he will solve our crew problem and take some of the load off Peter and I over the remaining 3,000 miles. Extraordinary how quickly this can be done!

And so on to Bora Bora on the 29th, where we are due to arrive in about half an hour. Scenically it is incredibly dramatic with this huge jagged peak rising above the lagoon. Let us hope closer inspection doesn't disappoint too much.

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