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Date: 15 Jul 2012 09:12:42
Title: Tahiti-Moorea-Tahiti

Lat 17:32.38S
Lon 149:34.19W

I feel like such a slacker - it's been a week since we arrived in Tahiti, and despite the easy internet access I haven't written a single blog. Must mean we've been busy! We arrived last sunday after a windless crossing from Faaite in the Tuamotus. We had to motor most of the way as we were only doing 2-3 knots without it, and seeing as it was the end of Jamie and Ilana's trip, they understandably didn't want to spend their last few days floating around waiting for the wind! The centre of Papeete (pronounced Pa-pay-ye-tey) is actually quite small, with sprawling suburbs in the foothills of the mountains behind the city. It's quite an odd mix of Polynesian and French - there are lots of French students and expats here, and there is definitely a big city / international vibe - we don't stick out so much as tourists here.

We moored alongside the wall in the heart of the city - the first time we have moored alongside a pavement with cars whizzing past just a few metres away! Archie did a sterling job of fixing the windlass and I am quite impressed at his handiwork in taking the motor apart and working out what was wrong with it. I'm sure most people would have just assumed that the motor was fried and waited 3 weeks for a new one! The other good news is that the laptop and the ipad seem to have survived the attempted drowning they received in Fakarava, although the ipad does sometimes turn itself on and off, it all seems to continue to work.

Moored alongside the park in Papeete

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Archie and Jamie work wonders with the windlass

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July in Tahiti, and indeed all of French Polynesia is a great month to visit, as they have their annual Heiva festival throughout the whole month. There was a temporary arena set up at the other end of the park to where we were anchored, and just for this week there has been a dancing and singing competition every night. We went along on our first night in Papeete and managed to get some tickets. There were 2 dance troupe performances and two choirs. The dancing was better than the singing, with fantastic costumes (no less than 4 costume changes in each group) and awesome drumming and music accompanying the 130 dancers on stage. it was an excellent spectacle and great to see the traditional dancing in a real competitive environment rather than at some cheesy hotel restaurant.

Girls shaking what God gave them in the traditional colours of French Polynesia

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The next day we set sail for Moorea. Jamie and Ilana had wanted to spend a few days there, and we were going to head there straight from the Tuamotu's before we broke our windlass. Anyway, that was all fixed now so off we went. Moorea is meant to be the stuff of daydreams, and I had been looking forward to it for months. Unfortunately the sun god wasn't shining down on us and low clouds covered most of the island and we even got some rain! We anchored in Cooks Bay (not actually visited by Captain Cook so a rather confusing name!) and had a good dinner in a French restaurant in the bay. The next day it was still a bit grey and miserable so we tried to hire bikes to cycle around the island, but they were all booked out. Eventually Jamie, Ilana and Dad went on a long walk up to a viewpoint, while Archie and I did a few jobs on the boat and then motored round to the next bay. The 2 hour walk turned into a 6hr wet marathon and the walkers were gone for most of the day, and they finally arrived back to the boat looking more than a little damp. Dad finally got his $5 worth out of his "emergency" poncho that he had purchased in the Galapagos and not used until now.

A disappointingly cloudy Moorea

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But an amazing rainbow in the bay!

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We spent the second night in Opunohu Bay - one of the most spectacular bays in all of French Polynesia. The next day the weather was a little kinder and we finally saw some sunshine! We had heard about a place where you can hand feed stingrays, and after dinghying over to the wrong place at first, we finally found it (miles away from the anchorage!) just past the Intercontinental hotel. We were not alone and several tour boats were also there, amusing tourists with stingrays that were leaping out of the water and literally smothering the tour guide in the water who was holding some fresh tuna for them to eat! The water was extremely clear and there were about 12 stingrays and lots of black tip reef sharks, all swimming around the people standing in the shallow water. It was a bit like an interactive underwater zoo. Very cool to be so close to these creatures that are not bothered by your presence, but when food is being chucked into the water and there is a mixture of humans and food in the water you can't help but wonder if this won't all end in tears at some point in the future!

Stingrays dancing around Jamie and Ilana

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Finally some sunshine in Baie D'Opunohu

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After our snorkelling tour we tied the dinghy up at the hotel and walked to another restaurant called Les Tipaniers for lunch which was great, and right on the beach overlooking the water. That afternoon we hauled Ilana up the mast so she could take some photos from above, and then motored back to Tahiti (still no wind and very disturbed seas - some of the worst sea conditions we've seen all trip - luckily it was only a 3 hour trip). That evening we went for a bit of a slap up meal in a cool restaurant on the roof terrace of a shopping centre! Random, yes, but good food and a fun night to which Jamie and Dad very kindly treated us.

On Jamie and Ilana's final day we hired a car and did a lap of the island, venturing down to the famous Teahupoo wave - one of the biggest in the world when it's pumping. No-one was out but through the disturbed water there was quite a big wave on show. Once again we got rained on and headed back to the car. We ended the day with a beer up the hill overlooking Moorea at sunset. We had wanted to get to the top of one of the mountains but a slight disagreement on directions and which road to take meant we found ourselves driving through a building site on the side of the hill! Still it was a great view of the city and Moorea. Back in Papeete, Jamie and Ilana picked up their bags and we headed to Les Roulottes for a quick dinner. The Roulottes are a very cheap and tasty dinner alternative to a pricey restaurant. Essentially lots of vans park in a square on the waterfront, and set up tables and chairs next to their vans, out of which they produce all kinds of tasty cuisine - largely Polynesian or Chinese. It's a fraction of the price you pay in a restaurant and very popular - good for people watching and a great atmosphere.

View from the building site of Papeete

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A final beer for the original Mystic crew - notice Dad has got his face back after seeing a coiffure in town!

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Sunset over Moorea

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Les Roulottes

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Finally it was time to say goodbye to Jamie and Ilana! We have done so much over the last 3 months with Jamie that it seems like he's actually been with us for a lot longer. We've covered a lot of miles and created some lifelong memories. He has been great company and a very able sailor, and has definitely taught me quite a bit about spinnakers and knots! And it was great to have another girl on the boat, even if it was just for 11 days. I only wish the weather had been better while we were in Moorea - since they jumped on the plane Moorea has barely had a cloud over it! They should be back in England now, and Dad flies home tomorrow night. So it's all change onboard Mystic and it feels like the end of Chapter One and a big milestone for our trip.


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