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Date: 21 Jul 2015 05:24:11
Title: Tahaa 16:36.3S 151:33.5W

Dear Family and Friends,

Something quite peculiar is happening to my blogs! I have lost a few or the ends have been cut short. Perhaps you could let me know if that is what is appearing because its not what I have sent!

Anyway, here we are in picture perfect lagoon, moored beside the Motu Tautau just off the west coast of Tahaa with a fine view of the jagged peaks of Bora Bora and captured a lovely sunset yesterday on camera. Saturday and Sunday morning were notably for their greyness and rain. A shame as the bay Hamene was a deep inlet almost to the centre of the island and the usual mixture of hillsides, lush forest, coconut palms, local life on the sea and low cloud. Moving on to Bay Faaaha (pronounced Fa’a’aha) too many ‘a’s to get your tongue around, we hopped ashore (good little harbour here), to walk to La Vallee de Vanille, about 2 km around the headland. Thinking we were getting much needed exercise, we made it most of the way before being offered a characteristically generous lift by a local women who it turned out lived at the vanilla plantation. And they wouldn’t take no for an answer to the lift back! Apparently yachties call them and they pick them up!

The plantation was a gem of interest, our guide showed us the vanilla vines growing not under netting as we had seen before but using young trees as supports, coconuts husks around their roots acting as water catchment and retention. The plants are related to orchids and were introduced to the islands in 1848, originally coming from Mexico. Until the 1960’s Vanilla was the main export of Tahaa, the vanilla capital of the Society Islands, growing 2-300 tonnes p an. Today a tiny amount is exported, most is now sold to tourists. The plantation is more of a co-operative with many smallholders, tending their own patches and selling on the fresh crop to the company for drying.

The plants flower in their 2nd year, produce the pods in their 3rd year and are replaced at 9-10 years. Each plant will produce between 1.5-2kg of beans once it is mature. The pods are picked green, graded for size and stored in a shed in piles. Each day they are turned until they are black, at about day 5 they are dried in the sun for 3-4 hours at a time, laid out on hessian sacking. Having had their time in the sun, they are wrapped and stored in bunkers where their heat together with all the other bundles in there, causes a sauna like atmosphere. The process is repeated until the beans are cured. These beans are fat and luscious with an almost smoky intensity. According to our guide cheaper imports from Madagascar and India have killed their trade but also produced inferior beans, too dry and thin, but then I am not surprised he had that view!

For those of you foodies, here are the hot tips for Vanilla! Storage in an airtight container but preferably in alcohol like rum, brandy, vodka. This preserves the beans and also provides a vanilla flavoured spirit you can use in fruit salads or just drink! Vanilla essence is made by steeping the beans in alcohol and distilled water, what remains is made into vanilla paste. At £3.75 per pod, these are luxury foods. They also make a savoury vanilla sauce on the islands to go with their meat.

Moving on as the day is sunny after all, we motored up the around the island in company with Sofia, tried a few anchorages, not happy with the anchorages in NE Motus so as the sun was setting and just in the nick of time we anchored here. Hopefully we will go for a swim in the coral gardens on the West side of the islet shortly.

Alan meanwhile has replaced the starter motor on our inboard generator and with all our fingers crossed appears to have solved the problems, the other being a faulty engine temperature sensor which was replaced earlier. So happy days, we have been conserving water and power as much as possible as our back up generator has only half the output of the inboard one. It is not until you have to make your resources that you realise you can save water by simple actions. For instance we took showers standing in a large jiffy bucket to capture the water which was then used for washing. Rinse water came from the 30 litres of rainwater accumulated in the dingy after all this rain and for a second rinse we left the clothes pegged out in the rain, not ideal but all possible. And of course the waste water from washing was used to sluice down the decks. We will get a washing up bowl to save water and may hand steer to save daily consumption.

Well thats our news for the moment, always good to your news as well.

All our best,

Lynne and Alan














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