A quick stop in Raiatea
After an overnight pit stop so that Cyprien could work his magic on the rogue wind instrument (which he fixed, and it is now pointing in the right direction), we headed further east back to Moorea. We felt there was unfinished business. For one thing, although Moorea is one of the largest pineapple producing islands in the south pacific, we had only seen pineapples on a supermarket shelf or in a tin. So we thought it worth another visit to Moorea to see what they look like pre-plucked. And we booked ourselves on a tour.
Up in the hills
A couple of days before the tour, we headed off on foot to take a look around the area surrounding Opunohu Bay. According to TripAdvisor, there’s a waterfall close to Tahiamanu beach. So we headed off on foot in an attempt to find it. And half an hour later, we were still searching – it definitely wasn’t where it was supposed to be.
It was getting close to lunchtime, and as Google Maps showed us that the Tropical Garden was close by, we thought we’d nip in for something to eat. What Google Maps doesn’t show, however, is that the Tropical Garden is at the top of the mother of all hills – so it’s hardly somewhere to nip in for lunch. But, fuelled by a blend of hunger and typical determination, we marched on and up. We arrived at the restaurant looking like we had contracted a tropical disease – our appearance in stark contrast to the cool-looking holidaymakers who had stepped off a bus.
Flowers along the way
Despite our appearance, the staff allowed us to stay – and they had a special weekend lunch offer, which helped to stem the flow of cash from my wallet. Even though one of the food items on our plates looked like the aftermath of a disembowelling, the food was delicious. And even without the food, the tropical garden is a lovely place to visit. The scenery is superb. And, as the name implies, there is indeed a tropical garden, which is full of tropical plants and trees. There’s even a vanilla plantation up in the hills.
As we walked around the garden after lunch, we came across a sign that read “Waterfall”. So, we hacked along the rough trail, picking out where others might have previously walked until we eventually came to the waterfall – nowhere near where it was supposed to be. How they moved the waterfall up here from the location stated on TripAdvisor, I have no idea.
Rocky Road Tour
Our driver picked us up at 0830 on Tuesday morning to take us on our tour. We weren’t alone. Also in the taxi (actually a flat-bed truck with bench seats) were a Canadian couple and a French couple on honeymoon. Another French couple hopped on the back later. Then, with the taxi full of its expectant cargo, the driver set off on the tour, granting us a land-side view of the places we had only seen by sea: Cooks Bay, Opunohu Bay, and the interior of the island from a vantage point accessed by a road that would be best served by a funicular railway. The view was worth the buttock-bruising though – it’s a spectacular vantage point up there.
For a break, we headed off to familiar territory – the Tropical Garden. But this time our driver gave us a guided tour. He explained the flowers, and their use as hair decoration: left ear for married, right for single; open flower for women, closed for men. And he pointed out the various fruits: star apple, star fruit, papaya – and noni, which smells like camembert but is used in health drinks to stave off anything from heart disease to cancer – allegedly.
More pineapples than Carmen Miranda’s hat
Afterwards, we headed down the track and up the road to the pineapple plantation, where we got to sample a few of the drinks produced there – including one containing noni, which is as funky tasting as it smells. From the store, the driver bounced us along the road leading to the pineapple fields. I don’t know how many acres there are, but there are pineapples everywhere. It’s quite a sight. And these pineapples are delicious. Unlike those in UK supermarkets, where the middle of fruit has the texture of wood, it’s possible to eat the whole pineapple (minus the skin of course) without knocking out your fillings or shattering your dentures.
Our driver then dropped people off at their respective hotels, and us at the beach. The tour exceeded our expectations – it was a good one, and the driver was fun. Their website is http://www.franckyfranck-mooreatours.com/excursion/discovery-of-moorea-island-2.
We fancied a few days near a beach, so we headed back to our previous holiday resort – the Sofitel – near Te’avaro on the eastern side of the island. Besides, stocks were depleting and we needed to get some supplies. Ironically, this remote location offers one of the best places to park a dinghy and walk to a well-stocked supermarket. The wind scuppered any thoughts of lazy days on the beach when it changed direction, and we were no longer in the lee of Tahiti. But, we got one day on the beach. And I managed to clean the entire hull one day, although my ears and sinuses put up a protest for a week afterwards.
When the wind veered even more to the southeast, we left the anchorage. By this time, the sea state had taken on the appearance of a mini-southern ocean. We couldn’t use the dinghy, and life on Lady Jane was like being on a non-stop fairground ride. So, we upped the anchor and enjoyed a fast downwind sail back to the north of the island and Cooks Bay.
Other boats may have had the same idea. Cook’s Bay was not a quiet, secluded idyll – it was packed full of boats. It took us half an hour to find a spot to anchor and found one just to the west of the Moorea Beach Cafe. And, because it was Wednesday (hump day, middle of the week, any excuse), we headed over to the Beach Cafe for dinner. It’s quite a popular early evening venue. We noticed just how popular as we approached the outside terrace in the dinghy and saw all the people watching as we ran aground.
After eventually getting off the reef and finding our way to our table on the waterfront, we ordered from the early bird special. Partially because it reduced the impact of the eye-watering cost of eating there, and because it looked quite good. We weren’t disappointed by the quality and the quantity. There was enough food to challenge even Mr Creosote.
The Moorea Beach Cafe is a bit of an oddity. It looks like Veuve Clicquot sponsors it, or the restaurant’s owner is their number one fan. They even have a shop where it’s possible to buy almost anything Veuve Clicquot related. Fancy a Veuve Clicquot bike? There’s one here. And a visit to the shop is compulsory because that’s where you have to pay. We didn’t buy anything other than our dinner and a bottle of wine, but even so, we shelled out more cash than we have at restaurants with a Michelin star.
Nudists and Gendarmes on the starboard bow
I know I have called this out in previous posts – typically older males with appendages swinging past their kneecaps. But this made a change: a naked young woman. Being the gentleman I am, I didn’t immediately go up on deck to take a look. But, according to Maria, she came into the anchorage topless as she dropped the anchor, then dropped everything and jumped in. Unfortunately, her husband/partner had the same idea just as I came up on deck.
A couple of days later, the Gendarmes came over to us and asked if they could board us – although I don’t think NO is an acceptable response. The experience wasn’t unpleasant – they just wanted to see our passports and boat papers. The friendly crew of two are on a three-year secondment from France and are part of a larger team on a cutter that we have seen around the Society Islands. The officer dealing with the paperwork told us that he is hoping for a new assignment in the Caribbean when this one ends. Beats trudging the streets of Paris, I would argue.
We trudged the streets around Cooks Bay the next day, and took a few photos:
We have spent a lot of time in Moorea planning our journey back east and our trip back home. Cyclone season is snapping at our ankles, so we need to get to the Marquesas to be insured in the event of damage from tropical storms. We have arranged for Lady Jane to be hauled out at a boatyard in Hiva Oa so that we can fly back home for Christmas and spend some time in places that are not that easy to get to by boat – such as Easter Island.
In preparation, we have been working on boat improvement things: new cushions, companionway screens – and more padding to the forepeak cushions so that any guests we may have are capable of movement the next morning.
And we have been looking for weather windows to give a reasonable wind angle to go east. This weekend, with winds south of east, seems to be a good time to head off to the Tuamotus and close this chapter of our adventure in the Society Islands. It’s been a blast.