Sunday, October 17, 2010



Today, we enjoy our stop at Raiatea, Society Islands, French Polynesia. We have a ship’s tour this morning and meet our tour on the dock in the port of Uturoa. Part of our trip includes snorkeling so we have that gear with us. Along with about 26 other people, we board an out-rigger canoe, a big one with a 125hp motor, and head across the lagoon to the island of Tahaa.

It is a 15 minute ride across beautiful water of varying shades of turquoise that vary with the depth of the water. Upon arrival at the small dock in Apu Bay, we climb in the back of multiple pickup trucks with bench seats for 8 persons and a colorful canopy cover. In our truck, we are joined by a lady named Magda who is our tour guide as we head out. The road is twisty with sharp curves and several times we get the feeling that the little truck is being pushed too hard with too heavy a load in the back. Magda does not seem to mind and chats away about the island, her family, her Protestant (pronounced protest unt) church, indigenous foods, the price of land (12,000 - 15,000 Polynesian French Francs (XPF) or $145 - $180) per square meter. Most families have owned their land for generations and will never sell. The custom is to bury your dead in the yards of the houses, so what would you do with GrandMa if you sold?

We arrive at a vanilla bean farm and have an explanation of how the plants are grown and how the beans are dried and prepared for market.

We purchase a bundle of beans weighing about a kilo for 5,000 XPF or $60. We are assured that with proper storage, in a glass jar with a little pure grain alcohol in bottom, they will last for 5-7 years. Still we have a lot of vanilla to use over the next few years.

Leaving the vanilla farm, we backtrack to the land site of a family pearl farm where we are shown the details of how cultured pearls are grown. Then, of course, there is a very brief opportunity to buy Tahitian Pearls. Since we are not interested in making a purchase here, we take photos of bay in front of the house and of the boats passing. After a short time, we board the out-rigger canoe that brought us over from Raiatea and head out to a motu (island) in the barrier reef for a chance to snorkel.

The snorkeling is not particularly good with so many people in the water but we do see a big, brown Moray eel and some colorful, small reef fish. After about an hour, we head back across the bay to Uturoa and the dock.

We have a car reserved and pick it up and head southeast along the coast past Raiatea Village and Faaroa Bay to Marae Taputapuatea, an ancient religious site. After stopping for a look, we drive on for another 10k or so and then head back to Uturoa to turn in the car and board the ship for its 5:00PM sailing. We need to be on board by 4:30PM.

Dick drops Carolyn off at the dock area about 3:15PM to do a little shopping and then heads out to the car drop near the airport. The stalls are pretty much closed so Carolyn heads to the shipand learns all aboard is in two minutes! Meanwhile the shuttle driver drops Dick at the dock about 3:35PM where he sees Carolyn frantically waving for him to hurry. It seems that we misunderstood the sailing time and we were to be back on board by 3:30PM, not 4:30PM.

Oh, well, there is a cruise tour not yet back and there is no harm done.
We get cleaned up and go up to the Crow’s Nest lounge in the front of the ship on Deck 9 to watch our departure and transit across the way to Bora Bora. It is a tricky channel out of the Raiatea Lagoon and we watch the distinctive outline of Bora Bora grow larger and then begin to disappear into the gloom as night falls. We finally anchor in the lagoon of Bora Bora well after dark
It is Sunday evening and there is nothing going on but tenders start running about 8:30PM so we catch one and head ashore to determine exactly where we are to go to get our rent car tomorrow morning. We find the Avis office and it opens at 7:30AM. We plan to be there when they open. Three other suite couples are on the tender and we get off at the dock to a seemingly dead town. There is a soccer game going on next to the dock, but out on the main street it is deserted. We see the Avis office and check out the opening time then walk a little ways with the group. Near the soccer field there are several "tamale trucks" cooking something that smells wonderful with families sitting at picnic tables eating, but that is it. We meet another group on the street that tell us there is open bar about a 15 minute-walk away. Two people in our little group go off to find the bar. The rest of us head back to the dock in time to catch the same tender back to the ship.

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