Thursday, 27 November 2014

French Polynesia, Bora Bora - 26/11/14

We've been here for a week and done nothing. It's fantastic. We forked out for a mooring at the Mai Kai Marina, which is a rare luxury for us. But I'm really glad we did. There's wifi, actual showers with running water and a really nice outdoor area with an infinity pool to relax in. They always have funky music going during the day, with a live band playing and happy hour in the evenings. It feels like we're staying in a resort. Probably because this place used to be a resort. They're friendly and relaxed here too, not really caring what time you drop in and out. You can pay for a week and then come and go whenever you want, just coming back occasionally to use up another day and check up on the Internet. If you stay for an hour longer than you were meant to they're not going to come running out to charge you for another night. So it's just been really nice chilling out like real people.

There was a young couple parked next to us last week, so we went ashore to have a drink with them during happy hour on Friday. It was so nice hanging out with people close to our own age! We ended up having a really great night, as drinks turned into dinner and we chatted all night long. We didn't get to bed until midnight! Which is very unusual for us. Mark and Liesbet led us through town in search of a local food van, which we probably wouldn't have attempted on our own without being able to speak the language. Some had menus and some didn't, but the menus were in French. Liesbet speaks French quite well and did a lot of the communicating for us. We found a little van in town that was more like a restaurant, with menus and a waitress to take our order. It was set up on dirt in the middle of a parking lot, but it was a really nice place to have a cheap meal. The plates were huge as well - Garth ordered steak and got a whole plate of beef. I tried the poisson cru, which is a more traditional Polynesian dish - it's essentially raw fish cooked just in the acidity of lemon or lime juice, then mixed in a coconut sauce. I'm not sure how I feel about raw fish, but it tasted good.

On the way home we walked past a hall that was pumping with music. Liesbet led us inside to see what was going on and used her French skills to discover it was some kind of church group celebrating something. We think it was kind of like a YMCA. We stood in the doorway for a while, entranced by the energetic voices of everybody inside. Then somebody motioned for us to sit down so we headed in to enjoy the show. Everybody on stage had such huge voices. The whole hall was shaking from the noise, it was amazing. Then in between acts while the stage was being organised some people sitting in the audience gathered in a corner and broke into song. I want to say it was cheeky kids from the church but there were adults crowding around the spontaneous circle as well, jumping up and down and clapping along. The circle got bigger and bigger, then louder and louder as more people joined in. It must have been a well known song. People walking past us on the other side of the room were singing along quietly to themselves as they went about their business. After a while the performers returned to the stage for the next song and just stood there waiting. Eventually the lady who seemed to be in charge of announcing each act got on the microphone and told them to stop. Then she told them to stop louder. But the song just kept going round in circles, getting louder as it was repeated over and over again. The clapping and jumping and dancing just got more energetic as the lady pleaded with them to cut it out, obviously angry at being ignored for so long. Then the group on stage slowly joined in, swaying in time to the music and laughing at the distressed lady. There were no microphones and no order or organisation, but that random collaboration of voices produced the loudest, most beautiful music I'd ever heard. It was spectacular!

Other than that impromptu night out we've just been relaxing. We went for a sail around the island over a few days, stopping at a new picturesque location each night. It's stunningly beautiful here, as you'd expect. Hopefully I'll get used to it eventually but right now it's frustrating - as soon as the water gets shallow and turns that beautiful shade of turquoise blue, I have to stand on the bow watching to make sure we don't hit any coral. But I just want to take pictures of everything. The water is still stupidly clear, which makes sailing stressful. I always think we're going to hit everything. Even when we're kayaking it looks like we're about to beach ourselves on the sand underneath, but when I stick the paddle in to test the depth it's over 2m to the bottom.

This mountain looks like it should have a castle on top

We went snorkeling in the coral gardens on the south east side of the island, which was really nice. The fish are obviously well fed outside the resort where all the tour boats gather, and they just swarm around you. There were two guys balancing on the coral (I suspect one was from a tour boat, so I didn't tell him off. But he should know better). One of them was standing on one foot, waving the other around as he tried to keep his balance. There were so many fish hovering around their legs it looked like he was trying to kick them off like flies.

We went swimming in another spot round the corner, but there was hardly any coral so I just played in the water taking selfies. Which is obviously the only thing to do when you're bored with a camera on a long pole. The water was really pretty though, with light refractions dancing all over our skin and along the bottom of the ocean. It felt like we were playing in a swimming pool.

Everyone here seems to get about on outrigger canoes. But they all have the fancy modern kind made out of fiberglass. They're so racey! The locals make a game about chasing bigger boats, paddling as fast as they can in an attempt to surf the stern wave trailing behind the boat. When the cruise ships are here their little boats zip back and forth between the shore and the cruise ship all day, and a little group of outriggers gather in the middle of the harbour to wait for the next one. They follow it as far as they dare before either giving up or managing to surf along behind.

When we were sailing around the other side of the island we had a kid paddle over to us and just sit there staring as we slowed down to a crawl to check the charts. As soon as we got going again he was off, not even having to try to keep up with our 6 knots. He easily tucked in behind and surfed along for ages before turning around and heading back, probably painfully aware of how far he had to paddle.

It's been pretty annoying not having a dinghy. It was a long kayak to both swimming spots, and there was another one we couldn't get to without a motor. Luckily we've still been able to get out and explore, but it's made it a lot harder to find kiting spots. There's hardly any wind at this time of year and now we're limited in where we can get to as well. It's infuriating. Hopefully we can get our sad little dinghy fixed or replaced once we make it down to Papeete (where Tahiti is).

Garth really wants to feed the rays. They're absolutely everywhere, flying under us when we're sailing or kayaking. They're huge! There's a few spots where the tour boats do feedings, so we bought some sardines to give them which are supposed to be one of their favourite snacks. I've fed them before at an aquarium and they're a bit freaky, sliding all over your hand. So I'm not as keen. There's supposed to be a place on another island were they feed the sharks as well, so he obviously wants to head over there. Sharks are not my friends but I know I'll end up having to play with them.

It's rainy and miserable today, so we stayed indoors. It was pretty icky yesterday too so Garth amused himself by baking bread and cinnamon scrolls. Delicious! We can't really go anywhere without enough sun to light up the water and show us where the coral is. Tomorrow I think we'll head out to Maupiti, a very small island further west. So lots more exploring to come. Yay!

Xxx Monique

Underwater selfies

These little bungalows stretch out forever

The water is so clear, the little drop offs are ridiculously obvious - the depth is only 8m difference

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