Tuesday, 6 January 2015

FP, Tahaa (Christmas in Haamene) 29-12-14

One of the best kept secrets of the South Pacific is the weather. I've heard this said before, but didn't really register what it actually meant. Apparently it means that it can rain for weeks out here. Torrential, unrelenting rain that just pours down as if somebody had upended a giant bucket.

After a week of constant squalls in Bora Bora, we moved to Tahaa with an unfinished dinghy. There was no more epoxy in Bora Bora to finish it with. So the plan was to go to Raiatea via Tahaa, get more epoxy (at a reasonable price this time) then quickly stick it on the dinghy so all the wood was covered and we could put the damn thing in the water. Then we would follow our friends on Irie to Huahine for Christmas.

(All these island names sound so confusing - Raiatea has the 2nd largest town in French Polynesia after Tahiti, so there's actually shops there. It's 20 miles from Bora Bora, so half a day away. Tahaa is the island right next door, maybe an hour away. And Huahine is supposed to be really nice and chilled out - it's the next island along after those two, about a five hour sail from Tahaa).

But just as we were reaching the pass where we would turn towards Raiatea, we got a call on the VHF from Irie. A storm was coming through and they had found a good anchorage at Tahaa where we would be safe to wait it out. We wouldn't be buying epoxy for a while, unless we wanted to head over in 40 knot winds. So that's where we stayed for a week. It rained almost nonstop, making life wet and uncomfortable. We couldn't do washing or boat work. We couldn't explore the town because it was always pouring with rain. And we got very sick of being wet very quickly. The anchorage at Haamene Bay was tucked away at the end of a channel and the bottom was mud instead of the sand we'd gotten used to. The water was murky, brown and uninviting. As the rain got heavier, whatever was under the murky depths got churned up to the surface and the water turned a disgusting light brown colour. Junk was constantly floating by, mostly tree branches and coconuts. The idea of swimming was not very appealing.

Heading into Haamene Bay

The town of Haamene where we were anchored... These 2 pictures were taken 5 days apart

The internet rarely worked, so luckily we had our friends on Irie to keep us company. There was another boat there waiting out the weather - Patrick and Rachel on Namaste. So we all just huddled together in our little anchorage watching the clouds pass us by. The rain did temporarily clear up for Christmas Day though. We actually got to sit in Irie's cockpit for a whole minute with all the food spread out before everything got wet again. Luckily it was just another squall and we got to spend most of Christmas all together in the fresh air. It was our first Christmas away from our families, so we were really grateful to be surrounded by friends instead (I should mention that Liesbet on Irie took most of the pics from Xmas).

The boys - Patrick, Garth and Mark

Rachel, Patrick, Garth, Mark, Me

Nibbles before the main course - devilled eggs, tuna patties, sushi with fresh tuna and cheese with apple and baguettes

And then the rain came back

It was also our first Christmas in the middle of nowhere and I was impressed by how much Christmas food we managed to produce without access to shops or the kind of ingredients that we always have on hand. It took me hours to find some dried fruit in Raiatea, but you have to have fruit and nuts at Christmas! Between the six of us we managed quite a feast, complete with a roast chicken and grilled shrimp just like at home. Garth even tried to make pavlova, which was successful until the last minute when the top didn't harden and it collapsed into a pancake. Damn our oven.

Greek salad, Mum's Xmas rice salad, roast chicken, potatoes and 2 kinds of shrimp

Patrick, Garth, Mark, Me, Liesbet

So we ended up having a great Christmas, rain and all. We didn't get a chance to explore much of Tahaa though. There's lots of vanilla plantations there and the tours seem to be the main attraction for tourists. We didn't even look around the town we were parked in front of - we went from the boat to the little supermarket and back again, mostly in the rain. We did use the new dinghy for a few days until it started getting wrecked from being wet before we'd finished it properly. Half of it doesn't even have epoxy on it yet. So back to the kayak we went, which is starting to break - the sides are all splitting from being in the sun so much. We spent two days repairing it and then it started breaking again. We just need the dinghy to be finished and the kayak to go back to being a toy that gets packed away once we've finished playing with it.

We did get to do a little sightseeing in Tahaa. Before we holed up in Haemene Bay we anchored next to the Coral Garden on the north west side of Tahaa for an afternoon. We braved the wind and the rain and headed to shore for a drift snorkel through the reef and I'm really glad we did. We haven't done many proper drift snorkels, usually just towing the dinghy behind us when the current is a bit strong so we don't have to swim back to it. But here we could tie the dinghy up to the only Motu without a resort on it and walk along a well worn path through to the side facing the ocean.

We were told to just wear reef shoes and not bother with fins, but I'm glad I took them. We put our flippers on whilst gripping onto each other in shallow water as waves rolled over us to crash on the rocks behind. Then we fought the waves in half a metre of water to get round the point and into the channel of water between two Motus. We were flung into the current, which dragged us along like lost leaves swirling around near the surface. It wasn't like snorkelling at all. It was like a fairground ride, as everything flashed past and we started drifting faster and faster. It was really shallow the whole way and it was all we could do to avoid being flung into coral. I don't think I would have been able to steer at all without the flippers! There's no way we could have swum against it. If I'd grabbed onto something and held on for dear life, the current still would have swept me away.

As we got closer to our dinghy the current slowed right down. The blurry shapes flying past us turned into fish and coral, and the path we were following opened up into something actually resembling a pretty little garden. Up until then it had felt like we were driving through a wild jungle, with shapes rushing past and reeds smacking us in the face. As we reached the end we were met with a big open sandy area. A huge school of fish was swimming in amongst patches of coral, and we were actually able to slow down and swim around amongst everything. We had an absolute blast. We only did it once but it really felt like a rollercoaster - I think the standard thing to do is to ride it over and over.

I loved this guy - he chased my gopro from left to right for about 5 minutes

As soon as Christmas was over and the strong winds had gone, we headed over to Huahine. Back to the lively reefs, white sand beaches and crystal clear water we've gotten used to. But we still don't have a dinghy. So we're kind of stuck on the boat again in amongst constant rain squalls with an unreliable kayak. I just want it to be finished so we can go to shore and buy groceries. I want to fill up our water tanks so I don't have to get drinking water from an emergency jerry can sitting in the galley. I want to take the bikes to shore and go exploring. And I want to be able to visit our friends without spending ages rowing and then arriving with a wet bum. But it's always raining and the hardware store is closed until after New Years. So we'll just suck it up and hope that the rain stops soon.

Xxx Monique

We unintentionally raced Irie from Tahaa to Huahine... very slowly. I think it's pretty clear who was going to win, considering who is and isn't a catamaran (We obviously didn't take the pictures of ourselves - we stole them from Irie).


Pretty fishes

Tahaa covered in rain clouds

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