Sunday, 1 March 2015

French Pol, Tahiti and Moorea, 23-01-15

We made it to Moorea! It's taken us a while though. We spent the last month in Australia and New Zealand, visiting friends and catching up with family. We were lucky enough to be able to attend one wedding in each country, both of which involved people we care about dearly.

Sarah, the bride to be!

Sarah's beautiful farm

We found an echidna!

We even managed to catch up with these crazy cats. Nick was our sailing instructor in Wellington and he's pretty much responsible for this whole thing. He and his wife Candyce are always good fun - this time they took us skateboarding!

So that was really exciting and we had a well deserved holiday. It's a bit bizarre leaving a tropical paradise to escape from the world and go on holiday, but I guess most things about my life are a bit twisted from the norm.

Good old Wellington, NZ

I haven't posted in so long because I didn't really want to advertise to the world that we'd abandoned the boat on it's own in Tahiti in the middle of the cyclone season. But that's exactly what we did. We left it on a mooring at Marina Taina, which is the same marina that our friends on Irie left their boat when they had to travel back home. Their mooring broke loose while they were away and on their return they discovered that another crusier had rescued their baby just before it floated off to be destroyed on the reef. So we were understandably worried about leaving our boat there. There are other places to leave a boat in Tahiti, but we were told that all the mooring balls on the island are installed by the same people. And that they're all idiots who don't give a damn when they break loose. So with one day left before we were supposed to fly out, I ran around trying to find somebody who could dive down to check that we weren't about to float away. For a reasonable price. I suppose finding something for a reasonable price in Tahiti was a battle we were always going to lose, so we had no luck. We quickly ran out of time before we'd done anything useful at all, so we went and made friends with our neighbours. They were a lovely brazillian family and they told us that they had already been forced to rescue two boats in the last few months due to the moorings breaking loose and the boats floating over and threatening to crash into our new friends. They were more than happy to keep an eye on Heartbeat, and even insisted on giving us a lift to shore and then driving us to the airport quite late at night. They even went back and rescued our outboard when we realised we'd left it on deck, then babysat it for the whole time we were gone. So thank goodness there's still wonderful people in the world! We've officially survived the cyclone season (almost), and we returned back to find everything intact. Except for the basil plant that Mark and Liesbet gifted me for Christmas. Sadly I came back to a fried up little stalk, which was pretty devastating. Our new boat guests Meg and Cam replaced it though, and the new basil plant is now called George.


We've also returned carrying the chikungunya virus. We left carrying it as well, but weren't aware of it until we arrived in New Zealand. Garth started getting cold as we were waiting for the plane and developed a fever once we were in the air. We left Tahiti at 2am and arrived at 6am the next day (Which gave Garth two hours to celebrate his birthday before it was lost over the date line). We were both feeling weak at this point, and tried to check into a hostel but were told we had to wait until 2pm. So we went to a park and fell asleep on the grass like bums. When we finally found a bed, we developed high fevers and were unable to move for two days. Garth had to literally carry me to the bathroom. Chikungunya is a mosquito borne virus that freezes up all your joints and pretty much makes life horrible, similar to really bad arthritis. It got a bit better over time, but now we have returned to French Polynesia it's gotten worse again. It takes me a lot of painkillers, anti-inflamitaries and time before I'm able to get up and move around in the morning. Garth is almost better, but we're both just hoping the virus leaves us soon. One thing's for sure, only we could manage to stay here for two months and then get sick on the plane as we were leaving the country.

We spent our time in Tahiti before we left fixing things and trudging around town trying to find parts to fix things with. My feet were sore for weeks after a particularly memorable ten hour walkathon in jandals under the hot sun. We replaced our two house batteries with three bigger ones, added a solar panel and patched up a heap of other things. So we didn't really do anything touristy, but I don't think theres much to do there anyway. It's just a city, filled with icy drinks and expensive souveniers. We were repeatedly lured away from the hot sun by the former, but avoided wasting money on the latter.

In comparison to a relatively boring stay in Tahiti, the trip over to Tahiti from Huahine was a bit exciting. It was a two day sail with not much wind. We were actually downwind for once, so we had the spinnaker up for the first time in ages. On the first day Garth was on watch while I was asleep downstairs. The wind died completely and I woke up when the spinnaker pole started banging around. Groggy and still half asleep, I poked my head up to see what was going on. Garth said he should probably take it down, so suddenly I was holding the wheel and he was heading up to the bow to pull in the kite. I looked behind me and saw a black wall of blackness heading towards us. Still half asleep, I asked "Is that rain?"

Garth told me not to worry, and continued sorting out the spinnaker. Yawning, I turned back to look at the squall. And the boat started turning with me. Not awake enough to notice, I continued steering too far upwind. Which the boat did not like. Soon enough we had our first breech, with the boat tipping right over and the end of the boom making it into the water. We were being pushed upwind, with Garth screaming at me to turn down. I had taken drowsy sea-sickness tablets before going to sleep, so I still wasnt thinking clearly. " Which way is down!?" I sceamed back, as I looked up at the windex and tried to kick my brain into gear. I didn't have time to respond though. Our tired old spinnaker started ripping from the top, tearing all the way along the seam until it was just a few pieces of material flapping in the wind and the boat was back on course. So no more big spinnaker.

When we arrived in Tahiti we laid it all out over the boat to try and dry it out. Garth hauled the biggest piece up on the halyard so it would dry faster in the breeze, but it disintigrated around his fingers in the place he was holding it up. So I suppose it just wasn't going to survive for much longer regardless of our stupidity. Our poor spinnaker! We still have a smaller blue one, but this was the pretty kite. So that was sad.

Now we're in Moorea with our friends Meg and Cam. We got them onto the boat after a very stressful day while we were in the middle of catching a 3 hour bus then a 4 hour flight to Auckland, where we were to sleep in the airport overnight before a 6 hour flight back to French Polynesia. As we were waiting for the dreaded bus, Facebook informed us that our friends had flown out to meet us a day early - we were flying back on the 15th, and they were arriving on the 15th... but our date was Auckland time and theirs was Tahiti time. The two are a day apart. So after a lot of phone calls, stress, hastily booked hotels, more stress and more phone calls, we got their passports flagged so when they arrived in a foreign country at 11pm they would get the message that we had organised somewhere for them to sleep. With no Internet, no phone reception and no smartphones with which to connect to the wifi hotspots in Tahiti, they were not contactable. Our last desperate attempt to reach them was to call the airport in Tahiti and have them paged, but we would be on our own flight by the time they arrived and weren't sure the airport people would actually do it. I couldn't even talk to them, because I can't speak French and the endless loudspeaker announcements in Sydney airport kept talking over me and the lady in Tahiti just kept hanging up on me. But with some help from Garth's brother, we contacted the airport, had their passports flagged, left them a message and organised for a guy with a sign to pick them up just in case.

Moorea, Opunohu Bay

Of course none of that worked. Their passports did end up getting flagged, which forced them to talk to somebody instead of just being waved through security. But he just let them through anyway. So they ended up at the marina at 11pm waiting for us to come get them, a day earlier than we would be there. Luckily they discovered some French Polynesian hospitality and found a bed plus an extravagant BBQ breakfast, with no muggings or extreme danger. So that was a relief!

Captain Meg!

We were planning on heading over to the Tuamotus with them pretty quickly, but decided to stay here for the duration of their visit after realising that a two day passage might be a bit much for regular folk. We anchored in Cooks Bay for a few days, while Garth and I fixed some things. We did manage to escape for a few hours to the juice factory though, where we were met with a very hospitable lady behind the counter who immediately started feeding us tasters of all their alcoholic punch mixes. So that was a lot of fun. If we hadn't stocked up on duty free spirits I would have grabbed a few of their tasty concoctions. Cam bought a bottle of coconut cream liqueur, which was delicious mixed with pineapple juice.

Swimming at the entrance to Cook's Bay

The lady who was anchored next to us is one of the happiest, friendliest people I've ever met in my life. She came over to say hi when we first anchored, then continued to be a sparkly ball of happiness every time our paths crossed. She even brought us some fish she caught spearfishing out on the reef, assuring us that they were safe to eat. I was delighted by what she wore spearfishing - for the ride between her boat and the reef she was dressed in a bikini and wore a pretty wreath on her head like the locals do. She just seemed to really be enjoying life, which is always nice to see. It's lovely how infectious happiness can be.

Meg gutted all the fish for us! They were the first fish we'd eaten that were too small to fillet

We moved to Opunohu Bay after we'd exhausted Cooks, which is the next one over. The anchorage here is stunning. We're in 8m of sand sandwiched between a reef and the mountainous island, with bright blue turqouise water stretching out all aorund us. When we first jumped in the water we were swimming in amongst baby eagle spotted rays, a few fish and some small reef sharks. There's turtles everywhere, but we have yet to find one while we've been swimming. Cam and Meg keep missing them by an instant, so the mission now is to go and find some up close.

We went swimming on the reef straight out from the boat yesterday, which was fun. Mostly just because it's been so long since I've been snorkelling. The current got too strong to swim against after a while and a lot of the coral was dead, but there was a healthy supply of fish swimming around. I didn't find anything I hadn't seen before, but it was a nice snorkel regardless. It felt great to just be out on a reef again in amongst all the fishes.

After our swim and a quick lunch we all headed into shore to climb up to the belvedere, which is like a normal lookout only French. I couldn't find much information on it - One of my notes said it was an hour walk to the top, but I wasn't sure how accurate that was. We were stopped on the way by our boat neighbour. He had seen our dinghy by the road and then chased us down to tell us that somebody would probably steal the outboard if we left it there. We had locked it up, but with a dodgy lock. So Garth ran back to save our little boat and the remaining three of us continued up the mountain. When our friendly neighbour stopped us he also said it was about 1 1/2 hours to the lookout, so we weren't really sure how much of a walk we were in for.

It was a beautiful day though, and the road wound through a breathtaking valley as we made our way up the mountain. Everything was so lush and green. We found a shop selling icy drinks at the agricultural school about halfway up, which was a welcome break. None of us is particularly loving the heat here. It's still the middle of summer and French Polynesia is lovely when you have the ocean to jump into every few minutes but not overly pleasant when you're trudging up a mountainside under the hot sun

There were a few Maraes to explore on the way up, which was quite interesting. They were similiar to the ones we'd seen in Huahine but really different at the same time. These were hidden away in the forest and were adorned with huge trees. There was a path leading in between them lined with mossy stones, which I thought was a really lovely touch. Probably because I love rainforests. The platform near the bottom was the most interesting, as it was a few tiers high and made out of round stones.

We eventually made it to the lookout where we were rewarded for our efforts. The view was spectacular, looking out over both bays with a stunning mountain smack in the middle. We could see the spot where we had anchored in Cooks bay, with the two boats we parked next to still sitting there in the corner.

The walk down the mountain was much more pleasant, with the setting sun providing us with a lot more shade. We made it down to the bottom just as the light was starting to dissapear. We investigated the shrimp farm before returning to Garth and the dinghy, which was being bombarded by hungry birds. There were swarms of them going crazy, circling the farm before diving down and feasting on the shrimp below.

These kids were playing soccer when we passed them on the way up, and they were still at it when we went past again on our way down

We're moving to a reef anchorage today, so hopefully we'll find some more sharks to swim with!

Xxx Monique

__I'm sure this is how you do it..._

The bride to be, my bestie Sarah

Hanging out on Sarah's farm

Cooks bay

The view from the belvedere

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