Monday, August 21, 2017

Raiatea, 8-21-2017--Finding Minimus a new home: the people

By Pearl

Yesterday afternoon we spent a couple hours showing Minimus's new owners all the details about handling her, what was where and so forth.

Following are some pictures of them and others who have helped us find Minimus a new home.

Richard Neufeld, a live-aboard boat owner in the marina.  We had the pleasure of meeting Richard soon after we got to Raiatea.  He's a generous and super nice guy.  He was most encouraging about selling Minimus and gave us lots of good advice.  He also had agreed to look after her if we had to leave before selling.  Thank you Richard!

Richard lives here half the year, during the austral winter and the other half in North Carolina.  While he's here, he does all manner of boat repairs, upgrades and installations, specializing in boat electronics.  Richard has a knack for solving problems that stump others.  
From left to right, David, Melodie, Pearl, Hainui, Hanitea Oceane and Kevin.

Melodie is a broker with Raiatea Yacht Sales.  She gave us invaluable help with the paperwork to sell Minimus in French Polynesia.  She's very down-to-earth and took care of the paperwork quickly and efficiently.  Thanks Melodie! 

Hainui and baby Hani.  We were pleased to see that Hani took to boat life easily...    

...whether on deck or in the cabin.  We never dreamed the lee cloths would come in handy for a baby crib.   

Hani wakes to investigate the galley.  

Raiatea, 8-21-2017--Mt. Tapioi hike, etc.

By Pearl

The mara'amu winds finally abated somewhat on Friday morning (it never seems to stop blowing hard here this time of year).  We soon ditched the projects we'd planned for the day and hit the trail out of town to Mt. Tapioi.  It sounds daunting but is actually a road closed to vehicles up to the top of a 1000' peak.  We met a number of other hikers along the way and on top.

As we left the marina to hike, the dock was abuzz with new charter customers.  Chartering sailboats is big business here on Raiatea.  Almost all the charter boats are 40-50' catamarans.  

School is just opened and lot of these curious school buses can be seen around the island.  Looks like a fun vehicle for converting to a camper:)

The next several photos are from the top of Mt. Tapioi.  This is looking toward the pass we sailed in through 3 weeks ago.
Huahine is visible in the distance to the left of the pass.  The motu on the right of the pass is where we anchored initially and were run off by the snooty lodge owner.  

Looking down on the village of Uturoa.  The barrier reef is marked by the darker colored water.  The island of Tahaa is to the left.  

Tahaa Island, within the same reef and lagoon as Raiatea.

David on Mt. Tapioi with Bora Bora faintly visible in the distance.  

David scowls as the internet room is once again closed.  Despite paying $5 an hour for internet, the room is not only stifling, but closed most of the time.   The choices then are sitting outside under the 2nd floor room, where the wifi reception isn't good or standing out in the parking lot where one of us has to hold the computer while the other one types. In either case, it's out in the sun, which makes it almost impossible to see the computer screen without an umbrella.
When Pearl asked the local wifi rep about the situation, he shrugged and said the person responsible is in Tahiti.  As you can see from this and our bank experience and too many others to mention, customer service is not a priority in French Polynesia.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bora Bora, 8-13-2017--Bicycling around Bora Bora

By David

The evening after the climb, we learned that Teava had a couple bicycles for rent at $15 per person for 4 hours, and that cycling all around the island was only a 20 mile ride. 

The next morning we were off at around 7:30am. Being a Sunday morning, traffic was minimal most of the way. We headed counter-clockwise up the less settled east side of the island, encountering only one hill of any note on the entire ride. Walking the bikes up, the hill took less than 10 minutes. 

Although ever on the lookout for a place to buy a cup of coffee and a pastry, there was no such place anywhere on the island that morning.   

We're off to circumnavigate Bora Bora by bike!

Heading up the east side of the island are great views of Mt. Otemanu

Circling around the island we get a view of the south side of Mt. Otemanu

There were dogs everywhere along the road, but in contrast to our general experience while bike touring elsewhere, none of them paid any attention to us.

Pearl in yet another idyllic setting

Behind this wall of green is a home. Throughout the islands, we've noticed that almost all the homes have fruit trees in the yards. Virtually everyone has at least a coconut palm or two and some combination of breadfruit, mangos, papayas and bananas.

Looking east toward Mts. Otemanu, Pahia and Ohue
A curious sight along the way were tombs in front of some homes.
Hoisting boats out of the water is something we haven't seen elsewhere in French Polynesia.  Presumably it's to keep marine growth from the boat bottoms.   

One of the few public beaches we found.  

And now for a reality check in the next few photos.
There was a surprising amount of trash along the road around the island. 

Some hotels appear to be doing well, but others have been abandoned.  The recession of 2008 hit the tourism industry hard in French Polynesia. 

Another hotel front left to the elements

The Sofitel, a luxury hotel across the street from our $35 per person per night tent B&B.  The receptionist quoted us a price of $850 per night for these over-the-water bungalows.  We were told by a disgruntled ex-guest that the internet only worked at the reception area!!??  

Our fellow guests from France, Gilles and Helene, arranged a little send off party for all of us.  

From the ferry we bid a farewell to Bora Bora... we contentedly leave it behind.

Bora Bora, 8-12-2017--Climbing Mt. Ohue

By David

Note: For those who may be searching online for information on the climb to Mt. Ohue and Mt. Pahia, we've included detail below. 

More than 50 years ago, when I (David) was a young child in Iowa, I read a short story about 2 boys growing up on Bora Bora. The author described it as the best place in the world for a boy to grow up. Sailing and swimming in the turquiose waters of the lagoon, fishing every day, what else could a boy want?  

Even at that age, I had a strong sense that wild lands, mountains and the ocean called to me in a way that Iowa just couldn't. Bora Bora sounded exotic beyond my imagination and I knew that someday I wanted to see it. 

We'd been cautioned by several people who have visited Bora Bora in recent years that while it was stunning from the water, it had lost much of its exotic appeal due to over development. For the most part they were right. Our experience of it was good, but only because we'd been forewarned and because we saw it in an unconventional way. 

It's reputed to be outrageously expensive and indeed it can be, with with most expensive rooms going for $10K per night. Aiming at the other end of the spectrum, we found a tent for rent on the Air B&B website. While $35 per person per night seemed expensive for a tent, it was Bora Bora after all, and came with shower, access to kitchen, wifi, and 3 wonderfully accommodating hosts. Teava, his wife Vaihere and his mother Eleonore were super friendly. 

Teava set up a small pop-up tent with pads and sheets on a deck in the side yard and we were good to go. We explained that we wanted to climb Mt. Ohua the next day and Teava offered to drive us to the where the route the next morning.  

We left his place at 6:45am and 15 minutes later he dropped us off. Online we'd seen a few descriptions of where the route began, but discovered it had been marked wrong on Google Earth. Soon though, we hailed a Polynesian fellow who graciously took us through his yard and pointed us in the right direction. 

As we write this, we're reminded of how fortunate we were in regard to the weather on the day of the climb. It's now 2 days later and the only saving grace of today's weather is that it's not cold. It is however windy and rainy. On the day of the climb, such weather would have made conditions miserably muddy, dangerous in places and the view would have been obscured by clouds.

Not least among the day's successes was that David appears finally to be fully recovered from the illness he suffered in Nuku Hiva. As recently as our visit to Manihi in the Tuamotus 3 weeks ago, he felt exhausted after just a day of activity. In contrast during the climb, his stamina was good throughout and his knee gave no trouble. 

Furthermore, he still felt good after bicycling around Bora Bora the next morning. Much of that he owes to the outstanding care from his care-givers. Once again, here's a heartfelt thank you from both of us to all of you. 

The Maupiti Express 2, our ferry for the 2-1/2 hour trip to Bora Bora.

Marina Uturoa, Minimus's new home on Raiatea
Bora Bora rises out of the sea

(L-R) Pearl, Teava's mother Eleonore, Teava and his wife Vaihere

Our Air B&B tent for the night.  Teava provided pads and sheets.  He and his wife and mother were wonderful hosts.  Highly recommended.  
Mt. Ohue (left) and Pahia (right) dominate the skyline above the village of Vaitape.  

We're adding a bit more detail to this photo in case anyone else wanting to do the climb happens to read this.

The climb to Mt. Ohue took us about 2-1/2 hours, which should be about average for anyone fit and experienced with bushwhacking and route finding.  It's basically a scramble through jungle and some cliffy areas.  Once on the route, it's mostly easy to follow.  

The road to the beginning of the climbing route is about a block south of the ferry dock in the village of Vaitape. The correct road is between the green auto rental sign and the Hina Pearl store shown in the photo.  The road is concrete for the first couple blocks, then turns to dirt, with homes on both sides. There are many dogs along the road, but like all the dogs we encountered on Bora Bora, none of them paid any attention to us. 

By the way, the road to the beginning of the route as shown on Google Maps is incorrect.

Follow the road about half a kilometer to the end.  About 50 meters beyond the last gray utility pole, the narrow dirt road turns abruptly left and winds through a banana orchard. Several minor roads branch off, but stay on the main road to the upper end of the orchard. Just past the last of the banana trees, turn right onto a path. This is the beginning of the climb. 

Teava dropped us off and we soon made our way through a banana orchard and found the beginning of the route.
Soon the route comes to a view point on a rocky ledge beside a large, gnarly tree.
Above that point, the route is fairly distinct until several hundred feet higher, where it becomes less so for a while. Not long after this point, the correct route comes to a black rope about 5 meters long up a rocky slope.
Above that, and all the way to the top, we found the route clear and easy to follow, although often steep and requiring climbing over and under many branches. In muddy conditions it would have been a very different experience.  
Pearl makes her way up along a fixed rope... one of many outstanding views.  The village of Vaitape is in the foreground.

Another view of the Bora Bora lagoon

Cliffs and lagoon not far from the top of Mt. Ohue

The last fixed rope below the top of Mt. Ohue

Mt. Otemanu (left) and Pahia (right)
Sun rotted rope on the last fixed rope below the summit of Mt. Ohue.  Occasional fixed ropes along the way aren't strictly necessary but do help in getting up short sections of steep rock. Although we didn't find any part of the climb involved potentially fatal exposure, caution is advised when using the fixed ropes, as can be seen in the photo.  All the ropes were polypropylene and some, like the one above, were badly sun rotted.

No technical gear is required to climb either Mt. Ohua or Pahia. Mt. Pahia however involves crossing a saddle from the top of Mt. Ohua, then ascending the peak. Near the top of Pahia is a fixed rope which, should it fail, could involve a fatal fall. Given the condition of the last fixed rope up Mt. Ohue, I (David) decided not to trust it. 
Two dead sticks provide the anchor for the last fixed rope below the summit of Mt. Ohue

The view from Mt. Ohue is outstanding

David, who first read about Bora Bora as a child, finally gets there at age 62.

This photo is on a somewhat personal note. Our friend Gene Troutner, who is 90 and going strong, was here on a troop ship in World War II. At that time there were some 6000 US troops stationed on Bora Bora.
In more recent years, he made a pendant of an iconic desert bird, the Gambel's Quail, for his wife Maria. She entrusted it to us before the voyage to remind us of our home in Cascabel, Arizona. It seemed fitting to photograph it atop Ohua peak, overooking the waters that Gene saw so long ago. Thank you Gene and Maria, we haven't forgotten Cascabel!

Mt. Otemanu, looking north from Mt. Ohue

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Raiatea, 8-9-2017

By David

Since we haven't done anything exciting yet here in Raiatea, we thought we'd post a potpourri of photos from the past week.

Paradise lost.  This is where we took refuge behind a motu on our arrival to Raiatea, before we were kicked out.  

There's a bocci competition every evening by the waterfront.  The guy in the circle is really good.  Well, not quite as good as my bocci partner Joe Page, but really good.  I'd love to see them in a match.  
 When we checked into French Polynesia we had to put up a bond equal to the cost of an airline ticket out of the country.  Yesterdays task was to get our bond back.  It's a process that starts with getting a form stamped at the gendarmerie, then to the bank to get the cash.  In our case it was complicated by the fact that we now have actual tickets out and want our bond back, but won't be leaving the country for a couple more weeks.  
After some initial confusion with the officer at the front desk, the stern-faced supervisor was called out & we figured we were in for a major hassle.  We were so wrong.  As it turned out, not only did he immediately understand our unusual situation, but spoke English and had a great sense of humor.  15 minutes later we were on our way to the bank.

The bank on the other hand was a study in unbelievable inefficiency.  This is the scene when we arrived at the bank.

So, we took number 45 and settled in for a long wait... 

...since the counter was only at 27...

...and despite having room for 3 tellers, only one was working.  If you could call the glacial pace working.  An hour later when we finally got to the teller, there were umpteen forms to be copied and signed, phone calls to be made, yadda yadda yadda.   Not since Mexico in the old days have we seen such profound inefficiency.
Happily, in the end we did get our bond back.  
Minimus at the dock in the Uturoa Marina, Raiatea.  We hope to hike the trail to the top of the peak in the background once we're out from under our to-do list.