Exploring the Tahitian Outback

Sunday morning we had a lazy start and were in a buoyant mood as all the repair jobs had been completed.  We worked hard and got the laundry done as well so finally Morphie was clean and tidy again down below.  And that was it, pretty much, for the rest of the day although we did head over to the Pink Coconut later in the evening when we heard some great music….  Unusually it was very quiet so we managed to get a table and settled down to listen to the guy.   He had a superb voice and we thoroughly enjoyed his set. 

Monday morning we were up early and headed out to see our agent – the FedEx parcel had arrived in Tahiti so we wanted to chase up when we might get it.    We then headed down the main drag towards Carrefour and hopped onto a really decrepit bus to take us to Papeete.  We had a long list of things we wanted to get so this was really a day for wandering the industrial area where we found Ace Hardware and the main chandlery – both of which were actually a bit disappointing.  Fancy a chandlery not having any wax!?!   Was good to see the fishing fleet though….

Whilst we were in Papeete we checked out the new downtown marina and spoke to the manager – there are no reservations as it is run on a first-come first-served basis.  He gave us his telephone number so we could call before we head that way to make sure there is room – there are no anchoring options nearby so it is definitely best to check before we commit to leaving our current spot.  

Whilst wandering the docks we came across Sea Bear who we had last seen in the Galapagos – so went and said hi to Chris and his friend Wendy who had just flown in from the UK.   We were surprised to be able to walk right up to boats but it turns out there had been a power failure so the security access gates were all open….

Anyway….we wandered back to the main town….admiring the peaks of the volcano behind.  Finally we ended up in the Bora Bora lounge having a cold one…..before returning to the bus stop to catch the last bus back to the marina which runs at 4.30pm.   Our initial impression of Papeete was that it was scruffy and slightly run down with poor quality housing – but with some great street art.   We are looking forward to exploring properly another day….and we’re also quite keen on visiting the street food trucks that fill up the boardwalk at night.

Tuesday morning and I didn’t feel too good so Richard busied himself with boat jobs all day while I rested up.    During the day we had a visit from the manager of a marina in Opua, New Zealand.  They had come over to present to the Puddle Jump rally – so he talked to us about his marina and we are quite interested in staying / hauling there.  We know that the Oyster Rally are heading to New Zealand too so we want to make sure that we have a slot booked – so we have sent a couple of emails to different marinas asking for quotes and availability so that we can then make a decision.   Think we need to do this sooner rather than later.   

We’ve also talked to a number of people who have done the run south and back many times before and all of them felt we should miss Fiji this season – instead we should spend the time exploring the many hundreds of islands in the Tongan chain.   New Zealand is then a straight shot if we get the right weather window and catch a norther.  The run back up to Fiji from New Zealand is a better wind angle too so looks like we have made a decision!  

Wednesday morning and the parcel arrived – woo hoo!    So we now have a working drill again, a spare autopilot data cable and a control head.  We took our other gas bottle in for a partial refill as we want to leave here with two full bottles not knowing where we can get them filled again.    Then we took the long walk to Carrefour for a big provisioning run.    We bought a lot of fresh meat for the freezer and a few other things we wanted to try – like Duck Cassoulet.    There was too much to carry so we pushed the trolley all the way back to Morphie, unpacked, and returned the trolley to the superyacht dock where there is a small supply of them parked neatly in the corner by the gate.   I think Carrefour must come by and pick them up every now and again…..

Later in the afternoon, we decided to test the spare autopilot control head that had just arrived as it had been purchased second-hand from eBay.   We were delighted that it worked perfectly.  But as we tested it something went ‘clang’ in the lazarette.   We quickly checked and were horrified to see that the new autopilot arm had parted.  OMG – really?!?   But on investigation it was apparent that the factory had welded only one end and that it had just pulled out.  Very relieved but now we need to solve this latest issue….   Sigh…..   So glad we tested the unit before we left the dock!

Later on we went to Happy Hour and met Chris and Wendy.  Was good to catch up over a few cold ones….. 

Thursday was a really hot sunny day and we never had any pressing jobs to do.  We had also found out it was a public holiday so everything was shut – so we just stayed on the boat reading and relaxing.   We were so lazy we couldn’t even be bothered to go out for happy hour LOL.

Friday morning and we got up early in preparation for our safari expedition.  And, of course, it was raining!!!   We debated whether to go or not – as we hadn’t actually paid at this point – but decided that wouldn’t be fair and another rainy day on the boat would drive us both crazy!    So we got out our pack-a-macs and headed across to meet our 4WD vehicle.   It arrived promptly at 8.45 and we piled in the back of the truck with two tourists in it already….then we stopped at another hotel….and another….  Eventually we had a diverse gang of French, American and Australian tourists.   The Australian women were here in Tahiti competing in an international outrigger rowing competition – they had just won gold for an 18k ocean race.   Totally unaware this was going on – apparently there is a squad from the UK here too – we didn’t even know this was a sport we participated in!   

Anyway…in the pouring rain with the plastic sides pulled down to keep us dry in the back….we headed off for about an hour around the north coast of Tahiti towards the Pampanoo valley.  To start with the road was a single concrete track winding up and down and through some mining operations and hydro-electric power stations.    Then we moved onto unmade tracks towards the interior of the island where our first destination was the centre of the volcanic crater.     

The rain had diminished a little bit and we were rewarded by views of loads of waterfalls crashing down into the river below – and we actually drove across the river bed a couple of times despite the quite strong current running.    The hills rose majestically with dense rain forest and the views were spectacular.

Finally we stopped at the centre of the volcanic crater where there is a reconstructed traditional Polynesian village where people come from Tahiti – particularly camps for youngsters – or from other Polynesian areas, such as Hawaii.   They live as their ancestors did having to hunt wild boar and goats, fish, collect water, make fires and live communally.   It was interesting to see – with the one nod to modernity in the provision of bathrooms – and to hear the tales of the spirits of the wind, the earth and the sky.   Plus their continued teaching of celestial navigation using art…..it is important to remember these proud people arrived here as fearless sailors on their sea canoes in a wave of migration from South East Asia over 30,000 years ago.      

Then we got the gory details when they used to sacrifice humans – by eating their flesh they believed that they gained the power from them.   And in this village is an original stone where sacrifices were conducted.  And we both thought it still looked a shade red from the bloodletting!!!    Apparently the influx of the London Missionary Societies in the late 1700s stopped this practice as they introduced Christianity to the people of Tahiti.   We then went to look at an original temple and were introduced to some native plants – including the “ta-it-ti” fruit which is dried, burnt to carbon, ground down and, when mixed with coconut oil, makes the jet black ink for their tattoos.   Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable about everything Polynesian.

After this interesting cultural part of the trip we continued further up the mountain to a hotel on the top where we had a local lunch – Richard tried the Tahitian national dish of raw fish in coconut milk while I took the safer option of curried goat.    After resting up we then climbed back into the truck.   Sadly our driver said that, because of the rainy weather, we would not be able to swim at any of the waterfalls.  That was a shame…..  We also glimpsed a rescue helicopter searching the area – not good!

We continued to climb up and up towards the summit – the road was now just a mud track and the angle was pretty precarious.   People started getting a bit nervous especially when we realised that the driver spent most of his time looking up for landslides!   Then we turned a corner and were confronted with a basalt tunnel which was an extraordinary sight.   Having passed through we were onto more mud and we slithered down the hill to see the lake Vaihiria which had been created by a rockslide.   This lake was the ancestral home of the sacred eel which is black with blue eyes – although none have been sighted for a number of years now. 

Having taken our photos we then climbed back in the truck and reversed the trip all the way back out to the north coast of Tahiti – this was a long arduous journey in the rain as by now the hard seats and back rails were giving all of us an uncomfortable ride.

We stopped, briefly, on the north coast so we could watch some surfing action on the black sand beaches as the light faded.   And then it was a trip back to the marina dropping people off as we went.    We didn’t get back until about 6.30 pm so returned to Morphie pretty tired and had an early night.    

This morning, Saturday, and Richard has just been to see Michel in the small on-site chandlery.   He helped him reassemble the autopilot arm so the old one has now been reinstalled and everything is operational again.    The new one needs welding – planned for Monday – and will then become our spare.   Phew!

The weather remains pretty cloudy and miserable today and, after yesterday, I think we’ll rest up although Richard has just gone off on the bus to Mr Bricolage while I’m blogging.   Sunday is laundry and cleaning day again….    On Monday our agent is bringing us our inter-island clearance documents so we can head to Papeete marina on Tuesday (if they have room).  We’ll then explore the capital properly and look forward to sampling some of the night life.  I’m particularly interested in the food trucks that fill a public space each evening near the marina.   Next stop will be to head over to Cook’s Bay in Moorea when we have had our fill of Papeete and we’re really looking forward to swimming, snorkelling and bobbing again!   It feels good to be finally enjoying French Polynesia having sailed 4,000 miles to get here from Panama…..     

Bye for now