|Huahini: This is one of the French Tahitian islands. It is covered in fruit trees - mango (these grow on the trunk like brussel sprouts!), breadfruit, kiwi, bananas. We drove past vanilla plantations. Vanilla is a member of the orchid family and is grown trailing against supporting trees or is staked. Each individual flower has to be hand pollinated with a toothpick. No wonder real vanilla is so expensive. We also were introduced to the Noni Noni fruit. This is actually the ugli fruit and is picked, juiced and sent to the US for bottling. It is apparently good for just about everything from high blood pressure to arthritis, but it is mainly touted as the Tahitian viagra!
We watched the locals buy cans of clams to feed the fresh water, blue-eyed eels. These are sacred or protected in this village's river. At first there were only a few eels, but as the clam juice was poured into the water, eels came from beneath the river banks, under the bridge....until the water was black with them. They rear up for a chance to get a clam poured down their throats. And they really do have bright blue eyes.
From the top of the mountain, we could see down into the narrow bay where ancient fish traps built of stones cleverly leads the fish through a maze they can't get out of. This is still used today. Black pearl farms are grass shacks on stilts out in the water. The pearl is planted in the oyster and these are hung from long strings into the water until the pearl is complete. They actually use genetic modification to get the pearls they want!
We wandered through ancient temples. These are a series of standing stones (lava) with flat stone floors. Each prince or tribal leader had his own area. Tiki's were embedded in the floor. Some areas were for the 'ceremonial sacrifice' I think that translates into cannibalism!
We were entertained by the Polynesian Mamas and Papas. This was a family group of singers, drummers and dancers. Even 3 year olds are up doing the hula in grass skirts! Very cute.
Raratonga (one of the Cook Islands)independent, but related to New Zealand.
Another tour around the island - very similar to Huahini, but with perfume factories along the way.
We went back to the Muri beach to swim and snorkel. We snorkeled across the bay to a small motu (volcanic island. We walked around this island and then just walked back to our beach. The tides were out and the shallow water was so clear and turquoise, we could see just as much standing still as when we were snorkeling! This seemed to be the sea cucumber capital of the world. Yuck. The natives harvest the roe of this slimy critter by slicing a small slit in them. They throw them back in the water to heal and regrow more roe.
Raiatea (another French Polynesian island)
We walked out of town until we found a hotel where we could snorkel at their beach. We just walked out onto their pier and looked in the water and there were thousands of very colourful fish. The water was warm and the snorkeling excellent. Surrounding this hotel were the grass shacks on stilts - these are the very expensive hotel units. Some of them actually have a glass floor, so you can watch fish from your bed!
We met up with our new friends, Don and Barbara. We walked down to a little local restaurant for lunch. This was all outdoor beneath palm leaf roofs. We ordered chicken sandwiches with salad. Barbara wanted hers with fries. We were given long French sticks of bread wrapped in paper. When I asked where the salad was ( struggling en Francais!), I found it in the sandwich! Barbara found her fries in her sandwich too! Pretty fun lunch!
Local fishermen display their very big fish on racks by the side of the road. Everyone seems to have a little stand by the road to sell something: bananas, squash, vegetables, fish....
The french bread in these islands is absolutely delicious. It is all baked locally and delivered by bicycle to residents' mail boxes! Kids stop by the market on the way home for school and pick up a couple of loaves. We often saw them riding home with them. The bread is skinny enough that the kids can have one per hand and still grab the handle bars! These are never wrapped and are often crawling with flies, but this is not an issue here!
Breathtakingly beautiful. Such water - every colour from cobalt blue to pale aqua and pearly opal. The reef is well out from the beaches and the waves crash white against the reef, so it creates a graduated study of blues in a white frame. Gorgeous and with lots of dolphins to boot!
We took a snorkel tour out to feed the sting rays. The guide has a bucket of squid bits and feeds the rays. When they grab onto a mouthful, he doesn't let go and thus can swirl the rays around for you to touch! I finally got a turn when the flippers and masks cleared out for a minute. I pet and swam right with two of them. As people left the water to board the boat, the sting rays swam all around their legs as if waving good bye. A very magical experience. We were taken out to snorkel in the coral gardens. Fabulous colourful coral - some the color of amythyst. Lots and lots of beautiful fish and many colorful clams. They had different colored 'lips' ranging from deep purple, bright green, vivid orange, pink....
Jim gave me a piece of bread to feed the gorgeous yellow angel fish. They actually slurp up the soggy bread and you can hear the slurpy sound under water. cool!
We took a shuttle to the local beach and swam and tried to stay cool in what little shade we could find. The waters were lovely, but quite warm. Local families played and swam while the dads, uncles... were out fishing. When they returned with the catch, they all got into the water and started to gut the fish right beside us! Interesting.
Someone is building a house boat with a grass roof and it was moored by the beach. Kids swam out and jumped off the dock. Very laid back here!
Moorea: what a beautiful island. All of the above, but very clean and neat besides. We drove high up into the mountains so we could see over the two bays. From the air, this island would look like a butterfly - (the bays where the wings dip in to meet the body). It was a bit cloudy, but the views were spectacular. These islands are trying to reclaim their heritage. Much of their traditions were stopped by the missionaries, but the language is returning and the dance and drumming is widely popular. Children learn the traditional dances in school. This island does a busy trade in black pearls and would really like you to buy them (very, very, expensive- one lady I overheard in a washroom said she could buy them cheaper at Costco!)
What a lovely relaxed ending to our busy travels.
Home again and back to school on March 27.
Thanks for tuning in and keeping in touch.
Over and Out!
Jim and Janice