Days 46 & 47- Hiva Oa, Marquesas to Tahiti Iti, French Polynesia

February 26, 2018

Today is a our trip out to Tahuata Island to visit 2 villages and have a picnic lunch on a good swimming/snorkeling beach. The beaches out there are white sand, because of the coral rather than volcanic rock sand.  

Our first stop was at the village of  Vaitahu which was tiny, with a charming church and adjoining cemetery. There were two stops at craft centers, but no one in the group seemed very interested in buying anything. There aren’t a lot of pearls in the Marquesas and most crafts involve carved bone, pods, seeds and tie died fabrics. The local people work with what they have at hand, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem that appealing to tourists. 

 Our boat load consisted of our guide, Hamata (on the Ukulele), a French family with 2 little boys, JP and Marketa, John, Pete and I, plus the captain and boat hands. Although it was raining when we loaded up, the day cleared and we ended up having a lovely time for the 8 hour trip. So happy the day cleared, as we were all three having visions of a repeat of our boat ride to Taha’a in pouring rain and high winds.  
Our second village stop was Hapatoni a larger and more industrial place with a small port undergoing reinforcement, of course the village church, modern ceremonial platform and carvings.  

Off to the beach for 3 hours of swimming and snorkeling. Our open air changing room is the metal building to the right.  The little house belongs to Hamata’s family, his father and uncle were mayors of Atuona, his Aunt runs the Gauguin museum, and the connections go on and on.  This is the way things are run in the South Pacific.  

Lunch was grilled chicken, fish, salad, raw fish in coconut milk, fruit and rice, plus spiked fruit juice.  I partook very little of that as we had been very naughty the night before, having a great time on the terrace of our hotel restaurant with JP and Marketa and a very drunk local lady, who kept trying to light a hand rolled cigarette off the electric candle on our table. 

A bumpy but OK boat ride back to port, where the Aranui 5 was docked to off load shipping containers and give their cruise guests a few hours off the ship. A subdued evening, we were back in our bungalow early to pack for our 3 hour flight to Tahiti the next day.

February 27, 2018

Decided to squeeze in a trip to the Gauguin museum before checking out at noon and transferring to the airport.  All the paintings below are self portraits.

Gauguin is one of my favorite post-impressionist artists and as many gifted artists he was not the nicest person or most upstanding citizen.  After breaking with his Danish wife, he took a 13 year old “wife” in Tahiti and later a teenage lover in Paris that was half Indian and half Malayan, Annah the Javanese. These were not his only native or teenage lovers and he has left descendants on Tahiti and Niva Oa. He died on Nivea Oa in 1903 of complications from Syphilis, heart disease or an overdose of laudanum. Gauguin painted with and corresponded with Pissarro and briefly with Van Gogh. I fact Van Gogh was very jealous of Gauguin’s artistic ability and confronted him with a razor the day of the infamous ear incident.  Gauguin’s art evolved to the ‘Cloisonnism’ style of flat area of color and bold outlines, similar to the look of Medieval cloisonné enameling technique.  Degas was a great supporter and was instrumental in organizing a exhibit of Gauguin’s work in Paris. Gauguin enjoyed limited commercial success during his lifetime, but with the posthumous support of his dealer in Paris.* 

All the paintings in the museum are decent reproductions and the originals reside in collections and museums throughout the world.

It has been a very long day with our flight and 1 1/2 hour taxi drive to Tahiti Iti and the Vanira Lodge, a Hobbit fastness in the mountains overlooking the sea. The photos are of our roof and porch with open air bathing. The featured photo is by Pete Bowling of the evening sunset. 

Days 44 & 45- Nuku Hiva to Hiva Oa, Marquesas

February 24, 2018

A leisurely morning with airport transfer at 10 am. The transfer was for 5 people, including JP from England and his partner Marketa from the Czech Republic. They have been traveling since December and will be returning to England in May. They are professional travel photographers armed with cameras and drone. Very fun and interesting travel companions. They are traveling to Hiva Oa with us on the little Twin Otter, 18 seater with open cockpit.  John did the safety spiel, quite a good job of it too!  After all our flights (19 by the time we get home), I think we have it down.

It’s hard to believe, but Hiva Oa is even more dramatic and visually stunning than Nuku Hiva.  The Marquesa Islands are volcanic with no lagoons and black sand beaches.  Not snorkeling country as you can’t see much in the water because of the black sand bottom and the water is much deeper right off the shore.

We are staying in the Hanakee Pearl Lodge, sister to the Pearl Lodge in Nuku Hiva.  This hotel was sold to the manager Jean Jacque from France after he had been here for a few years turning the operation around. He and his wife are wonderful hosts. Jean Jacque spreaks English, but most of the staff and his wife are strictly Marqesan and French speakers.

Jean Jacque was kind enough to give us a ride down to the village of Atuona, 3 miles distant, and pick us up after 1 1/2 hours. This administrative center for the island was the last home of Paul Gauguin, who died here in 1903. We had a nice walk with ocean breezes keeping us cool in the sun.  The Protestant church was our favorite, plus it had Pete’s name on the front. Weekends in the islands are very slow, with few stores or cultural centers open. We are hoping to see the Paul Gauguin Cultural Center on Tuesday when it is open.

One of the young ladies on the waterfront told us about a Ukulele concert, so off we went to listen to some local music. The players were a mix of nationalities and were having a lot of fun.

There is a ceremonial center in Atuona that appears to be still in use.

The restaurant here keeps strictly European hours: breakfast from 7 to 9 am, lunch from 12 to 2 pm and dinner from 7 to 9 pm. This is messing with our two meal a day program. It was a long hungry day between breakfast and dinner today. Sunday has a brunch with extended hours, so we are planning on a late breakfast to get us through the day.

February 25, 2018

On Sunday there is even less going on, excepting church and of course our hotel that has to feed and water us.  Many locals are here this morning, enjoying brunch and letting their kids enjoy the infinity pool. Pete took the picture of me off the our bungalow balcony.

Tomorrow we are off on a boating adventure to the local island of Tahuata and hopefully some swimming.

The featured photo is a view of the bay and crater created by the collapsed volcano Temetiu. The walls of the crater rise 1000 meters or 3281 feet from the Bay of Traitors.

Days 42 & 43, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

February 22, 2018

The first full day in Nuku Hiva, we decided to walk the bay, looking for a certain restaurant and a new hat for John. He has been doing without, but it’s hot and sunny here, so a hat’s a necessity. The walk was about 6 miles round trip and hot, hot, hot…..not that I’m complaining, with all the rain we’ve had on the Society Islands. 

At one time it’s estimated that there were 80,000 Marquesans on Nuku Hiva, but with illnesses introduced by the Europeans the population shrank to about 3,000. In 1813 American Captain David Porter arrived to claim the island for the United States.  When Porter, who was supposed to be capturing British freighters and whalers, announced the claim before congress. Congress renounced the claim shamed that the sailors would have habituated with the native women. Evidently the French weren’t so fussy.

Below is an etching of a Marquesan warrior circa 1813.*

The old church that John had seen on his trip here 45 years ago had been rebuilt due to storm damage. The original doors and entry portico had survived.

We found a small local market that had a hat that fit John. The crown was so high he looked like Hoss on Bonanza.  The market and local crafts store was located near the pier.

There are ceremonial platforms and carvings in the waterfront park that we took in on our perambulation around the bay. This site dates to the end of the Eighteenth Century. It’s famous as the place where ceremonies were conducted between natives and Europeans.  

By the time we got back we were bushed. Cold showers and lots of air conditioning were in order.  

February 23, 2018

A lazy day with not much going on.  We wanted to go out on the water in a hired boat, but evidently that’s not possible here.  The hotel has several excursions, but the one we were interested in wasn’t available, so we stayed in and rested up.  

A cruise ship/freighter pulled into our bay.  It shows up every 3 weeks carrying passengers and cargo to the island.  It even has it’s own crane for off loading larger containers.  The back of the ship has suites and there is a swimming pool on board.  This is a great way to see islands not accessible by any other means.

The featured photo is of our hotel, shot from across the bay. Our bay is one of two volcanic craters on the island.


Days 40 & 41-Raiatea, French Polynesia to Papeete, Tahiti to Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

February 20, 2018

A beautiful day in Raiatea and we transferred to the airport at 10 am. One of our longest island hopping flights of 1 hour to Papeete, Tahiti. Our noon arrival gave us some time to taxi into town to see the open air market. But first we had a problem to try to fix. Pete left his iPad in Raiatea. We both looked in the closet, but neither of us saw it in it’s dark case on the dark wood shelf. I used Skype to call Lauren at the Raiatea Lodge front desk and he found it in the room and put it on the evening flight with one of the other guests coming to Papeete. Pete met the plane at 6:25 pm and three of the people from the crazy boat trip the day before showed up with the goods. Yayyy, and a huge thank you to Lauren for his help in getting our problem solved. I have to highly recommend the Raiatea Lodge for outstanding service, not only with the iPad incident, but throughout our stay.

Lots of fun poking around looking at all the fruits, vegetables, lotions, potions, local crafts, pearls and more. The flowers above have been made into the beautiful hair crowns the ladies wear. Walking through town I saw a great dress in a shop, had to stop and try it on, but fortunately it didn’t fit. My luggage is bulging and I don’t know where I would have put it.  
Since we were downtown we thought we’d check out the cathedral built by the first Bishop of Tahiti. It was completed in 1875 after two decades of off and on construction due to financial problems. Since the initial construction the building has undergone 3 restorations with few of the original features left. The building has evolved from a traditional European style to more of a Polynesian style.

We were again at the Airport Hotel since we had an early flight out to the Marquises. This time they put us on the 4th floor, unfortunately the elevator only goes to the 3rd floor. I’m not sure what the deal is, except the 4th floor might be an addition or getting an elevator for 4 floors was too expensive. A very strange arrangement. Back to our favorite and closest Chinese restaurant, Oceans. John had left his hat there about 10 days ago on our last trip to town, as expected it wasn’t to be found.  But we did score free drinks for the loss. 

February 21, 2018

A 7 am pick up for the airport. We climbed the stairs and the hill twice yesterday and decided we were definitely taking a taxi to the airport. There was some confusion as to how long our flight to Nuku Hiva would be, as our itinerary showed it as 7 hours. That seemed a little excessive since we were only flying about a 1000 miles Northeast of Tahiti. After pulling out the original reservation we found the flight to be 3 1/2 hours with a half hour time change, so 3 hours. On our way John spotted two atoll circles in the Pacific. These wonderous structures are made of coral built up on the rim of a sunken volcanic crater. The trick is for the coral and sand to accumulate faster than the storms and waves can wash it away. 

What a change Nuku Hiva is from the Society Islands. Instead of lush tropical growth, we found California like brown hillsides, with pine forest intermixed with Umbrella trees, and other unidentifiable vegetation. Also there were few dogs, but lots of free range horses and cattle. Our accommodations, The Pearl Lodge was located on the other side of the island from the airport. It’s a little more than an hour to traverse the island climbing to just short of 4000 feet. The higher we climbed the more trees and plants were growing.  Sun and heat, a little chorus of Hallelujah ran through my head.

The little village Taiohae of 1800 people on the bay is the Capital of the Marquises. The Pearl Lodge is located on the right hand arm of the bay and consists of individual bay view bungalows with a main lobby and restaurant. We checked Trip Advisor and there was one other restaurant in Taiohae recommended. 

Dessert for dinner, lunch was huge and just didn’t have room for more. Besides this coconut macaroon with lemon & raspberrysorbet looks way more fun!

Days 38 & 39- Raiatea and Taha’a, French Polynesia 

February 18, 2018

The plan was to rent a car and drive to the archeological site of Taputapuatea, but after some discussion with Daphne from Switzerland (although she’s French) we decided to hire a guide with car so we would be able to identify what we were seeing.

We lucked out and got Giovani as a guide. He was named by the French/Itailian nurse that helped deliver him. The drive to Taputapuatea was through the island crater, which is very large and is the agricultural breadbasket of the island with it’s rich soil. Although it’s hard to see in the panoramic photo the crater rim was surrounding us during our drive. 

As Raiatea was the religious center for eastern Polynesia the main marae was used for gatherings of people that had traveled to Raiatea for commerce, social and religious reasons. The kings and priests stood on the higher ceremonial level and the people stood below. These marae have been restored after their destruction by Borabora warriors. The Maori of New Zealand still use their marae, but in Polynesia the marae were abandoned with the advent of Christianity in the 19th century. To the Polynesian people marae are still considered Tapu or sacred and holy. Giovani referred to this marae as the international marae.

This is the navigators marae. Pete checked his compass app and the vertical stones are positioned north to Hawaii and east to Easter Island. In the photo below you can see the vertical stone on the lower level that lines up due north. 

People from all over Polynesia have gathered here in Raiatea to demonstrate and discuss the meaning of Polynesian tattoos, which have been a part of the culture since ancient times. Giovani drew us a picture of a sharpened oyster shell with a hole drilled at the top for a secured stick. This would be dipped in a burned nut ink and tapped with another stick into the skin. This was an excruciating process and risk of infection was high. 

As you can see from the standing water in the photo of Giovani, we were having another stormy day in Raiatea. The photo below was taken from the lobby of the hotel while we awaited our tour.

February 19, 2018

This was our big adventure to Taha’a. The itinerary was to be picked up at our dock by a boat, go to Taha’a and see a pearl farm, drift snorkel the coral gardens channel, have lunch on a motu islet, and then finish up with a visit to a vanilla farm. We started out pretty well and met a talking Dalmatian on our way to the boat. We could hear him vocalizing before we ever got to the dock. 

We had three other French guests from our hotel join us for the trip. In all it was 5 French and 5 USA citizens on the boat. Alex was our guide and captain for the day. 

The 30 minute ride over to Taha’a was pretty uneventful, as was our Pearl Farm visit where we learned how Tahitian pearls are produced using a round shell core. The core is planted in the grafted oyster gonad. Japanese oysters are imported for their colorful interiors, which influence the color of the pearl. It takes 4 years of work to produce a lusterous black, gray, blue or green Tahitian pearl. The quality of the pearl depends on shape, size, luster, and imperfections. There are baroque, semi-baroque and round pearls. The farm we visited produces 20,000 pearls a year, of which less than 10% are perfect or A quality pearls.  In the US pearls are rated AAA, AA and A. In Tahiti they are rated A, B and C. In the photo below the baroque’s are to the right, semi-baroque in the center and round to the left. The large pearls of 16mm of A quality only number 6 out of 20,000 pearls/year. 

On to our drift snorkle through the coral gardens. It started raining and the wind was picking up, but we got anchored downstream of the channel walked to shore and hiked to the far end where the current was strongest from the ocean, holy smokes what a ride. The minute we plunged into the channel running down the center of the garden, we were moving quickly and had to be careful not to get ensnared in the coral on either side. Especially people like me that were more focused on coral, fish and pictures than were I was going. Here’s Pete in front of me, on the third trip I finally learned to keep an eye on him since he knew where he was going. 

This was literally like swimming in an aquarium. The water was clear and beautiful, I can only imagine what it’s like on a sunny day. 

These are two Butterfly fish with an eel that popped out down in the right hand corner. 

After snorkeling we were off to lunch, but the problem was that the winds had picked up to 40 miles/hour, the waves were big and people were getting slammed, thrown off their benches, covered in spray and rain.  John made the best of it with his mask and snorkle.

We pasted a sailboat that was hung up on coral or sand. He managed to pull free, just as we were coming around to see if he needed help.

We ended up having to turn around and approach our lunch from the other side of the island, as the water was just too rough for our little boat. 

After a good lunch on the Motu the intrepid Alex fired up the boat and took us across to Taha’a to visit a soggy vanilla farm. We traipsed through the mud to see the vanilla vines growing up small trees that shade them from the sun. The vines have the long narrow leaves and are planted 4 to a tree. The harvest is in April and May, after each blossom is hand pollinated to create a bean. Once the beans are harvested they are put out on metal sheets in the sun for about 2 hours, then are put in a cloth sack and closed in a cargo container to sweat out excess water. Once that is done the bean is hand massaged so the contents have a usable consistency. This is a very labor intensive process and the finished beans sell for $500/kilo. They do not use vanilla extract in Tahiti. They use paste and dried vanilla.  I chose to get the dried and a pinch is used instead of a teaspoon. 

Our trip back to the hotel was uneventful. We are all downing Tylenol, from the beating in the boat. Tomorrow we are off for Papeete, Tahiti for an overnight before flying to the Marquises.

Days 36 & 37- Huahine, French Polynesia to Raiatea, French Polynesia

February 16, 2018

I have a correction on the size of the Cook Islands. I gave you the square kilometers instead of the 690,000 square miles. Still a huge difference between the amount of ocean the Cook Islands and the Society Islands occupy. 

We are so secluded here in Huahine, plus with only one full day, we have decided to just stay put at The Royal Huahine and enjoy the water and sun. This is the quintessential lazy day with a couple hours of snorkeling.  The water off our beach is very shallow and filled with coral. I found a large Box Fish that was greenish yellow with blue spots.  It was probably about 7 or 8″ long and reminded me of a oversized lemon cucumber.  

Pete outdid himself today with 6 ocean swims. Decided on appetizers for dinner in the bar where we met one of the couples that was sailing on one of the Trade Winds catamarans around the Society Islands. Evidently it’s a sailboat time share and Trade Winds has large sailboats all over the world.  Everyone seemed to be having a great time with 6 couples on the boat. 

This is a photo of the dining room shot towards the bar on the far right.  The main lodge had several interesting paintings that I enjoyed.

More of the grounds and bungalows. John, Pete and I had side by side beach front bungalows, with covered decks and killer views (second photo down).

February 17, 2018

Up at 6 am to get ready for the boat to take us to the main town of Fare. From there we caught a shuttle to the airport for our 9:15 am flight to Raiatea.  

This was another very short flight of 20 minutes. The Raiatea Lodge had arranged our transfer and we arrived for our 3 day stay.  this lodge has a very colonial feel to it with mahogany, large elegant open air lobby and outstanding restaurant. 

Raiatea was widely thought to be the cultural heart of the eastern Polynesian islands. The second largest Society island next to Tahiti, it is surmised that many of the ancient migrations to Hawaii, Aotearoa and other islands originated here. Situated on the the southeast coast is the historical Taputapuatea marae complex. In ancient times, already established by 1000 AD, this was the central temple and religious center of Eastern Polynesia. Originally dedicated to Te’aroa, eventually ‘Oro the god of life and death prevailed. This was a site of human sacrifice and the center of a voyaging network. An alliance was made between Raiatea, and several islands to the east and west. These islands had rocks taken from the Raiatea marae to create new marae with a spiritual link to Taputapuatea. Fighting broke out shattering the alliance and around 1763, warriors from Borabora attacked destroying the God houses, marae platform and cutting down the sheltering trees. To this day Raiatea and the Taputapuatea complex are said to give off special energy, we will see tomorrow, as we have arranged a car to visit the site. Restoration of the site started in 1994 and it has been on the World Heritage List since 2017.*

Dinner was one of the best so far.  Our little hotel’s (15 rooms) restaurant is rated on Trip Advisor as the best on Raiatea. The number one restaurant is on Taha’a which is a separate island sharing the same lagoon.  Taha’a has one of the best coral gardens in the South Pacific and Pearl farms that we will be seeing on Monday.  

So happy we saved ourselves for dinner. My Langostino with risotto on the left and Pete’s rack of lamb on the right. John had a Carbonara that was wonderful too. 

The featured photo is of boat lifts we have been seeing throughout the South Pacific. These lifts are off beaches and in front of private homes. They prevent damage and growth on the hull. 

*Wikipedia, may or may not be accurate. 

Days 34 & 35- Moorea, French Polynesia to Huahine, French Polynesia 

February 14, 2018

Captain James Cook named the group of islands in the South Pacific, the Society Islands on his first trip in 1769, supposedly in honor of the Royal Society, the sponsor of the first British scientific survey of the islands. However Cook himself stated in his journey that he called the islands Society, as they lay contiguous to one another.* The islands are legally and politically part of French Polynesia. The islands include: Motu One, Maupiti, Tupai, Bora Bora, Manuae, Tahaa, Raiatea, Maupihas, Macao, Moorea, Huahine, Tahiti, Tetiaroa, Maiao and Mehetia. All these islands encompass 610 square miles of ocean.  Compared to the Cooks that encompass 2,000,000 square miles.

We awoke to welcome little patches of blue sky. Our first thought was to grab a quick breakfast and head to one of the better known snorkeling areas on the other side of the island. The water over there was clearer and seemed to have less current.  Here’s a little Convict Fish, about 6″ long and everywhere we’ve been snorkeling on this trip.

It was a bit more current than expected, so we drift snorkeled down a line of coral that was fairly close in to shore. The water wasn’t brown from silt, but was full of debris from all the storms. Not terribly clear, but I was able to get a few pictures.

Good thing we took advantage of the weather break. Almost as soon as we got out of the water and got changed, it turned to rain again. Time to go home, relax and get ready for our Valentine’s Day dinner at Holy Steak House. Pete was salivating at the idea of a good steak.  On our way we stopped at the White House to shop for Sarongs.

We dressed in some of our nicest clothes, which isn’t saying much, and headed out to be picked up by the restaurant as arranged. We waited in the rain for 10 minutes, then I walked back to reception to call the restaurant again. They acted like they hadn’t ever heard of us and said they were sending someone right away. The restaurant is very close by, so we waited under a palapa roof for another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Le Mayfair had sent someone for us on the comment that we might be back. They had even called reception to see if we were coming. After deciding that we may never see the driver from Holy Steak House, we ended up back at Le Mayflower where we had another wonderful meal. I had steamed shrimp in rice paper and a lemon tart. So full…..going to have to be very good tomorrow.

February 15, 2018

Wow….sun in my eyes this morning. Pete had been out swimming and told me I had to get my snorkeling gear and check out the coral in front of our hotel. Incredible fish everywhere. Don’t know why we bother driving halfway around the island to snorkel. We were supposed to be checked out by 10 am, so I was in the water by 8 am after getting most of the packing done. Incredible coral fish in less than 4′ of water. I just put my water sandals, mask and snorkel on and walked around sitting down or squatted down to see the fish.

Another little Yellow Box fish that was brave enough to leave the coral for a little way. Pete found him and let me know where he was hiding out. The fish below the Box fish is a Blenny, that is sitting up on his fins and pretending he wasn’t there.

This is my buddy that followed me everywhere, swimming between my legs, not sure if he was in it for the food I kicked up or he was just curious.
Our flight to Huahine was about 25 minutes. Huahine is a small very tropical island that is much less developed than the other islands we’ve visited so far. I’m thrilled to be off of the tourist trail.

Here is the main reception and dining room at the Royal Huahine.  We took a shuttle to a boat then traveled about 20 minutes by boat to this hotel that is tucked away in a private bay.

Days 32 & 33- Moorea, French Polynesia 

February 12, 2018

Woke up to pouring rain with no end in sight. Lots of conversation on what to do with the day. Snorkeling wasn’t really an option, the bays brown with silt from the run off. It would be hard to see your own foot, let alone any fish. After a light lunch, John called the front desk and rented a car, so we could explore the island. We all piled in to our little Renault Clio and off we went. Our mission was to scout out all the good snorkeling beaches that we’d researched and to find the large Super Market to pick up water, juice, treats and wine. It’s about 65 Kilometers (about 40 miles around the island), the car’s wipers don’t have a high setting, so John was driving slowly trying to see through the water sluicing off the windshield.  

The car runs with a key card, similar to what you would use for a hotel room. The card also opens and locks doors.  Here we are parked at the supermarket.  

Since we had a car and since we all had cabin fever, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at Le Mayflower restaurant in the village just down the road. Pete had tried walking there, but with tiny road shoulders and cars slaloming around corners, he turned back before he got run over. It’s been raining so much that we have noticed a lot of the local men are just wearing their board shorts when they have to be outside.

We arrived for dinner at 7 pm and finished up about 8:30 pm. We were the only customers they had that evening. Dinner was delicious, I had a deep water Moon fish.  

February 13, 2018

Huge storm moved in during the night with 34 mile/hour winds and more torrential rain. Had a good night tucked up in our cozy little bungalow. The breakfast/lunch cafe and bar is about 50′ from our deck, we finally took the plunge and ran over for a continental breakfast and coffee. This is the part of the trip where I’m afraid we are all going to put on pounds, no exercise and lots of food, there’s not much else to do with the storms rolling in one after the other.  

Once the wind died down some, we piled back in the car to head up Mt. Tohivea. We stopped at an archeological site, but hurried back to the car after making the aquaintance of the local mosquitos. We were on the the thicker red map road up to the Belvedere look out.

Here is a photo of the two bays, the left hand bay is Oponohu (near our hotel) and the right hand is Cook’s Bay. Though it wasn’t a particularly nice day the views were spectacular, dramatic and moody. See featured photo….

Next on the agenda was the island rum factory. See, we will suffer anything to entertain ourselves! The rum factory makes rum of course, but also Pineapple wine, Creme Coco, Creme Vanilla, rum and fruit punches. We had little samples of all and then hit the shelves. I have no idea where we are going to put all this liquor, as our suitcases are already budging.  I will definitely try to get the Pineapple wine home, it was unexpectly wonderful.

The factory itself was fairly large, busy and covered in solar panels.  

Back to our bungalows with enough excitement for one day. The weather is suppose to improve tomorrow and we are really hoping for a snorkeling adventure.

Days 30 & 31- Rarotonga, Cook Islands to Papeete, Tahiti to Moorea, French Polynesia 

February 10, 2018

10 am check out at Aroko Bungalows. We called our favorite taxi driver, Ronald for our transfer to the airport. Since the flight to Tahiti wasn’t until 3:25 pm, we were looking to shed our luggage and find a comfortable place to wait.  Since it was Saturday we found the luggage lockers closed. Finally John spoke with the only guy at the airline check-in counters and found that he would hold the luggage for $5 NZD/bag. At .78 US dollars to the NZD, that came in at $3.62/bag. Expensive, but so is everything here except our bungalow. Don’t know how the locals survive with a minimum wage of less than $7 NZD. It was raining steadily, but lightly for most of the day. We crossed the street from the airport and planted ourselves at The Island Hotel and Cafe, comfy chairs, good ocean view and decent lunch menu. 

Got this photo off the internet of the French/Italian ATR/72-600, that we will be flying for 2 1/2 hours to Papeete and then onward to Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea and the Marquises, Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa. Notice the passenger loading at the rear of the plane. The luggage hold is behind the pilots and when facing the front of the plane there is just a blank wall with a locked door. The seats were designed by the Marquee de Sade with 1″ maybe of padding and enough leg space for anyone under 5′ in height. Fortunately the flights weren’t full and we were able to get 2 seats to ourselves. Sitting sideways there was enough leg room.

I was responsible for booking this part of the trip, as Christina had a lot of people out sick and was trying to cover for them, besides putting out fires for clients stuck while traveling with cancelled flights.  I booked the Airport Hotel in Tahiti.  Our flight to Moorea was at 10:35 am on February 11th, so there didn’t seem any point in getting very far from the airport.  

One of the selling features of the hotel was that it was walking distance from the airport.  This photo was taken from the airport. The thing they didn’t mention is that you had to drag your luggage up a steep set of stairs to a very busy highway, cross that and go up another steep set of stairs, then climb a hill, more stairs and voila, there you are, so easy….we ordered a taxi.

The recommendation from the front desk was a nearby Chinese restaurant. We walked down the stairs, down the hill, through the dark, across 2 on-ramps to the restaurant. The decor was interesting and the food was fantastic. I had steamed prawns in garlic sauce with rice noodles and a dish of broccoli and vegetables that I was really craving. 

That is John’s hat on the Christmas tree, because there wasn’t room for it anywhere else.  

February 11, 2018

The airport on Sunday was a ghost town with few flights and most shops closed.

Most of the flights were domestic and we took off for Moorea almost on time. The flight was 15 minutes, at an altitude of 1200′. Needless to say the beverage service was lacking. 

Moorea though overcast is absolutely stunning.  We all are very happy with our accommodations at Hotel Les Tipaniers.  We settled in and headed to lunch at the beachside cafe and bar. Afterward Pete and I walked out to the pier to check out the water.  With a very good wind the currents were boiling through the supports under the pier and it didn’t look like snorkeling was possible.  Moorea is suppose to be one of the premier snorkeling spots in the world. I’m really hoping to have some good water days with improved weather. 

Our bungalow is in the foreground and John’s is the next one back.  We had a welcoming committee of one, staring at Pete while he was sitting on the deck.

A quiet afternoon getting organized, reading and napping.  Dinner was on the property up near the highway. I had a seafood pizza, my first with mussels in the shell. I’ve had to adjust my diet somewhat with the lack of produce, so I’m eating much more fish and cheese.  

We got back to our little bungalow and found another guest.  This good sized Hermit crab was right in front of the deck.

Day 29- Rarotonga, Cook Islands

February 9, 2018

Our last full day in the Cook Islands, we decided to hit the beach one more time, then have a late lunch at a famous beach shack restaurant called Charlie’s. 

Of course I went snorkeling, practicing more with my underwater camera.  I must admit that the clear waters here on a sunny day made the outing much more fun.

Here are just a few of my alternate universe finds:

This Trigger fish was about 8″ long, they are so colorful and can be quite curious about invaders to their domain.  

Saw a flash of this tiny, maybe 1″ fish bobbing around eating under a coral overhang. This Yellow Box fish has transparent lateral fins and a tiny tail that was tucked around to the side.  

I believe this is a Blue Spotted Puffer. Very beautiful they were swimming in pairs and feeding off the coral. 

We were camped out at one of the best snorkeling beaches in the shade of the palms. Getting a bit wiser, we planted ourselves near the outdoor shower so we could rinse all the salt water off. The water here is extremely salty, probably because it’s so warm.  I try hard not to get any in my eyes and hopefully its helping my boo boo, which isn’t healing very well. I think I’m going to have to stay out of the water for that to happen.  

A beautiful Sea Urchin hiding in the coral. The dappled sunlight through the water was spectacular today, everything was so fascinating and beautiful.

Featured photo and final photo are thanks to Pete Bowling.

This is a fish salad at Charlie’s, I was expecting something more modest and ended up taking most of the fish home.

John is off tonight to watch a Rugby game that Charlie from Aitutaki is playing in town.  Some of the boat hands and band members were from Aitutaki and some were from Rarotonga, so they will be playing against each other.  Here’s a silly picture of John wearing my sun hat.

The end of the day, not this day but a day in the past, that totally evokes the feeling of this special and perfect beach day.