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Friday, July 25, 2014

Bye bye Bora Bora

Our previous trip to Bora Bora a few weeks ago with friends Chick and Pete Anderson from Blenheim didn’t set our senses alight.  The weather wasn’t great, the water was cloudy and the people distinctly unfriendly.  This time around with friends Johnny and Jenny Oswald we had endless blue skies and sunny days and we were pleasantly surprised to discover the water was crystal clear.  At times it took on that magical Bombay Sapphire colour…an amazing turquoise with the darker azure blue of deeper water in the distance.  It was very easy to sit in the cockpit and gaze and have the occasional dip of course.



Wanting to explore the entire island and make the most of our time here we decided to tour by bike.   Johnny and Jenny hired bikes and we went through the drama of extracting ours from the depths of the twin cabin (now affectionately called the garage).  Off we went with me declaring I would only bike to the top of the island and back as 35 kms sounded way too far on our small wheeled boat bikes.  However the road was (mostly) flat and the scenery was stunning…we all just kept pedalling and before long we were halfway around.  After a reviving lunch stop, greedily and hungrily gulping down our premade filled baguettes, we continued to the south to swim at a gorgeous white sandy beach.  It was a weary foursome who cycled back into the main town of Vaitape late afternoon laden down with mangos picked from roadside trees.

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We enjoyed some lovely days snorkelling on the reef in the south of the island before heading up to the Bora Bora Yacht Club.  It has fantastic facilities for cruisers including showers, a waterfront bar and restaurant.  It is an absolute joy to indulge in a long shower without thinking about conserving water!  We spent a few days near the main town and I had my Tahitian pearls made into a necklace.  The pearls came from the Tuamotos and Raiatea – some we bought, others were traded and a few were gifts.  They are all very special and it was a sheer delight to have them made up into a stunning necklace that holds very special memories.


We dropped Johnny and Jenny off at the town dock for their flight back to Moorea where they will spend a few days before flying back to NZ.   We had a wonderful time with them and, as always with friends, it was sad to see them leave.


Back on board Bandit it was time for some serious provisioning, washing, stowing and general chores.  We hope to head away to nearby Maupiti on Friday and then onto Suvarrow on Sunday.  There is no internet facility on either island so from now on (until Samoa or Tonga) we’ll only be using our “at sea” blog –

Feel free to email us on – we love receiving emails at sea but be aware we can receive text only – no letterheads, no photos and please, no junk mail.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Festival time in French Polynesia

The Heiva was in full swing in Huahine and Raiatea in early July and we managed to catch plenty of activities.   An annual two week festival that is held in the lead up to Bastille Day the Heiva originated back in 1882 but before that a pagan festival was held to mark the southern hemisphere solstice.  The Heiva is taken seriously and on any island there will be a long list of activities planned.  Locals really get into the swing of things and it was great to watch  traditional dancing and events such as coconut husking contests, a run carrying bananas on sticks and pirogue (outrigger canoe) races.


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We sailed to Huahine to pick up Blenheim friends Jenny and Johnny Oswald and, before they arrived, had a lovely few days relaxing and just enjoying this lovely island.  One day we hired a scooter and toured both Huahine and Huahine Iti – the smaller island in the south – stopping to pick papaya and banana from the lush tropical roadsides.  Few tourists visit this island and the locals were particularly friendly and welcoming.  It was a refreshing break from the busier islands.



 With Johnny and Jenny on board and good wind forecast we set off for Taha’a.  There was a bit more wind than we expected and, for the first time in ages, we were hard on the wind.  It made for a fast trip.  On Taha’a we headed around to the wonderful coral gardens on the west coast.  The snorkelling between two motus (islands) is exceptional with friendly and inquisitive fish and some lovely coral.   We also discovered some excellent snorkelling a little further north.  The best thing about the anchorage is the stunning view of Bora Bora. 

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We sailed around Taha’a and went onto the dock at Uta Roa on Raiatea which was jam packed with cruising boats all there for Bastille Day.  It was fun to catch up with friends we hadn’t seen for a while.   The next day we enjoyed the celebrations held to farewell the fleet of traditional sailing boats that headed off to recreate the early Polynesian voyage to Samoa and New Zealand. 

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While in Raiatea last time we’d discovered a gorgeous anchorage south of the main town beside an immaculately kept motu.  We returned and this time visited the pearl farm run by PeeWee…a friendly local we’d bought pearls from last visit.   PeeWee lives on a small houseboat anchored in the lagoon leading a very basic and simple lifestyle.  It was amazing to see the delicate work involved in opening the oyster and inserting a tiny seed around which the classic black Tahitian pearl forms.  It takes 18 months to two years for a pearl to grow and each oyster can produce three pearls in its lifetime.

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After a night in this lovely anchorage and birthday drinks on fellow Kiwi boat Moxie we headed down around the bottom of Raiatea enjoying some remote and serene anchorages before picking the right wind for a lovely sail across to Bora Bora.  Best part was hooking and landing a huge mahimahi which proved to be a team effort.  Our previous attempts had resulted in the fish throwing the hook but this time we made sure and have the photographic evidence to prove it!


Friday, July 11, 2014

Paradise lost

Okay, so we will probably cop a bit of flak for saying this but we were totally underwhelmed by the haunt of the rich and famous – the (once) exquisite Bora Bora.  Yes, it is scenically spectacular with  astonishing jagged peaks, turquoise lagoons and stunning sandy white beaches but there’s also a  lot not to like about this (in our opinion) overrated, overpriced and overcrowded French Polynesian island. 


As soon as we entered the pass the water became milky and visibility for snorkelling was poor.  Abandoned resorts dot the waterfront and at one, the once proud and fabulous Hotel Bora Bora, we were given the short shift…not even in a nice manner.  We had only wanted to go ashore as David had holidayed there as a teenager in 1972 and returned by yacht in 1993 and was keen to reminisce. There were only a couple of hotels in ‘72, few cars and wonderful snorkelling.  He found that had all changed with rampant overdevelopment seemingly without any thought to the fragile ecology and a total lack of infrastructure.   The brochures describe Bora Bora as the friendly island – not for us.  We were also escorted from the grounds of the Hilton Bora Bora after going ashore for a drink. To top things off a boat moored near us off the main town had three fishing rods stolen overnight. We’d heard petty theft was rampant but it was disappointing to experience it close hand.  So sorry Bora Bora - you get the thumbs down.


Now to the good bits…and there were a few.  We were there with Blenheim friends Chick and Pete Anderson and so we had lots of laughs and (thanks to Chick) some wonderful meals on board including barbecued duck and tuna tartare.  We also had a fun lunch at the fantastic Bloody Mary’s restaurant compliments of the Andersons.  Fellow sailor Per Rold told us we simply must go there – so we did and it was wonderful.  Great ambience, friendly staff and, of course, great Bloody Mary’s.  The burgers weren’t too bad either.



But before we could indulge in the burgers and fries we had to earn it – so a hike to the top of the hill was in order.  Heart rates were up, leg muscles ached and magnificent views were had by all.  Back on board we had a swim and a scrub up before heading ashore to the wonderfully atmospheric Bloody Mary’s.


We had a look in one of the pearl shops near Bloody Mary’s and I handled the most perfect pearl necklace we’ve seen yet – and we’ve done a lot of looking.   The US$70,000 price tag was a bit daunting but they were absolutely beautiful.  Our time in Bora Bora was brief as we plan to return later in the month. With good winds we headed back to Taha’a where we had a magic snorkel on the coral garden. All too soon it was time to drop Pete and Chick off in Raiatea for their flight to Papeete and NZ. A fantastic time with wonderfully generous and kind friends. Thanks Pete and Chick!



The gorgeous Garden of Eden

Huahine is the French Polynesian island overlooked by most tourists – at least that’s what it felt like to us.   The main town of Fare is a lovely sleepy spot with only its city sized supermarket indicating greater things.  It was almost as big and probably better than Papeete’s Carrefour and was a fantastic place to buy fresh tuna – especially given that our efforts at fishing on the overnight sail from Moorea had been fruitless.   We hooked a huge mahimahi at sunset (our favourite time to fish) only to see it lost to a shark. 


With friends Chick and Pete Anderson on board we were keen to eat as much fresh fish as possible…luckily fresh tuna is readily available and dirt cheap here – $8 kg.  Chick is a fantastic cook so we were completely spoilt and have feasted on tuna tartare with olive oil and capers, tuna in fresh coconut milk with lime and coriander, seared with sesame seeds and delicious barbecued tuna. 


We headed to the south west of Huahine to the gorgeous Baie Avea – a safe anchorage to shelter from forecast bad weather.   It was calm and idyllic with just a few other cruising boats. The resort ashore seemed very quiet – unlike the bustling ones in Papeete and Moorea – and with low key beachfront bungalows rather than overwater burres.   It was a great spot to have sundowners on the sandy beach with fellow cruisers The Southern Cross, Outsider, Island Fling, Bangarang and La Rochelle.



Baie Avea was a good place to sit out the low that resulted in a few hours of torrential rain.  We filled our water tanks in minutes and managed to give the decks a good scrub.  The wonderful thing about French Polynesia is there is little change in temperature…even when it’s cloudy and wet it’s still warm.  We enjoyed some magical snorkelling spotting lots of “nemo” (clown fish) hiding in the anemones.   Some arm twisting resulted in David taking the bikes ashore and we had some lovely rides.  Huahine is called the Garden of Eden for good reason; the vegetation ashore is lush with tropical fruit and flowers everywhere – mango, banana, pineapple, breadfruit, hibiscus, frangipani and of course, the ubiquitous coconut palm.


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Once the weather lifted we headed back up to Fare stopping for a snorkel on the way.  In Fare we went to happy hour at the waterfront bar and met up with Outsider for a good strong rum punch then opted to dine local style at the roulottes.  Roulottes are caravans on the street where locals serve up all manner of dishes.  We opted for fish and the plate came piled high with frites on top of which sat three huge tuna steaks.  Digging around underneath we found delicious poisson cru and potato salad.  It was a fine feast and a fitting way to end our time in Huahine.   Next day we set out for Taha’a and caught up with friends Chris and Sara for a fun dinner on their catamaran Tulu.  Our stay on Taha’a was brief (we plan to return) as a good northerly breeze came up.   With BoraBora beckoning we took advantage of it to head there.