Leeward Society Islands
The Society Islands took their name from the Royal Society. The Royal Society have sent Captain Cook here to build an observatory, now called Venus point, to observe Venus as it transited across the Sun. HMS Bounty spent 6 months here collecting breadfruit before the famous mutiny. Tahiti holds claim to the birth place of surfing, the wave at Teahupoo is one of the world's most powerful and called "Jaws of Water"
From the remoteness of a deserted atoll we found ourselves in the middle of a busy town. We moored by the waterfront in one of the main streets of Papeete. It was a bit of a shock, after 3 months of nice secluded bays to be next to a funfair, busy roads and neon lights. We arrived at almost midnight and still managed to tidy up the boat and give it a good clean. First time since Bonaire we had shore power and water from a hose.
No rest for us, lots to do as we are so close to shops for once. By chance we found the Marche de Papeete. Colourful, chaotic and oh-so Polynesian, it's bursting with exotic flowers, arts and souvenirs. As the Bastille day is approaching the celebrations are full on with dance competitions, canoe races, singing contests. In the evening we went over to To'ata Square to watch this amazing dance competition. The men are fantastic with the tribal war dance and the women are very sensual, how can they wiggle their bums so fast is quite a mystery. The dance tells a story and it is surrounded by an orchestra with drums. By the end of the spectacle we were dazzled!
Very busy day, shopping for food, spares for the boat, cleaning. We had the chance to relax in the evening and sit on the boat watching the world go by from the waterfront. Tahitians are so friendly and cheerful. We noticed that there is a mixture of different races: lots of Chinese, Polynesians and Europeans seem to be living together sharing the same values. Homosexuality is well accepted here. Also there are lots of "Mahu”, males who are raised as girls and live their lives as women. Graham got greeted by a couple of them while I was downstairs cooking meal.
Although we loved the city life we had to move on as it is very expensive to stay on the waterfront. We left the harbour in the afternoon and motored straight into a canoe competition. These canoes came flying from all directions escorted by motor boats, a bit hairy! The channel inside the reefs took us to Maeva Beach, 4 miles away. Very busy, about 200 boats anchored and another 300 in the marina. This is a setting for some of the luxurious hotels scattered around the Societies, with bungalows suspended over the water, glass floor and the likes. No wonder, to our left we have the view of Tahiti and to our right is Mo'orea, just 10 miles away.
The last few days we did absolutely nothing. We were due a bit of rest, both were so tired that we didn't even leave Nomad Life. Food got us out of the boat yesterday, we had a look around the local supermarket and we never seen such a variety of food in our lives! Hundreds of variety of pates, cheeses, hams, pastries, etc...All imported and a high prices attached to them.
14th of July
This is the date to be in the Societies, due to the Bastille Day celebrations. Although it was a bit disappointing after all. The only celebration was the Ancient Games. We went with Nancy and Steve from Toboggan. There were no buses and we couldn't hitch a ride so we walked over 2 km to get there. Javelin throwing, stone lifting and running with fruit, all competitors were dressed in typical Polynesian outfits and wearing their flower tiaras.
18th of July
Graham decided to get a tattoo. We took the Le Truck, which is an alternative public truck, to the Market in Papeete. Simeon, the tattooist was a strange guy, didn't say much or smiled either, but he did a great job. It took one hour and all was done by free hand. So now Graham has a unique manta ray on his sholder. It is a very small tattoo for Polynesian standards.
Today it was our third attempt to visit the Maraa caves. Public transport here is quite precarious after rush hour. We arrived to the caves early morning. Two out of the three caves were closed due to rock falls. Quite disappointing! Then we walked to Marae Arahurahu, a traditional Polynesian temple. After walking 6 km, we finally arrived exhausted. Catching a bus back was also difficult.
Again the time has come to leave. We were settling nicely in Maeva. Nadezhda arrived a few days ago, so drinking parties were on schedule almost every day and our livers couldn't take it anymore. Not to mention that beer here costs a fortune, more than 2 pounds for a small can! In the morning we left for Papeete to clear out and arrange duty free fuel. We were lucky enough to be in town for that evening as it was another night of dance competition. We missed half of the presentation while waiting for a pizza in one of the food stands but made it in time to see the kids dancing. They were aged between 6 to 10 years, all from mix descendent Philippines, Hawaiians, Chinese and Tongans. The little girls were superb, the boys not so good. The Japanese girls also dancing finished the show. But they were not as good as the kids!
Moorea is 15 miles from Tahiti, a lot smaller, but nicer. It was a windless day, so we motored all the way. There are only two good anchorages here: one is Cooks Bay and the other is Opunohu Bay. We heard that the latter is nicer, so that was our destination. It is a huge bay that goes quite deep inland, but we anchored behind the fringed reefs, all the better for snorkelling. We did not need to get into the water to see lots of eagle and sting rays swimming under Nomad Life. One of the hotels organizes shark and ray feeding afternoons. Whether or not is a good idea is open to debate, but we are eager to see it.
We didn't get feed sharks but we had our swim around sharks and fed the sting rays instead. It was an absolutely amazing experience! We were invited by Boyd to go on his 50ft boat, "Young at Heart", to the Lagoon where the feeding goes on. It was 20 minutes away from the anchorage inside the reefs. Then we got in the dinghy to get to the lagoon. It was shallow so we could just stand on the sand. There were around 30 stingrays swimming and looking for food. Once a bit of fish came out they all went for it , it was frantic to stand on the middle. Suddenly we got surrounded by 5 rays popping their mouth open and you could just put the fish inside their mouth. We had to be careful not to stand on them, but these creatures were so gentle and docile, hard to believe how Steve Irwin got killed by one! Going into deeper waters we could swim with sharks, about 1 metres long. Fabulous day!
The experience was so good that for the next two days we kept going back. Pete and Fliss arrived so we took them there. Both were amazed and went back for more the next day. One of the guys feeding the rays told us that they belong to the family of the sharks. Although the rays do not have teeth, they have a very powerful gum that can hurt. On our way back to the boat we passed by one of the hotels to have a look at the captive dolphins. For 85 dollars you can swim with the dolphin, no thanks for us! Not quite right and very expensive.