Moorea...Rays, Rays, Everywhere Rays July 17 2007
Off we went with s/v Blue Moon, s/v Serai and s/v Sifar for a 4x4 inland Safari adventure. We had a guide (Teva) (Chris - the ladies thought the guide was quite handsome ... by the end of the trip all the husbands were worried that we were out of a job) and cruised around in a topless off-road vehicle. We started at Point Venus...a black sand beach with an impressive lighthouse which was the spot where Captain Cook built an observatory to record the transit of Venus across the face of the sun in 1769 (attempting to determine the distance between the earth and the sun). We continued inland over rough and steep dirt roads. Stopping from time to time as our Teva (Chris - note the "our" Teva. She wishes) explained about local plants, fruits...and feted the ladies with a hibiscus flower and wreath of braided ferns...and gave us instruction on the various ways to tie a pareu (Erin was the mannequin). We saw waterfalls and lush landscapes...even large freshwater eels (80% of Tahiti's power is hydroelectric with the dams being a favorite eel spot). A rock slide into a fresh water pool was fun and Chris even did a couple of canon balls. As the sun began to fade we visited an ancient Marae. The filtering light added to the sacred spot still in use today. A Marae is the place where islanders gather to worship and hold other ceremonies. They are stone temples, outlines actually, without walls and completely open to the lush landscape surrounding them. It was a full and wonderful day...sun up to sun down...but onto the next day.
The next day was a cruiser "fun" regatta from Tahiti to Moorea. We were too lazy to pull up the anchor so we participated aboard s/v Miss Jody (coincidentally a PDQ just like Barefeet). The race started at 10am with just enough wind for spinnakers...beautiful! Bloody Mary's were a welcome and tasty start to the race and we were off (about 20 boats in all). The day was perfect with bright sun, gentle winds, calm seas and fun people. S/v Miss Jody finished first in class...no, not first overall...too much fun aboard for that. A t-shirt for participating and a lunch BBQ on the beach...then we were back to Tahiti. Another sun up to sun down day...we need to rest!
Our day of rest unfortunately included boat work. We have been able to cross many boat projects off of the list; change oil in generator, change filter on air compressor, epoxy swim step, scrap shag rug moss off of the hull and several other projects, too. That brings us to the project that never seems to die...the freezer. It seems the cooling water pumps are no longer working which keeps the fridge and freezer running almost continually...quite a power hog. We scoured Pape'ete and were one step behind someone else looking for the same item...six stores and several, "We just sold our last one," statements later we are still pumpless. Oh well, no big passages ahead so we plan to eat through the freezer and simply take it offline. Chris has fabricated a makeshift freezer out of styrofoam for the top shelf in the fridge. It is small but it will be sufficient for the small hops we have ahead from here to Australia.
Diving continues to be a common activity...and with Jason and Ems (both dive masters) it is easy to gather a critical mass to head off.
Chris - we did a great dive just off the airport in Tahiti. It seems some of the locals have not flown so well through the ages, and we found a couple of wrecked planes that were coming in for a landing and landed a bit too soon. We just drove the dinghy until we saw the shadow of the plane below us, then dropped the hook and slid over. In about 35 feet of water was a plane right next to 2 wrecked ships! We were told to be careful because stone fish like to hang out on the wrecks (poisonous and spiny and generally invisible because they blend in with the background so well). We didn't see any. Erin chose to snorkel instead - and got pissed off because she found so many beautiful shells that were just out of here range with snorkel but she good have grabbed if she had a tank on.
It is really nice to dive without a professional company. You go at your own speed and can look at what interests you. Jason, Emily and I spent a good 10 minutes sitting in front of one coral head watching the fish run away, then get used to us and come back and be fish. Kind of neat, really. The next paragraph below Erin talks about "completed the above and below waterline cleaning". Just so you know, WE did not complete the cleaning - Chris did. It was a major and traumatic experience that deserves more press. We had 3 inches of green grassy stuff that was slimy and filled with little shrimp that when dislodged from their grassy home wanted to find someplace to hide. Common places were your bellybutton, your ear or god knows what other unmentionable places. I scraped for an hour and a bit and finally gave up a bit short of my goal - covered in little shrimps that wriggled in the hair of your legs and a green fuzz. It was rewarding that the boat did go a knot and a half faster then next day - so it really did need to happen. I think we'll pull the boat in Raitea and repaint the bottom so Chris doesn't have to scrape anymore.
Completed above and below the waterline cleaning to be sure Barefeet puts her best foot forward for the arrival of Erin's parents. They have been guests before but we want all to look good and be welcoming. They arrived late July 11 (11:40pm) so the meeting was not until July 12. Erin and Chris took the bus to their hotel and how great to see them! Mom and Dad were very generous and schlepped many things for us and our friends...they were mail drop central and pack mules extraordinaire. The oil filters, generator belt, bolts, general mail were all appreciated...especially the tortillas and green chilies! We started with a visit to a museum just blocks from their hotel...Museum of Tahiti and her Islands...a lagoon side museum that lays a solid groundwork of local geology, history, culture, flora and fauna (and information is additionally in English...rare quality). Mom and Dad were still raring to go so off we went into Pape'ete via bus. A bit of wandering (Municipal Market, Pearl Museum, port center, etc.) then lunch at 3 Brasseurs...poisson cru is Dad's new favorite dish (basically cerviche...raw fish...seasoned with cilantro, coconut milk and lime juice). Back onto the bus returning for cocktails on the veranda of the hotel room. Quick showers and a bit of gussying up for dinner. Le Carre restaurant for dinner...out of this world delicious...and just a short grass path walk along hotel grounds away. A round-thatched structure on the edge of the ocean with red painted walls glowing from torchlight. The food was wonderful and each offering had a single base (for example salmon) that was prepared four ways; stuffed with an island relish, marinated raw (poisson cru), fried as a delicate fritter cake and thinly sliced and seasoned as a carpaccio. Wow! Finally Erin and Chris could not fill their bellies anymore and we returned to Barefeet.
We took a general consensus and Pape'ete was done...off to Moorea. We pulled the hook from Tahiti and made the quick 12 mile hop to Opunohu Bay (7/14) after filling with diesel (duty free, thank goodness) and getting an ice cream. The entrance to the bay is well marked and considered one of the most picturesque in French Polynesia. The anchorage was like anchoring in an aquarium...15 feet deep with a clear view to the sandy bottom and the intermittent fly-by of a pair of eagle rays. Early 7/15 we headed to feed the rays via Trouble. It was a 15-20 minute dinghy ride and we got clearer directions the closer we got (even had a donation of hot dogs for the endeavor). Holy cow - what an amazing experience! The stingrays heard the dinghies and ambled over for some snacks. Initially "rubber" came to mind when thinking of rays but after having them skim over our feet "velvet" seems more accurate. A few black tip reef sharks skirted the perimeter...just keeping an eye on things. We had a great time and managed to have the place to ourselves until ready to leave...when troops of tour boats arrived.
We decided to head around the corner to Cook's Bay for additional exploration of Moorea (7/16). This time we anchored all the way back in the bay...not as clear water due to river runoff but stunning, ragged cliffs nearly encircling the anchorage and twinkling lights ashore after the sun sets. A real point of pride for the people of Moorea is the fact that cannibalism was never practiced here (unlike the Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands)...hhhhmmmmm...who knew this was an option?! We settled in and headed ashore for a walk along the sole road (36 mile two-lane road circling the edge of the island) from shop to market to tattoo parlor...and periodic duck under a tree when the rain fell. Dinner was at the classical French Restaurant Te Honu Iti...an open porch of a restaurant over the bay with lights to the water for nightly feeding of the stingrays. The cool breeze, French wine and amazing sauces (mahi mahi with vanilla cream sauce, beef bourgignon, salmon with mushroom sauce) were rendered even more special by the numerous rays ambling by in anticipation of some tuna snacks. Erin's curiosity got the best of her and she fed them by hand from the stairs which disappeared into the bay...all fingers retained.