Still a month and a half away!
03.01.2013 - 03.01.2013 28 °F
This will be my first attempt at a travel blog.
Cruising the South Pacific
Still a month and a half away!
03.01.2013 - 03.01.2013 28 °F
This will be my first attempt at a travel blog.
04.18.2013 - 04.18.2013
Our Pacific Mysteries tour began with an early morning and a long day.
We arrived at the airport by 5 a.m., checked in for our flight and headed for breakfast. Jerry and Michelle, our companions on this trip, were waiting at the flight gate by 6 or so. By 7:15, we were in the air and headed to Los Angeles International Airport. The first leg of our fight was uneventful...which is good!
The layover at LAX went by rather quickly...just enough time for a beverage and then a light lunch before boarding the plane.
Our flight to Tahiti was booked on Air Tahiti airlines. We have nothing to complain about on the flight. The seats were fairly comfortable, the two meals served were fine for airline food, and we were offered (unlimited) beverages—including champagne, wine or beer—for the entire flight. Nice.
The plane landed on time, so we were walking into the Papeette airport around 7 p.m. Getting through Customs was a breeze and the cruise line picked up on checked bags and brought them to the ship, so we didn’t have to deal with our bags at all. Very nice!
A shuttle bus took us from the airport to the ship. This was our only time to view Tahiti, but because the sun sets here fairly early we didn’t see much of it. But we did see the ship all lit up from a mile or two away from the pier.
Our ship is the Marina owned by Oceania Cruise line. It is one of their biggest ships, but small compared to many other cruise ships. It holds about 1200 passengers. Once aboard, we were given our pass cards and sent to our rooms. The stateroom assigned to us is fantastic. The bathroom has a full sized tub and a shower. The mattress on the queen sized bed has a memory foam top. The window is actually a full sized patio door (that doesn’t open because we have no balcony—but the view is wonderful.)
A shower was in order after a long, long day of flying. Once we were cleaned and refreshed, we met Jerry and Michele in the grand dining room for a late, light supper. Beyond that, we were spent a little time unpacking our suitcases and then it was beddy-by time.
Huahine consists of two islands connect by a small bridge. It has the oldest recorded date of human occupation among the Society Islands. Recently uncovered sites date from 850—1200 A.D.
04.19.2013 - 04.19.2013
Our first stop on the cruise is Huahine (who ahh he nah). Before we could disembark the ship, we had to attend a safety meeting, eat breakfast, and get our passes for the tender boat that would shuttle us from the ship to the shore.
Once we landed on the island, a fleet of shuttle buses delivered us from the dock to the town of Fare, one of only eight small villages. We had arranged to use a rental car for the day. It didn’t take too long for us get set up and pick up Jerry and Michelle and we were off to explore.
Our first stop was an archaeological museum. It consisted of a beautifully recreated native meeting hall. The floors and walls are made of woven palm fronds and the roof is thatched. Displays inside provided some historical background on the island and it’s original inhabitants. Outside the hall, there was an area of black stone foundations and some standing stones. Farther down the road we pulled of to view an enormous black stone structure from the same time period.
Back on the road, we came across the dock used as a ferry to take folks out to a working pearl farm. The pearls of this south Pacific area are well known for their unique colors, including the most popular black pearls. The pearl farm itself is headquartered in a thatched building set on stilts a 5 minute boat ride from the shore. We were given a demonstration of how the pearls are “seeded” into living oysters...and then, of course, it was time to shop. By the time we boarded the boat to go back to shore, our wallets were lighter for the money spent, but the purses were plumper with some eye-catching baubles of black pearls.
Back in the car, we began looking for someplace to eat lunch. On the way, we stopped to visit the sacred eels—yes, I said sacred eels. We saw several of these fresh water eels that range from three to six feet long. Why are they sacred? I honestly don’t know...but they are cool!
Lunch was eaten at a small restaurant called Chez Tara. The food was excellent, the local beer was cold, and the view from this “on the beach” café was delightful.
The rest of our tour was spent completing our drive around the southern, smaller island, Huahine Iti (the larger northern island is Huahine Nui). When we drove back across the bridge, we knew we would have some extra time to kill before catching a shuttle bus back to the ship’s tender. Back in Fare, the rental car was returned. Some time was spent checking our the local shops; the rest of the time was just sitting and relaxing in the 90 degree weather. Oh, snow, we miss you not!
Back on the boat, we spent a little time resting (the seven hour time difference has our internal clocks messed up yet) and then we headed to the dining room for dinner. As it turned out, there was no room for the four of us, so we were escorted to the Polo Steakhouse on deck 12 for a fancy dinner. That put us all into snooze mode so we all retired to our suites to rest up for tomorrow.
The original name of BoraBora is closer to “Pora Pora”, meaning “first born”. There is no “B” sound in the Polynesian language.
We woke up this morning with a new view; our ship was settling into a harbor area of Bora Bora. The island itself consists of two extinct volcanoes and it is surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef.
Jerry and Michelle met us in the ship auditorium at 9 a.m. where we were each provided a pass to take the tender boat to the dock in Vaitape. Once there, we picked up our rental car and hit the main road that circles the entire island. It had been recommended that we go “counterclockwise” so that’s what we did.
Just outside of town, we spied a pearl store and stopped in to look for a few bargains. The shop was quite nice...and the prices were quite high. After a short look about, we got back on the road. However, within two minutes we found ourselves driving up to Bloody Mary’s Restaurant. Hmmm, that’s where we planned to have lunch...but lunchtime was a couple of hours in the future. It was decided to complete the
driving tour and then start the loop a second time so we could get to our lunch spot later in the day.
The next stop on our list was Matira Beach, the only public beach on the island. Oops, we drove past the entrance to the beach somehow; so we decide we would stop in later after we had started the loop a second time and after we had our lunch. Another 8 kilometers down the road, we hoped to see some mareas (ancient stone platforms) as well as some of the cannons placed on the island during World War II. Unfortunately, the walking trail that would take us there was evidently too obscure for us to find either the maraes or the guns. So we continued our drive and soaked in the sights...the mountain on the left, the turquoise water of the lagoon on our right, and all of the local folks who were out and about to campaign for the favorite candidates in the coming election. (We don’t know who the candidates are—but we do know that one of them likes the color yellow and the other one likes blue. And we noted that Mr. Yellow seems to be much more popular with the citizens of Bora Bora.)
Within an hour of the start, we were back in Vaitape. Now that it was closer to lunch time, we just kept driving and soon enough we were right in front of Bloody Mary’s again. NOW it was lunch time. In we went. Bloody Mary’s has been a hot spot for nearly 35 years. It is cute, but with plenty of room inside to handle plenty of tourists. Two qualities caught our attention immediately: the sand floor and the free roam chickens wandering around on it. That didn’t stop us from ordering a Hinano beer and some Polynesian pub grub.
With full tummies and happy dispositions, we decided to just keep going around the whole island a second time! That turned out to be a good call, because this time we did stop at Matira beach (warm water and lots of coral in the white sand) and a marae (Which one? We aren’t sure…). Finally back in Vaitape once again, we turned in the rental car, did a little more shopping, and boarded the tender back to the ship.
For dinner, Susie had arranged for the two of us to have a little “second honeymoon” time at a place called the MaiKai Restaurant. So while we headed back to town after a bit of a nap, Jerry and Michelle stayed on the ship for dinner. (We will meet up with them early tomorrow for a snorkeling tour.) The MaiKai was a good choice; the food was interesting and the wine (a Tahitian white) was very nice.
Once we had our fill (and we were full!), the restaurant owner gave us a ride back to the dock and we returned to the ship. We arrived just in time to catch the beginning of a Bora Bora cultural dance show before bed time. Once the dancers left the stage to find some willing dancers in the audience, it was time for us to turn in (quick...before they catch one of us!).
Tomorrow...the Lagoonarium where we can snorkel and see the bottom-side of Bora Bora.
The temperature today was about 84 degrees with partly cloudy skies, but plenty of sunshine.
04.21.2013 - 04.21.2013
Our second day on Bora Bora promised to be an adventure. On the agenda was an organized day tour that would take the four of us on a boat trip around the island, a chance to swim with sharks and rays, a Polynesian picnic lunch, and a visit to the Lagoonarium. To catch our tour on shore, we picked up shore passes for the first (8 a.m.) tender shuttle from the ship to land. Once at the dock, we searched for our tour guide among the throng of people buying and selling tours for the day. A smiling local fellow walked up to us and ask to see our prepaid tickets. “You come with me,” he said as he smiled. “I love you!” Then he escorted us to a bus that took us to their dock. We boarded a fairly large open boat that would be our transportation and diving platform for most of the day.
Bora Bora has a coral reef surrounding it (see the little picture on the left). The first stop for our group was very near the reef. We put on our snorkels and masks; no flippers were necessary because the water was only about five feet deep. Once in the water, we were surrounded by visitors: nurse sharks and huge sting rays. Our guide advised that we could pet the sting rays on their back—don’t touch their tails or their underside where they have a mouth and teeth—and we could watch the sharks...but no petting (as if we wanted to pet the sharks…). It was an incredible experience to swim right next to these ominous creatures.
After 30 minutes or so, we climbed back aboard and sailed over to another area in the lagoon called “The Garden”. On the way, we passed over an area of the lagoon where the water is only 3 feet deep. It is possible to walk from the island out to the reef. To demonstrate the point, we cruised by a large buoy anchored in the middle of the lagoon. Sitting atop it was a young woman in her bikini bottoms, holding an umbrella to provide a little shade.
At The Garden, the boat stopped and we put on our snorkeling equipment and jumped in. The water was deeper (about 20 feet), but very clear. No sharks or rays here, but plenty of colorful little fish were swimming about. Some folks saw a Moray eel, but we were on the wrong side of the boat.
Our last stop was the Lagoonarium. This is actually a series of enclosures built out into the lagoon from a lovely little beach. In one small pen, several sea turtles are kept for observation. The other enclosures were much larger, allowing us to snorkel in them. One was stocked with nurse sharks, sting rays, and assorted tropical fish. Another was stocked with more of the same with the addition of a large gray/black shark. Some of the locals demonstrated how to “catch a ride” on the big shark by grabbing onto the big fin growing out of his back. We passed on that little trick! The last pen (Susie’s favorite) was stocked with a lot more of the colorful tropical fish; the only scary creature there was a fat, old puffer fish. But he never puffed up and tried to sting anyone.
After snorkeling for a while, we were treated to a “motu picnic”. The buffet style lunch included grilled chicken, grilled tuna steaks, rice, tropical cole slaw, taro (a root that is eaten here like we eat potatoes), banana tapioca, and heaps of fresh fruit. What a treat to eat under the palm trees right on the beach! After lunch there was more time to swim with the fishes before boarding our boat for a ride back to the bus. In the process of taking us to the various stops throughout the day, we actually managed to sail around the entire island.
Back on the main island, the bus returned us to the tender dock and we headed back to the ship. A shower was in order to wash away the sand. We followed that with a cheese plate from room service for a little happy hour in our room. At 6:30, we met Michelle and Jerry for a drink in the lounge near the dining room. A string quartet provided some background music. Then it was a leisurely dinner and an early bedtime. A full day of sea, sand and sun had tuckered us out.