Saturday, 4 January 2020

Monday, Dec 30
21 17.2N / 157 50.4

Week 3 of our passage from Rangiroa, French Polynesia to Oahu, Hawaii was not a 'fun' week and we were very relieved, after 23 days at sea, to have this iconic view of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach in front of us. Another passage complete, we had sailed 2465 miles to make 2252 good.

In our last post I mentioned that we had 'left' the doldrums. I now take it back, we hadn't left the doldrums at all, they do move and were just a bit further north. Once we hit 6N we got the full treatment. It started with a lot of yellow blobs (squalls) showing up all over the radar screen. We continued on, dodging where possible and dealing with the gusts when not possible to dodge. The blobs started to reform and eventually merged into one huge blob completely surrounding us. We reduced sail as it was gusting into the 30's. It got quite rough and we eventually hove-to in order to clean up the mess in the galley. At some point, a dish had wedged itself against the usually very sturdy latch on the inside of our china cupboard and opened it, sending most of our china flying across the galley to hit the opposite wall and shatter into pieces. We lost about 1/2 of it. We sat there for about four hours to let the worst of it cross over us. We got underway and it actually got worse the next night (it always happens at night), Christmas Eve, with gusts now into the 40's and steady F8 winds. We have dealt many times with gale-force winds and with squalls, but, we've never really had the combination of the two which was a different animal. It was hard to know what to expect, we'd see a squall coming and maybe there were going to be big gusts and maybe there weren't, the anticipation became very wearing.

We got to about 11N on Christmas Day and got a present as the squalls abated and blue skies returned. The next few days were excellent with great speed and long daily runs. Then, the wind died to nothing after a few hours of going between 13-30 knots every ten minutes. We motored for a while until the wind picked up again. We were on the final stretch into Honolulu and counting down the hours. The wind was supposed to drop away at midnight and we were anticipating a motor in for the final leg and an early morning arrival. Then, when we were about 50 miles out an isolated squall popped up with no notice, lots of rain and winds 35 again, we hove-to and thought we might have to spend a further night at sea, what a disappointment, but, after a few hours, winds dropped into the mid-20's and on we went arriving at 1500 into the Ali Wai Yacht Harbour, just in time for New Year's Eve celebrations the next day. We'll be here until mid-May when we'll head off for Alaska. We'll, of course, be doing boat jobs, but, hope to fit in a few tourist activities as well.
 photo arrow.pngCONTINUE READING

Sunday, 22 December 2019

noon, Saturday - December 21
05 30.4N / 157 17.4W

Week 2 of our passage from Rangiroa, French Polynesia to Oahu, Hawaii has been much better than week 1. Conditions have been mostly benign, wind direction and resulting speed have been good. We ended up sailing 880 miles, vmg 855, maybe our best week ever? Due to the easy conditions, boat problems have been few and minor, let's hope that continues. We managed a few milestones as well, we crossed the equator, the 1/2 way mark on the passage and we've now just left the doldrums. The doldrums, or inter-tropical convergence zone, is an area approximately five degrees north and south of the equator. This was the area where we thought we'd have the most weather problems as usually it's plagued by calms interspersed with vicious squalls. We had those conditions in abundance during week 1, but, sailed right through the 600 mile doldrums area with constant wind of 15-25 knots from the east. South of the doldrums the winds are generally SE and north of the doldrums the wind is generally NE. We had the exact opposite of this, but, as long as there was east in it we didn't care. Next week isn't looking too great, lots of gales ahead. Right now it looks like we may just get lucky and miss them, but, at this point it could go either way, we'll see what we get. It would be nice, for once, to complete a passage without having to go to a third reef at some point!

Sent via SailMail,
 photo arrow.pngCONTINUE READING

Monday, 16 December 2019

noon, Saturday - December 14
08 20.6S / 150.56.1W

As planned, we left Rangiroa, French Polynesia for Hawaii (Oahu) on December 7. We thought we weren't going to make our tidal gate as our windlass failed and the chain had to be pulled up manually, which, due to complications, took about two hours. Luckily, the water was still mostly slack in Avatoru Pass and we quickly made our way out to the open ocean escorted by a lively pod of dolphins. It was a relief to be away from our busy, action-packed one week stay in Rangiroa. We raised sail and enjoyed perfect sailing for the first three hours in a 13-15 knot northeasterly breeze. Then, the wind died and for the next FIVE days we didn't have any wind greater than FIVE knots. This meant we could only sail at a miserable 1-3 knot speed compared to the usual 5-7. It's not just the slow motion sailing that gets to you, it's the continual effort that needs to be put in to try and keep a steady heading, in any direction. The wind puffs, the wind gusts, the wind stops, the sails backwind, slat and bang, the rigging creaks and groans, the autopilot can't maintain its heading and starts beeping loudly. Without a cooling breeze, it gets very hot baking on the sea's reflective surface and there is no relief anywhere on the boat. Around dusk, biq squalls came through which brought too strong winds for about twenty minutes requiring a quick reefing of sails. It all wears on you including the thought that, at 1 knot, a 2200 mile passage could take as long as 100 days, not something we wanted to contemplate! Logically, of course, we knew things would change, but when? Five days bobbing along was a long time to wait. We ran the motor for about thirty hours to try and get further north to where there seemed to be more wind. Finally, the change did come, the winds increased to 9-10 knots and we started moving once more which allowed us to record an ok result for the week, 578 miles sailed, 429 made good, better than nothing. We expected this kind of weather in the doldrums, still to be crossed, let's hope that maybe we'll get good wind for that crossing, the grib forecast is looking good, so, fingers crossed for a better week 2 result.

Sent via SailMail,
 photo arrow.pngCONTINUE READING

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Our gear cable and throttle problem luckily turned out to just be an adjustment and after stocking up on yet more fresh baguettes, we left Ra'iatea enroute to Rangiroa, about 250 miles to the northeast. We were now leaving the Society Islands and heading east towards the Tuamotus, another of the five island groups in French Polynesia. The Society Islands are 'high', volcanic islands. The Tuamotus are totally different, atolls consisting of strings of motu (small islands) strung together to surround an inner lagoon. They are low and sandy with lots of palm trees. Our visas were quickly coming to an end and we were in a bit of a time crunch to get there in order to check out of the country. We were very disappointed that we were only going to have few days there and we'd have to skip a visit to the Marquesas, another island group about 700 miles NE, altogether. With hindsight, I guess we should have applied for a long-stay visa. It would have required a lot of paperwork and hassle to get. If we hadn't had to spend four weeks in the boatyard in Ra'iatea, it would have been fine. As it is, we are pressing on to Rangiroa as we are trying to get as much easting as possible before heading for Hawaii. From the Marquesas the sailing angle would have been ideal. From Rangiroa, not so much, but better than heading north from the Societies. It is what it is and we're happy we'll at least see something of the Tuamotus.

The three day passage wasn't without the usual weather and mechanical problems, but, we were able to deal with them all and got there with seven days left. We anchored off the Kia Ora resort hotel. The water was incredibly clear and we could see many fish and even dolphins right beside the boat. We swam off the back of the boat almost every day. We're just that little bit closer to the equator here (14S) and the heat, if possible, seemed even more oppressive than it had in the Societies.

We were anchored very near to Tiputa Pass, a legendary dive location where many large species can be seen. Sailboats can pass during times of slack water. It's not a place you can go into at other times as the currents and rips through the pass can be incredibly strong, up to an eight knot flow if you get your tide calculations wrong. It looks like a white water river then, not a place to take a slow-moving sailboat through, or, to be in the water with a snorkel. Local knowledge is a must.

Drift dives and drift snorkel trips through the pass are offered by local operators. We booked with DeDe Excursions. It was reasonably-priced and we had a full two hours at four different locations. Drift snorkeling is fun, no swimming required. Basically, just lay there and steer yourself as the water whisks you along. The water temperature is around 33C. In the pass itself we saw a number of large black-tip reef sharks, a ray and some large grouper. Due to the water rushing through twice a day the pass was scoured clean of coral, but, at the end of it, adjacent to a small island, was 'The Aquarium', a really nice coral garden with big coral. There is a buoyed swim path with underwater signs where you can read about the coral you're looking at! We saw numerous moray eels (a metre long at least) and an incredible variety and quantity of reef fish. It's one thing to see a school of fish at a distance which we've seen many times, it's quite another to become actually part of the school with hundreds of fish swimming all around you only inches away. We were in the middle of a huge bunch of red snapper, it was quite the experience.

We had to visit the local gendarmerie a couple of times to get our outbound clearance done. We are leaving for Hawaii on Saturday, Dec 7. It's about 2200 miles north and slightly west. We expect to be at sea for around three to four weeks, depending on the number of calms we encounter. Looks like a Christmas at sea this year, but, a turkey dinner with all the trimmings is unlikely to be on the menu aboard unfortunately! Christmas is a big thing here it seems. Decorated Christmas trees and tinsel are already up and the grocery store clerks are wearing Santa hats, it seems very incongruous.

So, after a short three months, it's farewell to French Polynesia. You may have noticed that I didn't publish any bird photos while here. There weren't many opportunities and/or subjects, but, I did get this nice shot in Ra'iatea and for fellow bird lovers, enjoy.

Sent via SailMail,
 photo arrow.pngCONTINUE READING

Friday, 6 December 2019

We were stuck in the boatyard in Ra'iatea for almost four weeks waiting for our new gearbox. We'd
been able to locate one in Australia (we'd highly recommend Minard's Diesel, with whom we've done business before, as a source for Yanmar parts in the South Pacific). It arrived, by air, in just two days to Papeete! We were optimistic we'd soon be back on our way to Bora Bora again. Then, the excruciating waiting began. There was a significant delay caused by the lack of an official stamp on the original Customs declaration we submitted on arrival. Then, there were two public holidays and the fact that it had to come from Tahiti to Ra'aitea on the local supply ship which only runs two days a week. In the end, it did arrive and was installed in just two hours. In the meantime, we'd been looking at this lovely view of Bora Bora, just twenty miles away and tantalisingly close. Finally, we were able to head over.

It was another windless day which was ok as we wanted to exercise the new gearbox anyway and the passage was uneventful. Just before we left we read that anchoring is now illegal in Bora Bora! Glad we found this out as we had a nice little route planned with a number of anchorages on it. Our plans now had to change. Our visitor's visa clock was ticking so we thought we'd just pick up a mooring in front of the Bora Bora Yacht Club for a couple of days and book onto a lagoon/snorkel tour, so, we'd at least be able to see the place. We picked up a mooring, then, there was confusion around who we were supposed to pay. We thought we'd paid already (to the yacht club). Then, the moorings manager showed up and demanded payment. We worked out a satisfactory compromise. The cost per night was about $30 USD, not insignificant as last month it used to be free. They've changed the rules
but haven't stepped up to the plate with infrastructure replacement as there are not enough marina berths, or, moorings to match the number of boats. Also, picking up an unknown mooring is always dicey and not without risk if it's in poor condition. It can lead to losing your boat. It almost happened
to somebody a few months ago in the very mooring field we were now in. The moorings have been
upgraded since then, but, an American family had their large catamaran on a mooring and then went
out for dinner. Upon their return, their boat was gone! It was dark and blowy and a couple of 
yachties went out on dinghies to try and find it. It had gone across the lagoon about five miles and collided with a couple of over-water bungalows in a very luxe resort. The bungalow decks were smashed quite badly. The catamaran was wedged underneath, but, luckily the point of impact was between a chainplate and bulkhead, so, although there was a huge hole in the boat it was repairable. There is some dramatic video online, the boat's name is Archer. It was getting repaired in the same boatyard we were stuck in in Ra'aitea and it looked like they were going to be able make it almost as good as new.

We'd thought we'd absolutely hate Bora Bora as it has a reputation for being overcrowded, commercial and very expensive, but, were very pleasantly surprised by some of its natural qualities. It's a small place, only 5.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. The population is about 10,550. Its volcanic past is undeniable.

The island is totally dominated by ten luxury resorts. The resort bungalows were definitely larger here, with prices to match (they start around $800 USD per night and can run well into the thousands).

Most resorts are tastefully done, but, the sheer number is overwhelming. In places it looked like a bungalow city. It felt a bit like being in a theme park. 

Even some of the 'attractions' had a theme-park feel, like Bloody Mary's restaurant, but, of course we had lunch there anyway. The floors are sand and the seating is tree stumps, the food, as to be expected, was ok, not great. 

In spite of our misgivings and some egregious examples of rampant tourism, our two day whirlwind tour was redeemed when went on a four hour lagoon/snorkel tour (we went with Reef Discovery and can highly recommend them). In keeping with the theme park feel, the lagoon almost looks artificial, it is so unreal. It starts off like many of the others, with dark blue, deeper water leading to striations
of lighter colours. Every shade of blue you can imagine was represented: cobalt, indigo, teal, sapphire, turquoise, aquamarine and what I can only describe as 'electric blue'. It was a colour so vivid and intense, that, when the light was right, it practically glowed. We entered the east lagoon and it was incredible. It looked like a gigantic swimming pool, a miles-long pool of shallow, totally clear water. This picture really doesn't do it justice.

And the snorkeling, wow! We've scuba-dived the Caribbean and snorkeled other places, but, have never seen sights like we saw here. We stopped at four locations, one was a fabulous, fully alive coral
garden, another a friendly 'aquarium' of reef fish. In another spot we were able to float along with two very large manta rays who were being cleaned by wrasse, but, the piece de resistance, were the eagle rays. From the surface it just looked like a few black blobs. Mask in the water revealed an incredible sight, at least one hundred of these creatures, all swimming in a tight formation, like a squadron of slow-moving fighter jets. They must have numbered maybe five deep and twenty across. We just swam along with them at a lazy pace, only a few feet above them.Their backs were light brown and spotted, the 'wings' about a metre across. Occasionally, one would break formation to do a leisurely back roll and we could see their white underside.

It was over all too soon and right after our tour, we headed out for Rangiroa, about 250 miles away. We didn't get far before we had some issues with our gear cable and throttle, so, decided to head back, again, to Ra'iatea to have the mechanic check things out.

 photo arrow.pngCONTINUE READING

Monday, 18 November 2019

There was a silver lining to being stuck here in the boatyard on Ra'iatea waiting for a new gearbox to
arrive. It meant we'd be around to view the arrival of Hawaiki Nui, the annual interisland outrigger canoe race between Huahine, Ra'iatea, Taha'a and Bora Bora. This is a really big multi-day event, televised with live coverage. We'd seen boats out training at every island we'd been to, now we were going to see the event they'd all been working so hard for.

After stopping at Ra'iatea the race would continue to Taha'a and finish up the next day in Bora Bora. There was going to be a big celebration on Bora Bora, a community ball with music and dancing. Unfortunately, we were on Ra'iatea and would miss the party, but, we were able to view the finish for the men's juniors and women's classes along with the mass start of the men's class. It was quite a sight. The day was wet and cloudy. The canoeists would no doubt appreciate the refreshing rain and absence of full sun, but, the swell was significant at the finish line and made for hard going even in the lagoon, can't imagine what it must have been like in the open ocean for these small craft, it must have been exhausting.

The canoes seat six paddlers, the person in the stern adjusts the course by steering with a J-stroke. The other five paddlers provide power.

The stern paddler also keeps count of the strokes. After a number of strokes, there is a spoken command and each paddler switches their paddle to the opposite side.

The crews were varied, men/women and young/old.

There were lots of spectators, but, the crowd was very subdued with just some polite applause as boats passed. That changed at the finish line, where a welcoming group of drummers started up as each boat came into view.

Each finisher received a floral garland.

After the men's juniors and women's classes arrived, the men's class assembled for the mass start of the final leg to Bora Bora.

And they're off...

 photo arrow.pngCONTINUE READING

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Yes, the title of this post is correct. We're back in Ra'iatea and unfortunately stuck in a boatyard. Before leaving Hurepiti Bay, Tahaa enroute for Bora-Bora, our pre-departure check of the engine room showed a lot of oil had sprayed out from somewhere. Further investigation revealed that it was gear oil. G found a couple of slightly loose bolts, tightened them up and topped up the gear oil. We started the motor, put the boat in gear and all seemed well and sounded good. We headed out and stopped a couple of times to check that there weren't any leaks, it all still seemed good and we continued on for about an hour. We lined up our aft transit bearing line and headed into PaiPai pass, applying a little more throttle to get us to 5.5 knots to ensure we had enough way on for accurate steerage in what could be turbulent waters. The pass is about 0.5 mile long and 300 yards (approx. 300 meters) wide. It's always nerve-wracking in these passes as you can see the submerged reefs, usually with a lot of wave action, close on either side of you as you pass through.

We were barely past the reef, almost into the open sea, when, all of a sudden, there was a loud bang
and then a sickening 'crunch-grind-crunch' sound. We took the engine out of gear and when we started floating back towards the reef quickly put it back in gear again. The noise got worse, but, we persevered for a few minutes just to clear the exit. What now? We're sticklers for not towing dinghies and even though we have dinghy davits, for the first time, on this boat, we don't store the dinghy in them when we're on a long offshore passage. It's strapped onto the foredeck. As this passage was just twenty miles on a windless day with a flat calm sea we'd taken the motor off and put the dinghy, luckily, up on the davits. It was a simple matter to just drop it into the water, strap it on sidesaddle and get the 8HP Yamaha outboard down using our new outboard crane that we'd had fabricated in NZ. Then, G provided the propulsion from the dinghy while A steered. Luckily, even though we were now in open ocean there was hardly any swell and no wind, so, we were able to get 3.5 knots, but, to where?

Unbelievably, we realized that we were within just eleven miles of probably the only place we could get any engine repairs done in all of the Leeward Islands. We went south, back to Ra'iatea and entered through the all-weather Pass de Rautoanui and came back north a little to Chantier Naval des Iles boatyard where we dropped anchor outside their entrance. Thierry,  the mechanic,came out the next morning and removed our gearbox for a preliminary diagnosis. He showed it to us on the workbench, the damage was very ugly and it was obvious that we'd need a new gearbox. He couldn't really say what had happened, other than a large quantity of gear oil was missing. Later, we found that a drain plug, which is, for all practical purposes, inaccessible in our installation (and it should still have been factory-tight as we'd never used it, we change the oil through the top using a vacuum pump) had come loose and we can only surmise that's possibly where the leak occurred, although we're not sure. Very disappointing as our 'new' engine only has 1,100 hours on it. We'd rigorously followed the maintenance schedule for gear oil changes and made sure to use the correct grade of oil (which is an obscure type very difficult to source).  We'd just had a professional 1,000 hour Yanmar service done in NZ (for $2k!) and now this. Another chapter of how to sail the world by fixing your boat in exotic places.

It wasn't a good idea to stay at anchor. We were wide-open to the prevailing winds and deep, 25m, so, if the wind came up we wouldn't be able to increase scope that much (we only have 90m of chain). If we started dragging without an engine, it would not be a good thing. We made our way, with a couple of helpers, into the tiny, hot, dirty boatyard. We're sandwiched in like a sardine, between two huge catamarans which tower over us, but, at least we're still in the water. We've asked for gearbox quotes. Even if we find one, it probably won't arrive for at least 2-3 weeks and probably longer if it gets held up in Customs, which is likely. Let's hope that it is only the gearbox and that the engine doesn't also have damage. We only have six weeks left on our visas, so, it looks like our cruise of French Polynesia will be cut short, not by choice.

 photo arrow.pngCONTINUE READING

Monday, 4 November 2019

From Huahine, the next islands westward are Ra'iatea and Taha'a, just a short twenty or so miles away. There are eight entrances through the barrier reef into the large, deep lagoon which both islands share. Taha'a, the smaller, northern island can be circumnavigated within the lagoon while you can't quite make it all the way around Raiatea. We spent eight nights here, in four different anchorages. The first was on Ra'iatea, in Faaroa Bay, which offered the possibility of taking your dinghy up the only navigable river in French Polynesia. The bay was quite heavily populated, but, the river entrance looked intriguing as we watched other dinghies disappear into the jungle.

Early the next morning, it was our turn. We'd hoped there'd be lots of birdlife, but, strangely, there wasn't any to speak of. We've seen lots of rivers and this one didn't have anything memorable really. There was supposed to be an abandoned botanical garden at the head of the river and we looked forward to having a look around. There was a substantial concrete dock to tie up to so we disembarked. It didn't look abandoned and there was a short path, with benches, through a manicured area which we started along. Unfortunately, we came across three workers tending the plants who promptly told us: 'it is closed...'. We said can we just walk around the path. 'No!', so, we had to leave.

We headed further upriver and came across a local man who waved us over to his dock to invite us to come and see his smallholding. We were reluctant, but, he seemed friendly. It turned out to be a highlight, he was very proud of his two hectare plot that he tends with his wife. We got the tour and came away loaded down with fresh papaya, cucumbers, coconut, bananas and a few other fruits we don't know the names for. We don't think the farmer expected payment, but, we made a token payment anyway as we appreciated the time he spent with us. We'd asked for just 'one' banana  to try and we were given 'one' bunch of about fifty! These little bananas are only about four inches long and super-sweet.

A surplus of bananas that ripen all at once can only lead to one thing, banana bread! It seemed crazy to turn the oven on in the heat, but, this lovely loaf made it worthwhile.

Before heading northwards to Taha'a we spent a couple of nights in Haamene Bay, close to a village, which allowed us to stretch our legs, stock up on fresh baguettes and use the internet at the
post office. We then carried  on northwards to Taha'a and around its top. On the westward side of the island, we caught our first glimpse of Bora-Bora, just another twenty miles westward.

We anchored between an iconic-looking 'motu' (islet) and the 'best' resort on the island with the now ubiquitous over-water bungalows.

The attraction at this location was snorkelling the coral garden that runs between Motu Tautau and
the resort's motu. We went over the following morning and it was fabulous. You park your dinghy on the beach, walk to the end of the island, enter the waist-deep, crystal-clear water and float down over and between the coral gardens. It was very shallow, but, the variety and number of fish was amazing. Unfortunately, we don't have an underwater camera, so, no pics, but, it really was very special.

We moved down to Hurepiti Bay, past this lovely waterside church and holed-up at the end of the very protected bay for two welcome rainy days.

We'd hoped to book onto a vanilla plantation tour, by 4x4, up into the mountains, but, due to the wet weather that idea was a washout. We upped anchor the next morning, which dawned absolutely clear, windless and a little cooler and headed through the PaiPai Pass on our way to Bora-Bora.

 photo arrow.pngCONTINUE READING

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Our favourite island so far has been Huahine. It's one of the leeward islands, Iles sous le Vent,
about ninety miles west from Tahiti/Moorea. The distance meant an overnight passage which was uneventful, the best kind. We wanted to arrive at dawn to ensure a daylight entry through the pass. Our approach was across the top of the island, along the north shore, to avoid the reefs that stretch far offshore on the southwest  side. Apparently, four/five boats a year are lost along that stretch and we wanted to be sure and avoid the same fate. As it was, we arrived a little earlier than planned, around four a.m., but, slowed down, had breakfast and just jogged along until daylight arrived at six. There was quite a bit of turbulence going into the pass, but, not enough to worry about and it was fine. Most boats stop at Fare, the main town, but, we continued on, inside the lagoon, south to Avea Bay. It seemed to take forever to get there as we had a 1+ knot negative current along the way. The Bay didn't seem like much on arrival, scenery-wise, but, it turned out to be a great anchorage. We stayed there for five days and enjoyed it very much. We're late in the season and there weren't many other boats. The ones that did come in were mainly charter boats that never stayed more than a night. We anchored in about ten metres, just off a shelf. The rays like to swim along the edge of the shelf dropoffs and we saw two enormous ones there.

We're still learning the layout of tropical reefs and lagoons as we've never been in this type of environment before. Generally, the 'high islands' we've visited so far are sunken volcanoes. There is a protruding rim that protects an inner lagoon from the full power of the ocean. The waves crashing over the reef can be enormous and create a constant background roar.

Yet, the protection afforded the inner lagoon is complete. You can be anchored in shallow, calm, transparent water just inside the line of raging sea with only a bit of ocean swell if you're anchored near a pass.

We saw a lot of boats anchored very close to the reef edge, on the shallow shelf. That felt a little too exposed for us and we preferred the deeper water.

The island is very rural and agricultural with one main town and a few small villages. Avea Bay has the best beach on the island and a very nice little hotel, Relais Mahana. Next door was Chez Tara, a laid-back beach restaurant that is written up in Lonely Planet as 'one of Huahine's  undiscovered gems'.  Their specialty is 'legendary ma'a Tahiti', traditional Polynesian food, wrapped in leaves and cooked over embers in an underground pit. It's only offered on Sunday. You're told to arrive at eleven a.m. for the opening of the oven and a photo op. Then, the food is prepared and served at noon. In addition to the tourists, there were many locals as customers, servers and musicians, most in traditional garb. Notice this woman is wearing black pearl earrings. Pearls are big business in these islands.

After queuing up, the food was served to you, a little bit of everything.

It maybe didn't look so appetizing, but, it tasted good!

Surprisingly, there was a Europcar outlet at the Relais Mahana hotel and we rented a car for four hours, definitely long enough to tour the 60km ring road and see the sights. Very close by was the Marae Anini with its weathered, coral slab walls. A marae is a traditional temple. These marae with their coral walls and altars were very different from the modern marae we saw in NZ.

Further along, we were impressed with the archaeological site at Maeva. This used to be the seat of royal power on the island and has a concentration of pre-European marae.

There is an excellent little museum built in the style of an open traditional house.

Down the road from the museum was the public toilet. In the middle of a sun-scorched field, expectations were very low and the usual horrible public toilet was envisioned. It was a delight to find a clean, tiled, flushing toilet facility, no graffiti and in the entrance there was a fabulous, fresh, floral arrangement. Toilet pictures don't normally feature in this journal, but, it was a tribute to the island community and so surprising and unexpected I had to include it!

 photo arrow.pngCONTINUE READING