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Monday, August 6, 2012

Moorea - Such a Tiny Island with So Much to Offer

Friday, August 3
Again, our day began with a leisurely morning. Susan and David set out on foot to explore parts of Papeete. Jim headed to the centre of town to find an ATM and a tourist office. I remained at the hotel to take care of our luggage and generally relax. We were to reconvene at 11 am for the next part of our shared adventure.  While waiting for the others to return, some new guests checked into Hotel Suisse. Coincidentally, they had just disembarked from the Aranui, a cruise that we are taking in a week’s time. Happily, they had nothing but praise for the experience, the food, the accommodation and the crew. It was fun to hear their stories and know that we are going to experience similar things.
11 o’clock came and Beni, the proprietor of Hotel Suisse, drove all 4 of us and our luggage to the ferry terminal where we were to catch the 12 noon ferry to Moorea. One comment about our luggage …. Jim and I do not travel light. We reorganized our luggage upon arrival in Papeete and left two of our suitcases at Hotel Suisse while we went to Moorea. But that did not make the load any lighter, because Jim bought me some flowers to adorn our room at Keveka, our resort on Moorea. The flowers were spectacular, a tropical bonanza of colour and texture. But the arrangement was enormous. More about that later ...
We are now on the island of Moorea with our friends, David and Susan Morgan, from Australia. Moorea is a half hour ferry ride from Papeete, following which we  comfortably settled in our resort called Keveka. To get here we had to pick up our luggage from the ferry and travel on a local bus. It was pretty comical as we are not known for travelling light. And, in gesture of kindness, Jim had purchased some flowers from a local market to brighten our cabin. You can see from the photo the challenge that transporting them presented! The floral arrangement was about 2 feet tall and 15 inches in diameter. It would not travel well anywhere except on someone’s lap and the water it contained regularly dripped over the top. Nonetheless, the gesture was filled with love and the flowers survived the car, ferry and bus rides that followed and still look bright and cheery in our room.
Once in Moorea, we were advised to take a local bus from the ferry terminal to Keveka, our resort. This proved to be an economical and mostly practical idea (except for the amount of luggage and the floral arrangement.). We enjoyed watching the scenery in the towns and villages as well as along the roadside. We arrived at Keveka in mid-afternoon in great spirits.
We spent the rest of the day we getting organized in our seafront cabin called a bangalore and looking around the resort. We were impressed with the number and variety of fish that are visible from the peer and the restaurant balcony. What a colourful display! We even saw an octopus and a manta ray. There will be ample opportunity to snorkel on the coral reef right on the resort. Cook’s Bay is known for the quality of sealife and coral. Dinner at the resort was delicious. I had a shrimp salad and fish curry while Jim had poisson cru (a local delicacy featuring marinated raw fish) and shrimp curry. Fresh fruit is abundantly available at all meals – fresh pineapple, grapefruit, papaya and bananas.

Saturday, August 4, 2012
Today we went into a nearby village to explore the shops. Souvenir trinkets were widely available, of course. Of greater interest were the sarongs (all featuring large flowers and bright colours), wood carvings and black pearls, gorgeous stones produced locally.  Sadly, most of the jewellery we looked at was well above our price range.

We bought a postcard to mail home but the post office was closed. It is only open from 7:30 – 9:30 am on Saturdays. We spent some time in the supermarket exploring the shelves, aghast at most prices and limited selection. It is clear that it is costly to transport packaged food to Tahiti. One exception is anything that comes from France. We are lunching daily on baguettes (53 cents) and brie cheese (lower price than at home). Other staples are beer, bottled water (local water is not potable) and my once a day treat of diet coke. Happily we have a fridge in our bangalore.

We spent the afternoon snorkeling on the coral reef right in front of our cabin. The water was warm, the coral interesting (mainly purples and pinks) and the fish were colourful. It was a great way to spend part of the day. Later, we relaxed with a beverage of choice on the veranda of Morgan’s cabin and watched the sky turn from blue to grey (yes, a bit of rain fell) back to mixed cloud and blue with a gorgeous sunset emerging to mark the end of the day.

Time for our daily half hour internet allocation followed by another delicious dinner before sinking into our beds and quickly falling asleep.

Sunday, August 5
Today, we are going on a catamaran cruise of Cook’s Bay and an a second adjacent bay. We will have a chance to feed stingrays, swim with reef sharks and prepare picnic food (fish with coconut) and snorkel on the reef at a private island.  The water was a vivid range of greens and blues and coral was visible just below the surface most of the way along our course.
The boat captain had to steer very carefully to avoid collision with the coral. He was attentive to his task and we relaxed and enjoyed spectacular scenery.
French Polynesia, of which Tahiti and Moorea are part, was created through volcanic activity in the mid Pacific. Thus, mountain peaks soar high into the sky and descende precipitously to the  very edge of the ocean. Lush green vegetation covers most of the islands except on the dramatic vertical rock faces. And the ocean water is aquamarine with rich shades of green and blue and turquoise marking the various depths and corals.
As we travelled along our route, a school of dolpins frolicked around us. We passed by small communities, private homes, and exquisite resort properties. We stopped at our first destination and were invited to disembark into the water with our snorkel gear so we could feed and watch the sting rays who came to see us. There were at least 15 of them milling about our feet. They swam beside, in front, behind and under us. We reached out to touch …. Such a soft, delicate flesh they have. Then, along came a school of about 15 reef sharks. That was enough to send some of our companions back onto the boat. Those of us who were braver at heart remained in the water and floated with our snorkels as the reef sharks searched for food remnants not consumed by the stingrays. What a highlight this snorkel has been.
We finally reboarded the boat and continued on our journey. As promised, we enjoyed a delicious and plentiful lunch on a tiny  private island Poisson Cru was a featured local dish (marinated raw fish). Once again, we enjoyed it thoroughly.
Eventually, it was time to turn homewards and we enjoyed a beautiful, if somewhat windy and wet ride home.
Once cleaned up and settled with our late afternoon beverages, we turned our attention to organizing the next several days. We decided that renting a car would provide great flexibility and access to the things we want most to do. David and Jim went to organize the rental while Sue and I enjoyed the shade in front of our bangalores.
We all paused to watch the glorious sunset. Of course, Sue and I took copious numbers of photos. A leisurely dinner followed and then to bed

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