Friday, November 22, 2013

Much to do on Huahine

We hired an archeologist to take us around to learn about the ruins and pre-contact culture. We visited a site at Maeve (primarily documented by Dr. Yosihiko H. Sinoto), one of the largest collections of ruins in the south pacific. We were able to see some of the marae* (alters) and put early migration into perspective based on current research. The south pacific is very complicated and migration patterns as reflected in the archeology and linguistic record could cover a lifespan understanding. We enjoyed learning a bit about the local history, as well as Captain Cook’s visits to this area.

Local archeologist/guide picked us up in his jeep
Depiction of Cook's arrival... note alter in back (with skull heads), and the ahu platform in front, with offerings (animals) - the human sacrifice near the bottom of the ahu may or may not be accurate for this area of Polynesia.
Maeve marae today
We then headed towards the fish traps to check out the process. Fisherman built large narrow rock passages, with a central round end… the tide comes in.. with all the fish. The fish swim over the walls, and when the tide recedes, the larger fish get trapped in the narrow channel…. Then it is only a matter of scooping them out, very ingenious. In addition to seeing the fish traps, we stopped along the way to see fresh water eels, and visited a vanilla plantation to pick u fresh vanilla.

One of the many fish traps located inland - tide comes in and fills traps with fish when it recedes
After the fishing experience, we headed to the motu (a reef islet formed by broken coral and sand surrounding an atoll/island) on the eastern side of the island. Motus are land ridges poking out of the water.  They act as a barrier on one side of the lagoons that general surround the mainland. The lagoon formed between the pieces of land is generally calm because of the protected waters.  The ocean on the other side of the motu is rougher and the tides hit hard there.  (If you saw Castaway with Tom Hanks, you get the idea of what it might be like to cross over these outer areas).

Bonita on motu
Marla enjoying the beach
 We walked into town and had vanilla smothered mahi mahi for dinner, and a tropical drink. We finished off the evening drinking at the beach house watching the sunset. I drank a bit too much and ended up needing a nap. Ryan kept handing me drinks…. Allow Ryan is quiet and a little soft spoken, I have noted that he is the instigator of the group. Everyone was smiling soon - Bonita was considering having the Tahitian Beer label tattooed on her body… (the one with the island girl citing with a red dress and lots of flowers)… we decided it didn’t go well with the rest of her tattoos.

I woke up with a bit of a hangover, and a decision to back off on the alcohol. I lasted 3 days of drinking heavily. The sun, the drinking, and the heat were catching up… more water please! Ryan came by with a glass of vodka and orange juice (at 7 a.m.) and asked me if I was ready to start the new day drinking. Ugg. I
The final day on Huahine, the gang scored a boat from a local French Guy and opted to go out along the motu and reefs and do a bit of snorkeling. I, still green in the gills from the night before, opted out. The last thing I needed was a boat ride. (Also recall that I am a little fraidy-cat when it comes to water). Instead, I took the car (the beach house comes with a car), and drove the entire road system of the island. It was roughly 28 miles. The drive was like traveling through a large garden…mostly coastal, with only two areas that rose about the ocean. When I say coastal, I mean coastal! It was like a thin narrow strip of tarmac along the rocky beaches. It was very curvy.. And there were no guard rails or street lights. (The French, like the Canadians, do not believe in guardrails). If you were driving at night and not paying attention, you could easily drive into the ocean (sometimes on both sides). 

Most of the island was remote, very little people, a few pensions scattered here and there. It was not until I got to the very end of the island that I came across another village, but no real services. The people would see me come by and wave and smile and say hello in Tahitian. 

The people here are very friendly
Huahine was a very quiet place to relax off the beaten path. The lodging was not that expensive, roughly $250/night to rent the entire house. We used the car, so we had to pay for the gas. 

Jeep ride around island
Snacks - fresh bananas

We caught an island hop and headed for Bora Bora, the place where all people dream of going someday….

*A marae (in New Zealand Māori, Cook Islands Māori, Tahitian) malaʻe (in Tongan), malae (in Samoan) and mālaʻe (in Hawaiian[1]) is a communal or sacred place that serves religious and social purposes in Polynesian societies. In all these languages, the word also means "cleared, free of weeds, trees, etc." It generally consists of an area of cleared land roughly rectangular (the marae itself), bordered with stones or wooden posts (called au in Tahitian and Cook Islands Māori) perhaps with terraces (paepae) which were traditionally used for ceremonial purposes; and in some cases, a central stone ahu or a'u. In the Rapanui culture of Easter Island "ahu" has become a synonym for the whole marae complex). -wikipedia

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Baguette boxes and butter...

The pace slowed way down, and we all adjusted accordingly. The sunsets were absolutely amazing, as were the sunrises. I made sure I got up every day to enjoy these special gifts. Usually this meant getting up at 4 am.  

Huahine sunset
Huahine sunset from the deck
The first couple days of the trip, we all got sucked into drinking heavily. I ended up being the lightweight and only lasting 3 days of drinking… before stopping, Bonita lasted 7 days, Marla took a break… and the boys… well they are still going at it (Day 11 is when I wrote this post).

Bonita and Marla enjoying don Julio's 1942
The beach house had kayaks, and we all brought snorkeling gear. Everyone was just soaking up the sun. We wandered in to town to catch fresh fruit from the market; we never figured out how the hours operated in town. It seemed like everyone was up early (most of the men left on fishing boats for the days, and everyone was up to see them off).  The rest of the time was baguette time… which meant that people timed their walk to town on what time fresh bread would be ready at the store. 
Selecting the right baguette is a very important thing... villagers spend time with this process...
The residences here have bread boxes on their porches to have baguette delivered twice a day (the mail is not delivered to the doorsteps though… they go to the post office to get that). 

Baguette box

Baguette time...
We quickly adapted and timed our walk to town accordingly. The walk was a dirt path that ran along the water… maybe 2 blocks long.

The gang walking to town along the beach trail.
 There are a lot of open-type markets and food trucks… and the tropical fruit is amazing; pineapples, papaya, mangos, vanilla, lychee, coconuts, watermelons, cantaloupes, grapes, and bananas.

Fresh fruit every morning...
Fresh eggs
Bananas and avocados
All the animals run freely here, which means that dogs are everywhere (and usually pregnant or nursing), cats are king, and the roosters/hens are always on the side of the roads. We all saw cows enjoying the sunshine. The dogs all look like they are the same one or two breeds. The people are very friendly and are always smiling and waving. The neighbors are always giggling like school children. It is a very pleasant place.
The town of Huahine
Most folks pedaled bikes
We learned early on that the boys could not be trusted with butter. Like in France, the dairy is amazing… and so are the dairy products. Whenever we go out to eat, along with the baguette you get these big chunks of the creamiest butter…. it disappears quickly.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A toast to dinner… even if we don’t know what we just ordered…

We all met in LA over a period of 24 hours. The group consisted of Ryan and Tate, a younger couple from Portland, Marla – also from Portland, myself, and Bonita from Austin. Marla, Bonita and I go back decades, but this was really the first time I have spent any time around the “boys.”  I have resorted to calling them the boys, since they are almost 20 years younger than the rest of us.

The boys choose to fill their idle time with drinking – needless to say, when it was time to catch the hotel shuttle to the airport, the boys were already toasted… from drinking in their hotel room.

We found Tate passed out on the lounger near hotel pool... notice he is still clutching the room key..
 We got to the airport, not entirely sure if we were going to make it through TSA/Customs with two drunk boys, especially after the recent shooting in the airport.
Tate, Marla, Ryan, and Bonita at LAX
Marla told them to be quiet, offer up no giggling, and pretend they were in court (they are both attorneys). It worked and we passed through security. The boys promptly found bar stools and drinks, and by the time they were deposited into their airline seats, both went out like light bulbs for the 8.5 hour flight.

We flew in to the island of Tahiti from LA. The largest city is called Papeete. We were only there long enough to make a connection to the island of Huahine. We were worried about the weight limitations between the inter-island flights. We all were packed right to the limit of 44 pounds, and we were carrying tons of booze.

Why were we carrying tons of booze you ask? Because we had learned that alcohol in French Polynesia was very expensive (right there next to suntan lotion, which incidentally costs $45 a bottle), and I am traveling with party animals. French wine is easily available throughout the islands, and not too expensive, but the travel tip was… pack it in if you want to drink it.

We hit the Duty Free store in LA and each of us bought the maximum amount of liquor you are allowed to bring into the country… 2 liters each.. (Times 5 people meant we hauled in 10 L. or equivalent of 21 pints)!

Lots of vodka, and rum, and one special bottle of Don Julio’s 1942 Tequila (at $140 a bottle)… off we went to the islands.

Marla making the inter-island connection from Tahiti to Huahine (notice the booze bag she us carrying)...

Huahine by air

Huahine is a slow-paced island with not a lot of people. There is only one grocery store on the entire island, and less than a half a dozen small villages, the largest being Fare.

Sing Sing picks us up at the airport
Ryan's arrival
We rented a beach house in Fare, and walked to the grocery store and loaded up the fridge. We stayed at Hauhine House (awesome), the owner, Sing Sing was a very likeable man that was very pleasant and laid back. The beach rental included a car, but we used it only once.

This place was amazing. It had a large covered patio attached to the house, then a separate patio in the corner of the back yard that overlooked the ocean. The beach was pretty private, and the toughest decision was deciding where to sit.  We rotated between ocean side on the sand, to the corner overlook most of the time. 
Huahine House

Huahine House deck overlooking beach
We spent the days sleeping on the beach, drinking, walking to town for baguette and fresh fruit (and very expensive ice cream sandwiches), snorkeling, kayaking, and reading. 

Most locals on the island spoke either French, or Tahitian… neither of which we did. Tate had a little bit of rusty French in his background, so he did the best he could to translate.  Needless to say, when we went out to dinner that first night, our first toast was to what we ordered for dinner… that neither of us really knew what we ordered…. 
What? This sounds good...  I think...

Local beer... at least we could understand that...

(It turned out to be skewered tuna fish roasted with vegetables – and pretty damn good).

Dinner was good.
We ate here....Guynette, Huahine - French Polynesia

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Blogging in French... umm where was that log-in button?

So I wanted to get a quick blog up before we left the island of Huahine, French Polynesia, and the damn blogger interface is in French!

Trying to recall where the buttons are on the interface.... it is interesting. Tonight I will fiddle with the dashboard.

Basically, we are traveling to 4 different islands and spending 4 nights and 5 days on each.
I actually cut my last island short on account of wanting a job when I get back; everyone else is an attorney and one person is self employed. Apparently attorneys can spend lots of time away.

Here is the run down for the trip:
French Polynesia is far from Anchorage! I stopped in LA to meet the group. We all flew in together. We are below the equator, and just east of the international date line. Roughly at the same latitude as northern Australia.

French Polynesia is broken up into 4 groupings of islands (together they span 1,000+) miles. We are going to the most north western group, known as the Society Islands. Within the Society Islands, there are still many islands, the largest being Tahiti. The largest city and airport are located in a city called Papeete. 
Once in Tahiti, we boarded a plan immediately for Huahine. After Huahine, we will go to Bora Bora, and then Raiatea, then back to Tahiti. My stay in Tahiti will only be two days.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


A different kind of adventure!

Years ago a seed was planted for getaway with friends to celebrate the milestone of 50. Now, I’m not yet at that milestone, but 2 of the three have crossed to the other side. The getaway destination, complements of Marla, was set for French Polynesia. 

(Fast forward in time to last night)

3 good friends, having traveled from all over the country to meet in LA – raised their glasses to a champagne toast for an adventure that has arrived. We depart tonight for French Polynesia.

I’m really excited, because I think this will be a different kind of adventure. Not one filled with motorcycles, or mud and bugs – no camping or rain that makes your skin shrivel up.

This will be lying in the sun doing nothing. Reading. Sleeping, ordering drinks.  Resting. Talking and chatting with friends and getting caught up. In one of the most beautiful places in the planet.

You know the place… they show those wonderful grass huts sitting out above the ocean…

The plan is to fly into Tahati. We leave tonight.

We then bounce over to Huahine for a 4 days, Bora Bora for an additional 4 days, Raiatea for 4 more days, and then back to Tahiti for a couple of days.

I am not sure if I will be able to stay connected on this trip. If I can blog, I will do that. Otherwise…