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The Two Captains


2C Update #120

Huahine – (16*42’S; 151*W) – August 2004

We returned from Easter Island to find a continuance of the mild weather we’d been experiencing the week before our trip. We spent about a week in the marina in Taravao on maintenance and other chores, then, after a couple of days in Moorea, we “sailed” overnight to Huahine, the first of our stopovers in the Leeward Societies. I say “sailed” because it was glass calm: not a riffle of wind, not an iota of sea. Often when the wind goes dead like that, the ocean swell will take over, rolling your guts out. Not this time. Nada. Rien. Smooth, as they say, as a baby’s bottom.

This was good news for our guest, none other than Rosita, our guide from Easter Island. She’d mentioned before our departure that she was coming to Tahiti for some R&R and wondered if we might have room for a few days, so she met up with us in Taravao and traveled with us to Moorea and Huahine. On the first day sail up to Moorea, Rosita had suffered some mal de mer despite medication. On the calm overnight run to Huahine, she slept the whole way below in her bunk!

The island of Huahine (pronounced “hoo-wah-hee-nay”) is transected by two deep bays that just touch in the middle. It is the easternmost of the four main islands of the Leeward Societies, the others being Raiatea, Taha’a and Bora Bora. Removed from Tahiti and Moorea by some 70 miles or so, the Leeward Societies are only 20-30 miles apart from one another, making them a near-perfect location for bareboat chartering. For us, as we entered the lagoon at the northwest corner to anchor off the main town of Fare (pronounced Far-ray), it was instant déja vu, for suddenly we were surrounded by the familiar colors and logos of the Moorings and Sunsail charter fleets.

We’d heard nothing but rave reviews of this scenic laid-back island from the cruisers ahead of us. Keen to find a change from Tahiti, we were happy to find ashore a town more reminiscent of the slightly seedy, bohemian atmosphere of Cruz Bay, St. John. Fare’s main street was busy with lots of boutiques full of pareus and pottery and ladies selling fruits and vegetables, and we were able to get a tasty and affordable bite to eat at a roulotte parked on the waterfront.

There’s nothing like having a guest board to get you going. Within an hour of setting foot ashore we’d rented a four-door Peugeot and were off on a road tour. Going clockwise around Huahine Nui (Nui=big) from Fare, we passed Lake Fauna Nui at the north end. This is not a real lake but an almost-closed-off section of the lagoon. On the outside strip of land lies the airport, while along the inside edge can be found a series of marae near the village of Maeva. Marae are the Tahitian version of Easter Island’s ahu (see last Update), so it was particularly interesting to view these with Rosita with whom we were able to make connections with what we’d recently learned in Easter Island. The area we explored was reconstructed and diagramed like a museum, so it was much easier to see and understand its various elements than any marae we had previously visited. However, even with the help of the diagrams, the French Polynesian marae just don’t speak to us with any of the power we’d felt in Easter Island, an interesting phenomenon when you think how much more resources the people here had to work with.

From Maeva we circled around to the east side where we saw just one boat anchored in that picturesque section of lagoon. We realized later that it would have been a shrewd move to explore this side of Huahine while the winds were down, since the east-facing passes can become dicey when the trade wind blow. Not far south of the anchored boat was a pearl farm standing out in the middle of the water. Although the tour was free, we were the only passengers on the farm’s brightly-painted launch. Huahine Nui Pearls and Pottery turned out to be a slick little tourist venue. A hostess greeted us in English and in five short minutes recapped everything Don and I’d learned about pearl farming on Kauehi! Again we were lucky to see the griffeurs at work, and this time we learned a little more about, among other things, how they control the color of the pearl that is produced. Although the tour was over quickly, the launch, of course, had left, so we had plenty of time to peruse all the offerings in the attached gift shop! Actually, arranged under lights amidst the owner’s own pottery creations, this was one of the handsomest and most tempting displays of black pearl products we’d seen. I feel heretical to confess that black pearls just don’t do it for me. While most of the cruising ladies have been making deals for loose pearls or necklaces since the Tuamotus, and almost everyone here, male or female, wears some sort of black pearl product, to me black pearls just look too much like ball bearings. At the pearl farm, however I was enticed by “jewel boxes” made by carving and lacquering the oyster shell itself. At a price of $225, however I resisted. Actually, the coolest part of this whole operation was its location. There was a pleasant deck with a swing outside commanding a gorgeous view, and just to the north sat the owner’s own house, also built over water. Don and I exchanged that special glance: “We could live there.”

Next stop was Huahine’s belvedère, an overlook through dense foliage of the fjord-like Maroe Bay cutting in from the east. Below this we stopped at an out-of-the-way restaurant called La Maison Blanche for some cherimoya ice cream. The cherimoya is called the soursop in the Caribbean and is surely one of the ugliest, most daunting of fruits. Inside is a sweet custardy flesh shot through with seeds and membranes, which takes either lots of sucking and spitting or lots of picking. Although I had had soursop blender drinks in the Virgins, I had never coped with one personally, but Rosita’s aunt in Taravao had sent us off with two huge ones, so we had become recent experts. Although we all three agreed that the ice cream, although seedless, didn’t measure up the fruit itself, the Maison Blanche, which also serves pizza, has an apron of grass with outdoor tables and an incredible view of Maroe Bay. (Don and I nodded again: We could live here, too!)

The rest of the drive – a figure eight course crossing the bridge and looping down around Huahini Iti (Iti=little) was mostly non-stop as the day waned. Huahine Iti seems to be the seat of most of the small pensions available to the laid-back eco-tourist Huahine is especially attractive to, although we were surprised later to discover we’d driven right by three large-scale hotels without even knowing they were there! At 60km, the circumnavigation of Huahine is doable by bicycle, as many of our friends did, but all in all, for the three of us, we thought the day a good return on the rental car investment.

A day or so later, Rosita left us to stay ashore with a family who were friends of her father’s. Pablo (Chilean) and his family own one of Huahine’s eco-pensions on Baie Bourayne (the other of the two transecting bays). Having a guest aboard had proved an interesting experience for us. We learned a great deal from Rosita, not only about the Polynesian environment -- teaching us Tahitian vocabulary, explaining word sources, pointing out unusual fruits and vegetables along the roadside or special food products in the store, as well as cooking us some typical meals --, but also about life as a young woman on an island as small as Easter Island. However exotic we found the island during our trip there, to Rosita it is a small rock, where you know everyone and are related to most. We also saw the conflict of Rosita’s and Easter Island’s mixed heritage; are they Chilean or are they Polynesian? Rosita’s leans strongly toward her Polynesian roots, and would be very happy to find a good man to marry in one the islands up this way.

We also learned some surprising things about ourselves. We had thought having Rosita aboard would seem just like charter, but it was not at all. For one thing, Rosita was a very participatory guest. She insisted on chipping in on housekeeping chores, food, dishes and cooking, and ever the guide she did not rest in explaining everything. She also had her own projects and priorities. After we ate a piece of fruit or cut into a pumpkin, for example, she would spend hours harvesting the seeds we would have just thrown away, or she’d want to cook a particular bean dish for us, but it couldn’t be for dinner…”too much energy”. This was very enlightening, but, on the other hand, we were surprised to discover we have become very covetous of our privacy and our own little pace of living!! Rosita was not much interested in learning about the boat or the boating life, and we bumped heads on some different lifestyle perspectives (as a silly example, Rosita was disapproving of our liberal use of pepper even as she loaded on the salt!) We began to feel very crowded with just the three of us. I’m none too sure the Two Captains could return to chartering if we had to. I fear we have lost the knack! Counting the trip to Easter Island we felt like we’d been living double time for weeks.

Back on our own, we reverted to doing what we do best…moving at a snail’s pace. We spent several days – including Don’s Birthday – anchored in the almost totally enclosed Baie Bourayne. Then we moved south and spent another couple of days in the Baie Avea at Huahine Iti’s south end. During this time we did almost nothing but read, eat and taking the occasional walkabout (one of which was a three-hour hike through ridge-top woods!). I’m sure there are many who would say that such a pace is a waste of good travel time, but that is one of the great joys of the cruising life; everyone can stroke the way they choose. Besides, we’ll get a chance to return to Huahine next year.




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Published at Burlington, VT