Thursday, July 21, 2011

Crazy for Tahitian Pearls... among other things

Combine shopping in a colorful open air market, great deals, girl-time outings, pearls, crafty jewelry projects, natural beauty, all in an exotic foreign port and you'll understand why I took some time off of the boat to explore and enjoy Papeete- even if it threw our budget out of whack this month. (The budget was going to suffer anyway from the sticker shock that's attached to everything. So I might as well enjoy myself right?.)

Traffic flows pretty smoothly with all these roundabouts and french cars

Papeete has character- probably as much as Berkeley, but in a different way. The streets are filled with color, culture, music and smells- the good and the bad kind. It's the biggest city in French Polynesia, and yet it comes to a stand still at lunchtime and on Sunday's. There are groups of old men playing traditional polynesian music on the sidewalks and peddling ukuleles.

Buses run frequently during business hours and when you can't catch one, some kind local always seems to be around to offer you a ride to where ever you're going. The two-level open market is overwhelming; full of local produce and tourist trinkets. Retail stores line the blocks surrounding it, making it quiet easy to lose track of time. A personal favorite of mine were the fabric stores. I've included a photo, because I just can't describe them. I would've loved to have found a traditional dress made of one of those splashy floral prints, but nothing fit me quiet right.

Floral yardage in every color of the rainbow

The famous Papeete market

I would be remiss to leave out the ulterior motive for going down town: PEARLS!

In almost every color, shape and size...

The pearl craze actually started way back in Makemo. Or was it further back, Nuka Hiva maybe? We'd all read about the fabulous South Pacific pearls and pearl farms in the guide books, maybe even seen a few promotional shots, but we were comically surprised by our cravings for pearls when we landed in Papeete. Once we started, things rapidly got out of hand. The girls and I fell in love with one shop in perticular: Mihiarii Pearls. We'd make excuses to stop by the shop. We stayed until close at least five nights. It was addictive! We busied ourselves matching pearls for earrings, planning out our next jewelry project... a pendent, bracelet, necklace... It didn't help quench our lust that for every ten pearls, you got four free. And of course there's the tactile urge that's gratified by plunging you hand into a large bucket of hundreds of shiny smooth pearls. Oh and did I mention that it's air conditioned in there?! Paradise found!

Of course there's more to the city than shopping. We were lucky enough to be here during Heiva- a local festival celebrating... well I don't really know. But we enjoyed the fruit running races and the fire dancing anyway.

These guys were dressed in no more than loin clothes and tattoos while they ran with nearly 100 lbs of fresh fruit

Amazing- a whole different way to play with fire.

Afterward we all headed to the Roulettes (think food court/ taco truck) for dinner. I always love it when someone else does the cooking and cleaning up!

This is one of the more affordable ways to grab a bite. And so delicious, everybody in town is doing it.

The Piko's, WGD's and Britannia's out for dinner at the Roulettes

We've been at anchor here in Marina Taina for almost a month! I can't believe it- kinda makes me itchy to get outta here when I think about it. First we waited for parts. Once they arived, it took several trips into town to get everything we needed to do the auto helm install (it was the lack of a stainless steel backing plate that really held us up). Then there were several days of provisioning, errands, laundry, boat projects and what-not woven in there.

A month's worth of dirty laundry, 8+ hours and 36 gallons of water

But now, at last we are about ready. Tomorrow is Friday; not a day for superstitious sailors to start a passage. Not that that has anything to do with us, but we're taking the day to calibrate our new auto helm by changing our anchorage to the calmer Point Venus. There's a beach and a Captain Cook monument to check out there and we'll be able to relax before heading over to Huahine on Saturday. Our time in French Polynesia is quickly coming to a close; our visas expire at the end of the month. I'm bummed we can't stay longer, but excited because I'm sure there's plenty more to explore westward. We're looking forward to the Cooks, where people will speak English again, and then to Tonga, land of idyllic anchorages.

Rainbow over the anchorage just before the rain started

Until next time! Au revoir, Parahi nana, Chao, Ta-ta!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Still in Tahiti

Yeah that's right. We're still anchored in Marina Taina, just south of Papeete. We've had a productive last few days. Our package- auto helm- arrived early Saturday morning and Krister and Lauren (from Piko) have been tearing into the boats with a vengence. Things are starting to look back to normal now, but we still have the usual preparations to finish with before pulling the anchor and heading to Huahine and Bora Bora.

Stay tuned for more photos and words soon (like tomorrow or Wednesday).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pacific Puddle Jump Tahiti Moorea Rendezvous

Krister and I after the race

* The spell check is not helping me out here.. it thinks I should be writing in French... so I apologize for not knowing French or how to spell every English word that I want to write.

We would have loved to have spent more time in the Tuamotus. Our friends all say that Fakarava was awesome, not to be missed. But running out of time is a common theme in life and so we accept that we will not be able to see EVERYTHING and instead choose what's most important, what we think will be most rewarding and fullfilling. With this in mind, we sailed west again to the Society Island of Tahiti.

The passege went well. I'd say it was the best so far... Krister would disagree. Though the weather was fine, our auto piliot complained with a noisy reminder that it's not a problem that will fix itself, and we would be remiss to ignore it for too long- say, until we reached New Zealand. So when the celebration and hoopla of the sailing rendezvous settles, we'll take care of boat business. Replacement will likely require an extended stay in Tahiti, but who's counting the days in paradise? Oh yeah, the French govenment. Well, we have until July 29, and would like to see at least Huahine and Bora Bora before we depart to Raratonga in the Cook Islands. Hopefully waiting for the shipment of parts from the States doesn't take too long and that installation of a new auto helm goes smoothly. On the bright side, it is quite nice here and as I wait, I have the opportunity to catch-up on our blog posts and return some long overdue e-mails.

We arrived the night before the offical Puddle Jump welcome, which gave us just enough time to raft up with WGD and get ourselves adjusted to being in the big city. We went straight to the gas station to have our propane tank filled, and then to the biggest grocery store that we've seen since Mexico. It was sensory overload. The cars zooming by us startled me, and the variety of food choices and availability of everything dazzled me. Akin to culture shock, I registared the sights and sounds of the busstling city as farmiliar, yet new in some way. It's like that line from Benjamin Button after he returns home from WWII; "everything looks the same and smells the same... but you realize what has changed is you." That evening we took the bus to the Govenor's mansion for the first of many PPJ Rendezvous events.

Buddy boats; Britannia and WhatCha Gonna Do

The captain of each sailing vessel in the fleet recieved leis and a Tahitian blessing. We snacked on fruit and sipped on coconuts and juicy rum drinks. Later we all walked down to the Roulettes for dinner and to enjoy dance performances and live Tahitian music.

Flowers and Leis

The following morning we crew- swapped with WGD. I wanted to see what sailing on a catamaran was like and to get some good action shots of Britannia during the race. Harrison wanted to have a little alone time to hang out with Krister, which I totally understand. Unfortunately the wind never picked up enough for those of us on WGD and we disqualified ourselves by motoring to Moorea. Meanwhile on Britannia, the boys hoisted the spinakker and sailied their way to a 6th place finish (but first in class) earning themselves a place in 'lectric latltude photo of the day.

Britannia at the start of the race

Britannia jockeying for a place at the starting line

Danielle and I on WGD

We spent the weekend doing yoga, visiting with friends, palm frond weaving, watching dancers in awe, listening to precussion groups and competeing in a variety of cultural activities. Barb, Lauren, Diane and I were on the only all-girl team- we didn't do so well. But the boys took 1st place in a highly competitve out-rigger canoe race. In the final heat, just as they crossed the finish line, thier canoe capsized. I got it all on video, which secured their team, the Flying Spaghetti Monsters, the win. It was all very exciting!

Dancing girl

Weaving baskets, now if I could do it underwater mmm...

Falling into the water

The Flying Spaghetti Monsters- the winning out-rigger canoe team

When the events were all over, we took a couple days to explore the island for ourselves. We'd heard of underwater tikis just a short dinghy ride away and we took off with Piko and Dillagaf to find them. After several failed attempts at snorkeling for the underwater statues, we caught up with a tourist group feeding sting rays. It was one of the most thrilling experiences of the trip. We had seen the mantas in Tahanea, but to be able to touch rays, and feed them, to have your hand inside thier mouth.... was amazing. I was timid at first, but several rays coaxed me into relaxing by rubbing their velvety skin and nudging me, much like cats that want attenion. I wanted to stay with them forever. I was shivering, blue-lipped, with tingley fingers when I finally got back into the dinghy. The way back was longer than I remembered the out-going ride being and I'm sure I was hypothermic by the time we got back to the boat. We spent the remainder of the day wrapped up in blankets watching movies. Lauren-girl suffered more, and stayed aboard Piko sick for several days.

We see these guys a lot. No worries kids- we don't mess with them and they don't mess with us.

Knowing that this would be our only visit to Moorea, I wanted to do some exploring on land as well. We hiked while Ceilydh and WGD headed back to Tahiti. We walked along the road until a couple of French guys, fresh off the plane from LAX, picked us up. I was glad to have a ride up the steepest part to the lookout, the Belvedere. There we found a couple other cruising folks that recommended a trail leading to the point, Three Pines. Strange to be in a place of pine trees and palms. The trail grew thick with vegetation. It was just what I needed and the view of the two bays, Cook's and Opunohu, wasn't bad either. Along the decent there were pinapple fields, (I'd always wondered how they grew), growing hazy in bluish- purple hues. It felt so good to walk and spend time alone talking with Krister. It's easy to get caught up in all the social events and boat stuff. I left Moorea re-set and ready to get our business taken care of in Papeete.

The lookout over Moorea

Pineapple Fields in Moorea

Monday, July 4, 2011

The best birthday!

I celebrated my 34th birthday in Tahanea- a small unpopulated atoll in the middle of the Tuamotus. It couldn't have been a better day... unless my sisters had been able to teleport in for the day. I awoke to the stillest morning I'd ever seen; easy to forget that we're living on a boat. With a sudden spark of inspiration I bounded out of bed, intent upon going up the mast to have a look around. It was amazing! The horizon disappeared, dissolved into the sky- and the water had become a mirror reflecting all the blues know to man. Got some great shots of our friends' boats- Having picture perfect conditions in paradise makes photography so much easier and rewarding.

After breakfast we headed out to do a drift snorkel with the Piko's, Whatcha Gonna Do's and the Ceilydh's. There were the usual fish. colorful live coral, black tipped reef sharks, but the highlight for everyone were the very curious and numerous manta rays. They graced us with there presence- flying around and swooping back again to check us out. So docile and large, they reminded me of cows (no Forrest, not in the scary way).

I had a great lunch on Watcha Gonna Do- they pulled out their best stuff! If you've ever had a long time craving- for fresh food in a desolate place- you'll be able to appreciate what this meant to me. Pear, pecan and goat cheese salad with homemade rye bread rolls- delicious! They threw in a fresh shower too!

I lounged in the hammock for a bit, then after sun set, we headed over to Ceilydh for a pot luck party. We all wore our sarongs- toga style. Our buddy boats had pitched in for a fabulous black pearl, that Lauren-girl made into a pendent and necklace. What a sweet surprise!

Our time has ben passing along quickly- I'm 34, but feeling like I was just 26 the other day. We've got 4 more weeks until our French Polynesia Visas expire and we head west to Raratonga. I'm enjoying it all and wishing that I could some how make it last longer, find a way to bottle it in a concentrated form to drink it in later, when skies are grey and times are troubled...

Holding you all in my heart. Thank you all for the birthday wishes!