Jun 6, 2014

Bora Bora – The Pearl of the Pacific

Travel doesn't become adventure 
Until you leave yourself behind.
Marty Rubin

On shuttle between airport and main island
We almost didn’t come here due to the overall bad publicity Bora Bora has amongst sailors and other types of travelers.  True that it is touristic and expensive but that is also true of anywhere else you go in French Polynesia to one degree or another. 

Some of the bad publicity comes from other islands that are a little jealous of Bora Bora’s popularity.  Some of the bad publicity comes from the heydays when it was more crowded with tourists (and it still is in some parts of Bora Bora).  If you know where to hang out you will not come across other tourists.  Some of the bad publicity comes from so many of the projects started by the government, giving false hopes, that never come to fruition when political parties change, etc.

Very clean lagoon of Bora Bora
Marina that was never finished
We stayed at a pension because of their more remote location.  To our delight even though we were remotely located we didn't feel alone.  Daniel and Loana took us ever so kindly into their beautiful home letting us be who we wanted to be and at whatever speed we wanted to. 

Many cottages have gingerbread accents - The cottage we had to ourselves
Right away we were invited to dinner with their neighbors to celebrate mother’s day weekend.  Champagne, beer, and wine were flowing along with great food (even a couscous soup – quite a change) and chocolate cake.  What you have to understand is that the price of alcohol here is 4-7 times higher than in the US.  Anyone offering you something to drink is being VERY generous.  Yves and his wife Flo made us feel like family instantly.  Yves shared the history of his grandfather’s house he was so lucky to inherit.  It used to be a bar with naked women drawn on the ceiling.  The bar served US GI's back in the 1940's. 
We hike to the top of a crest line for a better view of Bora Bora’s amazing landscape and waters.  It is known as the best lagoon of the Leeward Islands and we have to agree.  The water is clean and Bora Bora is the first island with a complete septic system so no grey or black water runs into the lagoon.  The islands have until 2015 to comply.  Even Tahiti hasn’t totally complied yet. 

That afternoon we bike to the southern end of the island and stumble upon the touristic part which we quickly flee from.  If you don’t go there you hardly notice tourism exists.  As we bike back rain starts pouring down so we hide under the eaves of a small grocery store.  One of the locals, obviously not very rich, comes out and hands us a baguette.  We tell him he should keep it but he insists we take it.  He’s just another example of joyful moments we’ve had in Bora Bora  where tourism has gone down 32% in the last 10 years (that % is for all of French Polynesia but since 50% of the tourism comes here, Bora Bora is hit the hardest).   

While we hike and bike, our host, Daniel goes deep fishing with two friends and they come back with a new type of fish for us to try for dinner: roi, in local jargon (coral cod), a red fish with absolutely delectable pure white flesh melting in your mouth.  The best I ever had.  We also taste carangue (trevally). 

Klaus, a friend of the family, feeding a ray
We are told to keep our hands up
Why is Mike always behind me?
OK Mike is alone with the sharks
And a ray
Sharks drifting by
The following day we go around the lagoon to swim with the stingrays and the black tip sharks.  The rays are quite aggressive when food comes out.  They can tell when someone is holding up food even if they are still in the boat or the food is still in a bag.  They can push you over, weighing between 20 and 30 kilos, when reaching for food.  They feel like wet mushrooms and are quite slithery.  The safest place to pet them is between the eyes, avoiding the tail at all costs.  The sharks stay away; we keep a safe distance from each other.
We also stop to see live corals filled with amazing colors, giant clams, etc.  We are in 7 meters of water so clear we think we are only in 2-3 meters.  The clarity of the water can actually cause problems.  We heard of 3 cases, this year alone, of people diving off their chartered boats to break their necks or backs thinking they are in much deeper water than they are, hitting bottom much too quickly.  One of our guides (we have 3 just for the 2 of us) dives to the bottom to show us the quality of the sand.  He comes back with a big handful and gives it to us.  It literally is the consistency of talc power mixed with a little clay and pure white…  As Loana says Mother Nature is very kind to us.  We hunt for a moray eel our hosts know of but it won’t come out to visit – stubbornly remaining in its cave (probably not hungry). 

Incredible colors
or without Mike...
Or a sailboat...
We visit a motu owned by people Loana knows.  We have lunch there and then an elderly lady (relative of the owner of the motu) teaches me how to make hats out of palm leaves.  She can make anything out of palm leaves: fans, hats, floral arrangements, crowns, veranda post decorations, bowls, etc.  Men play bocci ball or rest in lawn chairs with a Hinano under the trees.  The view is spectacular; we enjoy the rest and recuperation especially after nearly 7 weeks of non-stop traveling in French Polynesia. 

Our view from lunch at the motu
Siblings talking while cutting palm leaves to weave
Mamie making hat, our host Loana in yellow
Klaus and I also try
She is too quick to keep up with
Klaus makes a different variation
She doesn't even have to watch what she does
I have to concentrate - so does Klaus
Almost made it
She had time to make 8 hats and 2 bowls while I made an attempt at one hat...
We hate to leave for we truly enjoyed our time in Bora Bora.  We are thankful we didn’t follow the rumors indicating it was a place to avoid.  We had a great time here.  We made excellent connections and laughed our hearts out with stories told by a woman with connections to New Caledonia on how they view Tahitians and vice versa. 
Don’t make the mistake of bypassing Bora Bora if you have the time to come here, please do yourself the favor.

From the oldest islands Bora Bora and Maupiti created some 4.5M years ago to Tahaa and Raiatea created about 2.5M years ago to the newest of the bunch, Tahiti at a mere 1.5M years old…  We spent a great time in the Society Islands where, as the old timers say, winter started for the dragonflies have arrived.  We see them flutter around everywhere.  It is cooler at night and a little windier.

Bowl used following morning for breakfast pastries

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