Jun 2, 2014

Huahine – Rebels in the Garden or Wild Island

There are no foreign lands.
It is the traveler only who is foreign.
Robert Louis Stevenson

Finally a truly crystal clear aquamarine bay
While biking on the island of Huahine we noticed on the entrance of a school the following sign: 

"Two  teachers at such and such school are on strike today while 
the 2 teachers at this other school are not…"  

Only in a French country?  A week later we are on a third island and the strike still continues…

Reef breaks up waves before they reach anchored boats
Rainbow reflects in the water
We can see why Huahine is called the garden or wild island.  Each house is surrounded by very large well kept yards.  Plants are the focal point of everything you see.  Smells, colors, textures, all from nature – it is beautiful.  Since Tahiti we have been doing a lot more biking.  It’s a great way to see all the islands given that none are so large that you can cover them in less than 3-4 days.  Drivers are very courteous to pedestrians and bikers – unlike home … It can be a detriment to the ones who visit outside of French Polynesia where drivers aren’t so kind.  They get hurt thinking people will stop for them.

Small boat lifting device - Easily keeps keel and motor out of water
So we rent another falling apart bike, the only kind we find in French Polynesia.  They all come equipped with brakes and 18 speeds but only expect one of them to work (the speed it is currently on), and hope for brakes.  Thankfully most of the islands are flat and it still beats walking around.  I don’t think any of them understand the concept of how bike works or how to fix them.  We are seriously considering getting folding bikes on Déjàlà for our return to the South Pacific.
Entrance to the small museum Fare Potee
Built over the water like their meeting houses used to be
We visit yet another small local museum and start to see a pattern that makes us chuckle.  Each museum we visit expands on the idea that the islands were first colonized by their people: Marquesans think they were first, Tahitians think they were first, etc.  It’s hard to know the truth but we’re not sure it really matters.  They are all very friendly, yet feisty and stoic people with great smiles and hearts if you get to know them a little.  Nearly none of them are pure blood.  Over the last 100 years, they have all married with people from other places. Tahitians in general have been much more influenced by tourism than Marquesans making them more difficult to approach – they are more guarded at first.  At this museum, we are asked to remove our shoes – that walking barefoot on woven bamboo flooring is part of the experience.  We happily obliged.

Bamboo flooring of museum
What is left of platform (ahu) built several centuries ago
Huahine has many scenic bays, cliffs, beaches, motus (small reef islands) with mostly clear aquamarine water. 
Club BED (instead of Med) - - - Clever pension name
Bordeaux in boxes
We first stayed in the main town of Fare to get a feel for the island.  Everyone compares it to the Moorea of 20 years ago!  It is saddening to think what it could become if it follows in the tracks of Moorea.  The locals all vow it will not happen to their island.  They are REBELS and welcome the likes of them from Brittany to Corsica, to help fight their cause.

Pirogue has seen better days
One of many colorful steeples
As much rebel thoughts they may have however, they already survive thanks to tourism therefore I am not sure how effective they have been – pensions, hotels, motels, arts, crafts, restaurants around this tiny island all cater to tourists.  Without them, I’m not sure what income they would have.  A staunch ‘rebel’ from Corsica and proud of saying so survives by painting pareos he sells to tourists in Moorea or here…  His pareos have more masculine motifs: a whale with Marquesan like tattoos of the local ferns, shark teeth, the island’s silhouette, etc.  Up to this time we had only seen pareos meant for women.  It was a nice change. 

Fa'una Nui Fish Traps - Using current and stone walls to capture fish
Different view of Fa'una Nui
Just outside the main super market are small farmers’ stalls filled with fruits, vegetables, or home baked goods.  We buy mape (their version of chestnut) and coconut bread – delicious with your morning coffee.  It’s interesting, once again, to witness large grocery chains letting locals compete right in their front yard.  Stores in the US would never allow this. 

Barbadine, edible small fruits growing on vine

Beautiful purplish-gray hibiscus - Only grows at higher altitude
We visit Eden Park aptly named if you are a plant lover like me.  The owner has over 100 trees, most giving very good fruits from countries around the world.  As shown in pictures in earlier post, we tasted egg yolk fruit, ice cream fruit, sour fruits, and seen chocolate mousse fruits unfortunately not yet ready to consume.  Passion fruit, dragon fruit, and many others – too many to remember or try.  Up from the Park is a path to a panoramic view of three different bays around Huahine.  The ½ hour walk up the hill is definitely worth the effort – the view is magnificent.

Cat whiskers white flower
Unknown misty white flower
Ginger-like red flower (as large as human head)
Foreground - husks of newly opened coconuts - Background - older husks
Want some chocolate?
We cannot stop commenting on the colors and plants of the island.  Suddenly we think we smell cantaloupes.  We bike by a couple of tiny boats unloading them on the beach.  They came from a farm located on one of the motus across the lagoon.  Little did we know we’d see the same cantaloupes loaded up in a cargo ship that night and would have them for breakfast at our pension the following morning.  Islands are very small worlds. 

Bay Vaiorea, a little brown on edges due to night's rain
Speaking of pension, we move to another one at the other end of the island where it is not as populated to see how they live there.  Although our pension was the worst we’ve been at so far, the location was nice.  We were the ONLY ones in one of the small bungalows on the beach.  We had the place to ourselves.  Too bad the service was so lacking.  People who don’t like to be around other people shouldn’t get in the pension business………….. 
How to park a pirogue along the road
How to abandon an old truck along the road
Visiting around we speak to a local who tells us about one of the nearby passes entering the lagoon called Araara and its dangers.  Araara, in their language, means ‘Keep your eyes peeled’ or ‘Watch out!’  Not a safe pass to enter the lagoon except in very mild weather.  Ruins can be found to explore by diving around the pass weather permitting.  We haven’t heard of these ruins anywhere else in guide books – possibly only local knowledge. 

Mosquito netting? Think again - it serves double function
Natural roofs host small critters - Netting against their droppings!
We are at the end of the island where the winds seem to be constant.  It keeps things cooler and less buggy.  We watch as 8-10 chartered catamarans motor by towards a bay nearby.  They are followed by a 44’ sailboat that turns around and comes back our way.  The bay had become too crowded for them so they anchored in front of our pension.  The manager of the pension said that in 5 years of working at the pension she had never seen a boat anchor there. 

Comfortable overlooking our little private beach...
View from bungalow before arrival of sailboat
We visited them and it was great to have some boat time, reminding us that you meet so many people from everywhere and every classes.  In this case, we had French, Italian, US and Canada, all meeting and sharing ideas, stories, etc.  We are looking forward to being at sea on our own boat again.  Anchoring here is a little easier since the tides never vary more than 20cm (3/4 foot). 

The folks from that end of the island would like an ATM machine, a small pharmacy and one infirmary so they do not have to drive to town each time they need money, medicine, or a medical consultation.  They want to stay small. 

Sunset over tiny motu
We have hiked and biked 45-50 km combined (and are feeling it!) but it’s great to get back in the swing of things.  On our last day, we finally connect with locals from a little town.  They are preparing for the annual festivities of their cultural center.  We are quickly invited to attend but cannot since we are leaving the island early the next morning.  This is where sailing makes a huge difference over tightly scheduled airline travel.  We could’ve stayed the extra time to visit with these kind people and partake in a local event, not a guided tour or touristic attraction but real life…  Instead we had to go… not completely willingly. 

Artist signing Mike's pareo

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