Pacific Journey October, 2022

French Polynesia Journal

By: Howard Eskildsen

October 8, 2022

We both awoke just before the 2:00 AM alarm, ready for a nearly 30-hour day that would land us in Pape’ete, Tahiti. The prior week had seen chores completed in preparation for our South Pacific pilgrimage. Three times postponed due to unimaginable circumstances, we are finally on our way. 

Glen dropped us off on time at the Delta entrance of Orlando International Airport and check in and security was a breeze. Though our flight was full, the waiting area did not seem crowded, and on board, the aisle seat in our row was empty, much to our relief. 

An orange glow traced the eastern horizon as the plane taxied to the runway, dripping with morning dew. Soon we took to flight over the dawn lights of central Florida, but low clouds appeared over the Gulf, obscuring the waters below.

The flight went smoothly even if a bit cramped in “steerage,” but we arrived in good shape. We got our bags from the carousel and then made the short walk to Terminal B, the international terminal. A kind host checked us in and let us know that since we had 5 hours to spend, we could do what we want as long as we went through security by 1 PM for our 2:30 flight.

We thought that, like the last time in LAX, we would have to wait until that time to pass through security. The last time there was massive construction and limited seating by the gate. We should have just gone straight to security. Instead, we waited in the dingy check in area where worn and crumbling seats lined the hallway. A couple of homeless persons also occupied some of the seats, bent over, sweaters pulled over head and legs akimbo with untied, worn shoes.

When it came time to go through security the “fun” began. No signage whatsoever directed us how to proceed and we blundered our way past the dog-sniff course, to various entry lines. The assembly line for packaging the carry-on items also had no instructions whatsoever, was confusing, and not at all intuitive. 

Some simple written directions would have solved the problem. Instead, there was a large dark, condescending female who instructed passengers through reprimand, then bemoaned the fact that everyone was tense and upset. One person after being sternly chided for not putting his tray on the rollers retorted, “Well you just told me not to do that.” Then he slammed the tray forward moved on. Our experience was no better and we were quite grateful to finally be through and on our way, though delayed by the meaningless machinations of the staff. 

The area beyond security was very nice with stores and restaurants, and we wish our time at the airport had been spent there. We arrived at our gate as the last call for boarding was announced and made it to our seats in good time.

The Air Tahiti Nui experience was the exact opposite of the terminal experience, and we settled in for a peaceful, pleasant flight. Hours later as we neared Tahiti, the sun set behind a carpet of clouds casting red and golden rays into the sky. The red hue continued nearly until landing. 

Customs and Immigration went very smoothly as did our bag pick up, except for the fact that I picked up a bag that looked like our multicolored suitcase. We quickly realized my error, and it was replaced before the proper owner showed up. Later we met them while waiting for transportation to the hotel. They would be staying in Mo’orea, and we thought we might see them again on the dolphin tour.

Hotel Tahiti Nui was as we remembered, kind, comfortable, but very dark. It was a challenge to read the number on our doorway in the dark corridor, but soon we were inside, settled, and ready for a good night’s sleep after a 26-hour day.

October 9, 2022

We rested well in our room, comfortable and as refreshed as a body that is confused over the time zone can be. We awoke in plenty of time to walk with our suitcases to the ferry. Emily and Jon met us there and we had our luggage placed in the bin to be carried to the boat. 

The waves gently rocked the ferry as we settled in for the pleasant journey to Mo’orea. We had a ride waiting with Albert tours, but it was at the second dock, a short distance from where we landed. After a couple of misguided treks, we found the driver and bus and were carried to our destinations. Jon and I got out at the Albert Transport car rental and picked up the car, while Fairy and Emily were dropped of with luggage at the Hotel Kaveka. After checking in, we went for a drive around the island. We did stop for lunch at Allo Pizza which was quite good. We also drove up to the Belvedere, but rain limited our view, as well as our enthusiasm for standing outside. We then finished our drive around the island with stops at the overlook of the Sofitel Hotel and the nearby beach. 

Dinner was at the Kaveka restaurant, and we had more than bargained for. Small flying bugs about the size of ants swarmed about, attracted to the lights. We had never encountered these in the past visits here. We moved from our table by the water to more interior, which helped. Eventually they decreased in number and the night was not ruined. We did have a lovely dinner, thought Emily had curry shrimp substituted for the rum shrimp she ordered since they were out of ingredients for the latter. Fairy and I shared our mahi-mahi while Jon and I took care of her shrimp, so all ended well.

As we left the restaurant, the moon burnished the eastern mountain ridge, then rose slowly into view. Higher in the sky, the brilliant Jupiter gleamed, seemingly happy with the night as we were. It made for sweet dreams for the remainder of the night.

October 10, 2022

I awoke around 3:45 and was lured by soft rays of the moon highlighting the margins of our curtains. From the deck the moon was plainly visible in the western sky with Jupiter higher above. Rippled reflections rocked on the waves across Cook’s inlet compliments of the moon. A few birds called, several roosters crowed, and breakers on the distant reef droned behind the avian chorus.

I went back to bed for another hour or more, then arose once again to late morning twilight. The Moon peered just above the sea grapes in front of our bungalow, while Jupiter had faded from view in the thin clouds above the moon. We gathered with Jon and Emily for breakfast and then headed to the Distillery on the opposite side of the bay.

There we were treated to a self-guided tour of the works, and then enjoyed samples at the store. Words from an earlier visitor to the islands, James N. Stephenson graced many of the posters along the tour. One referred to the unique blend of the islands and the liqueurs produced there, stating that the flavors were delightful, adding: “They do exist, and I am haunted by their memories.”

We returned to Kaveka to snorkel off the end of the pier. Multitudes of small fish and larger fish drifted to and fro along the shallow coral and deeper on the side of the drop off. Angelfish, tangs, surgeonfish, and many others of a variety of color appeared. Fairy caught sight of a black-tipped shark that was deeper and departing our area. Emily saw several turtles and directed our gaze toward a hawksbill grazing on sea plants along the shallower water and coral. We watched as it moved, grazed and once went up for air. It was the treat of the day. I did find both halves of a reddish orange scallop and was able to retrieve them for memories of the day’s fun.

Once cleaned up from our aquatic adventure, we drove a short distance to Moz Cafe for a slow, delightful lunch. It is set at the back of a building complex on the upper story between mountains and sea. The waiter was very nice and was able to communicate in English. Birds flitted around the nearby trees adding to the ambiance of the meal. Afterward we returned to the bungalows. The other three were anxious to drive around some more, but I was tired and elected to stay at Kaveka while they explored to their heart’s content.

I went out to the restaurant dock with my ukulele, but people had beaten me to that point, so I went to the old dock at the Pao Pao Embarcadere, which I had to myself. It was pleasant with fish swimming about in the water below my feet as I played to my heart’s content. Finally, some scattered raindrops sent me scurrying back to the bungalow where I relaxed in leisure while awaiting the return of the rest of the group.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

We awoke with eager anticipation of our whale watching tour with Michael Poole. The four of us walked over to the nearby public dock and soon a boat appeared with its occupants waving to us from their moorage by the retaining wall. We hurried over, and boarded, then rode on over to pick up the remainder of the passengers. 

Then we passed by boats at anchor from various parts of the world, through the pass and into the open ocean. Large swells surged in the deep blue waters as the boat rode gracefully from crest to crest. Before long spouts from whales were found near a small group of boats. Swimmers could be seen in the water, perhaps 100 yards from the boats.

Three young ladies with strong interests in marine biology entered the water and swam to the area of the other swimmers. A calf and its mother rose to breathe periodically and occasionally the calf would breech to the oohs and ahs of the spectators. When the swimmers returned, two of them airdropped images of the whales to us. All showed amazing images of the whales, and one showed a video of the calf swimming, then turning upward and breaching. It was so very kind of them to share their photos with those of us not willing to enter the water.

Over time we saw three mothers with their calves, then turned into the lagoon to see the corals, sting rays, brown boobies, and other life forms. Michael kept up an educational narrative, and strongly encouraged questions. Many were met with his dry humor, and it kept us alert, attentive, and frequently laughing. 

After the cruise was over, we returned to the bungalow to clean up, feeling fully satisfied by the events of the day so far. For lunch we checked several options, finally stopping at Snack Rotui, where we ordered chow mien sandwiches which came in a baguette. It would seem a throwback to college days and no money, but it was very good. 

For dessert we went to Allo pizza to try their banana pizza, but they had no bananas, and only laughed when I offered to buy them some. Instead, we took the server’s recommendation for pineapple pizza which was so delicious that we were glad that they had run out of bananas. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon resting, sitting on the deck of our bungalow and enjoying the rare view. In the evening we headed to Tiki Theater Village for the dance show. We walked through some displays in traditional fares (Tahitian houses), then went the pavilion where we found seats on the second row. Diners finished their meals to the left of the dance area while we settled in.

Others in front of us were not so settled. Fairy and I had sat two seats apart to reserve them for Emily and Jon who were still looking at the displays outside. The people in front, chattering and wriggling about finally climbed over the back of their chairs to occupy the seats beside us. One with a smelly armpit problem sat by Fairy. They all made it over the chairs except for one.

A huge, 300+ pound man waddled from the opposite end of the rows of chairs to clamber up to our row and then began looking our way, either wanting Emily and Jon’s seat, or wanting to climb over seven people to the other end of the row. Had he turned left when he first got up, he could have gotten to that place in about 5 steps without disturbing a soul. I stated that the two empty seats were for my daughter and son-in-law, and he pointed to the other end and said: That’s my wife. I repeated that we were saving the two seats and finally he said: Oh well and went up one more row that was empty so he could waddle to the other end without exposing anyone to his ass-crack at nose level.

Emily and Jon appeared a short time later, to our relief, and we settled in. Those next to us hardly settled as they fidgeted about, stood up, sat down, then up again; all except the behemoth who budged hardly at all except when it was most inconvenient for those near him.

Tahitian musicians in the left side of the dance area performed for the diners, then turned around as it came time for the show. The diners had to choose left over seats to view the dance, so we were glad that we had not been able to get reservations for dinner there. 

Large Tahitian drums throbbed while wooden drums clattered with an enchanting rhythm as ‘ukuleles joined in. The dancers gracefully appeared, treating us to traditional Tahitian dances, including an enactment of Tahitian wedding ceremony. Then the fire dancers came in with sticks of batons with flames on one end. Almost magically, they coaxed the flames to the other end, and then the real show began.

Dark, trim dancers with crowns and leggings of tropical vegetation began whirling the flaming batons in almost unimaginable directions. At times they touched feet or face to the flame, sometimes capturing a flame briefly in the mouth. We could feel heat from the flames from 20 or more feet away and the batons emanated a rushing, roaring sound as they spun round and round.

The show was thoroughly delightful, and we went to our sleep with the haunting memories of sounds of Tahitian rhythms and the fire flashing from batons wielded by agile, handsome Tahitian men.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

When we set out for an adventurous hike to up a deep, narrow valley to Afareaitu Falls, little did we realize that it would turn into a survival adventure. It started out normally with Etienne, a muscular Tahitian man with neatly trimmed beard, picking us up at the Hotel Kaveka. Bright of mind and quick of wit, he told us about the upcoming trek as we turned into the valley. We were joined by others including a couple from California, Rhonda and Matt.

The “street” was rocky and rough, appearing to have been created by simply driving repeatedly over the ground. He turned into a small parking spot, and we walked farther up to where another vehicle was parked by nicely maintained grounds with fruit bearing trees of various sorts intermixed with tropical garden plants on the slanting landscape. There Yvette, the landowner and second guide, led us on a tour of the grounds.

She had been born in the Taipivai Valley in Nuku Hiva, and now resided in the Afareaitu Valley on Mo’orea. She showed us about her garden and fruit-bearing trees that were well managed and adequate to sustain her and her family indefinitely. Indeed, if suddenly they were cut off from the rest of the world, it would mean a minor lifestyle change, but no threat to survival. 

Yvette was energetic and articulate, and spoke several languages including Tahitian, French, English, Spanish, and Italian. The party was divided into two groups, Etienne lead the other group, and Yvette led ours up the valley a reasonable distance from the first group. 

The path led upward, onward through the narrow, deep, heavily wooded valley of Afareaitu, the House of the Kings. A small stream tumbled through rocks and gravel at the canyon floor not far from the path. Honu (turtle) faces carved in the volcanic rocks guarded the path along the way, warning that this was a place only for the ali’i (royalty). The trail then angled up the side of the steep valley well above the stream, while the dense foliage clouded any visual clues as to what direction was up. 

At a narrow point in the trail, Yvette stopped to place flowers on a rock along the downhill side the trail. She had shown earlier how the flowers had been used to look like large lips to intimidate enemies. “Do not step on my lips as you pass this way,” she said cheerily. Apparently, this was a ploy to keep hikers from stepping onto the rock, where a misstep could send them tumbling down a very steep slope that ended in a cliff about 40 feet above the rocks and boulders in the stream bed below. 

As we approached the stone by the path one of the group member’s legs gently brushed one of the flowers causing it fall from the stone onto the path. Fairy bent downward to replace it in an act of kindness, but on her way back upright, she lost her balance and fell onto the steep slope. “Oh my God,” I heard myself exclaim as she fell sideways, then “OH MY GOD,” as she tumbled, picking up speed down the slope. 

Limbs from brush and a tree formed a small, narrow arch just in front of the precipice. If she were to slide under that arch, or if the branches were not strong enough to stop her slide, her life would be over, for there was no way one could survive a fall sideways 40 feet onto the large rocks below. For a brief moment I wondered if such a kind, vibrant, and considerate life could so suddenly end. 

Moments later she came to an abrupt, harsh stop at the lifesaving branches that looked barely capable of holding her. Her back and legs were visible, but her head and arms could not be seen. I had already started down the hill as she stopped moving and ignored warnings by Yvette not to go down there because it was too dangerous. However, I continued on, for she was one of the very few things in my life that I would risk everything for. 

Using climbing skills I had learned in earlier times, I made certain that I had at least two solid hand or footholds before making the next move. Near Fairy’s location, a solid, 2” root made a handle-shaped turn in the dirt by a rock outcrop. I jammed my fingers into the dirt several times to carve out a handhold with the root as anchor, then made the final steps a place just above Fairy. 

She uttered the most beautiful words I have ever heard: “I’m OK,” just as I was saying: “I’m here, Fairy.”  I found a solid, flat patch about two feet across that I could squat-sit on without fear of falling. At that angle, however, the root hold no longer offered protection, so I checked the rock just above me. It had what climbers sometimes call a “Thank God” hold that was solid and fit my right hand perfectly. Anchored by that hold, I then reached with my left hand and grabbed Fairy by her belt and pants, and said, “I’m solid, Fairy.” At that moment I realized that no, I was not about to lose my wife, and almost immediately imagined how hard she would have slapped me if I had had my hand in her pants like that in public under any other circumstances. 

The rest of our group looked on in horror as the scene unfolded and several remarked later how relieved they were to her say that she was OK. The tumble down the hill was violent enough that it could have broken bones, but the impact against the branches that stopped her was spread over several areas to stop her safely with bruising and abrasions, but no serious injuries.  

I inquired if Yvette had any rope, and as expected she did not, but she was on her way down the slope from a location on the other side of the rock outcrop that provided my security. Fairy began to extract herself from the branches, first her right arm appearing then the back of her head, then face, covered with dirt and some leaves. Yvette arrived as she was retrieving her glasses from some brush just in front of her face. They had come off in the abrupt end of the fall, but miraculously had not gone over. Her hat was not so lucky, and was long gone, presumably on the rocks or creek below. 

Yvette helped hold her legs then her hand as she began to get herself free. She still had her purse but lamented that her phone was gone. I could see it just a couple of feet away from her leg, but did not mention it, for she was still in a very precarious position, and I did not want to risk a fall precipitated by reaching for something that was replaceable. 

Very carefully, Fairy was able to stand on her feet, and I released my hold as Yvette guided her around the rocky outcrop and up to the trail. Then I turned my attention to the phone. I bent forward over the flat spot upon which I sat but was about 3 inches shy of being able to grasp it. I dared not stand and bend over to reach it for that would ber far too risky. I felt along the rock outcrop and found another handhold that allowed me to bend forward without compromising my safety and with two fingers I was able to retrieve it and put it in my pocket. 

Then I climbed up to a hollow in the outcrop and crouched over and walked to its edge where I could use it for security part way up the slope to the trail. When I approached the trail, a couple of people offered me a hand up, but that meant that I would have to lean back precariously, and if anyone slipped, it would have ended in disaster. Instead, I thanked them for their offer, but explained I was more comfortable doing it myself. I got both hands on a large, solid rock along the path and mantled upwards and onto the trail. 

The group was still stunned and were even more surprised when Fairy said that she wanted to continue on to the waterfall instead of just heading back down the trail, and Yvette remarked about her courage. Fairy was bruised on both arms, shoulders, her forearm and her right thigh which also had an abrasion oozing some blood, but she was intent on continuing on to the falls about 300 yards away. 

On arrival at the falls, Yvette respectfully decorated with flowers a carved face of an ali’i that watched over the scene. Etienne dressed the abrasion on Fairy’s thigh and then applied tamanu oil which immediately relieved the stinging.

Then we went to sit with our feet and lower legs in the water of the plunge pool at the base of the falls. A sacred eel swam sedately through the shallow water not far from our legs and looked at Fairy, then me with its piercing blue eyes. Yvette was surprised by the encounter since the eels usually hide in the rocks when people are present. She attributed it to the mana that was present, and said that it was a good sign for a safe return. Above, delicate falls tumbled perhaps 100 feet down a rocky surface that was bordered by green foliage. Several of our group swam in the cool, tranquil waters below.

After resting and recuperating, we carefully made our way back down the valley. Yvette held Fairy’s hand over all the dangerous areas and soon we were back at her home and garden. We enjoyed various fruits including our beloved rambutan and then walked back to the van that we had ridden in with Etienne.

Back at the bungalow at Hotel Kaveka, we regrouped and contemplated the events of the day. We were so glad to be back safe, with minimal injuries. It could have been much worse. Then we drove a short distance to the site of Ron Hall’s Pearls. It was closed to the public now, but Vaitiare opened it for us for a special showing. Along with her was her two-year-old daughter Rumia. We had a wonderful visit and Fairy found two pearls that were a perfect match for her needs. Afterwards we went to Vaitiare’s mother’s, Tematai, place and had a rum punch drink that was delicious.

Later we all met with Michael and his wife Maraeva at the hotel Kaveka restaurant. Mareva surprised us with delightful and fragrant flower leis and crowns that she had made that afternoon. We treated them to dinner and had a wonderful time visiting in general with a little time for “nerd talk” between Michael and I. Vaitiare had us laughing at times with her tales of adventure and misadventure, and the evening passed quickly. Of course, all were startled and relieved by the story of Fairy’s misadventure and the successful outcome, but it was the light conversation with our friends that made the evening a delight.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Thursday turned out to be a much less exciting day for all the right reasons. No falls, no bruises, and no soiled underwear (well, nearly soiled). Heimata, Vaitiare’s brother, took us on a delightful food tour of Mo’orea. He picked us up in a nice, air-conditioned van, then stopped for a couple of others before turning down the road to, of all places, the ferry landing.

We wondered just what was up for a bit, but then he led us to a food stand where we were treated to pineapple and mangoes sprinkled with cayenne pepper which were delicious. We purchased some fruits from the vendor for later.

A comment was made about us starting at the ferry dock, and Heimata commented that one client a few days ago had been quite indignant that they were going to get on the ferry when he had just arrived on it a day before. Heimata manged to get him calmed down, noting that they were not boarding, and all had a good laugh about it.

Next, he stopped at the overlook above the Sofitel Hotel, with a great view of the lagoon and of Tahiti in the distance. We continued around the northwest island to several local eateries including Golden Lake Patisserie to sample French bread with chow mein noodles, chicken and veggies for filling. It was delicious.

After that we stopped at Moz Cafe where we had eaten earlier in the trip and had a great sample of poisson cru, sashimi and another dish. All were delightful. We then went to browse at local stores for about 30 minutes before continuing on.

We also stopped at the end of Cook Bay at Snack Rohotu, the roadside stand we had visited earlier with Emily and Jon. We enjoyed the food as much as before and also took time to enjoy the scenery and take photos of the bay and of the “Gorilla Playing the Organ” located on a volcanic abutment to mount Rotui.

Finally, he took us to up a long, steep, rutted road past private residences. It terminated at a restaurant and vanilla farm. We toured the vanilla operation then enjoyed our dessert with a very scenic view down the steep valley to the bay and the ocean. A gentle rain began to fall, and we found shelter before returning to the van.

On the way back down, Heimata shared a recent story about a lady who had rented a scooter, and somehow gotten it up the hill, but steadfastly refused to take it back down. Someone else had to get it down while she found a ride. The food tour was a great success and one of our favorite memories of the trip.

On the return, we stopped at the Distillery where we had some very nice samples of local fruit rum. Etienne, who we met the day before, was there as well, and he remarked with a very grave look on his face, just how lucky we were to come out of the misadventure as well as we did. It could have been much worse, he commented. He felt that he should have been wearing his tamanu necklace that would have protected the guests, but we assured him that we were ok, and he certainly bore no blame for the incident.  

After the tour, Fairy and I went for a drive to find a store to buy some temanu oil and coconut oils. Afterwards we drove up to the Belvedere to view the scenery once more. Rain splattered off and on and we waited in the car until it lightened. The view was very nice, even in the cloudy weather. Then we returned slowly to Hotel Kaveka marveling at the scenery as we went.

Michael Poole had contacted us, and we were able to see his two sons Tearenui and Temoana, daughter in law Tehana as well as his grandson, Takurua. Of course, Michael’s wife Maraeva was also there, and we enjoyed visiting and getting photos of the family. It was a great way to spend our last evening on Mo’orea. 

Friday, October 14, 2022

Roosters crowed as the rising Sun enlightened the mountains and later the waters of Mo’orea. Fairy and I prepared our packing, had a quick breakfast and then did our final checkout. The attendant, who reminded us of the cheerful twin brother of “Milton” from the movie Office Space, checked us out cheerily and sent us on our way smiling.

We took our belongings to the car and drove the already busy road to Albert’s Tours to drop it off. We asked for a ride to the airport and the Tahitian lady smiled and led back to our car and drove us to the airport. She assisted with the luggage and then wished us a very pleasant day. What wonderful people populate the islands of French Polynesia.

We were quite early and waited by the check-in counter with our luggage. One other couple, newlyweds from Massachusetts, stood by the counter, but judging by the luggage, we thought at least two other couples had reserved their place in line. Nope, it all belonged to the couple by the counter and once the check-in process started, it was obvious that the honeymoon was at least temporarily interrupted if not over. There was too much luggage, and it was too heavy. Finally, they found a solution by buying more bags to at least get the individual bags down the weight limit and paying extra for the excess total weight.

Fortunately, our check-in went much more smoothly. Though our carry-on luggage was slightly too heavy to actually carry on, we were able to check it through at no additional charge since it did not exceed our total weight allowance. Then I mentioned the ukulele I was carrying, and the clerk was interested so I got it out, played it for him and he got to check it himself. Another islander at the other check-in window looked at as well. Later, on our journey, I met another couple that had heard my playing and remarked that they had really enjoyed it. 

We waited for the plane, then boarded and found our seats without problem. As per normal protocol, the plane taxied to the very end of the runway, then stood on the brakes as it it powered up its two turboprop engines to maximum power before releasing the brakes and accelerating down the runway. As expected, it rotated, became airborne and only a few seconds later passed the end of the runway.

We had a beautiful view of Mo’orea out our window with its rugged peaks, deep green valleys and inlets and its turquoise and blue lagoon. Two cruise ships lay at anchor in Cook’s Bay, and one was very similar to the Windstar sailing vessel in which we had first traveled among these islands in 2003. 

Then only blue water and skies dotted with clouds filled the windows for a time. We knew we were close to Bora Bora when the multicolored lagoon of Raiatea and Taha’a came into view. We had visited these islands in 2003 as well and it brought back fond memories. 

Bora Bora at last! We passed along the side of the island, along the airport, then circled back for landing into the wind. Gathering the luggage was a breeze, and we briefly spotted the somewhat still honeymooning couple headed to their boat taxi, sincerely hoping that the bliss would return to their new marriage. 

Fairy spotted Nir, Nave, and Tiare at the dock almost before we emerged from the ferry boat. Hugs and greetings were exchanged, then Nave and Tiare attended to business in town, while Nir drove Fairy and I to Chen Lee’s grocery where we stocked up on supplies. It was all so island-like, primitive, and wonderful. 

After shopping we drove, chatting all the way, back to our familiar Rohotu Fare. Jon met us at the parking area and helped with bags and soon were back home again in our wonderful bungalow. What a satisfying return.

We unpacked, then joined Emily and Jon for some rum and coke on the balcony overlooking the lagoon. It was pleasant beyond imagination. When the time was right, we broke the news of Fairy’s life-threatening fall to them. They were both shocked, but grateful for the successful outcome of the situation. I am very glad we waited to tell them when were face-to-face, rather than in an email or text message.

Later, Nir took us on a tour to show all the updates to the resort. As we waited for him, a gentleman from Tahuata in the Marquesas tossed down star apples for us to enjoy for breakfast. He was a pleasant fellow and was delighted to find out that we had been in Tahuata and his home village of Vaitahu as well as at Hapatoni. He is a very hard working and talented craftsman, and very kind.

Nir took us up to the new large bungalow that is progressing well, finally after the plague subsided. We walked up the tiki-lined pathway to the entrance in a nice green, grassy area that looked over the bay. He led us up the stairway to the unfinished rooms with hardwood floor. A large, beautifully carved turtle graced one of the walls, one of his crowning displays of the whole resort.

Afterwards he showed us the new entrance, walls, and the large stone tiki that had just been started on our last visit. It was magnificently done, guarding the walkway entrance to the remainder of the compound. Along the walk, rare blue flowers dropped from a tree above where two geckos crept about. 

We had dinner at Bloody Mary’s Restaurant, with the traditional ordering from the display of fresh fish and meats near the entry. I had the wahoo, since Skylar had caught one in Hawaii, and Fairy had the mahi mahi. I also had a Bloody Mary, and then another. It was good, but not as good as the ones we get from our friend Karen. 

A band played near the entrance, providing too much, too loud, non-Polynesian music instead of the traditional music that would be expected in that setting. We had difficulty visiting due to their volume and made the best of their breaks. Service was leisurely as expected island style, and we had to find a waitress to request dessert. Fairy and I split the warm chocolate cake and ice cream, which was delicious. At the end of the meal, Nir informed us that we went to the bar to pay. It was crowded and confusing, but it went smoothly once it was our turn. The two attending the bar were very busy with many patrons but served us politely and pleasantly in due time.

Nir took the ladies first to the compound, then came back for us. His Land Rover was getting repairs, so he used his new car, which could not hold us all at once. We made our way back through the jungle to our bungalows and settled in for a satisfying sleep on our first night in our beloved Bora Bora. 

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Dawn broke with fickle clouds tickling Otemanu and Piha. An around the island cruise was scheduled with Nir’s friend, Patrick at the helm. Nir loaded us into the car and drove south around the island to Patrick’s where several outrigger boats were along a dock, one was in the water and the others held out of the water by slings that were manually manipulated using giant wheels as leverage.

This is where Nir first met Tiare and asked her if he could take her picture. He had been on the island living near this point and she had said something to the effect of “you tourists just want to take my picture?” She finally agreed after finding out he lived on the island. That was a beginning of their relationship and eventually led to their marriage.

Patrick is everything Polynesian, tall, strong, with a rugged, handsome appearance, and dark skin from years of living off land and sea. He was quick of wit, congenial, and exuded confidence with boat and sea. He also played ukulele and sang beautiful Tahitian songs.

We loaded onto the boat with its yellow and green hull, bright red outrigger, and woven palm frond decorations. Patrick started up the engine and began slowly motoring away from the dock. A few clouds spotted the sky while white birds were cast blue from the azure reflection of the lagoon on their wings. Patrick pulled out his ukulele and strummed along and sang as he guided the boat to a sandy area near some coral heads. Then he dropped anchor and we prepared to snorkel.

With a splash we entered the water and were happily surprised by myriads of small, brightly colored fish darting about. Larger fish swam lazily about around the corals and wavy-edged calms lay vertically in the coral with bright red, blue, or turquoise margins. Nir pointed out a large, seven-fingered clam that had slowly slogged across the bottom leaving a trail that could be followed to its hiding place.

From one patch of coral, a large sinister head appeared followed by a six-foot-long undulating body. The eel swam around the coral, snaking through crevices, disappearing and then reappearing on its trek around and through the coral. It was fascinating to watch, but we kept a wary distance of such a large creature with its very sharp teeth.

Back on board, we pulled up anchor and proceeded on. Per request, I got out my Outdoor Ukulele and played a few tunes. When we stopped again Patrick asked what kind it was and if he could play it, which he did beautifully. He asked what it was made of, and I explained the polycarbonate body that is resistant to heat, sunlight and water. He immediately replied: I need this ukulele. I’d like to buy it, how much you want for it? I replied that I had names of places printed on it that I had visited with it so did not want to sell but agreed to get another and send it to him when I got home. He seemed happy with this, and we continued on to where other boats had gathered.

We entered the water to see seven eagle rays swimming as a group, far below in the deeper water. We watched as they cruised about and finally disappeared into the depths.

Next, we went to shallow water about 4 feet deep where we stood on the sandy bottom and watched as sting rays and black-tipped sharks swam nearby. In the past they had been fed but wisely, this practice is now banned. The rays swam about, allowing us to touch their soft, rubbery skin. The sharks offered no such familiarity for which we were glad, and we left the water with a sigh of relief, though we had enjoyed the encounter.

We then motored to the dock at Vaitepe, to get some supplies and pick up Nave and her friend, but the control cable on the shift mechanism broke so we had to wait a while for one of his other boats to arrive. In the meantime, we played ukulele, visited, and had a good time. Nir asked me to play “Te Manu Hoata,” which I did, much to everyone’s satisfaction, including some locals listening on a nearby bench who applauded at the end of the song. 

When the new boat arrived, we transferred to it and motored around more of the lagoon, past the airport and over to a motu on the outer reef. We passed slowly over shallow water to a dock where palm trees shaded the grounds, and a thatch roofed shelter protected food tables. Flat, sandy ground pocked with holes was broken by palm trees, low shrubs and scattered plants. What at first appeared to be small rocks scattered swiftly down the holes as the land crabs sought refuge.

Patrick opened the underground oven to reveal a roasted pig and explained the traditional cooking process. Next, he described the “plates” which consisted of large leaves on a woven frame which was to be cradled on our left forearm as we gathered food with our right hand. Fish, pork, fruits and vegetables from the island and lagoon were heaped onto our plates then we headed to tables to dine.

Some of us headed to a brightly colored table in the water at the edge of the lagoon. Though it tilted seaward, none of us fell over backwards into the water. The food was delicious, and I actually think I could get used to eating with the fingers.

After lunch, Nir led us through the sparse jungle towards the outer reef where ocean waves thrashed the coral. We walked the last few yards past low, tough, sturdy plants with stout stalks. We entered the water perhaps 50 yards from the breakers. Nir led the way to the reef’s edge, but we elected to only go halfway after learning of Tiare’s unpleasant octopus encounter in the past there. Coral, clams, an occasional fish occupied the waters and we marveled at the sight for several minutes.

In the meantime, Tiare had been gathering up coconuts that had sprouted. We helped her carry them back to the boat where they were loaded onto the bow. After saying goodby to our hosts on the motu, we again cruised along the lagoon waters to Patrick’s docks, to complete the island circumnavigation. He placed the boat expertly against the dock with both ends in slings designed to lift it out of the water. After unloading, he and an assistant rotated a large wheel made of metal tubing to lift the boat. After many turns of the large wheel, the boat was clear of the salt water once again. 

We said our good-byes and then cruised on back to Rohotu Fare. A great time had been had by all, and we were full enough, that all we needed was a little rum and coke and a few chips as Emily, Jon, Fairy, and I chatted as the twilight faded and stars winked in the sky. 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

As per usual, Nir had another adventure planned for the day. We were to hike to the cannons overlooking the lagoon entrance that are relics of World War II. But first we had to learn of the Bronze Man, Daniel Halverson, who had expatriated to Bora Bora and set up a foundry to do bronze castings that reflected the Polynesian culture. He had sold many bronze castings that were quite valuable but then had passed away about 20 years ago. We were to see the remains of his house and foundry, and if lucky, find his grave. Nir had searched for it in the past, based on incomplete directions from locals, and now had further information that might actually lead us to it.

We drove around the west part of the island to Fa’anui Bay where American troops had built docks and facilities to serve as a fueling station across the Pacific. We parked along the road then proceeded over the rugged, two-track trail up a ridge that radiated from Pahia Mountain. We stopped periodically to admire the view of mountains, lagoon, and jungle. Near the ridge crest, remains of Halverson’s foundry and house barely came into view. They were overgrown with vines, trees, and other plants.

Nir hacked his way through vines and shrubs to show us the entrance to the foundry area where he had found several beautiful bronze castings years after the death of Halverson. Then he led us upward between two radio towers where the slightest hint of prior passage marked the low growing plants. We followed it over a rise, not knowing what to expect, when an exclamation arose: There it is!

A tiled cement tomb with a cement headstone appeared in a small clearing. Several of the tiles had come loose during the subsequent decades, but a great deal of care had been put into the grave. A round bronze plaque with multiple faces, perhaps representing spirits of family or ancestors, gazing outward was mounted on the front of the headstone. Three geckos encircled the rim of the plaque and unintelligible writing was just visible above the plaque. On the back of the headstone read: “Beloved husband, father, brother, uncle, and friend, in our heart.”

Many leaves rested on top of the tomb as did a baseball-style hat, two light gray clay pots, and a bronze vase or flowerpot. Just to the right of the headstone, resting on the ground was another weathered, but beautiful bronze vessel. We we observed the site in wonder. It was not neglected, and though it appeared to be infrequently visited, it felt as if it was still attended by those who cared for his memory.

Farther along, by the upper radio tower, a short steep path led to a flat area with a makeshift bench and a fire pit that looked long unused. We scrambled up to rest and enjoy the shade for a time, then continued to the two great cannons overlooking the lagoon. 

Brown barrels of the 27-foot-long cannon pointed towards the lagoon, one towards the lagoon entrance, the other towards the entrance to Fa’anui Bay. Both sat on massive mounts which were showing decay from rust in the salty environment. Designed for the navy around 1900, and cast in 1907, this type of gun had been removed from most naval vessels before World War I. However, several were used in World War II for coastal defense.

They were designed to heave a seven-inch projectile towards any hostile invaders, but, as in an all-too-often seen hurried military strategy, turned out to lack the range required to accomplish their mission. Fortunately, it turned out not to matter since Bora Bora was spared the turmoil that terrorized other parts of the Pacific. 

We explored the area, got photos by the guns and the bunker, and were soon joined by a delightful Polynesian couple with their very young son. Both adults had magnificent Tahitian tattoos that we paused to admire. Unlike so much of the American tattoos which amount to little more than mindless graffiti, their tattoos were genuinely admirable works of art. Like us, they had walked up the trail to this place and as luck would have it, we would again encounter them later at a local restaurant for lunch.

We made our way back down the steep, at times tricky trail, avoiding loose stones. At times we helped each other across the more difficult parts. We had already used up our luck when it came to falls.

Nir narrated as we drove farther along the road, here and there were remnants of the WW II military operations and docks, some of which had been occupied by squatters. Across from the airport on the island side of the lagoon, we stopped to gather up linens from another bungalow that he manages. In the past some had belonged to celebrities such as Marlin Brando and Jack Nicholson.

We followed the road around the island past Patrick’s boats and on to Snack Matira restaurant. The open-air facility lay on the inland edge of a great white sandy beach along the calm turquoise waters of the lagoon. Most of the tables were full, so we were faced with a challenge to find table for seven. Nir went home to pick up Nave and Tiare and were to return shortly.

While we waited, we found that the Tahitian couple from the cannons were at a table around the corner. We chatted for a time and both of us played his ukulele briefly. Then it was time to try to land seating for seven. A gruff Polynesian lady with an “angry face” barely acknowledged our request, but a short time later pulled two tables and motioned for us to sit. She did mention that they didn’t have any regular fish, but did have tuna. Perhaps something was said about sandwiches; I’m not sure.

After waiting longer than expected she returned to ask if we needed so big a table since another party of nine was waiting. We decided not to hold it any longer and yielded it to the other party, choosing to wait until everyone was present before commandeering another table. Barely had we gotten up when Nir and family appeared. The surly lady indicated another table would be prepared.

Not long after, another table was vacated, and our seating accomplished. Menus were passed around and when our order was taken, Fairy asked if they had fish sandwiches. The waitress replied: “I already tell you three times, no fish sandwiches.” But something in her face showed hints of jest so we all laughed. Nir and Tiare spoke briefly with her and soon all was well.

Orders were taken and the food delicious. We had wonderful conversation and much to our surprise, Nir traipsed over to the counter to talk some more with the attendants. Then he paid for the meal, totally to our surprise. What a crazy day.

Then he drove Emily and Jon back to the lodge, while Tiare, Nave, Fairy and I walked back. Time lost meaning as we walked along beach, highway, retaining walls, and mountain. We passed Bloody Mary’s, and not long after were heading up the steep incline to Rohotu Fare. The ladies marched right on up, while Nave and I walked slowly discussing school, pets, and dogs and cats. Finally, we all made it to the very top and each went to our respective bungalows.

Later, Jon drove us in Nir’s car to Chin Lee’s store where we stocked up on further supples. Afterwards we had a relaxing evening on the deck, dining, drinking and watching day turn to night. In a nearby tree, the upside-down apparition of Scorpio (Maui’s Hook) caught our eye. Finally, we went to our own rooms, happy for the day, but sad that Emily and Jon were leaving in the morning for a stay at the Sofitel Resort on Mo’orea.

Monday, October 17, 2022

We said our goodbyes to Emily and Jon as they departed for the airport to return to Mo’orea for their stay at the Sofitel Hotel in an overwater bungalow. The morning passed by quietly as we read, relaxed and I journaled on the balcony. Kids could be heard at times playing in the schoolyard down the hill. Birds chirped periodically, a lazy hawk soared by repeatedly, and roosters crowed in the distance.

After a light lunch in the bungalow, we wandered about the grounds admiring the plants, sculpture and pineapple patch. Tiare emerged from the car in the parking area, and we met Nir on the way to the car. She had just returned from Chin Lee’s with fresh fish and other items for the evening meal. They informed us that we were to be their guests for dinner, much to our surprise and delight.

Around 6 PM we joined them at their home and exchanged stories before and during dinner. Tiare had prepared wonderful dishes of poisson cru, sashimi, and her own signature fish plate. Rice prepared by Nave was served as the base. The taste was exquisite, and we delightfully dined in their tropical home. 

Nir and Tiare kept us entertained with stories of many adventures in French Polynesia. After dinner, Nave graciously printed “Bora Bora” the date and her name with a heart drawing on my black travel ukulele. Tiare got out the ukulele I had left there before and one of the string pairs had been replaced. I tuned it and played for a while. The fishing string in French Polynesia can be easily tightened to produce the high sound on the E-pair, unlike the American string I had tried at home. Tiare gave me the remaining spool of string to use when I got home. 

After a delightful time, we returned “home” to our bungalow and settled in as the rain began to fall. We fell asleep to its drumming rhythm in the darkness.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

We awoke early with the intent to go with Tiare to the local school where students would be running over a course marked with the sprouted coconuts we had gathered during the lagoon cruise. However, steady rain drummed on the rooftop and splashed onto the ground, so we decided to stay in the bungalow and take it easy. 

I journaled and reviewed photos while Fairy read and looked for the names of birds we had sighted. Finally, she located the names of all, and we added them to our list. The most curious bird was the “red jungle fowl,” which looked to us like a plain old red rooster. Who are we to second-guess the “experts?”

The day passed pleasantly, and rain departed for a time. After a while, we visited the

White House, a store down the road from Rohotu Fare. They had tourist items, a few food items and a small restaurant. Last time we were here it was mostly a grocery store. A kind lady invited us to look around and we found a couple of beautiful hats that had Bora Bora embroidered on the front. Now we can really blend in with the locals!

We wore the new hats back to our bungalow and carried a bag of Tim Tams that we had purchased as well. Then it was time to meet walk to the “college” which is equivalent of high school, to meet Nave who got out at 3:05 PM. Rain showers threatened in the distance as we made the short trek there and was kind enough to delay the drizzle until after we were under a sheltered waiting area.

Tiare and her friend soon appeared and were delighted to see us there. The drizzle had turned into a steady rain, so she called Uber-daddy for a ride, and Nir appeared shortly with the car. Tiare and her friend headed to their house to record themselves for Spanish class as part of a test. She was going to hand hold the cell phone to record it, but I got my cell/iPad stand and they seemed delighted to be able to use it.

Back at the room I finished re-stringing the Tahitian ukulele, that I had bought at a prior visit and later left with them. It is a nice instrument, and it was fun to reunite with an old friend. Fairy and I then settled in for the evening to enjoy the sunset, watch clouds coming and going, and then sinking into another pleasant night’s sleep.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

I awoke in the early morning and went outside to see the constellations. Bright stars gleamed between scattered clouds revealing Orion and Gemini upside down, the crescent Moon far to the north, also upside down, while bright stars and the Milky Way flowed downward from Canis Major in the direction of the constellation Carina. 

I returned to bed and later, we awoke around 5:30 AM as light was beginning to brighten the dawn sky. Most of the clouds, and all of the rain of the day before had moved on to shower elsewhere.

Around 8:00 we dropped off our laundry and garbage and then Nir drove us to the market by the dock in Vaitape, and we browsed through the merchant displays, looking for gifts and souvenirs. Each vendor greeted us with “iaorana” and a smile. After looking at several places, we found pareos, shirts, necklaces, and other gifts. One stand by the entrance had lovely painted shell Christmas ornaments, some with two fish kissing. We bought one from the lovely artist who had made it, and she painted our names on it and 1971, the year of our wedding. 

We found further pareos and items across the street at stores we had visited in the past. One special treasure was the book “Bora Bora” with glorious pictures and English writing. We had purchased the French version on the last visit, just for the gorgeous photos. 

We stopped at a small cafe that we had dined at before with Nir in 2016, during our Aranui stopover. It was delightful, and we enjoyed eggs, croissants, and bread. They also had milkshakes that were more like flavored milk but were very good. Afterwards we made a few more purchases, got supplies at Chin Lee’s and then rode back to Rohotu Fare by taxi. Nir had said it should take about 1500 francs, however we were charged 2000 francs by the driver who was very pleasant, so we did not mind. He did drop us off at the bottom of the hill which appears traditional, so we lugged all our purchases up the hill, huffing and puffing along the way.

We put things away, put on our swimming suits and tops, and after a brief rest walked to Matira Beach a couple of miles from our bungalow. Another couple staying at Rohotu Fare greeted us and were amazed that we would walk to the beach.

The trek down the hill was not difficult but worked out the quadriceps thoroughly. We turned south at the road and walked along the left side past houses, gardens, “The White House” store, Nave’s school, and Bloody Mary’s restaurant. The road then turned left along the margin of the now-closed Bora Bora Resort. 

Though the beach was visible a short time later, we walked farther through a brief rain shower, past Snack Matira restaurant to an area free of coral. A pontoon boat bobbed at anchor in the crystal-clear water while a few other people gathered on the beach or in the water. Mostly, however, people were far and few between. The water slowly turned light turquoise, then azure. Far away, breakers splashed onto the reef, separating the azure waters from the deep blue of the ocean.

We relaxed and floated in the water for perhaps an hour or more, then as we began to get a little chilly, we packed up and walked home. Just after leaving the beach, Fairy’s foot caught on a small rock, and she fell into a stone retaining wall of the defunct resort. It abraded her left shoulder and scuffed the left arm of her bathing top and left a small cut on the index finger.

We regrouped and then made our way back. This time it was a little easier going up the steep hill to Rohotu Fare, carrying much less weight than earlier in the day. We rinsed the swimsuits in the shower then cleaned up for the remainder of the day, to enjoy a little coke and rum, and cheese. 

Unfortunately, we forgot one thing. Nir had been going to take us on a tour of the vegetation around the resort and had waited for us for a time. Later he knocked on our door, but we were on the deck and did not hear. He sent us an email, and aghast at our standing him up for the activity, we rushed over to his home to apologize. He took it in good humor, remarking that we had been to Polynesia so many times were beginning to act Polynesian.

Fairy had brought the book “Bora Bora” in English to show him, and I also had the Tahitian ‘ukulele for Tiare. She squealed with delight at the sight of it and began to lightly strum it and caress it. Obviously the ‘ukulele likes her, and they are fast friends, not to be separated. After a good chat, we made arrangements for tomorrow’s activities and plan on not failing to show again.

Back at the bungalow, Fairy, the master organizer sorted, folded and put the laundry away while I tried to figure out how to repair Nir’s old ukulele made of tou wood. The tuners were too corroded to be useful, the frets were corroded, and it needed new anchor points for the strings below the saddle. I couldn’t do much with it at that time but will try to find some way to work on it during the next visit.

Thursday October 20, 2022

After yesterday’s tardiness, we were sure to be up early enough to meet Nir for the tropical garden tour. I woke up shortly after 5 AM and got a photo of the lagoon and Otemanu in the dawning light. We prepared for the day and were out before 9 AM to wait for Nir. Apparently, the plans had changed during the course of our conversation, and we had missed it. At any rate we got a text from Nir to see what we wanted to do.

We agreed to meet in the library where I was seated playing the ukulele. He appeared shortly, but I had been recording a new riff so I could remember it. He saw me, but not I him, so he waited until I was done. We had a good chuckle afterwards.

Soon he started the tour at the entrance of the compound by the “tree of death.” We thought he was kidding, but it is in fact poisonous, however, it is considered sacred to Polynesians. We determined not to ever put any part of it in our mouth and continued with the tour. I videoed most of the tour, and a wonderful time was had hearing stories about the trees, and about Nir’s various adventures.

The tour was interrupted for a time as a heavy rain shower passed over, but soon we were on our way. By the time we were ready to quit, it was nearly lunch time. Fairy and I returned to our bungalow to spruce up a bit, then returned to Nir’s home where Nave was resting. A short time later Tiare showed up with the lunch from Bloody Mary’s, and we had a delightful dinner of mahi mahi sandwiches and French fries, with delightful conversation.

Nir also showed us his sacred Hindi tree with a statue of Buddha at the main fork in its branches. It was only about 15 years old but had grown very large with room for a treehouse in its upper branches. He said they may live to 1000 years old or more and he has left instructions that it is not to be cut down; even parts of his house are to be modified to accommodate the growth of the tree.

After lunch we returned and started packing for our departure to Tahiti for our final few days in French Polynesia. Fairy spotted spectacular clouds spewing showers over Vaitape, so we stopped for to admire and photograph the scene.

We rested in our bungalow after the preliminary packing was completed, and napped for a short time, then went onto the balcony to watch the Bora Bora scenes. The cruise ship slowly departed the lagoon as clouds came and went above it. The sun lowered in the west painting clouds in white, then yellow, then finally pink as the golden ball of fire burnished the horizon before disappearing.

As evening settled in, we got a note from Nir to come over and visit for a while. Nave had been studying but wanted to show us her room. It was nicely finished in brown wood floor and walls with desk, bookcase on one half the room and the large bed in the other. On the inner wall, she had photos posted of her friends and her enjoying life. It was a treasure to see.

Afterwards we sat at the table and the adults had some wine and nuts for a snack. Nir was a wellspring of stories and information, and the visit went on for an hour or two. We discussed his six months stay in Indonesia and how he and his family had managed the separation. He had accommodations with friends that he knew so was very able to adapt to the restricted living. Tiare and Nave were concerned for his wellbeing and especially challenged by the uncertainty of how long things might last.

They managed the grounds, but there was no business, of course, and they kept themselves busy. All were relieved to be reunited after six months of separation.

One of the more remarkable stories was of Nir and friend discovering a Buddha statute that had been discarded as fill for a wall by Muslim people who had acquired the property. They had no use for “idols” and had cast it away. After questioning some who had actually worked on the wall and seen the statue, Nir and friend did exploratory trenches for two days and finally struck the rock. He had it transported to his container of supplies for Rohotu Fare and will have it shipped here soon.

Too soon, we had to return to our bungalow for a night’s sleep in anticipation of our return to Tahiti for our final days in French Polynesia. As we departed, Nave said that she certainly hoped she would see us again and we reassured her that we certainly would if at all possible. We will miss them and this place greatly. 

Friday, October 21, 2022

The day began in the usual fashion with morning twilight brightening through our curtains and windows and luring us out to the balcony at Rohotu Fare. However, today we had to finish packing so we would be ready to depart at 10 AM to make the ferry to the airport. 

When the packing was competed, we spent the final hour and a half looking over the lagoon. Kingfishers, a hawk, and a couple of doves flitted by as if wishing us well. All too soon It was time and Nir took us to the ferry dock where he waited until we departed and then returned for his day’s work. He and his family had treated us royally and we are eternally grateful for their friendship.

The ferry landed at the docks by the airport, and we walked under the shelter of the open-air building. When time to board, Fairy struck up a conversation with a black couple in front of us, who were on their honeymoon. She was from Italy and he from the United States. He was an officer in the air force working with NATO and certainly had a bearing of leadership and purpose, and I was grateful to see people with such qualities guarding our nation.

The plane was nearly full, and some couples had to be split up to accommodate everyone, but it was done in good order, and soon we were in the air. The turquoise and blues of the lagoon encircled the island where Otemanu lay with its head in the clouds. It was as if it was consulting the gods and had little time to concern itself with tourists.

The flight continued through the open Pacific as we passed by Taha’a, Raiatea, and then the small island of Maiao. Clouds cast shadows as we continued to our destination. Mo’orea appeared and we could see the familiar mountains and valleys including the Afareaitu valley. I felt a cold chill as I recalled the near tragedy that happened there, and a thankfulness for the narrow escape.

Farther along the island the Sofitel Hotel, where Emily and Jon had spent three nights came into view. From there, the airplane lined up with the runway at Fa’a’a, in and out of clouds, and we landed in a misty rain. It took little time to gather our luggage, for ours was among the first offloaded from the plane. We found restrooms and I called EcoCars for an airport pickup.

They were there promptly, and a very nice fellow checked us in and went over the car with us. We asked about how to get to Le Tahiti resort and he pointed at the road and said turn right. I had looked at Google Map and “R1” was the road he had pointed to. Somewhere along the line it joined “R2” and that would take us to the hotel. However, none of the roads were marked and at one point we inadvertently got into the right turn lane, and we were forced to turn and leave the main route.

With a little patience we got back to the main route and went right by the Tahiti Nui Hotel that we had stayed at during our first night here. The road seemed to make sense and at a roundabout we saw a sign to “Arue” which was near our hotel, so we turned that way and were on “R2” which we had been looking for. 

The familiar resort appeared at a roundabout that I remembered from our first visit here in 2016. We checked in and were led to our room by a nice Tahitian fellow, and then I found a place for our rental car in the parking garage. Communication was a challenge, and there were no signs pointing to the garage, but I followed the pointing in the general direction, found it and all worked out.

We visited with Jon and Emily for a bit and then went down to the bar for some drinks and tapas. We were all starving. We had some delightful food and drink, and the server was very kind. Afterwards the rest of the group went to the hotel shops. I followed for a while, but was very tired, so went to the room for a short nap. 

After I woke up, I texted Fairy to see where she had gone. No response. I went on the balcony, and there two rooms away, I saw familiar sets of hands augmenting what imagined to be a lively conversation, so I went down and knocked on Jon and Emily’s door. No response. Next, I went back to my balcony and tried shouting to them. Again, no response—is there getting to be a pattern here?

Finally, I called their room telephone and to my surprise someone answered. At last, response. I joined them in their room and balcony for a time, then Fairy and I returned to our room to settle in for the evening.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Yota showed up right on time at the hotel with a nice white van that was very comfortable to ride in. It was so nice to see him again after three years. We renewed acquaintances and then proceeded with the day long, around the island tour.

Our first stop was at Venus Point where several notable historical events took place. Captain Cook led an expedition here to try to get precise timings of the transit of Venus in an attempt to establish latitude. Timing of the various “contacts” of Venus as it transited the globe of the Sun required single second precision. However, diffraction of light created a “tear drop” effect where the margins of Venus and the Sun seemed to reach out to touch each other limited the accuracy to about a minute, which was far too imprecise to establish the latitude. His techniques were correct, however, properties of light made the observations impossible, so the mission was a failure in that regard.

Another notable was Captain Bligh on the Bounty with the mission of obtaining breadfruit to be taken to Jamaica as a cheap food for slaves. The story of the mutiny of some crew members, and the survival the loyal sailors in an open longboat over 3000 miles of ocean are epic. 

We spent a comfortable amount of time there with Yota filling in details and allowing plenty of time for photos, and to read plaques on the various displays. It was notable the Robert Lewis Stephenson’s father had designed the lighthouse on that point. At one place an arced seat with several back stands of four “fingers” reached upward, summoning blessings of the gods. It is said that to sit there is to gain enlightenment.

We also stopped to admire outrigger canoes and their crews as they prepared for the Polynesian “Super Bowl” that is the Hawaiki Nui Va’a, an outrigger canoe race of 129 kilometers in three days from Huahine to Raiatea, Taha’a, and ending in Bora Bora. Teams of 6 people train for years to become a part of it and the winners become Polynesian celebrities, well earned.

Next, we stopped at a pleasant roadside attraction with nicely paved walkway around the base of a cliff where waves hitting lava tubes, caused air to rush through crevices. A roaring sound was heard from time to time. This Araholo Blow Hole was not sending up water at this time, but had the surf really been pounding, I could only imagine what might have been.

Two boys teamed up to see the effect of the rush of air on small plant remains. One held the plant fibers until the other signaled, then dropped them over the vent. With a roar, they arose and blew several feet away. All had fun there. A beautiful black sand beach stretched in the opposite direction from the blowhole, with very few people to interrupt the scene.

Next stop we walked along a lovely pathway, across an arched footbridge over a small stream, and a short way through a wooded valley to the falls of Fa’aruma’i. Legend has it that a beautiful island princess was to be given to a man she did not love, chosen by her father. She managed to escape with her lover, who was also a wizard, and he called the water to fall down from the mountain so they could hide and, escape her father’s men who had pursuing them. Behind the falls they continue to live in bliss to this day.

The waters drop 300 feet and on this day were misty and cascaded gracefully down. The cliffs were veneered with vegetation with intermittent gaps where other waters trickled downward. Above, blue skies appeared in the gaps between ridges and trees. For a moment several tropicbirds circled the area then gracefully glided away. 

For lunch we stopped at Le Manoa near Tahiti Iti, where our light lunch turned into an amazing meal. Then we continued the south side of Tahiti Iti along native homes, lush valleys, across streams from the mountains to the end of the road at Teahupo’o. A foot bridge crosses the river at the end of the road, and eels and fish were seen in its cool, lazy waters.

The most dangerous surfing site in the world is just offshore, and the 2024 Olympics, hosted by France, will hold its surfing championship here. We paused to have our photos taken by the surfing monument.

Once back on Tahiti Nui, we stopped at a roadside parking area with a stonework wall where four pipes poured water that had percolated from the mountains above. We filled our water bottles here with delicious cool water, while locals filled up multiple containers for domestic use. Very interesting and ingenious way to provide pure water.

Next, we stopped at the Mara’a Grotto where a 300-foot-long cave with a huge opening gaped at the base of the dark lava cliff. Water dripped like rain into the water inside as a few fish swam here and there.

Our last stop was at the large, reconstructed marae near Paea. Tikis guarded the entrance of the stone platforms. At the upper end a large, stepped, stone structure arose about 45 feet above the terrain. It had been reconstructed to resemble the original farther up the valley, using the same stones. They were were used for societal purposes and were considered sacred.

We then returned with a brief stop at the rental car dealer near the airport so Jon could get his license approved as a driver. Then Yota dropped us off at the hotel and we cleaned up for dinner.

Jon drove us back to Papeete and after a little searching we found an acceptable parking lot not far from the L’O a la Bouche restaurant where we joined Yota and his companion Aiko. We had a lovely, French style dinner at a leisurely pace with plenty of conversation. We agreed to meet at the city market in the morning for Tahitian donuts and coffee.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

We arose early to get to the market by 7 am. It had been open since 4 am, but closed at 9 am, so time was limited. We found Yota and Aiko along with their dog Hime at the Cafe Roti. We enjoyed the figure eight shaped donuts with coffee or hot chocolate and had a nice visit. 

I got up to take a group photo and a lady named Florence offered to photograph all of us. She had an intelligent and graceful bearing, and we learned that she had been in Tahiti for a year teaching English to French speaking students. She was from France but had also been a language teacher in Shanghai as well.

We went back to the market for some further purchases, then said our goodbyes to Yota, Aiko, and Hime. Then we returned to the hotel to rest, do preliminary packing, and hang out. In the evening we went in search of the food trucks. We passed a few by the hospital on the way to Papeete. The old site of the food trucks downtown, was now a construction site and we failed to locate any other sites, so returned to the one by the hospital.

At the first food truck, a helpful gentleman showed us the menu and offered to take orders. We told him we were just looking at that point, and he wished us well. The next one looked ok but had a limited menu and a third was quite plain and had no people at its tables. We also checked out the pizza truck at the end but decided we could get all the pizza we wanted in the US.

We returned to the first truck where the helpful gentleman smiled as he showed us to our table. Three of us had chow mien, while Jon had the ribs. The plates were very large, and we should have split some of it in retrospect. We enjoyed the meals and the scenery and setting. 

We then returned to our hotel where we said our goodbyes. Jon and Emily were to leave at 4 AM, but we would not be leaving until nearly midnight on the 24th. They would be heading home while we would spend our time at just a couple other sites before turning in the car and awaiting our flight home. 

Monday, October, 24, 2022

Jon and Emily left at 4 AM, long before we arose, so once again we were alone in paradise. We showered and dressed in a leisurely manner, then went down for our complimentary breakfast. On return, we packed then lounged, rested and otherwise occupied our room until a little after 10 AM. Check out was simple and soon we were on our way to the James Norman Hall Museum, or so we thought.

The parking lot for the museum was empty which raised a small alarm. After carefully crossing the street, we arrived at the ticket office to see “closed.” Online sources had declared it open, but Frommers from 10 years ago said no. Again, Frommers was right.

We hustled across the street to parking, and then headed to the market. Just past Tahiti Nui Hotel, we turned left and parked in the very first parking space on the right side of the street. We had to ask where to buy a parking ticket, which we did and put inside the car, so it was plainly visible in the windshield. 

Then we proceeded to the market and did our usual browsing. We had a good time looking and visiting with the attendants, but none had the specific sort of shirt we were looking for to get for Andrew. A few trips up and down the local streets led us to a store run by a Chinese couple. We explained what we were looking for, and viola, there it was on a rack. We paid for the shirt and commented on our good, prompt luck and then tried to find our way back to the car.

Downtown Papeete has three cardinal directions, this way, that way and some other way. They are interchangeable. Fortunately, Fairy spotted the Hotel Tahiti Nui, and she quickly spotted the car though I was certain it should be another street over.

We had wanted to go to the Polynesian Museum, but like the James Norman Hall Museum, it was closed also. Instead, we returned towards our hotel but went a little farther to the Belvedere Tahiti and enjoyed resting there for a couple of hours. A brief rain squall sent us out of our “shelter” to the lee of a large banyan tree that blocked the blowing rain but allowed a few drops overhead. I played ukulele for a while including the song “Margarita” by Iz.

Finally, the squall blew over and we returned to see our seat in the sheltered area to be wet from windblown rain. Fairy tried drying it, but it was also dirty, so I went to the car, got the window shade out and we sat on that for the remaining duration of our stay. 

The view was interesting, but Mo’orea was shrouded in fluffy dark and growing clouds. After a while it became apparent that further squalls may be coming so we departed before we could be rained on again at the Belvedere. We stopped at Le Pearl resort to turn in a survey and use the restroom, then headed to the airport. 

Heavy traffic slowed our progress, but we had lots of time. I found the signs to the airport at Faa’a, and we turned onto the road. Sure enough, after a period of time, we found our Ecocar rental and had it safely returned. A kind lady checked us out and then drove us the short distance to the airport. 

Once at the airport, we found L’Aviation restaurant and settled down to a bottle of Chardonnay and a pizza. The service and food were delightful, and we spent nearly two hours in the air-conditioned area. Rain pelted the roof at times, and we were glad that we were already in the airport facility. We had crème brûlée for dessert and then left to wait until time to check in which was still about two and a half hours later. Then there was three hours until departure. Not only did we learn to appreciate Polynesian culture, but we also practiced Polynesian patience since there was no other option.