Mystery Tour of The Bay of Islands

 

November 12th 2016

We had all decided to take a day to explore, Paul and Trish wanted to do a mystery tour, meaning you take turns to decide at each junction which way to go, left or right. No maps just drive in whatever direction takes your fancy and see where you end up. This is not how Bob usually does things, he likes to be organized, have a plan and use a map. However, we convinced him this would be fun and he eventually agreed, not really having much choice, it was three against one.

We had planned an early start with the idea being to find somewhere for breakfast. We headed out at 9am (this is an early start for Paul!) from Opua. Following the process of random turns we ended up at the Kawakawa Cemetery, which was situated on the top of a hill with the most glorious green countryside on all sides, absolutely beautiful.

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From Kawakawa we took a side road/gravel track up over the top of the hills, we climbed higher and higher with the views all around becoming gradually more and more spectacular. With absolutely no idea where we were going yet throughly enjoying the drive we just carried on. The scenery was reminiscent of the most glorious English countryside, emerald green, with cattle and sheep grazing freely in all the fields. After about an hour the gravel track eventually brought us back down onto a more major road which led to Hukerenui, where we discovered the “Jack Morgan Museum”.

 

This wonderful museum shows the pioneering spirit and ingenious transitions from etching a living gum digging, bush felling, farming and mining through to the main industry that prevails today – pastoral farming. They also had a wonderful display of quilting from two local ladies, it reminded me a little of Tennessee.

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Following “Pigs Head Road” we arrived at one of the original settlements, the tiny old sheep-shearing town of Opuawhanga, where we stopped at a little cafe for a late breakfast of coffee and pastries. The little town with just a handful of stores gives you a feeling of stepping back in time.

For the rest of the day we drove around following mostly the coast road looking for a restaurant to stop for lunch. The drive was spectacular with absolutely breathtaking scenery, but no restaurants! We came across the Ruapekapekan Pa battlefield, where we got out to walk around and read the history of the area. But by now we were all starting to feel more than a little peckish, so determined a restaurant had to be our next stop, easier said than done in these parts! We spotted a sign for the Paroa Bay Winery, well we had to stop and visit that, no matter how hungry we were. Having tasted and bought some of the wine we set off once again.

Still unable to find any restaurants or cafe’s, a new plan was discussed, the time was going on so we decided to go to Russell, a quaint seaside resort town where there would obviously be restaurants and we could take the ferry back to Opua.

We arrived in Russell just after five, which was a little too early for dinner and too late for lunch, so we stopped at the Marlborough Tavern for a drink before going on to “The Gables” at six, for dinner. This turned out to be a good decision, the restaurant was fabulous, right on the sea-front with lovely views over the water, the food was absolutely superb and the service, friendly and efficient.

The return to Opua was fast, just ten minutes, and we were the only car on the ferry. Home for an early night. Tomorrow we go shopping in Kerikeri.

Nightmare (Attempted) Trip to Fatu-Hiva

(this post is out of sequence, posted late, apologies)

April – May 2016

Our two months in Nuku Hiva, Marquises Islands were spent between the main bay of Taiohae (which we nicknamed T-Bay) and Anaho Bay, located on the north end of the island. This hadn’t exactly been in keeping with our initial plan of visiting as many of the islands in the Marquises as possible, but, as in all things boat related, plans change.
Both Bob and I had really wanted to visit the island of Fatu-Hiva which is the island furthest east and the first island you pass as you enter the Marquises coming from the east. Sadly, Futu-Hiva does not have a customs office so you are not allowed to stop there, you have to go to Hiva-Oa or Nuku-Hiva, to check in, both are west of Fatu-Hiva. Hiva-Oa being the closest, but as you may recall from my earlier post, we were unable to launch our dinghy in Hiva-Oa so we had to travel on to Nuku-Hiva. The island of Fatu-Hiva is not a comfortable sail in that direction for a shoal draft like Daisy, we would need very favorable wind conditions to make the sail possible (and safe) but we were optimistic of finding the opportunity..

Once Paul and Trish returned to their boat “Babe” from their month in Australia, plans were made to travel around the Marquises islands together. One sunny afternoon we both set off from T-bay for Fatu-Hiva, with the intention of arriving the next morning in good light. The weather looked to be, if not favorable, at least doable! Unfortunately, Daisy does not do well at 45 degrees so when five hours into the journey the wind changed and we hit squall after squall with 35 -37 knot consistent winds, things were not good, we were against wind and current in a raging storm in the dark. We were rolling around and crashing through the waves in the most uncomfortable fashion. Paul and Bob were in constant contact over the VHF, Babe was about two miles ahead of us and Paul had already called to say he and Trish were concerned about the conditions. I stuck it out as best I could because I really wanted to see Fatu-Hiva, but as the conditions deteriorated and we were suddenly engulfed in an enormous wave, I became so anxious I had a panic attack and vomited all over the deck! This was the turning point, Bob immediately made the decision to turn back and Paul agreed without question. We were already five hours into the journey but not even one third of the way to Fatu-Hiva, the most sensible decision was to turn around and return to T-Bay. At this point we were very close to Ua-Pou, Bob and Paul briefly discussed the option of stopping and anchoring there for the night, but Ua-Pou doesn’t have (according to the charts) a safe anchorage to approach in the dark and we had all had enough excitement for one night. Consequently it was just after one in the morning when we both arrived back into T- bay in total darkness. by this time we had come to know the bay well, and having only left that afternoon our anchorage was still open. I stood on the fore deck with the flashlight, lighting the path through all the boats for Bob. Once safely anchored, I quickly fell into bed for a deep exhausted sleep.
The next morning we all agreed to sail around to Anaho Bay to wait for more favorable conditions before heading out again. This was to be Bob’s and my third visit here, a bay which we were both falling in love with. I was more than happy to be going back.

The sail around was lovely with good wind. We passed school after school of Dolphins and even followed a group of Melon head whales out to sea for a while, Paul and Trish thought we had changed our minds and were heading out for Futa-Hiva without them! We simply couldn’t resist following these magnificent creatures. The Melon heads swam with us for about twenty minutes before we turned around and headed into the bay.
During our stay in Anaho, we checked the weather daily for favorable conditions to once again head out to Futa-Hiva, but they didn’t present themselves, at least not favorable enough to tempt us out again. We spent our time snorkeling, enjoying sunset walks along the beach, low tide walks along the reef in the morning watching the sharks and stingrays, we got plenty of jobs completed aboard, and had fun evenings on Babe and Daisy taking turns to do dinner and playing Rumikube.
After a wonderful fun week in the bay, Babe set off once again this time alone for Futa-Hiva, we loved where we were and decided to stay, agreeing to meet up with them in T-bay a week later. I was disappointed not to see Faut-Hiva, but I was so happy at Anaho I really didn’t mind.

We made some new friends on the yacht “Laos” Johnny and Debs, and had two fun cocktail evenings with them. Johnny is the absolute double of Anthony Hopkins, and meeting him was surreal, I met Anthony Hopkins about twenty years ago, and meeting Johnny was like meeting Anthony all over again. Fortunately Johnny’s personality was “Bill Parish” (Meet Joe Black), not “Hannibal Lectur”, (Sleeping with the Lambs).
I really hope we catch up with them again in the Tuomotos, they too are on their way to New Zealand for the end of the year.

This is such a great life for meeting fabulous people from all over…

New Zealand, We Have Arrived

 

Since I was eleven years old I’ve dreamed of New Zealand, the one place on earth I’ve really wanted to visit, maybe even live!

Today, Sunday 12th November 2016, at 2;30pm, New Zealand appeared on the horizon, the seas calmed, the wind picked up, and we headed towards her all sails fully up and Daisy proudly taking us safely in under clear blue skies. It is freezing cold, perhaps not as cold as Amelie and Bubbles in the Antartic, but compared to French Polynesia it’s cold.
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As I write this we are still a few hours away from the marina which will be our new home for a few months. I’m filled with excitement, (and relief) the passage is behind us, and a New Zealand adventure is ahead. I still can’t believe I made this passage without losing my mind, it was without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m so incredibly grateful to my amazing crew Ben and Dulce, I really couldn’t have maintained my sanity without these two amazing people, and of course Captain Bob always in control, and the most professional captain I have ever met.

As we sailed gracefully down through the Bay of Islands, I opened a bottle of champagne and made Dulce and I a Kir-Royal, and Gin and tonic’s for Bob and Ben and we all celebrated our arrival.

The New Zealand Passage “from Hell”

 

I always knew the passage to New Zealand was going to be bad, as so many cruisers had been keen to share tales of horror on this particular passage, which is why I refused to do the passage without crew. And Hell Yeah, It certainly lived up to its reputation of being rough, providing my hamster like imagination with ample opportunity for marathon sessions on it’s crazy spinning wheel.

The first night out was something of a ‘baptism of fire’! As Bob and Ben did triple shifts throughout the night to steer us around and away from the lightening storms and heavy squalls that chased and surrounded us from dusk till dawn. This was only a gentle introduction as to what we had ahead of us.

The fourth night out had us skimming along at 8 knots, heeled over with the toerail in the water and Daisy leaping up and down over the huge waves, I was unable to move about the boat at all without falling or crashing into something, forget about preparing meals, so I spent the best part of 36 hours in bed – praying…

With 60+ knot gusts recorded three times in the night, and consistent 40+ knots all through the night on our eighth night at sea, Daisy skimmed sideways through the enormous angry seas, being swallowed up and puked out by the ocean over and over again. Watertight hatches and portholes were put to the test to within an inch of their lives. Bob and Ben were on deck, both drenched through to the skin from the freezing water, as they fought to control sails and lines while the waves swamped and flooded the cockpit.

Around 1pm, I heard Trish calling on the vhf, she kept calling and calling, I was waiting for Bob or Ben to answer when I suddenly realized they probably couldn’t hear with all the noise up on deck, from my hiding place under the covers I made a dash for the nav station and grabbed the vhf to answer her. Babe was sailing close by and needed to change course which would mean they would cross in front of Daisy. I relayed the message to Bob through the partially opened hatch, and then grabbed a shot of whisky from the liquor cabinet for a little Dutch courage, while I manned the vhf for an hour. As soon as Babe had adjusted her course in front of us and we were both back on the right course again, I went dashing back to the bedroom, diving under the covers. Sadly, this wasn’t an uneventful dash as a wave hit us as I entered the galley and I was suddenly lifted into the air and hurled across the boat, my flight through the air was only interrupted by a collision with the bedroom door. Oh yet more bruises…

As usual during rough weather I spent most of the storm in bed under the covers, lee cloth up, cowering like the nervous ninny I am. I wouldn’t have been of any use to anyone anyway, with both my bravado and my sense of adventure having packed their suitcases, jumped ship, and headed back to Tahiti for a well deserved vacation, leaving me a totally useless basket case.

Twelve hours of absolutely, terrifying, freezing living hell. Enormous rogue waves smashed into the side of Daisy, making the entire boat shudder violently, each time it felt and sounded as though we had collided with a tanker. This passage was much worse than anything I had been prepared for, I couldn’t help wondering whether we would ever survive it.

Bob listens in to the net every morning, as there are several boats navigating the same course as us, its a way we all stay in touch with each other. Since that horrible night two of the boats have been out of contact, no one has been able to get through to them, I only pray they are OK.
Two days later we heard one of the boats was just sixty miles behind us. I’m waiting on news of the other one.

This passage is the scariest thing I’ve ever lived through, I will absolutely NOT ever be doing it again!. Neptune what did I ever do to you to bring your wrath down upon us, although we survived “Thank you” so maybe you were taking care of us after all…

The Sea-Saw Effect !

On a passage one has lots of time to think and daydream, resurrect memories and past experiences both good and bad that take you hurtling back to your past. Anyone who knows me will be fully aware that I have a memory like a sieve; most of the time I barely remember what happened last week let alone years ago, but then this morning while bouncing around my galley desperately trying to keep my balance while attempting to make a cup of tea I suddenly remembered my childhood sea-saw. Growing up before the age of computers, video games and such, my childhood was spent enjoying mostly outdoor activities, and the sea-saw my Dad made for me was one of my favorite things. Why am I talking about a sea-saw? Read on…

I love my life style, with one exception, the actual sailing, getting from one place to another. For me its the most uncomfortable and sometimes terrifying part of the whole cruising life. If I could just fly from port to port, live on the boat enjoy all that goes with that and then fly on to the next place to meet the boat I would be a happy bunny. Everyone I meet is always so envious of the way I live, the response I get from anyone I tell that I live on a yacht is always the same, “Oh that’s awesome, I’m so jealous”. My response is always “yes it is, SOME of the time”. The creation of the ‘hamster on a spinning wheel’, otherwise fondly known as ‘my over active imagination was created through sailing’.

Thankfully (for me), the sailing part is actually the smallest part of living on a yacht, and possibly, because its the smallest part, is the reason I’m still on it. We spend days, occasionally weeks at sea ‘getting there’, wherever ‘there’ might be, and then weeks or months at that location, thats the part that I love.

Hard as I try I’m unable to understand why anyone loves to sail, maybe for short trips to watch whales or dolphins I could understand, but to actually love being at sea for long periods of time is a concept I will never grasp. Bob is constantly telling me to stop worrying about the motion of the boat, just accept it and go with it, which always seems like a daft thing to say to me, particularly since I went with it this morning (several times), as I slid off the loo and nose dived into the shower, then later fell out of the shower as the boat lurched forward and sideways at the same time. Last night (having forgotten to put the lee cloth up) I rolled straight out of bed landing in a crumpled heap on the floor wedged between the bed and the sofa. While attempting to get breakfast I opened the fridge, and half the contents fell out with a large jar of pickles landing squarely on my big toe. “Going with it” just doesn’t seem to work well for me.

Attempting to safely maneuver around the boat while it’s bouncing up and down over huge waves and heeled over so far the toe-rail is in the water, takes all my energy. I spend most of my time laying down because its the only time I’m remotely comfortable or safe from injury!

To make a landlubber understand my perspective on the whole sailing thing is difficult, I really don’t think that someone who’s never been on a sail boat would have the smallest clue what its actually like.

This morning as I lay sideways across the bed having wedged myself between the sofa and the bedside cupboard, in a vain attempt to actually stay in the bed, (having still not put the lee cloth up) I thought again of the sea-saw.

For those of you much younger than myself, you may not know what a sea saw is; today it’s been replaced by Game Boy, Nintendo and a number of other electronic hand held, brain numbing devices. A sea-saw is basically a long plank of wood placed over a barrel, two or three children can play on it at any one time, one sits at either end to make it go up and down, if there are three of you, one is nominated as “Piggy-in-the-middle (short straw, usually me) who then stands or sits in the middle, with the object being not to get thrown off by the two on the ends crazily bouncing up and down like a couple of rabbits on steroids. You get the picture!

Anyway with that in mind, now replace the barrel with a large yoga ball, so that the sea-saw not only bounces up and down with some force but at the same time tips sideways, if you can imagine this, it reasonably replicates the constant movement one endures 24/7, day in, day out when under sail…

Now imagine doing simple everyday tasks like getting dressed, making a bed or preparing a meal, while trying to maintain your balance on the yoga ball sea-saw. This is pretty much life at sea, and will explain all the bruises! I really should have had more practice as “Piggy-in-the-middle”!

Niue, Day Out, Contd…

 

Matura Chasm at Hikutavake was just spectacular, the short walk down through the butterfly filled forest lead us into a chasm and out to a deep narrow rock pool between two towering cliffs of coral and limestone. The crystal clear water reflected the colors blue and turquoise of the sky above.

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The water looked so tempting but was quite cold, both Bob and Paul got in and swam to the end of the chasm leading out to the ocean beyond, although were not able to pass the rocks leading out into the ocean. Trish and I stayed back in the shade of the cliffs and just paddled in the rock pools. Back at the car a little later, Bob and Paul used the freshwater showers to freshen up and rid themselves of the salt water, while I pulled a chilled bottle of lovely white wine from the cooler (that I had packed, just in case!) and we sat under the shade of the trees at a picnic bench and enjoying the wine while watching the butterflies.

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It was approaching lunchtime and Trish and I had already decided that we were going to the Scenic resort for lunch. It was just a 15-20 minute drive back. When we arrived the resort was undergoing some expansion and renovation, but were still open for business so we took a table overlooking the pool deck and the ocean far below. The scenery was once again spectacular and we all marveled again at how lucky we are to be living this very spoilt life.

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We ordered fish and chips (always true to our English heritage) for lunch, with another couple of bottles of wine. The wine was lovely and the fish and chips the best I’ve had since leaving England.

Crazy Babe Gang :) Crazy Babe Gang :)

The rest of the afternoon and early evening was spent lounging around the hotel pool chatting to a couple of the guests and siping cocktails. Neither Trish nor I wanted to leave and considered booking a couple of rooms for the night. However Daisy and Babe were calling, we needed to get back and take care of boat stuff!

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Niue is not an easy destination, you can only get there by private yacht, or a flight, twice a week in season, once a week, out of season, from Auckland, New Zealand. Niue has only one resort (Scenic), and the small town of Alofi has a supermarket, Indian restaurant (excellent), ice cream shop, yacht club, bank, post office, tourist office and other small shops and gift stores. You are able to rent a car and its worth doing because this tiny island has so much to offer.

Sadly, we were only here for four days as we needed to head off to Tonga and then New Zealand ahead of Cyclone season which starts in November. However, we were all so impressed with the tiny nation of Niue, we all plan to come back next year and spend at least a few weeks in this special place.

Niue, An Amazing Island

 

Prior to leaving Tahiti, Niue was an Island I had never heard of. Although the glowing reports that had filtered through from other cruisers who had previously stopped there on their way to New Zealand, said that Niue was an Island not to be missed.
1,100 nautical miles west of Bora Bora, and 600 miles from Rarotonga, Niue, affectionately known as “the Rock” is composed of coral limestone, the largest single coral formation in the world. The interior is the remains of a lagoon, flat and now heavily forested. There is no surrounding lagoon only a brief skirt of limestone reef protecting the Island.
On land the coral has produced many caves, caverns and arches. There are no rivers or streams, so the rainwater filters through the coral and passes into the sea completely devoid of any sediment. This means the surrounding ocean is crystal clear, with visibility often up to as much as 230’.

Parrot Fish Parrot Fish

We were absolutely astounded by the clarity of the water. Paul took his snorkeling gear to check their mooring line, and could clearly see the ocean bed, almost 200’ below their boat.
Both ‘Crazy Daisy’ and ‘Babe’ were on moorings off the main town of Alofi. Anchoring is difficult here and best avoided not only because of the depth but the seabed topography, anchors can easily get lodged in rock fissures. Moorings have been placed off the town for visiting yachts.

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The day we arrived (Sunday 23rd October), we were picking up our mooring when a large turtle swam along side welcoming us to Niue, this was followed by a couple of butterflies, we were later to discover Niue is an Island full of butterflies. Our next treat was to see a humpback whale and calf swimming just behind Babe. It’s rather late in the year for the humpbacks to still be in these waters so we were really lucky to see this one with her calf.

Humpback Whale with calf, calf's fin just visible behind Mother Humpback Whale with calf, calf’s fin just visible behind Mother

Taking the dinghy ashore proved to be a real adventure! As there is no dinghy dock, shelter or beach landing, small craft and dinghies have to be lifted at the concrete wharf by crane and placed in allotted parking spaces. For most dinghy’s this isn’t a problem, but our “Whoops-a-Daisy” is very heavy, between the steering, large engine and seating, she is about three or four times the weight of most dinghies. Bob had already prepared a sturdy lifting bridle for the purpose of lifting her out, but my heart was in my mouth as I watched him and Paul operating the crane lifting Whoops-a-Daisy out of the sea and onto the land, also, some bright spark had run off with the trolly for moving the dinghies, and even with six of us we barely managed to manhandle her out of the way ready for the next dinghy to arrive.

Dinghy crane in action! Dinghy crane in action!

Both Sunday and Monday were church holidays here so just about everywhere was closed, but on Tuesday we rented a car and set off around the Island to explore.
Our first stop along the road was at Peniamina’s Burial site, he was the Niuean who introduced Christianity to Niue. The burial site was elaborate and beautifully decorated with colorful floral arrangements.
We then moved on to the Avaiki Cave in Makefu. This was really spectacular, the site of Niue Ancestor Kings private bathing cave, also the site of the first canoe landing. The word that comes to mind here is “WOW”. It was stunningly beautiful with all the colors of the water and the coral rocks and stalagmites. A couple of local children were swimming in the pool and leaping from cliff ledges high up in the cave, dropping like stones into the clear water of the pool below, for once I was glad Ed was not with us, as he would have been doing the same and giving me heart failure. Paul ventured to dip his foot into the water, it was apparently quite cold!

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After taking many photographs, and having left our swimming gear in the car, we climbed back up the steep path to the car, to move on to our next planned stop, Limu Pools at Namukulu. This time we took our swim gear with us. The water was quite cold at first but warmed at different locations throughout the pools, the setting was breathtakingly beautiful, and it was refreshing to take a cooling swim through the pristine clear water.

Matapa Chasm at Hikutavake was our next stop. The walk down to the water was through a rainforest filled with a magical cloud of butterflies, they were everywhere.

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Niue, An Amazing Island

 

Prior to leaving Tahiti, Niue was an Island I had never heard of. Although the glowing reports that had filtered through from other cruisers who had previously stopped there on their way to New Zealand, said that Niue was an Island not to be missed.
1,100 nautical miles west of Bora Bora, and 600 miles from Rarotonga, Niue, affectionately known as “the Rock” is composed of coral limestone, the largest single coral formation in the world. The interior is the remains of a lagoon, flat and now heavily forested. There is no surrounding lagoon only a brief skirt of limestone reef protecting the Island.
On land the coral has produced many caves, caverns and arches. There are no rivers or streams, so the rainwater filters through the coral and passes into the sea completely devoid of any sediment. This means the surrounding ocean is crystal clear, with visibility often up to as much as 230’.

We were absolutely astounded by the clarity of the water. Paul took his snorkeling gear to check their mooring line, and could clearly see the ocean bed, almost 200’ below their boat.
Both ‘Crazy Daisy’ and ‘Babe’ were on moorings off the main town of Alofi. Anchoring is difficult here and best avoided not only because of the depth but the seabed topography, anchors can easily get lodged in rock fissures. Moorings have been placed off the town for visiting yachts.

The day we arrived (Sunday 23rd October), we were picking up our mooring when a large turtle swam along side welcoming us to Niue, this was followed by a couple of butterflies, we were later to discover Niue is an Island full of butterflies. Our next treat was to see a humpback whale and calf swimming just behind Babe. It’s rather late in the year for the humpbacks to still be in these waters so we were really lucky to see this one with her calf.

Taking the dinghy ashore proved to be a real adventure! As there is no dinghy dock, shelter or beach landing, small craft and dinghies have to be lifted at the concrete wharf by crane and placed in allotted parking spaces. For most dinghy’s this isn’t a problem, but our “Whoops-a-Daisy” is very heavy, between the steering, large engine and seating, she is about three or four times the weight of most dinghies. Bob had already prepared a sturdy lifting bridle for the purpose of lifting her out, but my heart was in my mouth as I watched him and Paul operating the crane lifting Whoops-a-Daisy out of the sea and onto the land, also, some bright spark had run off with the trolly for moving the dinghies, and even with six of us we barely managed to manhandle her out of the way ready for the next dinghy to arrive.

Both Sunday and Monday were church holidays here so just about everywhere was closed, but on Tuesday we rented a car and set off around the Island to explore.
Our first stop along the road was at Peniamina’s Burial site, he was the Niuean who introduced Christianity to Niue. The burial site was elaborate and beautifully decorated with colorful floral arrangements.
We then moved on to the Avaiki Cave in Makefu. This was really spectacular, the site of Niue Ancestor Kings private bathing cave, also the site of the first canoe landing. The word that comes to mind here is “WOW”. It was stunningly beautiful with all the colors of the water and the coral rocks and stalagmites. A couple of local children were swimming in the pool and leaping from cliff ledges high up in the cave, dropping like stones into the clear water of the pool below, for once I was glad Ed was not with us, as he would have been doing the same and giving me heart failure. Paul ventured to dip his foot into the water, it was apparently quite cold! After taking many photographs, and having left our swimming gear in the car, we climbed back up the steep path to the car, to move on to our next planned stop, Limu Pools at Namukulu. This time we took our swim gear with us. The water was quite cold at first but warmed at different locations throughout the pools, the setting was breathtakingly beautiful, and it was refreshing to take a cooling swim through the pristine clear water.

Matapa Chasm at Hikutavake was our next stop. The walk down to the water was through a rainforest filled with a magical cloud of butterflies, they were everywhere.

 

More later, with photographs, sadly Niue does not have the bandwidth to load photos, so I’ll do that in Tonga…  Watch this space.

Day Out in Huahine

 

The Secluded Island

 

This tropical, lush and scarcely developed little island is actually two islands; joined by a bridge. Huahine Nui (big Huahine), to the north, and Huahine Iti (Little huahine) to the south.

Huahine Nui is home to the bustling little village of Fare, with most of the tourist and administrative facilities, including a brilliantly stocked supermarket, bank, gift shops, restaurants, medical clinic and pharmacy. The village of Fare is a sleepy little south-seas port where you will feel as though you have stepped back in time, although you may be pleasantly surprised to find much more than you expected.

We had anchored in Haavai bay and taken the dinghy ashore to arrange to rent a car. The Avis car hire was just a few minutes walk from the dock. A small building alongside one of the two the local gas stations in Fare and I think on the island. The lovely lady, who ran the office, was so friendly and helpful, (Avis should send their staff here to learn something about customer service).

We arranged to pick the car up at 8am the following morning and then did a quick shop in the supermarket. We were completely taken aback by the size of the store and the supplies available. Normally on an isolated little island like this there would only be a small store with very limited provisions, and little to no fresh produce. The supermarket here offers everything and then some!

The following morning we packed cameras, beachwear, towels, drinks, suntan lotion etc, etc, etc and off we set.

We headed out from Fare on the one road around the island. Our first stop was at a palm fringed, long white sand beach, with Incredible views out over the lagoon, to the breathtaking mountains on the island of Raiatea. The azure blue water looked so tempting, it was hard to resist grabbing our swim wear and just diving in, but we were keen to continue our drive and see as much of the island as we could. We walked a little along the beach and took some photographs before continuing our exploration of the Island.

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Next we arrived at a “marae” which is the stone monuments remaining from the sites where the early Polynesian Spiritual Leaders and Chieftains established themselves and their tribal settlements. The ancient site had been immaculately restored with a large ‘Fare Potee’, a replica of an open traditional house built on the site and used as a museum. It was cool inside as we walked around viewing the ancient artefacts and reading about the fascinating history of the site and the island.

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When Bob was in Huahini three years ago on the world rally with Ed, they had discovered a lovely beach for snorkelling next to a hotel on the north end of the island. While we were driving around (off the beaten track) the little sand roads searching for an art gallery that I had heard about, we accidently came across the secluded beach. The hotel was closed and appeared sadly abandoned; it was such a shame to see it neglected and overgrown, in what was such an idyllic location; the beach was spectacular, but it was well hidden, probably too big of an Island secret to attract enough guests to keep it as a going concern.

We eventually found the art gallery, a little thatched hut that boasted a studio and gallery in one. The artist showed us some of her beautiful work, all her work was of local people and places. I was sorely tempted to buy something; sadly we have no available wall space aboard for hanging paintings. I picked up three fabulous small paintings of local dancers, but with nowhere to hang them I had to resist.

 

Since we arrived in French Polynesia I’ve been trying to find a location where I could buy black pearls wholesale, not only for myself to make jewellery, but also for friend in Atlanta who also wants them for her business. To date I had not had any luck, the pearl farms we had tried to visit were not open to the public.

Huahini has a pearl farm “Huahini Pearl Farm & Pottery”, owned by a local potter/pearl farmer. He has a location advertising free boat rides to the studio in the lagoon, including a demonstration of the farming process. Also offering jewellery and loose pearls for sale. I was excited to see and understand first hand the creation and production of black pearls, and perhaps buy a few! Upon arrival at the studio,(which was more of a floating shop) we had just missed the demonstration, the tiny floating studio was crammed with tourists. The pearls appeared to me to be quite highly priced (not that I’m an expert). I looked at a couple of necklaces but upon closer inspection the pearls were not tempting, and the loose pearls offered for sale cost much more than I was willing to spend. I was however, really impressed with the beautiful pottery, and if I had room onboard I would absolutely have bought a few pieces. This is a great place to buy local pottery, as for pearls, I’m still searching…

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We stopped for a leisurely, self-indulgent lunch at the elegant but unpretentious, classically Polynesian resort of “Relais Mahana” south of the island. We took a quiet table under the shade of the restaurants canopy on the white sand beach. I kicked off my shoes and dug my feet into the cool, powder soft sand. We ordered rose wine and fresh salad with “poisson cru”, a local dish of raw fish in coconut milk. As I sipped my wine and gazed out over the aqua blue water wiggling my toes in the sand I couldn’t help but wonder “did I turn the gas off?

Rum, Vanilla & Pearls

 

Tahaa, the Vanilla Island.

 

We weighed anchor at 7:30am heading around the coast to Haamene Bay, where we hoped to find a car rental. Unfortunately, while the guide we are using book is very informative, it’s also very out of date. Things change quickly out here, and little is as it says it is in our book, even our “Lonely Planet” guide book (only 4 years old) for Tahiti and French Polynesia, is already quite out of date.

 

As we turned into the bay we received a call on the vhf from Tama (a local guide), he was offering to take us on a tour of the island. We told him that we had planned to rent a car, but thanked him and continued to try to pick up a mooring ball outside the Hibiscus hotel. The wind had picked up and was blowing strongly, also there was no pick up line on the mooring ball, after several attempts I was unable to grab it, so we decided to go further into the bay to look for the area the guide book had recommended for anchoring. As I mentioned earlier things change, and the 25 meters depth mentioned in the book was now over 100 feet, much too deep for the length of anchor we have on Daisy. After circling the bay several times unsuccessfully trying to locate a safe anchorage, we decided to return to Haamene bay, the bay we had just left and call Tama and ask him if he would pick us up there in an hour and take us on a tour. This decision turned out to be the best we could have made, and the following tour the best we have taken so far.

 

Our first stop on our tour was to Tama’s home, (where he kindly took our bags of garbage for disposal). His home was absolutely beautiful, built right on the waters edge with a long pier out into the bay. We were invited to look around his home which was beautifully constructed from all local timbers and stone, the tables, chairs, stairs and stair rails were all formed from tree branches that had been stripped and polished, the table tops were constructed from huge tree trunk sections, that had been highly polished, beautiful works of art. Tama gave us both some delicious Pomello to eat, then took us outside to the pier.

This lead to a beautiful little thatched building situated right at the end. Inside was a large double bed, a small neat kitchen area a bathroom and a surrounding deck with a swinging seat. Large floor to ceiling windows all around the ocean side of the building looked out over the most amazing view of the bay. I didn’t want to leave it was all so beautiful.

Our next stop was just opposite Tama’s house (all be it, up what felt like a mountain). We climbed back into the car and he drove us UP one of the steepest roads winding up to a little guesthouse. The views down over the bay and the island were breathtaking. The little thatched guesthouse was immaculately furnished; an enormous bed took pride of place in the room overlooking the bay through the floor to ceiling windows. The bed had a headboard fashioned out of heavy tree branches. There was a large area to the back of the building, behind Japanese style sliding doors that housed an enormous shower, vessel sink and separate toilet. Wooden decks on several levels around the guesthouse lead to a covered outside kitchen with a bar, tables, chairs and a swing seat. The house is available for rent, and would be absolutely wonderful for a stay on the island, as long as you have a head for heights!

 

Tama asked us if there was anywhere in particular we would like to visit on Tahaa, he had many suggestions, including a visit to the rum factory (this made Bob smile).

I had made a note of some of the places that I wanted to visit including; a vanilla plantation, a pearl farm and a turtle rescue foundation; “Foundation Hibiscus”, run by hotel Hibiscus. The foundation was dedicated to saving turtles, which had become entangled in local fishing nets. The hotel would buy the turtles from the fishermen and keep them in pens next to the hotel’s pier where they would tag them and feed them daily until they were large enough to be released. Sadly Tama informed us that the foundation had to close, he also told us that in their time they had saved over 1600 turtles.

 

We stopped at a local supermarket where I was able to buy some beautiful, organic, locally grown tomatoes, as well as a few other essentials, and Bob was able to get cash from the ATM.

 

Our next stop was the Pearl Farm. Previously, Bob and I have not had much luck with pearl farms, they have either been closed, unwilling to sell to the public, or tourist stops masquerading as pearl farms and selling at inflated prices. Buying pearls out here has not turned out to be as easy as I originally thought. However, with Tama’s help things were possibly about to change.

We were introduced to the owner Philip Chan, at “Ia Orana Pearl Farm” where we were able to watch the grafting process, as it was explained to us in detail by Tama. There was also a small shop at the farm offering loose pearls of different grades for sale as well as finished jewellery. The prices seemed very fair in comparison to what I’ve come across so far. Tama also makes jewellery using black pearls, and had a few loose pearls that I was able to buy from him at a very fair price.

 

Next was the Rum factory “Domaine de Pari Pari” in the bay de Tapuamu. A small operation where Bob was very interested in the machinery, but I was more interested in the various oils they produced. We did buy some rum, not generally my drink of choice, but this rum was different to anything I’ve tasted so far and I loved it. Having purchased a bottle, some oils, soaps and books we headed off to our next stop “lunch”!

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Here I am, notice the big silly grin, I have about five kilos of Vanilla pods and a bottle of rum…

 

Restaurant “Tahaa Maitai”, in Haamene Bay. A fabulous stop for lunch or dinner. Tama had some business to attend to, so he dropped us off here after introducing us to Chef Bruno and his wife. The restaurant is in a lovely setting overlooking the bay. The menu offers a delicious selection of fresh seafood, with organically grown local fruits and vegetables. A fabulous selection of sorbets, as well as other very tempting, French style deserts were on offer.

 

As we were the last people to leave the restaurant Chef Bruno had time to come over to chat to us. He was keen to show us his collection of whiskies from around the world, which he was obviously very enthusiastic about. It brought to mind our good friend Leo, (another whisky aficionado); I must remember to tell him of this restaurant he would love it. Having said that, I will tell all I know of this wonderful place.

As it was lunchtime and we were on a tour, so not wanting to spend several hours around the lunch table, Bob and I simply ordered a goat cheese salad and a glass of red wine. The extensive wine list was very tempting and impressive (must bring Paul & Trish back here), but if we were to continue our tour, a bottle may have been too much. The salad was really fresh, absolutely scrumptious, the red wine delicious (should have asked what it was!), I was starting to wish we had decided to spend the afternoon at the restaurant sampling the wines and whisky’s, but then I would have never made it back to the boat and we would have missed our next stop.

 

The Vanilla Farm was next, where we were introduced to Mateo, the owner. He had finished for the day and everything was closed, but a word from Tama and he opened up for us. Mateo kindly walked us through the vanilla production process with Tama as translator. I was able to buy some vanilla pods, 13 for just $40, (I pay $11 for 2 in the US), I feel the need to make some delectable desserts.

 

Tama dropped us off at our dinghy later that afternoon and we promised to keep in touch. It had been such a fun, informative and productive tour, we had not only made new friends, we had local (delicious) rum, vanilla, oils, herbs, fruits, tomatoes, books, pearls, and other bits and pieces from the trip.

 

I can’t recommend Tama highly enough as a tour guide for Tahaa. He will give you the best tour, and take you to the best places, he is also fluent in three languages, French, Italian and English. He knows everyone on the island so expect lots of introductions.

 

The contact information for Tama, as well as the other businesses I mentioned are below:

 

Tama Castagnoli: Tel : Home: (689) 40 65 62 26 Mobile: (689) 87 37 14 93

Call him on VHF 16, (and switch to 77 )

Email: castagnoli@mail.pf

 

 

Ia Orana Pearl Farm

Tel: (689) 87 71 30 78 or (689) 87 76 59 03

Email: pearlmantahaa@mail.pf

Facebook: iaorana pearl farm

Owner Philip Chan Tel: (689) 87 71 30 78

 

Restaurant Tahaa Maitai:

Chef Francois Bruno

Tel: (689) 40 65 70 85 or Mobile: (689) 87 74 02 07

Email: tahaa-maitai@mail.pf

 

Domaine de Pari Pari

Baie de Tapuamu

Tel: (689) 40 65 61 74

Email: PARIPARI@mail.pf

 

Vanilla Farm Information available from Tama