Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Moorea – A Hiker’s Paradise!

Mark and I left our isolated, pretty anchoring spot near the reefs NW off Opunohu Bay to move deep into the bay. Here, in the deeper and darker water, we were surrounded by the impressive scenery ashore and we had easier access to some hikes in the Moorea's interior. 

Irie anchored in Opunohu Bay

The Belvedere is one of the highlights for tourists visiting this popular and beautiful island. A road gently slopes towards and impressive viewpoint, where people gather to take pictures of the surroundings. A bench is strategically placed in the shade; it should be reserved for the ones huffing it up by foot. :-) Mark and I started out walking on the sunny road, but once we reached the marae (archeological site), we picked up a trail leading to the Belvedere. We could chose: road, sun, traffic - fumes, noise and being “pushed” to the side – or path, shade and mosquitoes. We picked the second option, applied bug repellent, and had a nice walk up.

From the Belvedere, two trails start in different directions, branching off to more points along the way. None of these trails have signs (they want tourists to hire a guide), so you take a bit of a risk not knowing where you will end up. We started west, thinking we would reach another bench and then somehow end up back down in Opunohu valley. We found the bench with a nice view, but after completing somewhat of a circular route, ended up back at the Belvedere. Huh? Looking for an alternative way to descend, we backtracked the trail we had arrived on and took a split, away from the main route. It was a lovely hike through the forests, with an unexpected and impressive open view once we reached a pineapple plantation in the valley. Since the trail seemed to have vanished, we followed the dirt access road which ended up on the “Route de Ananas”. Not knowing where to pick up another track to the bay from there, we were “forced” to walk back on the steaming hot asphalt road back to the dinghy. We have more exploring to do in regards to trailheads!

Two days later, we set out again from Opunohu Bay. This time, we managed to hitchhike half way up to the Belvedere. A short climb brought us back to the marae, from where we followed a trail marked “trois pins” (one of the few signs around!). Shady and well-maintained, these paths are great! As long as you – kind of – know where you are going. After an hour of climbing, we reached the viewpoint of the “three pines” (yes, there are actually three pine trees and a shady log to sit on), from where we beheld the two northern bays, some of the reefs and a few impressive peaks. The idea was to follow a “ridge trail” down to Cook’s Bay, where we hoped to arrive an hour later, do some grocery shopping (there are no stores nor baguettes at the head of Opunohu Bay), and order a sandwich for lunch…

We could see a steep trail leading down on the other side of “trois pins”, but according to our Moorea map in Lonely Planet, the path we were looking for, went the other way; a split from the trail we arrived on. So, we headed in that direction, and started hiking, up and down, along the mountain range. Before long, Cook’s Bay was a body of water in the distance, only getting smaller with every step we took. Not willing to believe that we hooked up with a well-kept, but non-existing trail according to all the maps, we kept on walking, our feet slanted on the narrow side of the mountains. The path would have to bend back and down soon, for sure! Nope… More and more it started to dawn on us that we were headed for the pass overlooking Vaiare, the top of a mountain we had climbed up and over a few weeks ago. It was located on the east side of Moorea. At least we knew how to get back to Cook’s Bay from there!

A couple of hours later – hungry and thirsty (we weren’t prepared for a day hike) – we reached the Vaiare viewpoint. This time, unobscured by rain and mist, we could see the surrounding peaks and Vaiare Bay. Who would have thought we’d ever make it back up here? A very steep descend followed, while we were holding on to tree trunks and roots. The last part of the walk was easy and flat, but the rain had returned!

Luckily, the little snack bar in Pao Pao (at the head of Cook’s Bay) still had sandwiches for a late lunch and while waiting for the grocery store to reopen (long lunch breaks in French Polynesia), a surprise visit from our friends Lili and Steven on SV Liward caught us off guard. They had taken the ferry over from Tahiti for their anniversary, rented a scooter, and had been trying to find us for hours. Since they couldn’t see our dinghy on Irie, they figured we would be “somewhere” on the island! And, they were right… Soaked in sweat, we were sitting on the curb of a local grocery store, while our purple umbrella drying in the meager rays of sun had drawn their attention!

Mount Rotui and Opunohu Bay from the Belvedere

Opunohu Bay with Irie at the head of the bay

On the Belvedere, with Mount Rotui and Cook's Bay behind us

Fun trail heading west from the Belvedere

Big trees with interesting hollow sounding trunks

My favorite mountain top - Mou'a Roa

Moorea is locally called "ile d' ananas" ("pineapple island")

Pineapple field surrounded by peaks

Half of the roads and trails are not on maps...

Mount Rotui, looking very different from the bay

Surroundings of Opunohu Bay

Opunohu Bay at sunset - we cannot get enough of the view here!

Some of the trees in the forests are huge!

And once in a while, you stumble across the ruins of a marae

Mount Rotui and Cook's Bay (our destination) seen from the "trois pins" viewpoint

Pineapple plantation

180 degree view from "trois pins"

The other 180 degree view from "trois pins"

Vaiare, its bay and Tahiti in the distance, seen from Vaiare pass

One of the views we missed last time we climbed to this point

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