Sunday, October 26, 2014

Raiatea and Taha’a: First Impressions

Plans change… all the time!

Before our guests Griet and Wim disappeared into “their” hull and bunk on Saturday night, about a week ago, we told them they could sleep in, and promised them a nice Sunday brunch and relaxing afternoon. We would drop them off onshore, since Mark and I needed to do some work, and have an easy day. The weather to go west did not look very promising, but we still hoped to sail to Taha’a from Huahine the following day.

After a steamy and mosquito ridden night in Fare’s anchorage – the boats lay into the current instead of the wind here – Mark and I woke up and turned on our computers as usual.  When checking the weather forecast, things had changed again. Monday didn’t look feasible at all anymore to reach Taha’a, or even Raiatea, in the WNW winds. Our only chance to get there with Griet and Wim was to leave … right away! We turned into “action” mode, ignoring all the other work and plans at hand, and readied Irie for another 25 mile trip. “I think we are leaving,” I heard Wim call to Griet, when he emerged from downstairs. Preparations from Mark and me, a quick breakfast and then: all hands on deck! Within half an hour of reading the change in weather, we lifted Irie’s anchor and steered towards the pass to leave Huahine.

Our goal was to reach the east coast of Taha’a – we still had to figure out what to do and where to go from there, since we didn’t have the time to check any cruising guides or charts – but from the moment we entered the unprotected waters, our plotted course was impossible to maintain. Irie sailed as close to the (light) wind as possible, in hopes of at least reaching Raiatea, the island south of Taha’a, but in the same protected lagoon. Griet and Wim didn’t feel too well on this upwind haul and I frantically read about all the possible anchorages and mooring options in Raiatea. This time, I had shaken my bottle of seasickness drops before taking some and I felt fine!

Uturoa in Raiatea

Skimming through the “Societies Compendium” cruising guide, none of the anchorages on Raiatea’s east and north coast sounded attractive or appealing, and people warned against staying at the town dock, so we hadn’t decided on our final destination yet when approaching the island. The last hour, Mark hand steered, so we could make Raiatea’s most northern pass to get into the protective lagoon. No squalls had hit us, but the sky was very grey, so a reef anchorage was out of the question. We poked Irie’s bows into the public basin of Uturoa, the capital of Raiatea, and decided to tie up on the town dock, rest for a night and regroup.

Irie rarely spends time on a dock (because of possible damage while docking, noise, safety issues, rats, lack of wind, incessant heat, and mosquitoes), but this one is not too bad, and free! It is so easy to just hop off and run errands, especially with a Champion supermarket in view… And, during a rainy period, being on the dock gives some options of things to do, like grocery and souvenir shopping, which is what we did over the coming days. Griet and Wim climbed Mount Tapioi and were rewarded by a beautiful view once the clouds cleared. We had dinner at a roulette, cooked some nice meals, and caught up on a few work-related issues. An outside shower “with a view” was located nearby, and we picked up free WiFi with our Wirie.

Taha’a coral garden

When the weather improved a bit – still no wind – we motored to the west side of Taha’a, Raiatea’s little neigbor to the north, and anchored on a sandy bank near a few motus. The water was clear; the view of palm covered motus lovely. And, the contours of Bora Bora lured in the background. Finally, we felt like we were in a South Pacific paradise – an image conjured up endlessly by the notion of this area.

After lunch, we filled the dinghy with snorkel gear and headed to the most beautiful “over the water” bungalow resort we have seen since being here. Between its grounds and the motu to the north lays an exquisite natural aquarium rarely stumbled upon… Some of the best coral and the tamest, most colorful fish live here. The area has a little channel in the middle where the current offers you a ride through, while floating. The whole experience feels like a weightless amusement park ride. All you have to do is walk a path (sand, rocks and sharp coral) to the north side of the motu, don your mask and jump in! The current swooshes you through the coral garden, and, without flippers to slow your speed, you barely stand a chance to pause and take pictures of the many healthy creatures along the way!

Another rainy day followed. Griet and Wim managed to get a ride to the coral garden again with our friend Giorgio and his guest Véronique, while we focused on other things. In the afternoon, we all set out by dinghy and tried to explore some of the other motus. The overwhelming clouds of attacking mosquitoes on shore made us change our minds, however, so we – once again – ended up in the coral garden! The choice between buzzing and stinging mosquitoes or fluttering fishes of all sizes and colors is easily made...

Irie on the dock, seen from the cruise ship terminal

Mount Tapioi with the Champion grocery store in front

Another delicious and healthy meal on Irie - all inside because of the rain!

Skyline - with Mount Tapioi - of Uturoa on a sunny morning

Sunset from western Taha'a with Bora Bora in the distance, between the motus

Pizza dinner on Irie with Giorgio, Veronique, Wim and Griet

Bora Bora in between the motus

Irie and Hoa Motu near the coral garden in Taha'a

Conclusion of a beautiful day - margaritas!

Griet did yet another fantastic job of being Irie's dishwasher - we will miss her! :-)

Beautiful resort with over-the-water-bungalows in Taha'a

After a painful, barefoot walk over pointy coral, it is time for our first visit to the coral garden!

Mask and flippers on and there we go, into the current!

Griet and abundant Pacific double-saddle butterflyfish

Gorgeous sea anemones

Schools of fish

And colorful coral and anemones

Mark spotted a big cowry shell... I wish it were empty!

Pacific double-saddle butterflyfish

Another massive and pretty sea anemone

And its mouth

Funny looking bird wrasse

Picasso triggerfish

Guineafowl puffer on healthy coral


Unknown said...

You're at the epicenter of South Pacific Paradisia ! Can't wait to see and hear about Bora Bora !!! The ultimate ----- •

Liesbet said...

I think you are right, Murray! :-) We can't wait to get to Bora as well, but first we will need to focus on a few projects! So close, but yet so far away still...