Thursday, February 5, 2015

Huahine’s Best Kept Secret

When Mark and I were driving south to Avea Bay with Irie a few weeks ago, we spotted a pretty looking beach to port. Apart from a local boat dragged upon the white sand, the area was deserted. Three new mooring balls had been placed in front of the beach, clear of the shallowest coral patches. We poked our nose in to check it out, liked what we saw, and agreed to stop here on the way back north to Fare. The bay would be a good weekend destination, since WiFi was not available, but we could still grab emails over a slow 2G connection (thanks to our Wiriepro :-)).

So, last weekend, we motored up to this special place. Irie was the only boat to pick up a mooring and onshore, a local family was hanging out on the beach and having fun in the shallow water. It didn’t take long before we donned our snorkel gear and jumped into the refreshing, turquoise water. We explored some of the reefs, where – despite the poor visibility – we could make out some interesting fish and creatures. The closer to the beach, the warmer the water, and most of the way, it felt as if we were swimming in a bath tub. Not as refreshing as expected! On the beach, we met Siki, the caretaker of this government owned property. He told us many stories, "animatedly" drawing numbers in the sand to explain something further. For the rest of the afternoon, I practiced my French and Mark learned a thing of two, being immersed in the language. One of the other beach visitors happened to be a Frenchman who gave us a ride back to Haapu a couple of weeks ago. Huahine is a small island!

That night, we saw the sun set and the moon rise to the chatter of birds in the jungle-like vegetation onshore. Later on, there wasn’t a sound and the sea was flat. We couldn’t even hear the breaking reefs, since the ocean swell had been minimal. No wind means no waves… It also means that it is incredibly hot, inside as well as outside. The peace was complete in this little piece of heaven. No locals playing music on the beach, no smoking fires, no commotion or traffic noise. When we went to bed, I even turned off our little bathroom fan and hid the loud ticking clock of our bedroom. Total silence and nobody around; this is one of the main reasons to live on a boat!

The second day of our stay, we took the dinghy to shore before 8am, to go for a hike before the sun was out in force. It was already incredibly hot, but we hoped for some shade on the trail. Siki arrived with his va’a (outrigger canoe), loaded with bags of coconuts. He had been collecting them since 4:30am. It was one of his jobs and a cargo ship was due to arrive the same day to transport the coconuts to Tahiti. He showed us how to reach the viewpoint close by and explained a thing or two about the resort that used to occupy this slice of paradise. A cyclone had wiped it out in the nineties and some remnants were still visible. The view from the top of the rock was pretty nice!

Afterwards, Siki lead us over an overgrown path, hacking away with his machete, to a dirt road. We followed it, meeting locals along the way, and took in more views of Bourayne Bay. He was taking us to a wild patch of pumpkins, but once we arrived, none were to be found. The track was being widened and the pumpkin patches diminished. We caught up with the main road around Huahine Iti, before turning back and taking a different trail to the beach. It is possible to get here overland, but the path is hard to find. The only other way to reach this nice stretch of beach is by boat. Right before returning to the bay, Siki hacked down an enormous stack of bananas and carried it to our dinghy. Mark and I rinsed the stack in the salty lagoon to get rid of any critters (and saw a massive spider run away over the water) before loading the dinghy up. We were also given some papayas.

Uru (breadfruit)
Later that day, we brought some stuff to shore to give to Siki. He promised to swing by in his va’a the following morning with an uru (breadfruit), knocked two young coconuts out of a tree for us, and handed me a bracelet he made earlier. Sure enough, after we woke up and got started with some work the next morning, we heard someone call “ia orana!” Siki’s head popped up and he off loaded his canoe, dunking everything in salt water first: breadfruit, pamplemousses, limes, and a massive soursop. We couldn’t thank him enough (mauruuru, mauruuru, mauruuru!) and promised to return in the future. With a boat full of fresh fruit, but nothing else to eat, we headed back to Fare, Huahine’s only “city” and supermarket.

Irie moored at Hana Iti beach

Siki transporting bags of collected coconuts on his va'a

One more climb to get to the top of the rock for a nice view

Bourayne Bay, cutting Huahine in half

Papaya trees are everywhere on Huahine!

Siki trying to find a pumpkin for us

Can you believe this bamboo is only a few years old?

Siki handing Mark an enormous stack of bananas

Going home with what is easily the biggest stack of bananas we were ever given!
Spotted boxfish (male)

Humongous sea cucumber with his mouth open

Pretty patch of coral

Yellow boxfish (young adult) hiding

Yellow boxfish checking me out

Massive soursop (courasol)

Free bananas on Irie!


Lisa Dorenfest said...

I wish we had spent more time in Huahine. Our snorkeling experience pales in comparison (yet again..Maupiti is another example.) How fortuitous to have found such a lovely spot and to meet Siti! The Captain would use your experience as another example of why it is better to travel slow! Miss you!

Liesbet said...

Hi Lisa,

Traveling slow has its advantages, but my desire for adventure sometimes gets in the way with that. And, look where your faster pace has brought you! Besides, traveling at our pace, will never bring you all the way around the world. :-) I love your recent posts and photos! xxx