Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hawaii / Tahiti 30 Day Cruise - Day 21 Moorea

Friday Day 21 – Moorea

Today our cruise stop is on the island of Moorea and we were up early to watch our arrival in Opunodo Bay where we will anchor and tender into the village of Papeotai.  Normally the ship would anchor in the neighboring Cook Bay which has a larger town and more facilities, but the Paul Gauguin beat us to it.  Where Bora Bora was all about the water, Moorea is all about the land.  The island looked beautiful with high, green forested mountains rising straight up from the coastline.  Moorea is called the little sister of Tahiti and is just ten miles from the larger island.  Moorea is shaped like a like a butterfly with its wings spread and is an extinct volcano. Like Bora Bora, the island is surrounded by a reef with a narrow and shallow lagoon.

Opunodo Bay

The first tender leaves for Papeotai, which is just around the point.

Today we were renting a car, which Val had reserved several months ago, and thankfully she had the forethought to reserve an air conditioned one as there were only three of those.  We were on the tender by 8:15 and in the car and starting our drive by 8:45.  The car rental agent, Avis, was on the pier and they made it very easy to pick up the car and we were quickly on our way.  The main road around the island is only thirty-six miles long so we would have plenty of time to explore the island.  Besides exploring the island our goal today was doing some shopping as Val wanted to buy some unset (loose) black pearls before we left the islands.  We started our drive clockwise around the island and soon hit the turn-off to Belvedere Lookout which offered spectacular views of the bays below and the mountains of the island.  On the way up we stopped and at an agricultural school and bought some of their homemade jams made from the island fruits.  We were going to walk around the school, but cut our tour short as everything was in French and we couldn’t read any of the signs.  From there it was on up to the top and indeed the views were spectacular, but marred because of the low cloud cover over the island.  On the way down we stopped at a Marae, which is an ancient Polynesian sacred sight.

We were met again at the dock by local music and dancers.
Our ride for the day, nice to have air conditioning.
On the road.

There were chickens everywhere.
From Belvedere Lookout a view of Opunodo Bay to the left and Cook Bay to the right.  You can see the Westerdam anchored in Opunodo Bay and the Paul Gauguin in Cook Bay.
A marae.
Beautiful flowers everywhere.
Another marae.
One of the few streams we've seen on the islands.
Back on the main road we continued on to Cook Bay, which is a commercial and tourist area.  Several of the shops Val wanted to stop at were in Cook Bay and she found the pearls she had been looking for.  She bought five beautiful black pearls which she plans to have set in a necklace when we get home.  We continued our drive around the island stopping at interesting-looking shops as we went.  This part of the island has the feel of a normal community with many small towns and resorts.  We had an excellent grilled fish lunch at a restaurant recommended by someone in one of the shops and continued our way around to the east side of the island.  As we got to this east side, we could see just how close Tahiti was to Moorea.  We passed by the ferry dock as they were loading up for their short trip over to Tahiti.  The Moorea people use the ferry to commute to jobs on Tahiti, and of course the tourist use it to island hop.

As we continued the drive around Opunodo Bay we could see the Westerdam.

You can see how close Tahiti is.
As we turned to the southern side of the island the commercial development stopped and we passed through a more scenic area with smaller towns and villages along the coast.  After more shopping and picture taking, it was mid-afternoon so we returned to the tender dock where we returned our car.   Before boarding the tender we looked around the tables of crafts set up around the dock and then tendered back to the ship.  It had been a very hot and humid day and despite the air conditioned car, we were looking forward to the air conditioned ship and a shower.

The local crafts people selling their handiwork near the tender dock.
The tender dock on Moorea.
You can see the platforms where the tenders dock at the ship.  Those cables
hanging down are how they raise and lower the tenders onto and off of the ship.
Not a bad view from our window.
Once again the bow of the ship was opened and we went up to watch the sail-away from Moorea.  The sun was setting as we left and as we sailed east around the island we could see Tahiti in the distance.  Tahiti is our next stop, as and I said earlier, and a very short distance from Moorea. 

By 7:00 in the evening we were nearing the harbor of Papeete, Tahiti and by 8:00 we were docked.  Papeete is the largest by far of any of the cities in French Polynesia, and it looked it.  From our viewpoint on the ship we could see lots of people and traffic.  Docked next to us was our old friend, the Paul Gauguin.  Just off the pier we would see a huge gathering of people with music playing and the smell of good food.  It turns out every Friday night there is a huge gathering of food trucks, called roulettes, in an area right where the ships dock. 

The gathering of roulettes.
We decided not to get off the ship tonight and opted for dinner in the dining 
room instead.  Later as I watched all the activity from our balcony, I regretted not going out and joining in what looked like a lot of fun, but we would be going ashore in the morning and doing our exploring in the daylight.  We talked to some ship-friends the next day who said they went to the area with the roulettes, but really didn’t enjoy it as it was hot, dirty and crowded, and difficult to get around.  Maybe we didn’t miss anything after all.

I wanted to make a quick reminder here that all of the photos you see are taken by both Val and I, they're not just mine.

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