Nothing was going to live up to the last three days. I would have deemed this hotel in Moorea very pleasant if I had visited here before the over water bungalows of Bora Bora. There are water bungalows, though not nearly as nice. (And this is where they were born.) There's just a view over the lagoon to the reef beyond and a teeny beach. No flower or shell garlands on arrival either. My room is tucked at the back, categorised as garden view, which works if you have a good imagination. Being positive, there is a great infinity pool that really does look as if it dissolves into the sea. And there is a lovely view of the mountains looking back behind the hotel.
I'm back in the Windward Islands. Moorea is known as Sister Island, as it's so close to Tahiti (44 kilometres). The word Moorea means Yellow Lizard in Tahitian. the, slightly astonishing legend tells that long ago, a happy couple lived on the island of TupuaiManu (now Maiao), The woman got pregnant and gave birth to an egg, which hatched to produce a yellow lizard. The couple were not initially fazed by this and they raised the animal, in a cave, until it grew so huge they became frightened. So, they abandoned it on a canoe. The yellow lizard was upset (not surprisingly), set off to sea and eventually died. His body eventually washed up on the shores of Aimeho (the former name of Moorea). The locals found the dead body and ran round proclaiming their 'lucky find', shouting: “A yellow lizard! A yellow lizard! ” So, Aimeho changed its name to Moorea.
Moorea is billed as having the most beautiful scenery in The Society Islands (the Tahitian group of French Polynesia). I can see why; it has glassy peaks that soar up, in jagged ridges, from the ocean. (I shouldn't have used up all my superlatives on Route 66). This must be why this island is also another contender for the original Bali Hai (the last suggestion was in Vanuatu). Some of the media suggest that one of the peaks, shark fin shaped Mount Mouaroa (often now known as Bal Hai), is actually the one used in the film South Pacific, based on James Mitchener's novel. It seems that James Mitchener did say that Moorea would have made an ideal setting for his book (he saw it after writing the epic), but the film was actually made in Hawaii.
Whales today. Three big ones and a calf all jumping in unison. More stingrays (literally more than before, though no names this time), more reef sharks. Unfortunately, more tourists pursuing them too. Most of the visitors in Polynesia are American and Italian (cheap promotional flights from Rome I'm told). There are far fewer conversations to be shared than in the Cook Islands, though I can hear the conversations of both nationalities quite clearly. Unfortunately, also a lot more hanging around on a motu while the captain does his act. I have seen coconut husking demonstrated three times now. It looks much too strenuous to attempt to me. Good job I have my book. Good job it's still sunny. There have only been small amounts of rain, at night, this last week. Very clever.
Very little done today. I saunter along the reed edge and watch an octopus desultorily dragging his girlfriend along on the end of one long tentacle. That’s marine romance in action. I sunbathe, read and do a few laps of the pool, avoiding the French aqua exercise class. Un, deux, trois. I also eat Polynesian buffet. Raw tuna, tuna salad, tuna steaks.
I'm leaving later today and feel guilty about yesterday's sloth, so at the last minute I (literally) jump on a 4WD that is leaving early for a tour of the interior. Good decision. Amazing views, from the Magic Mountain viewpoint, down to the reef and across the mountains, including Bali Hai, across to Tahiti and to Cook's Bay, where the explorer might or might not have first landed. I'm told that all of these mountains are extremely difficult and dangerous to climb. Even in our vehicle, the ascent is possibly the scariest ever, with part of the uphill track running along a narrow ridge, strewn with boulders, which falls away steeply on both sides.
A drive up to another viewpoint, the Belvedere, below Mounts Mouaroa and Tohiea (the tallest on the island). Lines of quad bikes shower us with dirt, as they bump in the opposite direction. Pineapple plantations, long lines of spiky fruit, on the slopes of Mount Rotui. (These are Queen of Tahiti pineapples, huge, sweet and juicy). Another legend says that an octopus used to live on this mountain and separated the island into two deep bays. Moorea is an extinct volcano, with part of the rim blown off, leaving a heart shaped island.
Neat little fruit farms tucked under the hills. Breadfruit, soursop, citrus, pawpaw (papaya), mango, barbadine, coconut and bananas. A few sacred open air temples, known as Marae, that date back 500 hundred years or so, complete with altars for the sacrifice of animals and the odd human.
I'm late for the bus to the airport, as I have been give the wrong time. I'm faced with a sea of glowering faces when I finally manage to pay my bill and clamber aboard. So it's not great news that I almost miss the flight itself as well. This too has been called before the stated time and I am sitting outside reading. I am waved onto the plane by an angry little man and it takes off early. Also possibly the shortest flight I have ever been on, Moorea back to Papeete. As soon as we are up in the air the tannoy announces that we are landing. It must have taken all of six minutes and we land one minute before we were due to take off.
(Read more about French Polynesia here.)
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