Friday, August 03, 2018

Bora Bora – Ashore

[Kyle]After departing Fareone Motu, we wanted to go a couple of miles away to the mooring field at Bloody Mary’s. Bloody Mary’s is a restaurant with a long history and a sand-floor tiki and thatched-roof theme that has successfully managed to get themselves in all of the brochures as one of the must-do things in Bora Bora. We went there last year and found the food to be a little better than average and surprisingly reasonably priced, considering the place’s cache {Maryanne: Expensive for us, but reasonable for Bora Bora}. Honestly, we were not that bothered about repeating our meal there, but they have medium-slow wifi, which is super fast for the Pacific, AND they have free water for yacht customers (see later comments). The water is a bit of a pain, because it has to be ferried with the dinghy in jugs, but the price is right. The only other water is at the Bora Bora Yacht Club, which charges a lot for theirs and only offer it in 500 liter lots. If you need 70L, you pay for 500L. They burned us last year with that and we won’t be letting them do it again. We’ll row our water, thank you.

In order to go the two miles, though, we had to do a whole counter-clockwise circuit around the island as the southern bit of the lagoon is too shallow to be navigable. The wind was just right for us to do the whole sail with just a reefed jib. This allowed us to slowly glide closely by all of those fancy resorts with the over-water cabanas. Those places look really nice. Most of the ones on the ends are whole multi-story houses with multiple shaded balconies, fire pits and fresh water swimming pools inexplicably perched above the equally beautiful water of the lagoon. That and the view of Mt. Otemanu would make for a pretty romantic stay.

"sailing" to Bloody Mary's Bar

We arrived at Bloody Mary’s and found all of their mooring balls appeared to be occupied. The depths there are about 28m, which would require us to put out all of our chain and rode, Easter Island style, which is a huge kerfuffle, so we weren’t about to do that. On to plan B: go to town.

Just as we were making our turn, we noticed that a big charter cat on one of the moorings appeared to be in the final stages of getting ready to leave. We eased up close enough to ask them if in fact they were leaving, but they seemed to make a point of ignoring us like a bunch of airlines gate agents, even though we were right there. Eventually, they just went inside. We figured we must have misjudged their actions and they had just been on deck fiddling with things.

As we were leaving them, someone on a Swedish boat ahead motioned towards a double secret mooring that was unoccupied. It was covered in slime that was the same color as the water and just barely broke the surface. It was going to be a long row to the dock from where it was, but at least we had one.

We got the lines attached to the pendant trailing from the ball. As I was walking back to the cockpit to shut down the engines, I noticed the big charter cat pulling away from their ball, which was much closer to the dock, accelerating at full power. We’ve noticed that one of the unwritten rules about chartering a boat seems to be ‘always use full power for everything’. Oh, charter people, why do you make it so hard to like you?

Since we still had our engines running (inexplicably at idle), we slipped our lines and picked up the closer mooring. Since the restaurant was closed for the day, we rowed ashore to check their hours and were greeted by their very nice security guard, Manu. We chatted with him for a bit and then he let us wander around the place. I hadn’t noticed the year before that Bloody Mary’s has no doors. I just assumed they were big and propped open but, nope, they don’t have any. No wonder they post a guard when they’re closed.

We rowed back via the other boats to introduce ourselves and were quickly invited to dinner the following day by Toby and Sam on Sweet Chariot. We explained we were planning on eating at the restaurant as payment for the mooring ball, so they negotiated it down to drinks afterwards.

We rowed ashore the next day for a late-ish lunch with a backpack full of computers. Once we got seated, we picked out something tasty for lunch and then found that we couldn’t get the restaurant’s wifi. Our waiter explained that we were too far out to get wifi.

”Could we move closer?”

”That section is closed.”

”Does the bar have wifi?”

”Yes, but you can’t order off of the lunch menu there.”

”Can we get any food at the bar?”

”Yes, there’s a Bar Menu.”

”Okay, we’re terribly sorry, but we will be going to the bar.”

At the bar, we learned that they offered a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, plus either nachos or fries. So much for our well-balanced meal. We drank our beers and nibbled on our fries as slowly as we could while watching data come in and go out at about the speed of writing a bunch of ones and zeros on a napkin and handing it back and forth to the bartender.

The restaurant closed for the gap between lunch and dinner. Although no one explicitly asked us to wrap it up, we stayed until well after the music had stopped and the lights were turned off. We feared the wifi would be next, but they let us finish our last task without cutting it off in the middle.

Maryanne asked about the procedure for getting the key to the water at the dock and was told it was now 3,000 francs for water, regardless of quantity. Gaarrgh! Not gonna happen. I guess it’s back to the stinkin’ Yacht Club, where at least we could pull up to a dock, use a hose, and run out the rest of our allotment giving Begonia a good scrub.

Not nearly as full as we had expected to be by then, we stopped off at Sweet Chariot for sun-downers. Along with Toby and Sam, we met John from Hecla of Uist. Toby and Sam are both retired Royal Navy. Both joined up very young and both retired the minute they could draw a pension, so they’ll get the unusual experience of having their mid-life crises during their Golden Years. Toby was a Navigator and Sam had something to do with managing the provisioning. After getting out, they met at some function or another and realized they recognized each other from the one time they were aboard the same ship. Their boat, Sweet Chariot, was once owned by Walter Cronkite.

John is a solo sailor who first met Toby and Sam in the Caribbean and has been loosely sailing in company with them ever since. He was in the Army and for some reason, his first order of business after getting out was to get a boat and go someplace warm.

The five of us managed to successfully sort out the world’s troubles, which we will summarize in a letter to be distributed to various important leaders. Expect the milk and honey to start flowing any day now.

In the morning, we let go the lines to our ball and moved over to the wharf at the main town of Viatape, where we could do some provisioning and go through the clearing out process for French Polynesia. We were also hoping to sneak in some fun, although that always seems to get lost in the mix of more pressing matters when going to a town.

We started with what I’ve come to think of as The Awful Stuff: Shopping and Internet. Both almost always take longer than hoped and both invariably end in a frustration/triumph ratio that is too high. We topped that off with a visit to the Gendarmerie to collect our paperwork. The officer there was very nice and actually managed to ease the tedium of a long, hot day.

Viatape: Beautiful sunsets and some cool murals

For our “fun” day, we decided to climb the trail to the top of Mt. Otemanu. Usually, such things are my idea, but this time, I think it may have been Maryanne’s. My enthusiasm was a bit tepid after a day of lugging groceries through the midday tropical heat, but she kept making noises about feeling like it has been too long since she got any real exercise, so I agreed to let her drag me along.

Mt. Otemanu is imposing when viewed from the wharf at its base. The top of the cliff at the summit can’t be seen from the boat unless you come out on deck from under the bimini and crane your neck up to look at it. We stared at it for quite a while and could not figure out how a trail could even get up there.

Pass the church on the way to the climb with a view

The walk started out nice and easy. The first step from the boat was down and the main road though town was nice and flat. When we got almost to the grocery store, we took a right turn away from the water and things deteriorated pretty quickly. The road got steep. Then it turned into a mud track, which got steeper. Then it the jungle encroached and the trail narrowed further. We had the sense to bring our hiking poles this time, but we were wishing we had brought our machete as well.

At some point, the trail just seemed to stop. We poked around for a bit before we realized it carried on on the other side of a giant boulder that had to be scaled while simultaneously squeezing under a bunch of low branches. After that, the trails turned into what I once read a British climber refer to as “a real hands-and knees job”. The slope stayed relentlessly over forty-five degrees – often way over. In a few places, ropes had been fixed, but in most they weren’t. We climbed by pulling ourselves up on tree roots and cracks in the rock and leaning heavily on our poles, carefully testing each hand and foothold before trusting them with our weight. We knew getting down was going to be even worse, but we chose not to think about it for the moment.

There was no breeze at all making it to the surface and we climbed through hot, humid air like what fills the bathroom after a long, hot shower. In no time, we were completely soaked through with perspiration and covered in leaves and mud that stuck to us as we brushed by. The only saving grace was that the sun doesn’t clear our side of the mountain until afternoon, so we were spared having to bake in its direct rays.

After another hour or so, we emerged at a small clearing most of the way to the top. The canopy opened up and we were rewarded with wide views of the lagoon, the reef and the ocean beyond. Wow! The view was amazing, but for once, I wasn’t sure it was worth it to get up here.

We were almost at the top. Our trail continued along a narrow ledge with a big drop on one side and only a few blades of grass for support on the other. I suggested to Maryanne that we call our progress good enough and she agreed as if she were just about to say the same thing herself. We turned and started the laborious task of carefully picking our way back down. It was even slower going than the way up because each hand and foothold was far below, instead of at chest level like when going up.

We emerged from the jungle at the bottom looking like we had been raised by beasts within, limping and dragging our sore limbs as if their use in the normal upright, bipedal way was alien to us. When we got to the boat, we stripped off all but the minimum necessary to preserve our modesty and jumped in, right at the wharf, leaving clouds of mud slowly falling to the bottom. Aaah, that feels good!

We were too tired to cook or clean up, but also too tired to go looking for food. While we were trying to figure out what to do, we walked over to the Gendarmerie and collected our outbound clearance papers. Since we were already out and about by then, we decided on a meal out after all. Viatape is a strange town in that it has NO bars or restaurants. I suppose most of the island’s tourists eat at their fancy hotels, but it’s strange to see a place with pearl shops, souvenir shops, rental car agencies and hardware shops, but no restaurants. If you want something to eat, you pretty much have to go to the grocery store and buy a baguette. If you can wait until it’s dark, one of the lots that hosts a craft market turns into a plaza of roulettes (food trucks).

The one exception to all of this is during the Heiva, when a whole pavilion of sit-down restaurants is constructed just for the festival. The Heiva was pretty much finished in Bora Bora, except for a couple remaining beach volleyball tournaments somewhere else on the island. Most of the infrastructure was well into the tearing down and packing up stages, but most of the restaurants were still open for just one more night.

Gambling and games at the Heiva funfair

Lucky us! We had no waiting to get a candlelit table on the edge of a balcony over the water. We shared a big dish of Poisson Cru, Tahitian style, and a big salad with crunchy vegetables and everything. It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent salad, so that was a real treat.

Afterwards, as we were walking home, we came across a troupe of musicians and dancers who were apparently already practicing for next year’s Heiva. Bonus!

In the morning, we were just getting ready to cast off and head for the Yacht Club, where we could buy tap water at Perrier prices, when the boat ahead of us, who also needed to do the same thing, but also really didn’t want to, finagled a source of free water from a guy at the Parks Department. The only problem was that it was kinda far away and their hose wouldn’t reach. No problem! Use some of ours and we’ll fill the tanks on both boats! Take that, Yacht Club! We used the time saved from not having to get water to get fuel. We only needed two jugs worth, which should have been fast, but we were trying to buy it at the duty free price for transiting vessels, which involves a certain amount of paperwork. The guy clearly didn’t like going through all of that hassle for two jugs, so he cut us no slack whatsoever. He wanted a copy of our outbound clearance, but wouldn’t make a copy on his machine. He directed Maryanne to a place way down the street that was closed for lunch. It was clear he was hoping we’d just give up and pay the full price, but we had already invested quite a bit of time and energy into getting our discount, so we weren’t giving up. Eventually, Maryanne had to dig out our printer, fire it up and make the copies herself. In the end, getting ten gallons of diesel turned into a two-hour errand.

We got the bad taste of that experience out of our mouths with a couple of full price ice cream bars and headed for an anchorage near the pass. There, we found Nemo, who we had first encountered in Easter Island. Chris was busy helping another boat in the anchorage fix their hydraulic system, but he and Elayne managed to squeeze in some time to come over and catch up before the night was over.

One last snorkel in Bora Bora (Motu Attuna)

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