May 2010

We had an excursion this morning, the second day anchored at Moorea, to get a little tour of the island and Opunohu Bay by speedboat and the excursion was to end with a visit of some stingrays and a snorkeling spot. We had breakfast and met up with the excursion group. There are some NICE overwater and mountain bungalows around Moorea! The Intercontinental has a new resort that’s beautiful but probably way more than what we could afford as a nightly rate. We got to the area of the ocean where we expected to see the stingrays, but saw something else, too.

That’s right, black-tipped sharks! I was used to rays by now after handling some in the Dominican Republic and petting them at Sea World, but I had never been this close to sharks in the wild. How close? THIS close…

The sharks were pretty docile and didn’t really want to come around people, and the guide was feeding them to get them to come to us. They viewed us as potential threats and not food. The stingrays, on the other hand, knew the guides well and were all over them (and sometimes, us). “Feed me!” “No, feed ME!” “Pet me!” “Pet ME!” You could tell the rays were comfortable because the large bone barb on their tails were pointed down instead of up. They behaved more like dogs, vying for attention. Oh, and I learned that the male of the species has two penises. Each. One lady on the excursion asked, “Why does he need two?” The guide replied, “I don’t know — so if one doesn’t work, he has a spare?” This reminds me of a video we were forced to watch in high school biology, in which a bored-sounded male narrator recited, “The [male] snake has two penises. It can use either one, depending on its positioning.”
After our visit with the carnivores of the sea, we went to the snorkel spot. We had to fight the current to swim to the good parts, but I enjoyed it for the exercise.

Mr. W had fun, too.

Parts of the swim were very shallow, and I was shocked I didn’t get scraped to ribbons going over high-reaching corals. I think there was a lot of divine intervention at work on my behalf that morning, just so we could watch stuff like this:

Look at all those teeny blue baby fishies! And if you think you could just reach out and grab one, well, you’d be wrong. As one fellow excursionist observed, “I think those fish have eyes on the backs of their heads!”
When we were dropped off at the Moorea dock, we shopped with some of the vendors set up in the little square before taking the tender back to the ship.

As Mr. W bought pearl and bone anklets and necklaces for himself and his kids, I bought a wooden tribal carving of a bat ray for my dad (I’d already gotten my mom and grandma certified Tahitian pearl pendants on Bora Bora). He loved it, by the way, and put it on the fireplace among other wooden carved dragons, birds, etc. We got back to the ship in time for lunch.

Late afternoon on deck, we attended Chef Dean Max’s cooking demo on proper preparation of rare ahi tataki. Yum!

Chef Dean is the owner of the Fort Lauderdale seafood restaurant 3030. Very nice guy, friendly, fun-loving, and knowledgable. His lovely wife Amy is very personable, too.

What a pretty backdrop for cooking, right?

His delicious rare tataki with aioli he handmade right there was served with other hors d’oeuvres at the Captain’s farewell party on deck.

The service staff was introduced and waved their farewells.

We prepared to say goodbye to Moorea, as we were going back to our origination of Tahiti that night. This is Moorea from Cook’s Bay. Mr. W merged 3 photos he took at different exposures and then added a special effect. Cool, huh?

Moorea is the last port we visited before returning to Tahiti. It’s a larger, heart-shaped island with a rain forest in the middle, and it’s Mr. W’s now-favorite island in French Polynesia.

My mom said, in seeing our photos, “Your bones are so soft!” I wasn’t even contorted in here. My Wednesday pilates class instructor, by the way, has nicknamed me “rubber girl.”

I thought this mountain looked like a new lipstick.

This is the dock at Moorea where our tender dropped off and picked up.

An archeologist doing some excavations and other projects on Moorea came onboard and stayed the next 2 days with the cruisers to give lectures on Captain Cook’s voyages that led him to discover the Polynesian Islands, and about what REALLY happened with the mutany on The Bounty (the “fake” story, I guess, was made into a movie some years ago; this archeologist recently came upon a series of journals that one of the Polynesian women on The Bounty had kept through decades of this stuff going on, and since he has a specialized degree in social anthropology, he’s the lead guy in piecing this history together). We attended his lectures and took his excursion, “Trails of the Ancients,” in Moorea.

An elementary school kids’ school bus transported us from the dock for our excursion.

This is a view from Opunohu Bay, where Captain Cook first anchored for this island. Ironically, the other bay the cruiseship is anchored at is called Cook’s Bay, but Captain Cook was never at that one.

The archeologist explained that the way we saw this bay is pretty close to the way Captain Cook saw it hundreds of years ago; the family who owned the bay area refused to commercialize it, develop it, no matter how much money was waved in front of them to allow a golf course and resorts to be built on it. They were insistent that the land and the natural life on it belonged to the people and future generations, and needed to be preserved. When the family was dying out, the last son did finally sell the real estate, but not before requiring a stipulation be made in the contract that the land can NEVER be used for commercial purposes, and must be kept in the same natural state. So we saw the original plants, the life-sustaining trees whose trunks became canoes, whose vines were woven to be very strong ropes, whose fruits cure cold sores nearly on contact, whose leaves made something else really impressive but that I’d forgotten cuz I was distracted by the pretty bay.
We stopped the bus to admire the mountain line against the sky. There was some movie that made up a mythical mountain called “Mount Bali Hai.” I don’t remember the name of the movie, it was before my time, but Mr. W watched it as a kid and thought Bali Hai was a real place and always wanted to visit it. Well, they filmed Mt. Bali Hai in Moorea, and the peak on the left (Mount Mouaroa) is what they used for the made-up Bali Hai mountain.

Mr W. was so taken with the fact that he was standing there looking at his Bali Hai, that he kept taking pictures of Mount Mouaroa everywhere he could see it. I don’t even know when or where, along our excursion, he took this picture:

Next, we went up on a high lookout point called Belvedere that overlooks the two bays.

The shape of the sign is the shape of Moorea. See the two indentations on top? The left one is Opunohu Bay, the right one is Cook’s Bay. And here’s what the two bays look like from Belvedere if I turned around from the sign.

Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station is on the west side of Cook’s Bay, and this ecological research center is maintained by UC Berkeley (that’s right, OUR Cal), and any UC student (like I was) could request for a research assignment in Moorea at this station. How cool would it be to spend a quarter here?!
Now is when we started walking the “Trail of the Ancients.” We looked at various excavation sites of temples and houses that our tourguide’s team had uncovered. Here’s the remains of a large temple.

One might assume, as I did, that what we’re looking at is the few rocks and walls left of a formerly enclosed building used for worship. Not true. The native Polynesian religions worshipped things they saw around them (much like Native Americans), so nature was it. They built their family temples (“marae”) to be open-air, facing the highest mountain on the island. The oldest son had his seat in the middle, and the seatback is made from a flat piece of rock.

Seated correctly, the worshippers faced the mountain, which is mother earth. Father sky visited mother earth in the form of clouds meeting the mountain, and father and mother mated, causing rainfall, which makes all things fertile and gives life.

We walked deeper into the rain forest to see other family maraes, as the archeologist explained how his team found various sites, what they saw when they got there, what the purpose of each area was. He also talked about local botanics and how some plants were used medicinally, pointing out the wonderfully-scented flowers of a fruit growing around us. As we sniffed the flowers, he warned us not to eat the fruit because it was so toxic that it would cause respiratory failure in 2 minutes, and this natural toxin is undetectable in the body in autopsies. (Hmm!) The ancients would mix the fruit into dishes when they had to offer food to enemies. One commonly used plant had roots that were chewed and spit out by the village boys, then drunk by the elders during town meetings. The root-spitjuice were hallucinogenic and made the elders high and relaxed, so they could air their issues with each other without inhibition. He pointed to one of these plants growing to the side of a marae and said they are now an endangered species with very strict laws to protect them, the plants are not used anymore, and warned us to be careful not to step on them or damage them…upon which a large oafy American instantly and obliviously dug up the plant in front of the archeologist, pulled it out of the ground and said, “These roots? Are these the roots that you were saying would get them high?” The archeologist calmly said that’s right, took the plant from the guy, got on his hands and knees, dug a hole where the plant came from, and tenderly replanted the plant. Idiot.

You have to keep your eyes peeled walking the trail of the ancients because otherwise, you miss some interesting stuff, like the carvings some women way back when put into some river rocks…

…and cool root systems…

…and ants cleaning up dead gross stuff.

Here’s a really large marae, probably for more public use.

The four corner pillars of the marae are made of heavy rock driven into deep holes in the ground. The archeologist’s team found skeletal remains of young boys in fetal position with crushed hips under these pillars. He explained that when the temples were built, they would put the boys in the hole as sacrifice (usually captured from unrelated tribes they’d been at war with, which the team was able to ascertain through DNA tests of the bones), then drop the pillars on them which killed them. The boys’ youthful and strong spirits would then be absorbed into the temple and bring it luck and protection. We asked what the excavation team did with the skeletal remains. “We left them in there!” the archeologist said. “I don’t like dealing with human remains.” He’d shuddered.

On the walk back out of the jungle, it rained on us a couple of times. So that’s why they call it a rain forest. It did yield some pretty rainbows, tho.

Out of the forest, we walked through a field of pineapples.

The archeologist said that local pineapples are smaller and sweeter than the Hawaiian pineapple we’re used to having (totally true!), and that they’re natively from Brazil. Apparently planting all these pineapples is very corrosive to local land, too.

We saw a pretty sunset by the time we got back to the docks, so we missed our tender to take photos and explore the area instead.

I took my shots from the edge of the pier.

Mr. W’s vantage point was farther in from the pier.

We were anchored at Moorea for 2 days, and the tender to and from the ship ran every half-hour, so we walked the half mile or so to town to look around, not fearing we’d be left behind. Again, virtually nothing was open except for a couple of restaurants, and why pay $45 for a sandwich when we had free gourmet food on the ship? So after admiring the views…

…we went back to the ship.

We got back in time for dinner and the Polynesian dance show with live Polynesian band.

As a side note, Mr. W wanted to sit in the front for this performance on Deck 8. I said no. “Why?” Because they always drag volunteers onstage from the front row, I told him. “They’re not gonna do that, this is their performance.”
more girls
I am rarely wrong, BTW.

Oh, were you looking for me in that video? Sorry, Mr. W was dragged up by a girl right after I was dragged up by a guy, so we were too busy jiggling our hips to take pictures. Be grateful.

THE COMPUTER PROJECT. The desktop computer at home (where we have all our trip photos) is having major issues. The month-old two terrabyte hard drive began loading sluggishly, and audible clicks could be heard as it spun, looking for data. The concensus is that the hard drive is on the verge of crashing. Mr. W backed up the data and we went to a computer store to look into returning the old one and/or buying a new one. Since he didn’t have the receipt, he bought a new hard drive and for the first time, purchased the extended warranty. While there, he discussed the symptoms with a store techie, and learned that his particular motherboard causes problems on high density hard drives (hence clicking), so the only way to cure this is to buy a new updated motherboard ($$), which means he’ll have to update his processor chip to support the new motherboard ($$), and that means his memory should be updated, too ($$). And of course he has to replace the crashing hard drive ($). Meanwhile, he’s installed the new hard drive and is in the process of transferring data from the old to the new, to buy a little time. For me, it means I have to wait a bit until I can finish my French Polynesia vacation posts since I have one more island port, Moorea, to cover and the day we came home from the island of Tahiti.

THE INSANITY PROJECT. The makers of the P90X workout, Beachbody, listened to people complain about not having the pull-up bar or dumbbell equipment to do the intense-but-effective sessions, so they came up with Insanity. Every bit as psychotic and vomit-inducing as P90X, Insanity uses only one’s own body weight and gravity for resistance. Sounds great, but I think Insanity may be even more hardcore than P90X because it’s designed for a 60-day cycle, instead of the 90 of P90X. That both scares and excites me. I have the kit at home and am about to begin. I’m also counting on this to get me prepared for the Marine Corps Obstacle Course Challenge in September.

THE BABY PROJECT. I haven’t talked about this in specifics, yet, so here it is, for the benefit of my obsessive record-keeping and because when I searched for information, I found very little of it, so this may benefit others in our shoes. Some years ago B.C. (Before Cindy), Mr. W lost his mind (or perhaps he was being mind-controlled like a zombie) and had a vasectomy. I didn’t take our relationship very seriously initially because marriage and kids were not part of the equation for him. It wasn’t that I was set on getting married and popping out children, but I wanted the option, as I had explained to many friends that first year Mr. W and I were “hanging out.” On our 1-year anniversary, Mr. W started talking about wanting to give me “a real commitment.” I told him that was unnecessary as I didn’t believe he was any less committed as my boyfriend as he would be as my husband. The man was committed from day 1, more so than I was, except for some computer games but that’s a whole other addiction. Year 2, he started talking about possible children together. My parents were, of course, pushing for some sort of outcome to this relationship because they didn’t want me to die alone (I know, Asian fatalist gene). Mr. W’s thoughts were about artificial insemination by a family member, and one of his brothers seemed amenable to it. That way, he figured, the genetics would still be the same, or similar enough. I was not thrilled about having the conversation later in life when I would have to tell my kid, “Dad is really Uncle W, and Uncle X is really Dad, and Cousin Y is really half-sister Y, but I’m still mom…” It’s hard enough to have to re-assess and re-identify one’s own parent(s) (I think it’ll happen involuntarily), but an entire extended family, too? This kid would go nuts for awhile. Mr. W seemed to understand this and appeared open to an anonymous donor. Around this time I happened to have dinner with two doctor friends, Lily (radiologist) and Arnold (cardiologist). I blubbered about this obstacle, and both just stared back at me across the booth at Claim Jumper. They didn’t see the big deal.
“But he had a vasectomy!” I repeated.
“So?” Arnold said lightly. This is when I found out that he had taught fertility prior to going into cardiology. Apparently (apparent to him, not to me), modern medicine and technology have found a way to just go into the scrotum with a tiny syringe, before the area where the vasectomy had disconnected the vas deferens, and extract some swimmers. What happens after that was unclear to me, but I was hoping they could just use whatever they extract and put it in fluid like a donor sample, and “turkey baster” me (I think that was how Arnold characterized it). He did warn me that a smaller percentage of men, especially if they’ve had the procedure done awhile back, develop antibodies to their own sperm as a way for the body to get rid of free-roaming critters that have nowhere to go. Arnold’s lack of being impressed by our predicament gave me (and Mr. W) hope, Mr. W proposed at the end of Year 2, I accepted, and we were married on our 3rd year anniversary.
I dragged my feet on the baby thing, enjoying my lifestyle too much. Mr. W enjoyed our vacations as well, but time was more pressing for him because of the age difference. He told me a few times that I better figure out whether I want a baby because he’s not getting any younger. So somehow, we figured that we’d take our last two kid-unfriendly vacations this year (the hedonistic Polynesian vacation was #1; high-adventure Australia late fall would be #2) and then have a baby. We would be married a little over 2 years then.
I’m going to get into detail about the fertility process, so if you’re interested, click “more,” below.

Good morning, Bora Bora!

This fifth day of the cruise is the second day we’re at Bora Bora. We had an exciting excursion booked for the afternoon, which left our morning free. After breakfast, we took the tender out to Bora Bora.

Photo SharingVideo SharingPhoto Printing

I bought a postcard for my parents and another for my courtroom and mailed them out from the Bora Bora post office. In the one to my parents, I explained that I was MIA on vacation because there was no internet or cell access but that we were alive and well, and in the one to my work staff, I rubbed in that we were in such a great place that I may never come home. (It was important not to get the two addresses mixed up, or my mother would have a hysterical breakdown.)
It didn’t take long to explore this little town by foot.

The Protestant religion is common in French Polynesia because of Captain Cook’s influence when he and his crew arrived here.

I decided I had to buy SOME certified Tahitian pearls while I was there for Mother’s Day presents for mom and grandma. Here is a craptastic photo of me as the saleslady is writing up my purchases — 3 pearl pendants.

And then we went back to the ship, had lunch, changed into water gear, and headed back out for our excursion. This is the look of a girl whose dream is about to come true!

I’d been wanting to ride a Sea-doo for a LONG time, but I NEVER thought I’d be doing it for the first time in Bora Bora!! *faint*

I’d wanted to do this so badly before that I’d considered just buying one. The Sea-doo I was looking at came with its own trailer. At the time, I lived by myself so the garage had an extra spot I could park the Sea-doo and trailer. I asked whether my car at the time would have enough power to tow a trailer with a Sea-doo on it. The answer had me holding off. I did always wonder, though…what if I bought it and come to find out, I DIDN’T enjoy it?

Turned out that was just nonsense thoughts. Of course I enjoyed it. These photos are a bit misleading, though. We actually rode 2 per Waverunner, and Mr. W (who had experience) took us halfway out while I gripped the seat with my knees, ankles and hands for dear life to not get thrown by his wild speedy S-turns, with my eyes squeezed shut because the ocean water spraying into my face caused my eyes to water and burn. Halfway out, we stopped in a peaceful bay and Mr. W and I switched places. ReVeNgE was mine! He ended up with ankle grip blisters.

A 3+ hour Waverunner ride around Bora Bora, perfect weather, rough currents still, though. That just meant I had to stand up and go faster to avoid the waves splashing in my eyes. We soon “parked” on a remote motu. Some locals seemed to live there.

I turned around and prepared to wade in the bathwater-warm ocean to the island to relax for a bit, and discovered something that made this trip even BETTER!

I saw something grayish bobbing on the water, coming toward us from the motu. It turned out to be a dog! A big, happy, friendly native dog coming to greet us!

Unlike the main island Bora Bora dogs, this one was used to people, as she was very trusting and friendly. I saw an older man taking his windsail out of his house while we were on the beach and he smiled at me as he passed me in the water, so the dog may have been his. She put a paw possessively on me as I petted her, and I asked her how she got white sand on her wet nose. Later, one of the guys in our group whistled lightly, and she immediately responded and went to him. She laid at his feet as he petted her. Friendlist dog ever.
Here, Mr. W has palm trees on the brain.

That’s the island of Bora Bora behind us.

Look who came out and knocked me over! She was licking me when this photo was taken, altho you can’t tell.

She swam onto my lap for a proper photo.

Our tourguide made us a snack of island bananas, coconut (that he shaved by hand on a homemade contraption as we watched), which we’re supposed to put together like a sandwich, and grapefruit.

Then the Waverunners called to us again and we left to go back to town. Mr. W let me “drive” the whole way back and said I did a good job as we flew over the waves. It was another rough ride because of the current.

We made it back to the ship in time for sunset. Mr. W thought that going around Bora Bora by Waverunner in water beat going around it by bicycle on land, but I enjoyed both. We did both agree, however, that we were glad we’re here by cruise because aside from the beauty of the island, there really wasn’t much there to hold our interest for long. There was also virtually no snorkeling off Bora Bora directly. For me, however, it was still the best day yet.

P.S. My parents said I always meet local animals on trips, and that animals seem to follow me around. They reminded me of the dog in Hawaii and there was a black and white cat in Taiwan that looked a lot like Dodo, sort of like a foreshadow that I would one day be with Dodo. I wonder who this island dog is foreshadowing.

Mr. W pointed out that I didn’t post any underwater photos from our snorkeling trip at the Bora Bora motu, and I said I didn’t think we had any as he took all underwater videos and not stills at this point in our trip. He said he was able to pull some stills from the videos, and showed me where the files are. So here they are. As always, rest mouse pointers over photos for captions.
This is the Hawaii state fish. Humahuma something or other. Mr. W likes saying the full name and will say it at any opportunity.

Here’s where things got creepy and I stayed cautiously away from the following underwater creatures.
I swam right past this and was called back by Mr. W. Even though he pointed, I didn’t know what I was supposed to be looking at.

Suddenly, as Mr. W got closer, it changed color.

If I didn’t have a snorkel in my mouth, I would’ve probably made some obscene sound. But I think the octopus disliked us, too. It quickly retreated into a tiny little crevice at the side of the coral.

Mr. W spent a significant amount of time here prodding, poking, luring, shaking out the octopus…but he failed. Eventually, this caught my eye instead.

Simultaneously, I discovered that I could swim backwards. I wanted to leave the area, but decided to hold off a bit just to make sure the eel wouldn’t follow. In my head I was making emergency plans about what I would do if the guy decided to swim UP. Thank goodness it didn’t and stayed on the sandy bottom of the sea.

Tuesday, May 4th, we woke up on the ship knowing we had anchored in Bora Bora in the night. By the way, for those interested in taking this cruise, Bora Bora is a 2-day port so there is an option to book a one-night stay in an overwater bungalow there. We didn’t take this option.

When we came out on deck to get our usual breakfast in the muggy 80+ degree morning, we noticed it’d rained overnight. This didn’t change the climate much as humidity was already high anyway, and I was still comfortably warm. All this tropical climate meant to me, was that makeup was pointless. =P

What the climate meant to the local scene, however, is pretty clouds, pretty rainbows, and rough(er) currents.

The water shuttles (tenders) had two destinations this port: to and from the main island of Bora Bora, and to/from a motu off Bora Bora where there was an uncrowded public beach for snorkeling and hanging out. This is not a private island like Motu Mahana, and the activities directors advised us in our daily port information meeting (attendance optional) to not wander too far from the drop-off point so as not to disturb the privacy of local residents and hotel guests. There was no beach chair setup, no local musicians playing ukeleles and dancing for us upon our arrival, no beachside BBQ. There was, however, a hut with a bartender serving drinks and snacks. Leaving on the tender, we just wore our swimsuits and rash guards, and brought our snorkeling equipment and beach blankets.

If you’re wondering what the black stuff is around the photo, Mr. W said he must not have turned the lens light shield thingie correctly so it got in the frame. 🙁 Here we are with Bora Bora in the background.

Again, there were coconuts everywhere. We learned what miraculous fruit they are — the water inside is so sterile that Captain Cook’s crew doctor used to infuse injured/sick sailors by sticking an IV into a coconut and the other end into a vein. (Still, heebie jeebies for me. I just don’t like the taste of coconuts, I guess.)

…and this is why you don’t see many Asians in professional basketball.

It was a pretty day snorkeling despite the slightly stronger current, and we did see colorful underwater sealife. I remember thinking, “The ‘Finding Nemo’ submarine ride at Disneyland IS accurate in its underwater depiction!” I never wudda thunk.

Why am I always wearing long sleeves going out in that weather, you ask? It’s a lightweight rashguard to protect me from sunburns. I also have sunblock (SPF 100 Sport, sweatproof, waterproof) on, but when you’re floating on the water surface distracted by pretty colors for hours on end, you tend to forget that the sun is amplified by the clear water AND less filtered as here in French Polynesia, you’re closer to the equator so there’s less atmosphere for the UV to penetrate before it penetrates your skin. Mr. W got a little sunburned on his back the first day we snorkeled. He made sure to wear his rashguard every snorkeling trip thereafter, altho we’d strip down to just our swimsuits once we’re out of the water and under some shade.
After the morning spent on the Bora Bora motu, we took the tender back to the ship, had lunch, and took the next tender to Bora Bora herself. It was a windy ride if you’re sitting the wrong way in order to, say, show the camera the flag.

10 minutes later, we’d arrived at the docks of Bora Bora.

We weren’t that far out from where the ship was anchored.

The main road going completely around the island is about 18.5 miles, so Mr. W and I decided to bike it for exercise and for the scenic exploration. The dock town of Vaitape was similar to every other dock town we’d seen at these ports; small shops and shacks along both sides of the main street for maybe 10 minutes (walking) in either direction, a few banks, a post office. I made a mental note to buy some postcards later and mail them from the Bora Bora post office.
The local shops were out of regular bikes, and pointed us to a souvenir shop a little ways down that may still have some left. That shop only had electric bicycles. We were unfamiliar with those, but soon thanked our lucky stars. The bicycles had a cartridge of rechargeable battery under the seat that, when turned on with a key, gives your pedaling a little push when you start off. Pedaling consistently kicks on the battery, also, so that the electrical assistance takes away about half the pedaling exertion. We LOVED those things!

The rental was pretty reasonable; $33 each for a 3-hour rental. We were told that it takes approximately 2.5 hours to bike all the way around the island, which gives us 30 minutes to stop for photos, shopping, lunch, whatever. The shop lady warned us to stop at the tourist town at the southern tip of the island at the sister store and get our batteries recharged or replaced, or we were pedaling back without the battery’s assistance.
At first we stopped CONSTANTLY for photos. This is pretty much what the road looked like; rustic houses and green mountain on one side, ocean on the other.

At some areas, the monsoon damage is apparent.

The locals mostly fished and farmed as groceries are very expensive.

And there were medium-large dogs everywhere. I couldn’t tell if they were wild or family pets, but they sure weren’t friendly. They knew to stay away from the roads and to avoid bikes and cars going by. Mr. W actually did drain his battery before we’d reached the recharge store, and he had to pedal much of the hills with the strength of his legs alone. I whizzed along and loved the feel of the warm air blowing through my hair.

After we’d gotten Mr. W’s battery replaced at the southern resort town of Matira Beach (even more quaint than Vaitape) and he’d recharged himself with a bottle of cold water, we ran across a cool-looking pearl farm and store.

An overwater boardwalk and pier around the side and back of the building had demonstrative aids depicting pearl harvesting and collecting in their various stages. The two Japanese people there were very nice and gave us cold water and a tour even knowing we weren’t able to buy anything as we had biked in (gross and sweaty) with no spare money. Their jewelry designs are among the best I’ve seen, though. But out of respect to their designer, we didn’t take photos. We made it back to the ship by sunset for dinner.

It would be another day in Bora Bora tomorrow, and we had a GREAT excursion planned in the afternoon. Actually, a dream-come-true excursion for me!

Warning: I’m about to photograph you to death in this post. But it’s got the prettiest photos yet! Rest mouse pointers over photos for captions.

Paul Gauguin Cruiseline has its own little islet (“motu”) off the island of Taha’a. Can you believe it? A PRIVATE ISLAND. It’s one among the chain of pretty islands on the northern reef edge, and it’s called Motu Mahana. We get there by a speedboat water shuttle (called a tender), running every half hour between the ship and Motu Mahana. There’s chairs, loungers, a BBQ, bar, kayaks on the island, so all we need to bring is our snorkel equipment (which the ship checks out free of charge to each individual guest at the beginning of the cruise. I’m rather attached to my Ocean Master mask and dry snorkel, so I only checked out fins; if I weren’t so afraid of having to clear my snorkel, my packing could be a lot lighter.)

I watched the gorgeous teal ocean lighten to a sparkling clear turquoise as we cleared the reef. The water was unbelievable. Every postcard and photo I’ve seen of this place wasn’t photoshopped! Well, maybe they still were, but mine aren’t.

As this got smaller and farther away…

…this got larger and closer…

…and farther…

…and closer…

We’re here!

Okay, like seriously? Lemme off this tender so I can get in that liquid turquoise! You can see FISH in ankle-keep water!

But first Mr. W wanted to explore the island on foot to find a good place to set our stuff down. I took photos along the way as he trotted impatiently ahead of me. This is the first thing I saw.

The ship’s massage & spa people had set up a massage site on the motu! Wow…

Mr. W did not find the sand volleyball court a good place to lay down our stuff.

Hmm. Not there, either.

I was still busy dropping my jaw at all the colors and beauty around me.

I get distracted easily, I guess.

The vendors on the motu didn’t help my attention deficit for the first half hour or so. (Tahitian vendors and shopkeepers, by the way, are nothing like the ones in Jamaica or China. These Polynesian people are very laid back and let you browse without following you and demanding you buy; they’ll greet you and say a word or two about an object you seem interested in, but they’re not pushy or competitive with each other. Of course, their stuff is pretty high-priced.)

What’s with all the open coconuts? We soon found out.

The ship’s activities directors actually told us to be aware of potentially falling coconuts. They clear out what they could, but there are so many coconuts on trees that occasionally one may fall and bonk a tourist on the coconut. Here a service guy from the ship is hacking young coconuts for our use as alcoholic beverage containers.

We ordered a couple of drinks from the island’s bar, and they were served in what’s plentiful and biodegradable on the motu.

We learned that the coconuts are collected after our use and dried in the sun, then burned.
Ah, this looks like a nice spot.


After a nice BBQ lunch by the cooks of the ship…

…we hit the water in kayaks and snorkels.

Mr. W and I took out a tandem kayak and he thought it’d be a great idea to kayak around the motu for exercise. We soon found out why no one else had this brilliant idea. A part of the water was so shallow and so full of rocks and corals that our kayak got stuck. Mr. W had decided to not wear his reef shoes, so we had to pull our kayak through that area with him walking barefoot and getting cut up by sea life. (I had my reef shoes on.) Those scars are nice cheap souvenirs. =P

Snorkeling went much better.

The water was very warm and clear, and we saw tons of fish, even an octopus. Here are some of Mr. W’s underwater shots from this snorkel trip.

Unfortunately, Mr. W had underwater camera malfunctions at the time we spotted the octopus, so he didn’t get the shots he’d wanted with that camera. However, by dangerously doing this with my non-water-resistant DSLR…

…I got these shots.

The fish weren’t even shy here; amazing considering how shallow the area I was in was, and how many people were in the water.

Awww, I have a little friend!

Hello little guy!

Mr. W watched me from his islandic tanning bed.

We decided it was time to leave this paradise and take the tender to Taha’a and explore the town a bit.

Neither of us must’ve taken our cameras to Taha’a, because we have no photos of it. It was a small town that you can walk from one end to the other in less than half an hour, and we just peeked at some sourvenir shops. We got back to the ship by sunset.

This is where I took many of my shots.

We’re now on our way to Bora Bora, the misty island you see behind the overwater bungalows, and should be there in 4 hours.

Some spent the time relaxing on deck and watching the lagoons drift by…

…others indulged in libations, working the bartenders so hard they were blurs.

I photographed my li’l brains out, despite it being so insanely windy on the height of deck 9 while we were moving, that I had to stand with my skirt tucked into my knees like you see in this photo, which position I only figured out after I’d mooned the entire ship a few times.

These were my rewards:

I wasn’t alone in the activity. Hello, Mr. W’s rear end.

On to Bora Bora, where we’ll anchor for the night and visit in the morning!

(As usual, resting your mouse pointer over photos will reward you with captions!)

Monday, May 3rd. Mr. W beat me out the door and went up to La Palette, Deck 8, for breakfast and told me to meet him there so we can watch our approach to Raiatea’s sister island, Taha’a.
Here’s my entry onto Deck 8, and the view that greeted me as I emerged. You’ll see Mr. W waving at the end of the short clip.

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Taha’a is a small island with less than 4500 people living there, and those inhabitants of the quiet island live mostly off the land, raising livestock, farming, fishing. Tahitian vanilla, nicknamed “black gold,” comes primarily from this island.

Taha’a has a gorgeous string of motus (small islands) along its northern reef edge, which we took plenty of photos of while on deck.

This is a very pretty photo of some overwater bungalows off a motu, which Mr. W snapped. You’ll see Bora Bora’s scraggly peaks behind them.

Here’s a 30-second video of our view on deck.

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A note about the 2 videos you’ve seen on this post. I was not creepily breathing into the microphone. The ship was still cruising, so it was windy, and that’s the wind you hear. It was so windy, in fact, that I lost my hat. 🙁 First, it was there, on my head…

…and then suddenly, it was on the other side of the deck out of reach. The wind carried it precariously closer to the edge of the ship. If we weren’t moving I would’ve climbed out to retrieve it, but as it was, I decided the hat wasn’t worth falling overboard for.

I sadly prepared to say goodbye to my hat forever. Mr. W had gone into the La Palette deck bar and asked for a stick or anything that would reach, but the staff said they had nothing. He came back out and we watched helplessly as the hat was less than a couple of feet out of reach, the distance growing steadily. Then out of nowhere, a maintenance guy walked out with a broom and one of those broom sweeper tray thingies. A waitress must’ve called maintenance for a broom, but the guy’s surprised look when he saw my hat on the ledge showed that he’d expected to be sweeping on deck, not reaching outside of deck. Mr. W hurriedly reached for the broom but the guy said, “No, no, use this,” and made a pulling-in motion with the broom garbage collector tray thingie. WHAT is that thing called?! Anyway, it worked!
Scoop, Mr. W, scoop!

Reach, Mr. W, reach!

My hero!!!

The hat spent the rest of its time at breakfast between my knees, no matter how much I had to squint in the sun.

May 2, we awoke to find the ship approaching its first island destination of Raiatea.

In case you’re wondering, those are the leis we were greeted with that we hung on our porthole windows. Mine’s this one:

Since we were still out at sea and there was not much to do, we went to the onboard gym for our first and only workout there for the trip. =P Walking around after the workout, we saw pretty landscape as we coasted through French Polynesia.

This is the Deck 8 swimming pool, which we didn’t waste time in. If we wanted to get wet, we got in the warm bathwater ocean.

Wanna join us in these poolside lounge chairs?

We had breakfast here about half the time…

…and breakfast here at the deck on the back of the ship the other half of the time.

I’m on Deck 8, Mr. W’s on Deck 7. Hellooooo down there!

Around this time, I had lost Mr. W, so I explored more of the ship alone. I discovered a Tahia Collins boutique. She’s a Tahitian pearl designer.

Given the price of the above, I was scared to find out the price of the below.

Um, my birthday’s coming up. Anyone? …Yeah, that’s the same silence I got on the ship. I went back to the room to find that we had docked at our first port, Raiatea, the largest of the Leeward islands, and the second largest of the Society Islands in French Polynesia (the largest being Tahiti, where we’d just left). Raiatea has a “sister island” called Taha’a, which is our next port. The two share a coral reef, so the theory is that these two may have once been one island.

Porthole windows = neat stuff.

Off to explore the tiny dock town, we found that the activities directors were right in that the whole island would look rather sleepy, as it was Sunday and just about everything was closed.

Normally, this town would be bustling with vendors and shops, we hear.

We did find a couple of street vendors selling their home-grown watermelon.

Oh, look, something we don’t see anymore at home…

Oh, look, something we see too much at home…

We walked to the edge of the docks so I could take some pretty pictures, while doing my best to ignore catcalls and wild waving from Polynesian dock workers who walked around with their shorts down as they prepared to pee against a wall (which, as it turned out, they wanted me to watch).

A monsoon had struck the islands a few months back, and the damage is evident on some docks and also underwater with dead branch coral seen everywhere when we later went snorkeling.

Oh, look, our ship!

Howdy. Let’s walk back now, and I’ll show you our room.

See those 2 portholes I’m pointing at? That’s it.

We can see our leis from the outside of the ship.
Back onboard, we ran across a Polynesian shell bracelet making class. Since I missed this class, I guess I’ll have to buy my shell jewelry from vendors. =P

Now why can’t all classrooms look like this? Cuz this is what you see on the other side of the students:

Here’s a zoomed in shot of that sailboat out there.

We went back to our cabin to change and get ready for our first excursion, a speedboat ride out to another island for a tour of a Tahitian pearl farm, followed by a snorkeling swim. Here you see our tourguide, some fellow excursionists, and Mr. W looking like an urban cowboy.

Arrival at the pearl farm!

Why can’t my work office have this setting? Yes. I think my work building should have a dock. Who do I talk to about that?

Here our tourguide explains how the pearl-producing oysters are kept on ropes dangled into the water so they can be kept track of.

A demonstration of pearl nucleus implantation (the nucleus is made of Mississippi River mussel shell!) and extraction.

I would love to show you snorkeling photos, but Mr. W hadn’t figured out how to work his underwater camera at his point yet, and all the underwater photos from this trip were overexposed. We’ll soon have better ones from future snorkeling trips. Stay tuned!
(As always, rest mouse pointers on photos for captions.)

Our vacation started early Saturday morning, May 1. The shuttle picked us up at 8:30 a.m.. Here we are at home excited to start our 8.5-hour flight.

Air Tahiti Nui — on top of being cute, it also started our vacation early. They fed us two full hot meals going to Tahiti, AND alcohol was FREE.

Each seat had a monitor on which we could watch TV, movies, or play games. Since the flight wasn’t anywhere near booked, I had the 2 window seats to myself. I had one playing movies and the other on our flight stats. (Mr. W took the center aisle of 4 seats and laid across them, where he slept through the flight after indulging in a hot lunch and two Courvoisiers.)

I was a bit miffed that this was supposed to be our delayed honeymoon trip and he refused to sit near me the entire flight, but I soon became glad as I lounged sideways and took both pillows and both blankets.
We arrived in Papeete, Tahiti at approximately 6:30 p.m., where it was already dark. The humidity hit us hard when we got off the plane, but the temperature was a nice mid-80s all week. I was once again glad that my hair does not react to humidity. I saw some people’s ‘dos shorten and curl up practically before my eyes. I twisted my hair into a bun and stuck a pen through the knot to keep it off my neck, where things were starting to feel a bit damp. We were greeted with flower leis by our transportation at the airport, and they drove us to port where we efficiently checked into our rooms on the M/s Paul Gauguin. I had booked the cheapest cabin (figuring we weren’t gonna spend much time in there anyway, altho Mr. W lamented not having a balcony), and this spacious room is what greeted us.

Mr. W relaxed on the large bed.

Even the restroom was huge (for a ship cabin). It had a shower AND a tub.

At the sitting room end of the cabin, a bottle of champagne was icing in a bucket with a plate of fruit and a card.

Mr. W opened the card.

Awww, how sweet!

We soon changed for dinner. Dress code after 6pm every night on the ship is “smart country club.” It required that women be in dresses or skirts or slacks, and no one could be in shorts. Here’s our glorious meal, the first of many many to come.

“Can I eat yet?”

At a gallery of Paul Gauguin paintings, old Tahitian navigation maps and information from Captain Cook’s days, traditional Tahitian bone tools, etc.

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