Nothing on Tahiti is so majestic as what faces it across the bay, for there lies the island of Moorea. To describe it is impossible. It is a monument to the prodigal beauty of nature. – – James Michener
Sailing around Moorea, Tahiti
Moorea is, by far, the most gorgeous, tantalizing island I have ever visited. Following a three-hour sail from Tahina Marina in Pape’ete, Queequeg’s crew sailed into the majestic Cook’s Bay and anchored off Pao Pao, a tiny village boasting two grocery stores and about 150 dogs. Towering 900 meters to our starboard was Mount Rotui while Mount Tearai ruled on our port; both craggy monoliths of lush vegetation quietly holding their thrones. Though mist-covered in the hushed early mornings, these two peaks offered comforting shade during mid-day sun and picturesque backgrounds during the pink, yellow, and purple sunsets.
If one looks extra close, Mount Tearai has a tiny hole at the top of its massive peak, about the size of a human head. According to legend, the hole was made by Pai, a mythical Polynesian hero. When the God of Thieves attempted to steal Mount Rotui in the middle of the night, Pai threw his spear from Tahiti and pierced the top of Mount Tearai. The noise woke up all of Moorea’s roosters who put a stop to the viscous plan and the mountain was saved.
Moorea’s vibrant charm
Moorea’s island dogs are friendly and gladly accept our bits of peanut butter sandwiches. It is Lexi’s mission to feed every starving dog in French Polynesia and she is well underway to succeeding. Besides a new fluffy playmate, Moorea has much to offer visitors – if you can ever stop staring at the amazing topography that is. From lagoon tours and diving with rays to visiting a pearl farm or roaming the island on a 4-wheeler, the list is endless.
I prefer to explore my destinations via hiking and intentional wanderings. From time to time, I’ll hitchhike if at all possible and given that I feel safe in the environment. Rules of hitchhiking: if you are alone, you will get picked up much more quickly than when traveling with a group of four or five. Smiling helps; waving widely increases chances and standing in the exact center of the road will almost guarantee a ride.
My wanderings in Moorea took me inland, away from the single curvy road that circumnavigates the island. I encountered tranquil villages where life seemed to plod along at a leisurely pace and the hordes of tourists and mainland ferries faded from memory. Mothers sat sewing on front porches, groups of youth kicked a soccer ball, and a knobby-knuckled man scaled a tree to grab ripe mangoes.
Moorea’s bay also provided the perfect respite for kayaking lessons. First-mate, Joe, had brought along a one-man ocean kayak, and Lexi and I took turns rowing around the placid waters. When we go too hot, the bay’s cool waters were mere inches away, and we had no problem diving in for a refreshing treat.
Pao Pao’s school nestles in the bay across from our anchored QQ. Afternoon physical education seems to consist of intense sessions of rowing practice. Twenty to thirty kids of all ages haul huge outriggers into the water, wade into the bay, jump in and soon disappear around the corner of the bay. Forty-five minutes later, they return – at a much slower pace – from their ocean excursion, breathing heavily, smiling hugely, and dripping with sweat and sea. We sat on QQ and cheered on our favorites, all the time wondering if they had decent showering facilities before returning to English class.
Life aboard Queequeg
On the topic of hygiene, three weeks into this sailing expedition has taught us a few important matters when it comes to staying comfortably clean on a yacht such as ours. Let’s highlight showering for instance. The showers on QQ are small. Very small. I haven’t measured them, but I imagine they are about one square foot in diameter. Now imagine showering in that space. Right?
Also, we are limited to about one gallon of H2O for showering purposes. Of course, we have a watermaker on board Queequeg and our little machine works wonderfully. However, all of this “converted” water is split between six people for showering, drinking and cooking. I honestly don’t think that my hair will ever be truly, truly clean or that I’ll manage to shave my legs efficiently. In most instances, I bring a gallon jug of water up to the nets on the bow of Queequeg and dump it over my head – a quasi-shower so to speak! This far into our trip and many of us now well conditioned into searching for Plan B options. This includes looking out for available water taps in each port. So far, we have showered on the public beaches of Moorea, during the middle of dinner hour in downtown Huahine, on the marina docks of Rai’atea, and on the visitor’s warf in Bora Bora. I think the highlight came when we showered behind the community center or Taha’a while the local ladies were having their weekly hula dance practice.
(I would be ashamed, but we always wore our swimsuits.) And I can’t say that we didn’t make a spectacle of ourselves.