Northwest to the Leeward Islands
There are dozens of us cruising yachts milling in the Societies Islands of French Polynesia now, some in the Windwards, some already in the Leewards, most heading westwards with final destinations in the coming months of either New Zealand, Australia, north to the equator or continuing to Asia for the cyclone season. Every time there is a decent weather window a flotilla sets off, hopping from island to island, nibbling away at the many hundreds of miles ahead of us.
It’s a 90 mile sail from Moorea to Huahine so with only 12 hours of daylight and reefs at both ends to maneouver through it just can’t be done as a day sail for most yachts, time for an overnighter. We sat at the Sunken Tikis Anchorage watching the procession of yachts leaving Moorea late afternoon, skipper wanted to leave last so he could spend the night entertaining himself by chasing them all down! We had perfect downwind conditions, rolly as usual but Balvenie flew along, passing one after another. As day broke we approached the pass at Huahine, all the fleet had been passed, mission accomplished!It’s Festival Time
We timed our stay in Fare Village superbly as the annual July Heiva Festival was in full swing. Outrigger racing took place almost daily, culmulating in the finals of both individual and team events, these were serious affairs with the canoes being officially weighed before the races, the courses were long and hard fought, the competition fierce.
The javelin throwing competition looked quite serious too, a coconut sat high atop a stick that waved in the steady breeze, we think the competition winner was the one that managed to skewer the coconut the most times with his homemade sharpened javelin, while we watched we saw only one successful hit.
More Song & Dance
Although we had already been to the Heiva Dance Festival in Papeete we took the opportunity to see the event on a more local level, so went one evening to watch the local villagers compete. Each village had one female then one male performer do a solo dance accompanied by village musicians, then there was also a group of singers. It was all excellent, here’s a collage of the various performers, different colours represent the various villages.
Big Outing for Little Bikes
There is a well restored marae site on the northern coast of Huahine so we took our folding bikes ashore to go discover it. It didn’t take us long to get there, the site was interesting with excellent information boards in English and a small museum. It was located right on the waters edge inside the lagoon, the first we have seen so close to the water. Instead of turning back we looked at the map - the road was flat except for one mega climb, there was very little traffic and there were several more attractions to see so we just kept going, and going, off we went and circumnavigated Huahine Nui.
The next attractions were the over water fish traps and then the stone channels created also to divert and trap fish. Undoubtedly these have been maintained and replaced over the years but the early history of the island depicts these traps as as being a major provider for securing a constant food source.
We kept peddling down the inland water way on the east coast of the island then turned to traverse the southern coast, a huge hill rose ahead of us. So it was a timely stop when we realised that the small stream on our right was home to Huahine’s famous blue eyed eels. There were about 10 chunky eels lurking in the shallows waiting for their next meal of stale baguettes from a passing tourist, we obliged. You do need to look real hard at the photo but there are 3 eels lying there and you can see their blue eyes.
Then it was decision time, either return the same way on the flat or tackle the big hill with a 45% gradient for 2 km’s ~ no choice really, on we went but we did need to walk most of it up and we took it very slowly going down too, that is one steep hill!
Heading South Inside the Reef
We tore ourselves away from Fare and headed on down the west side of Huahine onboard Balvenie, stopping half way off Mt Teapaa in a delightful sheltered spot with free moorings, a golden sandy beach ashore, a few coral bommies to snorkel and a short hike up to a magnificent viewing point out across the reef and to neighbouring Raiatea and Tahaa.
Next it was just a few more miles down to the south west corner to Baie d’Avea, another one of those spots where we just can sit for hours and marvel at the colours of the waters around us. To stretch our legs we ventured ashore and made our way south to an ancient marae site then took a path opposite it and climbed high along the ridge overlooking the anchorage, some bush whacking was required when the trail disappeared from time to time but it was an adventure, great exercise and offered another stunning view.
Music Time Back in Fare
It’s been 4 years since we have seen our friends Steve and Lili off American yacht Liward, that was in Panama the first time we visited there. We had been talking on our daily cruisers net on our SSB Radios and a rendezvous was planned in Fare, Steve’s a musician and he organized to play at the excellent Huahine Yacht Club, it was time to rock the dock!
It was a great night, all the cruisers turned up for the event, as did most of the locals, this is a small place but I’d say everyone on the island was there to enjoy the live music with Steve leading and accompanied by several local musicians.