Saturday, 3 August 2013

bora bora part I - the social bit

Motu Tapu surrounded by gorgeous blue waters.
Bora Bora wasn’t exactly what I  had imagined. Come to think of it. I don’t exactly know what I imagined. I knew from past voyaging experience, that it wouldn’t be the “perfect” paradise everyone expects. The turquoise waters were there, the peaks were dramatic, but there was so much more to it. In Bora Bora I sweated, I cooked, and I sang (rather badly). Eventhough it doesn’t fit the paradise image everyone has when the name Bora Bora comes up, I loved every bit of it.

It's up, up, up
Almost as soon as we picked up a mooring ball at Marina Mai Kai, we encountered a group of young and young-spirited boats and we all met for drinks and chatter later that evening. Passed the introductions and into the stories, a hike was planned. We were to climb one of Bora Bora’s peaks the next day along with 6 other boats, including our buddies on SV Landfall. Now if you know me, you know I love hiking. And I love nature. But this peak looked very steep and had me worried. I suffer from Ankylosing Spondylitis, which means sometimes my body says no. But the idea of not attempting such a dramatic peak (to me), was depressing. So I decided to give it a shot. Fourteen of us did. Some were mountain climbers, some were just younger and very fit and others were like me: youngish (that's for you Izzy) nature lovers, that didn’t mind a challenge.*

This one's a little gratuitous
Standing at the top
I sweated Mount Ohue out of my pores. We all made it to the top and back down, and all of us with silly grins by the end of it. The view from the summit was breathtaking. Unlike most hikes, I didn't have too many bruises or scratches to mark this particular experience. It sure felt good to have gone up there, and the friendly hellos at the bottom of the mountain were very welcome!

Soon after, we had to say goodbye to our buddies Barb and Denny on SV Landfall. We spent a great evening with them, drinking Pastis and sharing stories. We don't know when we'll see each other again, hopefully it will be sooner than later!

Brian is so going to kill me for this one...
SV Landfall savouring reaching the top
Follow the first three boats, we are the tiny one that comes fourth
(inside the triangle of catamarans)
Click to enlarge

All around beautiful
As our bodies recovered, we took care of getting duty free fuel and some provisions. Brianna from SV Compass Rosey lead an eager group in morning yoga on the dock two days later. This was our second time, we’d joined SV Compass Rosey in Raiatea once before and we’ve been spoiled with many sessions since.

Soon we were ready to leave the town of Vaitape for a motu. Toopua was the chosen one. We and a few other boats headed for the west side of Toopua. We gaped at the turquoise waters and were swimming in them almost immediately after dropping the hook. That night, we had our first of many potlucks, this time aboard Daniel’s boat, SV Red Sky Night. (Remember the friendly Aussie we met in Raiatea?) Laughter, okay mostly mine, echoed over the quiet anchorage that night and thus began the social whirlwind that was Bora Bora. The next morning we all met at the tiny Motu Tapu, an uninhabited island that had a few palapas and tables and a nice sandy patch to do yoga. Although we’d asked permission from a couple locals that were there, we found out from the guide who brought over Hilton Hotel guests for their Deserted Island Fantasy at 9 a.m. sharp, that actually, we weren’t allowed to be there . Luckily, Izzy convinced the manager to let us finish our session and we left soon after. (We were given permission to come prior to 9 on another day if we wished.) 

Patrick showing what a machete can do in the right hands
That day is when we also met Patrick. If you haven’t already guessed, unlike the Tuamotus, the motus around here are private. The south of Toopua has been taken over by the Hilton Hotel, but where we anchored there were private properties with lovely and humble homes. We saw that one waterfront home had a dock and a large picnic table. Our ever reliable Izzy and Irene (SV Kiapa) went to talk to the owner. They asked how he would feel about having a party (potluck) with us on his property. Patrick was game, and so began our friendship with one super nice guy. We enjoyed an evening of merriment comprising of traditional Tahitian food and Cruiser potluck fare, stories and legends, and of course music. The singing began when the guitars and Rick’s bodhran were brought out. Patrick sang some beautiful Tahitian songs a capella, and shared the legend of Bora Bora with us. We all had fun joining in the singing. I kept mixing up a lyric from "Mustang Sally" in spite of having it pointed out to me multiple times by Mark. That's okay, most people were watching Izzy and Daniel, our go-go girls.

Chatter by the water
Patrick is grating the coconut while Rob befriends his dog
Nyon, resting a quick row away
It's great to see him hold that bodhran again!
The rest of the Musicians: Paul, Gab and Brianna
I get to be in a picture! Thanks Daniel
Sharing legends under the stars
Our very own go-go girls

The next day, Patrick invited us to do yoga on his property, and joined us for the session. That same day he took some of us, including Tahitian kids who were vacationing on Toopua, on a hike all over the motu . We had a great time bantering with the young ones and checking out the motu with them. 

Motu Tapu (Our first yoga location)

Another way to be on the water
Some of the gang that hiked Toopua
Mark finding his inner child
(SV Compass Rosey)
Afterward, Bri, Izzy and I decided we needed some “girl time” over tea and Tim Tams (these seem to be standard fare among cruisers…) Eventually, our male counterparts were welcomed, and the evening continued over mac and cheese and “chateau de cardboard” A cheap wine we cruisers with tight budgets have adopted. It was a chill night for most of us, except for Rob and Mark (SV Compass Rosey) who ended up joining Patrick for some night fishing. 

A smiling Bri

Izzy and I just before we saw
an eagle ray
Throughout our stay there, we joined SV Osprey for a great snorkel. Brian had located a good spot, probably the best in the Societies that we'd experienced thus   far. The coral looked a lot healthier there. We went and said hello to some stingrays too, but these ones were shier than their counterparts in Moorea. Another great way to explore the area was by kayak, Izzy, Bri and I made sure to get a little jaunt in before we left.

I’d heard people say that Bora Bora was not as friendly as the other Society Islands: something about being touristed out. We could understand why whenever we strayed into the particularly touristy spots, but lack of friendliness was not our experience. When we walked off the tourist path and into the surrounding neighbourhoods, even on the main drag for that matter: a cheerful Ia ora na (Hello) was almost always met with a grin and a warm response. As we got to know Patrick, the warmth and generosity the man showed a group of strangers, most of whom couldn’t speak fluent French, was evidence once again that being open and friendly go a long way. 

Bora Bora is also where Rick and I both got our first colds since we began voyaging… We’d forgotten what it was like to have runny noses, sore throats, and fever.  We both were knocked down a bit, but not for very long. 

The Bloody Marys gang
We left Toopua with Cariba and headed for the famed "Bloody Marys", a restaurant that's been frequented by many celebrities. We played tourist and splurged on lunch there with Daniel and Cariba plus their bonus crew, (Rob and Bri from Compass Rosey came for the day). The washrooms were a big topic of conversation you'll have to come here and see why. The weather was wet and windy, so the rest of the day was spent playing games and watching a cartoon aboard Cariba. This was Bora Bora too.

Next: We go to the east side of Bora Bora.

*It is recommended that you take a guide for this difficult hike, but we had some avid mountain climbers in our midst, and once you find the head of the trail, it would be difficult to get lost. You go up.


  1. Tell more about Patrick please. What does he do for a living? Does he live on that Motus? What does he do for a social life?


  2. Patrick lives on Toopua, he looks after his family's property (it was his father's). He has done work as a guide, while I know he's single, I didn't ask about his social life. His neighbours' kids seemed to like to hang out on his property, and he would take them hiking and the like. We talked a lot about his culture,old legends, and he explained how he prepared his culinary contribution. He's quite a spiritual guy too.

  3. When you travel to the different islands I'm most intrigued with the people you meet, especially the people that live in the more remote locations. Things like how they live, socialize and make a living, since their lives seem far removed from mine in a large city.


    1. I understand your interest. We loved meeting Patrick and Sabine/Jonathan, etc here in French Polynesia, sometimes I worry about invading their privacy by writing too much about them, but I realize that people are interested in the locals we meet. It's a big part of why we travel, to connect with others. :)



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