In Deutsch




Pictures of our French Polynesia trip
(Island of Moorea - Society Islands)
Part 1: Island of  Tahiti
Part 2: Island of  Tahiti
25th Anniversary of "being on the road"
in Tahiti

  French Polynesia Map          Moorea Map         

                             Map of
                           the Pacific
latest picture: October 2, 2009
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101  The Moorea-Ferry is carrying us
to Moorea, the sister island of Tahiti:
Moorea is known as one of the most
beautiful islands of the Pacific. The
crossing takes between 1¼ and ½ hour,
depending on the ferry type and the fare
102  The three of us at the famous
Cook’s Bay with its stunning mountain
peaks that rise from the lagoon
almost vertically into the sky. In
the background Mt. Mouaroa
(aka Mt. Bali Hai) (2’887ft.)
103  The Cruise Ship “Paul Gauguin”
drops anchor at Cook’s Bay.
A 7-day cruise through the
Society Islands starts at
US$ 3'000 per person!
Dark clouds are sailing across the bizarre mountain scenery, as we are approaching Moorea, the little sister of Tahiti, said to be one of the most beautiful of the Pacific islands: It is half time of our journey in French Polynesia, September 15th, 2009. A small landing place at the foot of a vertically rising mountain, a small marina – this is the picture we see when the Moorea Ferry docks in Vaiare on the East coast. The many cars parked along the road confirm that the two islands have developed a busy commuter system. One million people a year apparently cross to the main island of Tahiti to work with the frequently operating car ferries and high speed catamarans. What is 30 minutes of sea journey compared to the waiting time in the long queues of stop and go traffic during Papeete’s rush hours?
104  ”Club Bali Hai” resort at
Cook’s Bay in Paopao in
the evening light
105  The peaks at Cook’s Bay are
draped in clouds. In the background
Mt. Mouaroa (aka Mt. Bali Hai)
106  View from Belvédère lookout
to Cook’s Bay (right) and Opunohu
Bay (left), separated by the 1½ mile
“wide” and 2’950ft. high Mt Rotui
Past the small airport, we drive first North, then West, directly towards the famous Cooks Bay, where Astrid, our host in Tahiti, has organized a bungalow for us in Paopao at a remote relative. There are no street names. We only have a sketch, the name of Elvina and her phone number. Following the description, we branch off at the Mobil gas station into a small potholed earth track, leading towards the mountains and pull out to call up.
107  A “Marae” – a traditional
Polynesian open air place of worship
– in Paopao’s chestnut forest .....
108  ..... only a few steps away,
there is a second “Marae“
(named Ahu-o-Mahine) .....
109  ..... we encounter
both on our forest hike in
the Opunohu Valley
“Can we help you?” A pick-up has stopped beside us and three Polynesian ladies smile at us broadly. “We have seen you on TV. How long are you staying in Moorea?” When we tell them, that we will remain two, may be even three weeks, they look at us with amazement, because “normal” tourists plan two, the most three days. Maire, that is the name of the elderly lady, cultivates a pineapple plantation and she spontaneously invites us to live at her place should we decide to stay longer than the booked fortnight. Moorea with only 15’000 people being a kind of a village, everyone knows everyone. Though the trio knows also Elvina and they guide us to her house. We were not far from it.
For celebrations, the Polynesian ladies are adorned by freshly made flower garlands
When the green sliding gate opens, we immediately feel attracted by the wonderful garden. Red ginger, hibiscus, passion flowers, jasmine, orchids, palm and pandanus trees, bananas, papaya, and breadfruit – everything is flowering and growing in abundance. And in the middle of it sits “our” spacious wooden Polynesian-style bungalow with big fiberglass windows. It contains everything to make us feel comfortable. Outside, on one side runs a small creek, on the other side we look at high mountain peaks, and on foot – only a couple of minutes away – we are at the beautiful Cooks Bay, surrounded by stunning scenery. “Puce Puce”, the young dog greets us joyfully like old friends.
113  The over water bungalows of the
Sofitel “Ia Ora” Beach Resort –
a typical Polynesian holiday paradise
114  The sun sets at Cook’s Bay
115  The Sofitel “Ia Ora” Hotel at the quiet
Nuarei Bay, which is open for the public –
in the back the rough Pacific Ocean
Then we meet Elvina, our 59 year old lady host. She is friendly, talkative and as a welcome gift, we receive banana and papaya from her garden. The price of US$ 30 a night on a two weeks basis is a good deal in otherwise expensive Moorea. There is only one drawback: There is no internet and one hour in an internet cafe costs 1000 CFP = US$ 12. Separated by a flower hedge the host’s bungalow stands nearly hidden between all the greenery. Next to it we discover a small shed with an old bathtub and wood piled along the wall. Fire is made the traditional Polynesian way underneath a tub to get hot water. Taro (traditional Polynesian vegetable), tomatoes and beans are growing behind the house.
116  Our “home” for two weeks in
Paopao (US$30/day/bungalow) .....
117  ..... lunchtime (with kitchen)
118  ..... and aside the traditional
fare (bungalow) of our host
Next morning we meander through the scenic Paopao Valley to the Belvédère viewpoint, past pineapple plantations spreading on steep slopes. From there, we enjoy a lovely view to the two deep Cooks Bay and Opunohu Bay. They are only 1.5 miles apart, separated by the legendary 2’950ft. high Mount Rotui. From the parking lot two paths lead into a moss covered forest with beautiful chestnut tees. Wild cocks and chooks with chicks are pecking around peacefully. What we like is that there is no restaurant, no eatery and no souvenir shop on this viewing point. It is merely a simple turning point at the edge of the forest.
119  A peaceful sight to the
Western shore of Cook’s Bay
120  Panorama from a hill in
Paopao at Cook’s Bay of stunning
Mt. Mouaroa (aka Mt. Bali Hai)
121  The small coastal stretch along
the Western shore of Cook’s Bay reveals
us its beautiful scenery. The mountain in
the clouds is Mt. Mouaputa (2’723ft.),
called also “pierced mountain”
But it can get really busy though when a cruise ship with 2’000+ passengers lies in one of the bays. Then, everything with wheels shows up: Big buses, 4x4-safari-jeeps, rollers and SUV’s. Yes, and then suddenly our LandCruiser becomes also an attraction. Memories of Sint Maarten in the Caribbean come back: There, we were already fully integrated in the sightseeing program of commercial tours. We used to swim at a sandy beach, lying also on their route. And each time they passed, the guide pointed to us and we heard him explain: ”This car has traveled around the world and already visited 147 countries” (by now it stands at 165). The tourists waved and we waved back. Here, it is different. Here, people approach us personally and mostly it ends with an expression of admiration and good wishes. If it is getting too crowded around our car, then we just stay away.
Moorea is a unique tropical garden:
122  Passion flower: It blooms
only for a single day
123  Torch Ginger (Porcelain Rose):
A blossom of great beauty
124  Hibiscus: They are very often
used to decorate hair and ears
Moorea, actually an extinct crater, generates considerably more feeling of the South Pacific than Tahiti: The white, though small sandy beaches (in Tahiti most of them are of black volcanic sand), the crystal clear water of the lagoons sparkling in all imaginable shades of blue and green, the coconut palm groves and not least the luxury thatched over water hotel bungalows. Apparently their architecture is not an own invention, but copied from the traditional fishing huts. But what especially highlights this only 51 sq.mi. big island are its mountains that rise directly from the lagoon nearly vertically up to 4’000ft. They emerge around each corner and give the island its charming scenery and special appearance.
125  Mountain peaks pop up everywhere:
Here Mt. Mouaroa (aka Mt. Bali Hai)
seen from the Southwest coast
126  The church “Eglise de la Sainte
Famille“ in Haapiti on the Southwest coast
sits in front of a dramatic mountain scenery
127  The narrow stretch of sandy beach at
Hauru Point is considered as Moorea’s most
beautiful one. Here at Moorea-Camping
There are no hectic noisy cities, only small coastal villages and no congested roads, intensifying the feeling of peace. From every corner lush tropical green and a wealth of exotic flowers are rising our spirits. Life is unhurried. People are waving and have time for a chat. At one occasion, a woman gives us a bunch of ripe bananas, on another occasion it is a man with two pineapples that currently are in harvest and sold at every corner. They taste very sweet and are also processed into juice and marmalade. Moorea is the center of pineapple production in French Polynesia. An export market apparently does not exist yet.
128  The palm-fringed “Moorea
Beachcomber Intercontinental Resort” –
one of the most exclusive hotels – lies in
the Western part of the North coast
129  View from the beach bungalows
of the “Moorea Beachcomber Inter-
continental Resort” to the hillside
bungalows of the “Legend Resort“
130  Over water bungalow “ghetto”
of the “Hilton Moorea Lagon Resort”
Already on our second day on the island, we are circumnavigating the whole of it. On the narrow, windy only 37 miles long coastal ring road we are sometimes really hampering the traffic with our slow moving. Occasionally, a driver is pushing behind us. Emil always hates being a traffic obstacle. But we are not here to race, but to enjoy the panorama and nature. And this we do intensively by pulling out often.
131  Beach and main complex of the
“Hilton Moorea Lagon Resort” .....
132  Over water bungalows of the
“Hilton Moorea Lagon Resort”
with mountain view .....
133  ..... and the perfect South
seas dream respectively illusion
Continuing in the East, we drive past the capital city, or more accurately the islands administration center of Afareaitu. What Lonely Planet writes is right: “Don’t blink or you will miss it!” Towards the South, villages have even a sleepier and more forgotten character. It is really a delight to drive in our own pace through this exotic tropical scenery and to stop at azure lagoons to enjoy the many colorful fishes.
134  A huge mega cruise ship
dropped anchor in the Opunohu Bay
135  The restored octagonal church
of the „London Missionary Society“,
built around 1870, is the oldest standing
European building in the South Pacific
136  Lunch break at the Western
shore of the Opunohu Bay with
a view of the cruise ship
On the West coast, we have a look at the only two campings. Both are really beautifully situated at the same white sandy stretch of beach directly on the blue-green shimmering lagoon – a zone protected by the reef. No doubt it would have been an option, were we not offered a bungalow that is even cheaper than camping (costs US$ 60 for 2/day). Of course, we pay also a visit to the adjacent expensive Hotel Intercontinental, whose over water bungalows we do not really like (Hilton is more our taste, it has a more of a personal touch), costing from CFP 91’000, approx. US$ 1’070/day. On the other hand, we are very much attracted to its dolphin basin, where one can swim with the animals and even kiss them – for a lot of money of course. We are happy just to watch them at play and enjoy their acrobatic backflip, what is free of charge!
137  Tattooing is part of the resurgence
of the Polynesian culture awareness.
It is a very painful procedure
138  A beautiful example
of a tattooing
139  Hand carved souvenirs from wood
at a tourist exhibition at the former
compound of “Club Med” at Hauru Point
September 29th, 2009: Rain is pouring down heavily as it has done already the past three days. Around 10am, a siren interrupts the rush and does not want to stop. Strange, may be they probe and exercise, we think and are not paying anymore attention to it until Elvina, who works nearby, suddenly stands in front of our bungalow and shouts excitedly:” A Tsunami is coming, but no panic!”. And away she speeds with her small car and leaves us in uncertainty. We try to get out more via the cellular, but the phone net work already broke down. When we see that there is a lot of movement in the Renault garage nearby, that cars are sheltered, the door closed and that Elvina’s friend drives away with the second car as well, “our” alarm bells are ringing too.
140  Emil on our hike to the old crater rim,
called “Three Coconut Trees Pass“ .....
141  ..... a hidden small
waterfall along the way .....
142  ..... and Emil on
the “natural swing”
In a rush, we pack our laptops, our backpack with the money and identification papers, our cameras and what else is in reach, into the car, shut off the gas stove where I was precooking two chicken legs for lunch and shut down the windows and doors. Only the sliding gate we do not close completely leaving a way of escape for “Puce Puce”, the dog. Then we drive the narrow earth track hill-up and finally stop at a flat, private spot, where more cars are parked. There, we feel safe.
143  A lovely forest flower that
grows directly out of the tree trunk
144  A rolled up fern leaf
bud that is unraveling to open
145  A Pandanus tree
draped with Spanish moss
Shortly afterwards, the owner of the place, who is living further up, comes down in his pickup truck. He is able to give us the latest information he got from TV: The tidal wave is coming from Samoa. The quake struck at a magnitude of 8.3 on the Richter scale and the urgent safety measures for Moorea was set to 16ft. above sea level (for the Marquesas Islands 33ft.). The Tsunami is expected to hit Moorea between 10 and 11am. We glance at our watch. It is 10.45am. Did eventually the all-clear message already occur? To be on the safe side, we decide to stay one more hour on higher ground. Automatically, our thoughts go to the two Samoa’s – Samoa and American Samoa. How badly have they been affected? Are our friends there safe?
146  Half way to the “Three Coconut
Trees Pass” we enjoy a lovely view
down to Opunohu Bay .....
147  ..... on the pass, another
stunning mountain peak is greeting,
Mt. Mouaroa (2’887ft.) .....
148  ..... and on the other side the
view reaches down to the Pacific
Ocean near Haapiti in the Southwest
Marcel – the father of the pickup driver – who has just been evacuated from the coast by his son, comes walking down the hill. He is an 80 years old Frenchman, bearing his age very well. He came to Moorea when he was 20 with no money, but good ideas. He developed a new technique in the pineapple cultivation, enabling growing fruit all-year-round. “You can plan the exact day when you want to harvest the fruits”, he adds proudly. “By the way: What happened actually to the famous Club Med”, we ask him during our conversation. “The landowners wanted to increase the rent too much, therefore it left Moorea” is his comment. He apparently was their supplier of oranges. With its closure, not only his source of income was lost, but also 200 jobs. Today, the once famous and lovely holiday resort is just decaying.
149  Liliana enjoys the mountain hike
150  A plant of the Pandanus family
that is growing only on higher elevations
151  A glittering small lizard
that is escaping
Who does not automatically associate the South Pacific with sunshine and blue skies? Well, we had to learn otherwise. Since we arrived in Moorea nearly two weeks ago, the sunny days are rather rare. We already are afraid that we will have to renounce hiking to the old crater rim, to the „Col des Trois Cocotiers“, the “Three Coconut Tree Pass”. But on the last day before our departure, luck is on our side. We start from the Belvédère viewpoint through the forest with stately chest nut trees, mosses, lichens, knobbed twigs in all imaginable shapes and rich tropical foliage. Already from far we hear the rush of the small hidden waterfall and shortly after we already cross the splashing creek for the first time.
152  Lantana, a flower with a
surprising variety of colors
153  Strelitzia – the bird-of-paradise
flower – fan out in abundance
154  Hibiscus flowers bloom in many
colors. The white ones are not so common
We encounter no other hikers. The tour groups have not enough time, and individuals are scarce. Luck for us! And luck for Emil who walks in front of me. He spots a rare green dove that, disturbed by his presence, escapes. The track is badly signposted and I am glad that I can rely on his good sense of orientation. When after one and a half hour we are standing sweating on the knife edge of the old crater rim, the “Three Coconut Trees Pass” – the name is a kind of misnomer now that only one palm tree remains, the two other ones having been destroyed by a cyclone – we are rewarded with an awesome view: On one side we look down to Cooks and Opunohu Bay, and on the other side to Haapiti village with its turquoise lagoon. Red button flowers and Pandanus are growing; Spanish moss is decorating its twigs. This lovely hike awakens the desire of more, but unfortunately tomorrow our time in Moorea is running out.
155  A “White Eye Bird” is
feeding on a ripe Papaya fruit
156  A “Red-Browed Finch” is sitting
on a twig draped with Spanish moss
157  “Atoll Fruit-Dove” wearing
the camouflage of the forest
Also on our last day, we are sitting at the shore of Cooks Bay and watch the world goes by. Cruise ship tourists are ferried with a life-boat across the bay to their cruiser “Paul Gaugin”, followed by musicians carrying their instruments and flower adorned dancers who will entertain them on the vessel on the last day of their one week long cruise. At the same time also the catamaran is sailing away to its daily sunset tour. When it is also gone, it is getting quiet around us. On the other side of the lagoon, the skies start to change into a soft golden color. In the blue water below us yellow, black and striped fishes, once even an octopus, are playing around. Black sea cucumbers are lying motionless between corals. Slowly the steep mountain peaks are darkening, outlining strikingly against the last daylight. The feeling of peace is total – no sunset cruise can replace it.
158  The peaceful Paopao Valley,
where pineapples are cultivated …..
159  ..... two Pineapple fields nestling
between trees at the foot of a mountain …..
160  ..... Pineapple cultivation
in its initial stage
“I do not believe that the ferry will run with this storm”, Emil doubts, when next day, October 1st, we are driving along the coast towards the ferry terminal to catch the last ride at 3.15pm. The sea is agitated; the waves are topped with white crests. According to the internet, they reach 12ft. altitude. May be I should take two sea sickness tablets, I worry. A few cars are already lined up at the ferry terminal. “I am going to check the situation”, Emil exclaims and disappears. I am waiting in the car. After 15 minutes he returns. “The ferry just berthed, I had to secure it, nobody was there“, he tells me with a smile.
161  Pomelos that are hanging
in bunches on trees
162  A Bananito plant whose
small fruits are however not edible
163  Annona, a spiny
fruit of the tropics
Is this a joke? Not really believing him and looking at him doubtfully, he continues: “One of the guys on the bridge with a rope in the hand pointed at me and waved like crazy. I got to understand and ran to catch the rope and secured it around the pole”. We wonder if it always works that way! We sit on the upper deck until a high water fountain drenches us and forces us to move inside. It is cracking, rolling and rocking so that we have to cling to the bench. We are worrying about the safety of our LandCruiser. No truck and no car have been lashed down. Let’s hope for the best!
164  Selling freshly caught fish in
Paopao; from time to time it gets watered
165  “Puce Puce“, the
dog who adopted us
166  Constructing equipment disappearing
slowly in the re-growing jungle
With each mile we sail away from the striking mountain backdrop of Moorea, we know with certainty that the climax of our “South Pacific Cruise with our LandCruiser” is now lying definitely behind us. None of the other islands was capable to produce such an intense feeling of paradise as did Moorea. This island with the shape of a heart is and remains for us the epitome of the South Pacific.
167  The nostalgic four-master
“Star Flyer“ in the Opunohu Bay
168  The Moorea-Ferry that brings
us in a stormy sea back to Tahiti
169  We say good-by to Moorea.
Its beauty became the quintessence
of the South Pacific for us
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