Sunday, July 25, 2004

Bora Bora (Part I)

July 16th – July 25th

Bora Bora is a beautiful island … a combination of the Tuamotos with its white sandy beaches and turquoise clear waters, and the Marquesas with majestic mountains and varying colors of green. After all that motoring it was a relief to sit in the calm and quiet anchorage of Motu Toopua.  We spent the next two days mostly lounging around the boat.  Chris kayaked over to a nearby hotel to ‘borrow’ their email services (attempting to blend in with the other guests who were paying $1000 per night!).  And I began “swim team” … my new daily exercise program (one year having passed since the twins I feel that I can no longer call this extra weight ‘baby fat’).  Robin from Whisper joined me, and so far we seem to have a somewhat decent consistency record!  We also enjoyed appetizers and rum drinks aboard Billabong with Robin, Duncan, and Duncan’s visiting sister (Susan) ... yes, I realize that rum and apps are counteractive to swim-team!

Monday was a bit more hectic … it was time to try and cash in our bonds and coordinate paying for our dinghy (which had arrived in Tahiti) so that it could be shipped to Bora Bora.  Chris was up early (as usual) and headed into town (with no dinghy and one kayak lost it was easier for him to go alone). Town was quite the trek from where we were anchored but he made it … only to discover that in order to get back my bond money I had to be present (even though my bond was paid with Chris’s credit card).  Chris called me on the VHF from town asking me to try and find a way in … hmm guess I’ll just start swimming???  Luckily, Whisper was going snorkeling so I hitched a ride with them to a local hotel on the Motu and from there took the hotel's water shuttle to town (more than one person asked me how I would get back to Billabong, but I figured we’d deal with that later, right now we just needed to get our dinghy paid for so it could be shipped).  We made it to the banks just before they closed for lunch … all in all the entire process went extremely smooth.  We called Michelle to let him know the money had been deposited, and to our delight he told us that the dinghy would be put on the 4pm cargo ship to arrive in Bora Bora by 2pm the NEXT DAY!!!  We also lucked out running into Bobulona in town, so I was able to hitch a ride back to Billabong.  That evening we joined Donna and Ralph aboard Ocean Girl for a few sunset drinks.

The next morning Chris went with Bobulona to the shipping docks to check out what he would need to pick up our dinghy later on.  As it turned out the ship had already arrived.  There was some language difficulties but good fortune was one our side and they were able to tell Chris which container our dinghy was in … even BETTER it so happened that they were opening that particular container!  Chris returned to Billabong with our new dinghy in tow.  We instantly threw on the engine and zoomed around the anchorage, huge smiles lighting up our faces!  It’s amazing what having easy accessible transportation provides … this was better than getting my first car back when I was sixteen.  We made Ocean Girl climb in so we could test out if the dinghy would plane with four people (it did).  The next few days we couldn’t help but smile every time we went somewhere!!! After days of debate we settled on the name Boomerang.  We figured we cursed our first dinghy with Myles Away (because it is now literally miles away), so this time we wanted something that would encourage it to stay around.  Spirit Wind (a couple we met in Mexico) actually gets the credit because we learned from Whisper that they kept calling Billabong Boomerang, when we heard Boomerang we thought PERFECT ... it's another Australian word and boomerangs always come back!!!

Midday we moved Billabong to the mooring balls in front of Bloody Mary’s restaurant.  It was the first time Chris and I had ever picked up a mooring … I was quite impressed with my driving, I approached the mooring such that by the time we hit the ball Billabong was going just about zero knots.  PERFECT – my sailing instructors would have been proud.  Chris seemed a bit impatient up on the bow, wondering if we were ever going to actually get to the ball … okay, perhaps I slowed down a bit early (but better too slow than too fast was my theory)!

That night we splurged on an outstanding dinner at Bloody Mary’s with Whisper, Bobulona, and Bobulona’s two guests Harvey and Ann.  We had known of Harvey and Ann since La Paz, Mexico, when we talked to them on the SSB.  They were in Mag Bay on their boat (Calabasa) along with our friends from Sea Pilgrim.  Since Sea Pilgrim didn’t have an SSB radio, they had contacted us from Calabasa.  Greg and Lisa (two of our friends in Ventura on Panacea) had also met Calabasa when they had cruised Mexico the season before!  Harvey and Ann also taught Sea Pilgrim a version of Canasta that they had then passed on to us, and we are now hooked.  In other words, we were quite excited to finally meet them and were once again amazed at what a small world it can be!

Dinner blew our daily (possibly even weekly) budget, but it was fantastic!  We shared a tuna appetizer, followed by fresh fish entrees, and some of the best cheesecake of my life (perhaps it had something to do with not having had cheesecake in many many months).  The restaurant had a great atmosphere with dark wooden tables and stools, and a sandy beach floor (you check your shoes at the door).  It was the first restaurant I’ve been in where the men, wearing short red sarongs with no shirts, were more scantily dressed then the women.

Wednesday morning we went looking (hooray for having a dinghy again) for a good snorkeling spot. We didn’t have a lot luck, although when we dropped in at one tourist spot we were instantly surrounded by tons of tropical fish … apparently used to being fed (they would get so close and were so trusting that I was actually able to touch one).  I felt a little giddy-happy at being completely surrounded by so many fish!  Unfortunately, there is a lot of dead coral, which is heartbreaking to see. We hear stories of even the dive instructors standing on and touching the live coral.  That, along with all of the new hotels being built (which all stand over the water), seems to be taking its toll on nature.

After snorkeling we moved anchorages again, this time moving to the anchorage in front of the town so that we could easily get diesel and provisions.  It was another first for us … first time anchoring in 83 feet of water!  It was odd, especially after having been spoiled over the last week with all the shallow waters.  Knowing that Bora Bora was such a tourist center I had expected a much larger town.  While it is overrun with tourists, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Bora Bora still has a small-island feel.  The downside of a small town is, of course, less supplies and higher prices (I actually paid five bucks for single cantaloupe!).

Moving to the back side

We only stayed one night … it was not a very comfortable spot, with tourist boats zooming in and out, slight chop, and general discomfort about the depth.  The next morning, we moved around to the other side of Bora Bora, settling down at Motu Toferi.  It was another turquoise clear anchorage in shallow waters (about 11 feet).  The pass was curvy and shallow, but we managed to not scrape bottom!  Roger and Nancy from Equanimity invited us over for a potluck dinner along with Bobulona, Jadara, and Flusofeta.  With exception of Bobulona, we had only briefly met everyone else, so it was wonderful to meet new people and hear of their experiences.

Friday we decided to go ashore and see if we could find a bike rental place.  After a lot of walking we gave up, deciding that the rental shop must be farther South.  We did however come upon a guy selling banana stalks from his yard and were thrilled to purchase one (oddly you can’t buy bananas in the store).

The next day we set off on a new search, looking for sandy beaches and good snorkeling (as described on our charts).  We seemed to keep missing the sandy portions of beach, both times we came ashore and walked across to the outside of the Atoll we hit rocky craters.  We gave up on the beach and went looking for some good coral.  We dropped in at one spot which looked like it had some potential, and although I briefly spotted a single black-tip shark, the fish were minimal and the coral dieing.  The second spot we dropped in at was much better, tons of live coral along with numerous fish.  We had heard there were also manta rays in this area (in the deeper channel between the two reefs we were snorkeling), but we didn’t spot any.

The snorkeling was good enough that we convinced Whisper and Island Sonata to dinghy over (they were anchored at Motu Piti Aou, just South of us) and join Ascension and us the next morning.  This time the snorkeling really paid off.  From the start we spotted a large manta ray about 45 feet below us and a curious (and rather large) barracuda kept following us around.  We also sighted a spotted eagle ray and then, for the grand finale, two gorgeous manta rays circled below us (at about 30 feet). These two rays had markings that Chris and I had never seen.  It was as though their backs had been tattooed with intricate designs in white ink.  And let’s not forget all the little guys, the hundreds of tropical fish that occupied ever space around us.

We decided that since the bike rentals were further South, as was Robin (whose birthday was coming up on Tuesday and we were planning a party for), that we would move Billabong down there as well. Although we knew the channel was easily passable (seeing as hundreds of boats before us had gone through, including at least five the day before), it still didn’t stop us from being a bit nervous as we curved through what felt like a rat maze, trying to remember what all the various markers meant and which side the safe water was on.  Luckily the pass was short and ten minutes later we could relax as we went from 10 feet of water to 35.  After anchoring (now near Motu Piti Aou), Island Sonata called us for some Canasta.

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