Posted by: powellpjc | August 14, 2010

Moorea tour.


We had our fill of Papeete. It’s not really a pretty city and it is on the decline these days. Tourism is down for a variety of factors but the biggest single issue for economic crisis is the cessation of nuclear testing here in French Polynesia in 2002. Apparently, a lot of money was spread around the islands during the testing–schools, city halls, military and police support, naval and airforce bases and also money to buy the folks’ consent to a sometimes unpopular program of blowing things up. French Polynesia achieved autonomy of sorts in 1982 but the French influence here is still marked and, in most cases, desired. Need the money for health care and schools. There are rumblings of complete independence but businessmen don’t want it. One big hotel here near the airport is completely shut down and the tourists (mostly American and French) are staying away in droves. There is one fairly large cruise ship, the ‘Paul Gauguin’ doing the circuit of the islands–not as big as the Disney Princess or whatever sails from Miami.

The Paul Gauguin at anchor in Opunahu Bay, Moorea.

When I was here 31 years ago the big cruise ships were calling but no more. Hoteliers folks complain of high airfares killing trade. I spoke to an American ex-pat who runs a time-share/condo/hotel joint on Moorea. Going to hell in a hand basket kind of summed it up for him. And he was here in the early ’60’s when his partner of the time came up with the idea of an over-water bungalow. See them everywhere now. Bungalows, that is. Not tourists.

The 'over-water' bungalow, Tahiti style.

I’d met some paragliders from Tahiti when I was in Chile and I made contact with the club here. So, last Sunday morning, I hitched a ride on the club’s tough old Toyota for a nerve-wracking rumble up the mountainside.

The scariest part of the flight was the ride up the mountain.

The take-off is 600 m above sea level in the lee of the prevailing trade winds and provides a great view. It is thermal flying with spectacular vistas of steep mountainsides and blue lagoons.

Getting ready for flight. Moorea in the background.

Flying into the green 'Avatar' type hills. Unfortunately, no dragon to ride and no chick to follow.

The west coast of Tahiti from 800 metres.

Beaches, coral and bony knee.

I ordered some new gear for my mainsail track (where I keep breaking sail slides) and when that was paid for (not delivered) we set sail for Moorea, visible in the distance at about 14 miles. Easy sailing because it is downwind.

Ulic arranges the booze (and a little water) for the photo op. Fortunately he doesn't drink much.

We toured the south coast first. It was generally uninhabited by sailboats. Cruising boats seem to congregate in large groups so as to be available for potlucks and endless agonizing about weather. I’ve said it before and will again.

Moorea looms. I'm gonna bet right now that thing is unclimable.

A line squall overhead and 'la Rosa' in the foreground, in solitary regal splendor. Opunahu Bay, Moorea.

I take pictures of churches in the hopes of avoiding a lot of Purgatory time.

Moorea. Another hour knocked off my time.

The newly-wed princess of Sweden was on board for her honeymoon. We did not get a dinner invitation.

Red flowers of Moorea. Including 'la Rosa' in the background.

One sees the strangest sights out of one's porthole.

Fishes, not sharks.

Underwater photography thanks to Jimmie Donaldon's generous gift.

The graceful helmsman at rest.

I appear to be in some sort of Venus flytrap. I don't care.

I've steered enough. Ulic still enjoys it.

Our track of the Moorea tour.

In Opunahu Bay there was such a congregation (about 25 boats) so we stayed clear for as long as we could. Did some hiking in the hills, rented scooters for an around-the-island in a day trip, some scuba and lots of snorkeleering. Fishes and sharks. Oh, and lots of rays coming by for feeding at one location. Closely followed by sharks looking to take advantage of a white guy.

Got a runaround with my new sail parts so after 1 month we headed back to Papeete to be within shouting distance of the sail guy. Lots of arm-waving. Am now trying to extend my visa here so I can install the new stuff before the next passage. A visitor is allowed 3 months and I’m asking for another month. I’m told it will be no problem. One hears that, from time to time.



  1. When are you arriving in Fiji?

  2. Beautiful , just keep us updated . Have fun . Where next ?

  3. I wonder if JMJ would agree with the halfway stop
    in the purgatory.?

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