Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Honeymoon In French Polynesia: Moorea, Huahine

Day 4 - Moorea

We awoke to the cool breeze of tropical winds at about 7AM. Jill went for a morning run while I waited to line up a rental car.

We hopped into our Mega Ranch, (a two seater, with no doors, an open roof and a small truck bed in the rear) really quite a cute car, and by about 9AM and were off. We decided to circle the island counter-clockwise. We drove along stopping at one spot after another to take video and photographs. We saw animals. We stopped at Moorea's two bays: Cook's Bay and Opanahu Bay. We loved the view of Bali Hai from Opanahu Bay. Both bays are very beautiful. After about a 2 hour relaxing ride, we stopped at a small store to purchase (very reasonable priced) food for lunch, and tomorrow's breakfast and lunch. We then returned to the hotel and ate cheese, pineapple, bread, crackers, and potato chips for lunch after a quick swim off of our balcony. This is also a good time to point out the dolphins at our hotel. (For a steep price, you can swim with and hold them for 20 mintues.)

We were now ready to go back to the more adventerous and scenic spots on the island. We headed for Belvedere Lookout, a spot in the mountains between Cooks and Opanahu Bay that has a spectacular view. The drive up was twisty with many potholes, but it was very fun. We, of course, took pictures and video at the top. After driving back down the mountain, we were destined to find this waterfall or cascade that I read about. We were off to our most exciting adventure yet.

We searched for a while, trying to find the right road for the waterfall. Even after asking several people for directions, the language barrier precluded us from easily finding our destination. We finally headed down a small bumpy road, where at one point the road was blocked. A creepy looking man told us the waterfalls were ahead and that we needed to pay 200 cpf/person ($2.50) to go past. We decided to go back to try to find what we were told was another, free, waterfall. Well, after venturing about a mile down a road fit for a Jeep, we decided we weren?t going to find the "other" waterfall. With our tail between our legs, we went back to the creepy Tahitian and paid the fee. He wrote down our license plate, hotel and time of departure and then made me sign something (probably our lives away). We drove about a mile down a bumpy road and then got out and took a slightly treacherous (definitely don't wear flip-flops and Tevas as we did) 20 minute hike to the waterfall. Needless to say, Jill was not a happy camper. The waterfall was very nice, about 100-200 ft. I would say, and after we were safely back in our car so would Jill, that it was worthwhile.

We next headed for the pineapple distillery where they make juices and liquors, but it was closed for the day. (I think it closes at 4PM).

We then headed home, signed me up for scuba the next morning, and got ready for dinner. Before leaving, we took in the sunset.

Since we had the car, we decided to go out to "Les Tipaniers", an Italian restaurant about 1 mile away. (We could have walked but it was dark. The walk is about 18-20 minutes, we knew people that did it). We arrived at about 7PM and were told we needed reservations, however we were also told to come back at around 8-8:15 for a table. At that time we did get a table and the food was very good. We had salads with Roquefort cheese and walnuts. Jill had tagiatelle in tomato cream sauce with shrimp, and I had a pizza with several different vegetables on it. For dessert we shared profiterolles. The food was reasonably priced, about $50 for two. This goes to show the price differnce between hotel restaurants and local establishments. The service was not extraordinary, for some reason they were a little rude.

After dinner we returned and went to sleep. Once again we slept very well.

Day 5 - Moorea

We awoke at about 7:00. Jill went running and I prepared for my 8:00 dive. The dive shop on the hotel grounds is called Bathy's. It is near the pool and the main beach. About 12 of us, plus 3 dive-masters went out on a 30" boat for a 10-15 minute ride. We stopped at a spot called Opanahu Ocean. I dove with three Americans and a dive master. After getting to about 15?, one of the divers in my group had to go back up due to a bad ear pressure problem. The rest of us continued towards the other groups of divers, where a feeding was occuring. We settled down on the bottom at 80? and watched as a dive master held out a 4? fish which was serving as lunch to about 20 black tip sharks and many smaller fish. The sharks circled within a few feet of our heads, it was incredible. The rest of the dive, which lasted 50 minutes, was nice, but nothing special. I was back at the room by about 10:30.

We lied in the sun and relaxed in the water until lunch, which was the same as yesterday except for the substitution of taco flavored Doritos for potato chips.

After lunch, we lied out and swam a little more. At about 4:00 we decided to take a walk to "Le Petit Village", a small shopping center down the road from the hotel. We saw many beautiful flowers in yellow, red, and white as we walked, We passed "Le Tipaniers" (the restaurant at which we had eaten last night) after about 18-20 minutes. "Le Petit Village" is about a 30 minute walk and is across from the Club Med. There are some black pearl shops, bazaars, a newstand, and a good ice cream/sorbet shop. We got banana and lemon sorbets for the walk back. They were delicious.

We returned to our room at 5:30. Again, I took sunset shots and we then showered for dinner. We ate in the hotel restaurant which overlooked the pool and was romantic. Jill had a green salad, shrimp in a pineapple, and chocolate mousse cake. I had a goat cheese salad and mahi-mahi, rice and vegetables. The price was around $80 and the food was good.

After dinner we strolled back to our hut and went to sleep. Once again, we slept very well.

Day 6 - Moorea/Huahine

Once again, we awoke fairly early at about 7:30. Jill went for a run and I slept until she returned at about 9:00. We ate a small breakfast in the room-yogurt, bread and water.

Hana Iti beachWith our airport pickup scheduled for noon, we packed and then relaxed on our balcony until about 11:30. Right at noon, as scheduled, we were picked up for the airport. Our flight to Papeete left at 1:15 and we arrived at 1:25. As soon as we took off, the steward told us to "please place seats and trays...for our approach to Tahiti." Definitely the shortest flight of our lives. Once on the ground, we had about 30 minutes until our flight to Huahine. We tried to mail some postcards and exchange some money, but learned that at the Papeete airport, both offices along with the souvenir stand are only open 1 hour before and after international flights. So, we still have not mailed any postcards.

As we had not eaten since early in the morning, we got cheese, lettuce, and tomato on a baguette, onion chips, and two sodas and had a small lunch.

At 2:20, we boarded our next plane for Huahine and arrived at 3:00. At the airport, we were greeted by an Asian/Tahitian looking man in a Land Rover. This, we had expected, as we were told only 4-wheel drive vehicles venture to our hotel - Hana Iti. After about a 20-25 minute ride, we turned onto a narrow, bumpy and windy dirt road that we were told other cars could navigate, but I don't think they would fare very well. After 5-10 minutes on this road, we arrived at reception. We were basically in a clearing with nothing around, except for a some cars and a path through the woods leading to reception. We did notice several small Fiats here, so renting a car truly was possible, what do you know.

Upon checking in, we received leis, fresh coconut milk (in the coconut), and were told we were upgraded from a deluxe bungalow to a special bungalow. We were taken onto a balcony overlooking the entire complex (although we mostly saw woods) and given the lay of the land and a brief overview of Hana Iti.

We, then, climbed into a truck which transports people around the mountainous and expansive hotel, and were taken to our bungalow. WOW! We walked up a hand made tree trunk staircase, along a short dirt path, and up a few more steps to the first building of our complex. Straight ahead, and through sliding glass doors was the bedroom (really a building in itself.) The bed is a four post bed with a mosquito net over it (more on the bugs later.) There is a small trunk on the right side of the bed with mosquito coils, insect repellant and some shells on top. Half of the room, (the bed portion) had a woven rug, and the other half is some kind of beautiful wood floor. A chaise lounge and wooden full length mirror completed the bedroom. The bathroom is off of the right corner of the bedroom separated by a sliding, Japanese-like, screen door. The sink was ceramic with shells as both faucet and knobs. Even the toilet seat was made of some exotic wood. There was a coffee maker in the bathroom as well.

To the left of where we entered the bedroom is another sliding glass door which leads to a wrap-around deck and to our second building which houses the "living room." This room is about double the size of the bedroom and has sliding glass doors along three sides of the room. There is a glass dining table with a tree trunk base and three bamboo chairs with pillows of some type of fabric from Bali. There is a small bar area with a fridge, which had a fruit basket and champagne in it (compliments of the hotel.) On the bar was another mosquito coil, shells, a flashlight, and glasses. Next to the bar is a bamboo and shell lamp and two plants. The other half of the room contains a bamboo couch, with pillows and cushions in the same fabric as the dining chairs, and two matching chairs. A tree trunk coffee table completed the furnishings. Finally, there is a ceiling fan with a mobile made of shells hanging from it. The panoramic view from this room is incredible. You look out on a beautiful bay, surrounded by mountains, flowing into the lagoon to the east. Exiting through any of the four enormous sliding glass doors takes you out onto a wrap-around deck, where you realize that the hut is built into a cliff.

Back through the bedroom, directly across from where we originally entered the hut, is a door leading to two places. If you go to the right, up about 8 steps, you come to a platform/balcony in the cliff with a jacuzzi overlooking the same expanse as the living room. This is a romantic spot. If you go to the left, from the bedroom door, and down about 10-12 steps, you enter the room below the "living" room. This room which is separated into three areas has a large walk-in closet with a sliding glass door leading to the lowest and smallest balcony of the bungalow. There is also a large dressing area with another shell sink with shell knobs, a few mirrors, and Japanese-like screen windows that pulled from the top down, which opened to the bay described above. The last portion of this room is an open shower, not only open to get in, but open with a view of the bay. There is a shower massage, snake-like head which fit into an interestingly shaped branch set into the floor. Again, the knobs were shells, and a bench was made of a tree trunk. A nice effect occurred when draining the jacuzzi, the water flowed down rocks to the base of the shower like a small waterfall.

So, this is to be our home for 3 days and 3 nights. Now, about the stories we had heard. We were told that the mosquitoes here were worse than anywhere else, due to the huts being in the woods. We also heard of crabs, lizards, and rats in the rooms, and finally that the huts leaked. After staying in bungalow #24, I can say the following:

  1. The mosquitoes were not a problem if you follow the instructions of the hotel manager. (Light coils when in and out of the room, put on the citronella scented bug lotion they give you when you go out at night, and sleep under the mosquito net.) The coils didn't smell overly smoky, the lotion was not very oily after it dried, and sleeping under the net was actually fun. Our verdict...No mosquito bites during dinner or while sleeping.
  2. The only animals we saw in our room were small lizards, which we saw at every hotel we stayed at.
  3. Although it only rained for a brief time, on our first night, our hut did not leak.

You should know, that some huts were open to the wild, and I could see having problems. Request a closed in hut.
Jill, who was both scared and worried, really began to love this place after our first night without trauma.

After showering and getting settled, we decided to be adventurous and walk down to the lagoon where the beach, activities, restaurant and bar are. The walk was 10-15 minutes downhill and was not too bad, we rarely called for the truck to take us down to the lagoon. The restaurant is beautiful. It is a long, narrow, half-moon shaped building looking out over a large lily pond to a show stage with a waterfall and the lagoon in the distance. To the left of the restaurant was the bar, another cool building with a high sloping roof. The bar contained many tables with both hanging and floor standing chairs, a pool table, and many games to play. The beach was the nicest that we have seen, probably because they imported sand and constructed it to their specifications. To the right of the restaurant was the waterfall described above which actually fed into a swimming pool. It was beautiful.

After checking out the grounds, we took the truck back to our room to get a tripod for what turned out to be an awesome sunset. We then walked back down, took some pictures and then sat at the bar playing backgammon and scrabble until dinner. There was a three piece ensemble, playing the same Tahitian songs that we heard everywhere, that was very good. The hotel served free crab with lettuce on toasted french bread as appetizers.

At about 8:00, we walked over to the restaurant and ate dinner while watching a Polynesian show on the stage described above. I had a caesar salad, prepared table-side on a rolling cart, tuna with rice, fried zucchini, some kind of squash, what I think were scallops, and some sort of terrine with fresh fruit for dessert. Jill had lobster and tomato soup, shrimp ravioli in mushroom sauce, vegetables, and triple chocolate mousse for dessert. Everything was excellent, albeit pricey...about $140-no drinks. The show was fair, but entertaining. There were 5 girls, 3 guys, and a 5-6 piece drum ensemble. They mostly danced and sang. I am guessing that this is very similar to what you would see in Hawaii at a luau.

At about 9:30, we boarded the truck and went back to our room. Our towels were refreshed, the mosquito net was placed down and our bed was turned down. This was a nice touch. We turned on the fan that was inside the top of the bed canopy, got into bed, noticed a hand-painted mural above us on the underside of the canopy, and slept rather comfortably.

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