Trip Start Apr 26, 2009
5Trip End Jul 25, 2009
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That means 'sunny hello' in Tahitian.
Crazily though, having left Queenstown on 04 Jul to get to Auckland, spend the night there and then leave for Tahiti on 05 Jul, we actually arrived in the capital Pape'ete on 04 Jul - the International Date Line does very strange things to the head, two saturday nights in a row!
Flying in was absolutely incredible as the lagoon reefs came into view - a perfect paradise. Then when we entered the tiny airport we were greeted by the sound of the national instrument - the ukulele and presented with flowers to wear in our hair.
We arrived in the early evening before the sun had set and checked into our hotel. The Manava Suite. Only opened in March the hotel was brand new, ultra modern without losing the Polynesian charm. The swimming pool, the biggest infinity pool on the island did literally fall into the sea with a view to die for of neighbouring island Moorea across the reef. We also enjoyed watching the mega waves crashing into the reef miles out from where we sat and basked in the 35C heat. We only had a day here so spent it getting a nice base tan, relaxing and stocking up on supplies from the local Carrefour. The language we recognised, mainly French although we have been picking up some Tahitian also, but the prices were quite alien - woah mamma, you have to see it to believe it - good job you only have one honeymoon in a lifetime.
We did try and book some surfing but it is pretty much imposible to hire a board anywhere in French Polynesia due to the fact that out here surfin' is crazy surfin'. Reason being; all the big dumping waves crash onto the reef so after about a 20-30 minute swim just to catch a wave, you then have to fight with the coral on landing one. In fact the locals wear motorcycle helmets whilst surfing, just showing how mental it is!
2 days later we went to the tiny airport for departures out of Tahiti to the islands. We were headed to Moorea and jumped into a tiny aircraft flew up...flew down and in less than 10 minutes we were there - we could have swam it!
On arriving at Moorea, the airport even smaller than that of Tahiti, there didn't seem to be much in the way of taxi's so one chap, a tour operator, offered to take us what we knew was about 2.5 miles for an extortionate number of francs so we politely declined and walked out of the airport backpack clad to the main road and hitched ourselves to the hotel, it's the island way apparently
The hotel was fabulous as they all have been in this last 3 weeks, the proper honeymoon bit! We had a room within the beautiful lush gardens surrounded by crazy Tiki statues. The lagoon incorporated a coral garden so we enjoyed some kayaking and snorkeling on a few occasions. We became aquainted here with the outrigger canoe - a contraption that looks like a kayak but is a lot longer and thinner with a bit attached to the left side. One would assume you might topple over but it actually keeps everything running smoothly.
On our first night here we had a nightcap at the bar after a sumptious dinner in the lovely gourmet restaurant. As we were finishing our local Hinano beers, we were approached by an American guy who asked if we would join him for another beer. We then met a local American who had lived on Moorea for about 30 years and all had a jolly good evening. Now paradise seems to go hand in hand with early closing and chilling out. No fear however, when the bar closed at 22:00 we were fine and dandy with our numerous bottles of duty free and sat with our new chums chatting through to the wee small hours
A couple of days later we met our American friend again on the Motu Picnic tour we booked on. This tour took us out on a catamaran into the beautiful turquoise waters around the Moorea bay. The views were great especially those of the Bali Hai mountain, made famous featuring in the movie 'South Pacific'. The best bit however was yet to come; we anchored outside of the bay, donned snorkels and masks and jumped in to be greeted by a whole load of stingray. Our captain fed them and they were so incredibly tame we were able to feed them, stroke them, in fact; they were climbing all over us it was quite surreal. At one point whilst all this was happening I turned around only to see a shark swimming about half a metre away from me so I yelped naturally and then noticed it was a black tip reef shark, which we were sure to see on this tour supposedly. However, hearing you'll see them and actually seeing them are two quite different things I found out. Neil loved them and swam right in the middle of a group of about 8 sharks, one of them was huge! I kept a little more of a distance, much like everyone else in the group, except Neil.
We got back on the boat after about 45 minutes of feeding the reefys and the rays, then headed to a beautiful motu - this word meaning small island. The intense sun was perfect for a full on tanning session and some snorkelling around the bay.
Moorea is also well known for some famous island inhabitants - the Moorea dolphins. These guys are so cute and stay over at the Intercontinental Hotel. We were so mesmerised by their tricks and watched them for hours - so we had to get in the water with them
After 4 nights in lovely Moorea we headed back to the airport - a proper transfer bus this time (!) and flew the 25 minutes north to Huahine - this was longhaul for Polynesia.
On arrival, we were met by our concierge which was lucky as by now our bags have become quite heavy...we were driven a short distance, then packed onto a speed boat and headed off round the beautiful bay. As we pulled up to the dock, the reception floating, a chap in a Hawaiian shirt stood creating a beautiful welcome sounding through his conch - this was certainly the exotic part of our honeymoon.
Here we were upgraded to a massive overwater bungalow. It was out in the deep water so just perfect for a jump off the deck straight into the blue. We began going everywhere with a snorkel and mask. We had a pet rainbow fish and stingray who used to visit us every night. We established they were fond of bread but not so much Bombay Sapphire.
We spent our days in Huahine relaxing, kayaking and generally chilling out. I think the highlight for Neil was almost certainly the day we had rain (pretty much the only day in 3 months) and we stayed in a hut by the pool devising an ingenious way of playing 'Monopoly' with just two players but four characters
The best day by far, in my opinion (but then I'm not as excited by Monopoly as my darling hubby), was Bastille Day where the staff threw a party for all the guests. This wasn't a case of drink as much Hinano beer as we could and jump in the pool, which we may have considered a party before we were sensible married people. No, this began with flower lei and crown making for me and leaf bandana and ankle wrap making for Neil - please view the photos and feel free to keep for future embarrasment opportunities. We were also taught how to tie a 'pareo' - better known as a sarong to us Northern hemisphere'ers. We were both surprised at our creative flair and I kept my lei and crown on all day as I loved it so much...in fact I left the hotel wearing it, flew on the plane and arrived at our next destination tropical flower'ed up! Neil was being a spoil-sport but did pack his crown in the bag for potential future use at my subtle request. Following the creative bit, we and the other guests at the hotel began a sort of Polynesian Sports Day including a Men's and Women's lemon (not egg) and spoon race - of which we both won in our categories - go Brits! Then they held a tug of war, guests against Polynesians, which we lost a bismally as they were all built like 'All Blacks'!
We missed the volleyball match as we needed to make our way to the airport for our next trip across the beautiful lagoon. However, on leaving, the manager handed us gifts thanking us for our enthusiasm during the games. Looking back I did get rather excited and we were quite celebratory when we won the lemon and spoon race - oh well they obviously liked it
On arrival into Raiatea airport, the concierge again met us but had a boat docked right up at the airport which was practically floating in the lagoon. This was cool and we sped over past the island of Taha'a to our tiny private motu and home for the next four nights. The resort of La Pirogue boasted only 7 bungalows spread out in lush tropical gardens amidst hundreds of palm and coconut trees. The lush vegetaion and feeling like we were the only ones on the island made us think we were Robinson Crusoe and I guess, his wife! The food was very delicious despite a rather rude waitress who we had to avoid for most of the week as she scared us a bit.
Here our accomodation was much more Polyneisan in style and when we arrived the whole villa was filled with beautiful exotic flowers - what with my flower lei and crown and Neil's bandana and all the flowers in the bathroom and on the bed and out on the balcony, well we were like a 5-star resort for mosquitoes but never mind! The net over the bed made us feel like we were in a four poster.
On our first day here we decided to go and investigate the main island of Taha'a, known as the vanilla island
We explored the rest of the island, visiting a Pearl farm, a turtle rehab centre and checking out some absolutely stunning coves. We thought we had seen beauty in the turquoise blue lagoons of Moorea and Huahine but this really topped all the islands so far - pristine colours of turqoise and deep blue merging together with palm trees dipping in - such natural beauty!
Back at La Pirogue we spent one day walking around one side of the island, collecting coconuts and searching for shells as if we were 7 years old again! It was so relaxing, baking hot and wonderfully peaceful. On our final day we ventured around the other side of the island and walked out along the coral to watch the huge waves crash against the reef. We explored every nook and cranny and had to go through the lagoon at some points where the reef cut in. We came across some Polynesian neighbours going about their business
Moving on again, we zoomed back to Raiatea airport bound for our final Societe island and probably the most famous after Tahiti - Bora Bora. This was personally my dream honeymoon destination for as long as I can remember and so far, it really was a dream come true.
On arrival we were greeted by a nervous looking Polyneisan chap dressed up in a uniform of pure white shorts and polo shirt. He took us to our boat, we're so used to boat transfers by now it's become the norm, and he had the gift of a flower lei for us both.
As we drew nearer our resort, the true size and magic of the place really came to life. We were taken through to the grand hotel reception and then onwards to our beautiful overwater bungalow. The bathroom bigger than our lounge at home, a huge bed with soft egyptian cotton and a glass coffee table - significant as it was glass all the way through so we could watch the fishes! We could even slide it across to feed the fish from the comfort of our sofa - totally cool. Here our pets were a barracuda called Barry, which we don't think was actually a barracuda but it was close enough, a tiger fish and two stingray. We also had these crazy fish with dumbo ears of which there were hundreds so they weren't as special. We established this time that they weren't keen on pasta but were quite partial to pumpkin soup.
On arrival my lovely husband had treated us to a bottle of champagne and petals on the bed
The pool and beach here occupied us until we decided to take a deeper plunge and go diving. There is a story here. We attempted to go diving until the divemaster on the boat very matter-of-factly mentioned that we'd see reef and lemon sharks on our frst dive - that was me off the boat. I wanted to dive with sharks but needed to dive first, get all those padi memories back and then see the big fish. At which point, the divemaster laughed declaring how there are sharks everywhere in French Polyneisa: 'Oh' I exclaimed. So after having been told the same thing by three dive companies, I began to believe them and also believe when they said the sharks weren't dangerous, in theory.
So, the next day, off we went onto another dive boat - here the divemaster was lovely and spoke to me like I was 5 years old informing me how he had all his fingers and the big fishies hadn't bitten any off. This worked well for me in my nervous state
On the 2nd dive we saw even more tropical fish - some so many colours they kept us stunned for ages. Again, lots of sharks but a couple of lemon sharks which were a new thing to see on this dive. These things were terrifying looking at about 3.5m long and a face like a Great White but they were harmless, as Jocks found out when one swam right up to him with seemingly little intention of stopping or changing swim direction. They were big so I was quite proud of myself and then felt silly for nearly not diving because of sharks as now I'm mad for it and want to see them every time we dive.
The evening before we had visited the famous 'Bloody Mary's' restaurant- tables on the sand and fabulous cocktails. The hotel took us there and back on the boat and then the restaurant picked us up in Le Truck' - the island's single public bus-like service. It's a huge truck with a bench either side for passengers. This made it all a hassle free evening even though we had ventured out of the hotel
On our penultimate day we had a lovely time exploring the island of Bora Bora, as our hotel was on a private motu. We hired beach bikes on Bora - the difference between these and regular bikes being that they have no brakes! Crazy things but the extent of the traffic in Bora Bora is rather low. We cycled through from the capital Vaitape to a wonderful beach where the colours of blue from the lagoon melted into the white sand. On our way we stopped at the numerous art galleries lining the beach road and marvelled at the exquisite paintings. One of the artists is the chap responsible for the famous bottle of Absolut floating in the blue lagoon - Bora Bora. Paradise is a vodka bottle apparently...
After we wore the camera out with photos, we headed back to Vaitape to be picked up by a pickup, driver's name Bob - who took us to the docking point for our next adventure. We boarded an outrigger canoe and sailed through to a tiny private motu and home of the local's 'Lagoonarium'. We joined a small group and walked to the edge of the beach a little way along where no-one was around. In a cordoned off area of the lagoon we were able to feed huge turtles. Then we moved along and, snorkel and mask at the ready, were able to swim with beautiful tropical fish and baby black tip reefys
On our final night we went to the tiny romantic restaurant attached to our hotel. Neil gave me a black pearl as an island memory and we sat watching the sun go down with a colorful cocktail and the waves crashing against the deck - our perfect honeymoon coming to an end.
The next day we didn't need to leave until 18:00 for our boat so we had a lovely massage in the gorgeous hotel spa.
On leaving the hotel, we were given our final shell necklace - a tradition in Polyneisa, boarded our boat for the last time and stood in Bora Bora airport looking forwrad to seeing our family and friends but looking back on what was the most wonderful 3 weeks in paradise.
We arrived in Tahiti from Bora Bora and headed straight through to LA. We were made up here when Gary, Neil's good friend from Uni and usher at our wedding, was there to meet us and took us for a massive brunch.
We then went to Manhattan Beach and witnessed the biggest waves we'd ever seen up close. They had come to LA the day before so we were lucky to get some cool snaps on the now weary camera. Gary then treated us to the biggest baddest ice ceam from Cold Stone and we sat in the sun people-watching before hot-footing it back to LAX bound for London on a very busy flight but one that would get us home after our long adventure
Obviously we have seen a lot of everyone in the last week and so we weren't going to write this blog but after pressure from all sides, we decided to send out the final blog so hope you're not too bored of our travels reading this.
The memories of our trip we will treasure forever and thank everyone for your support and kindness at the wedding and while we have been away.
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