S: French Polynesia 2003
FC: FRENCH POLYNESIA September 2003
1: Sept. 10, 2003: We were up at 2 am in Seattle to catch our ride to the airport. Flew 2 hrs to LAX and then boarded a charter flight for the 7.5 hr. flight to Tahiti. We arrived at 11:30pm Seattle time, 7:30pm Tahiti time and boarded the Tahitian Princess shortly thereafter.
2: After our long trip from Seattle we were surprisingly awake probably with the excitement, so we enjoyed a buffet dinner on the back deck of our ship looking out at the Paeete harbor area. Our tour of Tahiti didn't leave until 12:30pm the next day, so we got to catch up on some sleep that night and enjoy breakfast. | Tahiti
3: We left for our tour of Tahiti the next day at 12:30 pm. The first stop was the James Norman Hall museum, about 3 miles outside Papeete. The museum is Halls home of 30 years which was moved a bit farther back from the beach and turned into a museum dedicated to the memory James Norman Hall. Best known as the co-author, with his friend Charles Nordhoff, of the Bounty trilogy -- ''Mutiny on the Bounty,'' ''Men Against the Sea'' and ''Pitcairn's Island'' -- Hall was a prolific writer, both in collaboration with Nordhoff , with whom he wrote 12 books, and on his own writing 17 books, countless essays, poems and at least one play. Inside is the library with the original wooden desk and typewriter, over 300 books, antique furniture, nostalgic family photos and favorite paintings. | James Norman Hall Musuem
4: Matavai Bay Lookout
5: Point Venus is where Captain Cook first made landfall in Tahiti. It was at this location on June 3, 1769, that Cook and the astronomer Charles Green observed the planet Venus passing in front of the sun. Point Venus is the Northern-most point on the island of Tahiti. In 1797, the first Protestant missionaries arrived at this historic place. | Point Venus
6: The lighthouse at Point Venus was built in 1867 by Robert Louis Stevenson's father, Thomas Stevenson. It stands 110 feet high and continues to operate today.
7: The next stop on our tour was the Arahoho Blow Hole. Since the ancient volcanic period, erosion has created an intricate collection of lava tunnels and caves. The Blow Hole is a lava tunnel next to the sea cliff. The ocean fills up this tunnel, compressing the air inside, and, as the air mixes with the sea water, the pressure inside increases, exploding violently into a noisy jet stream. | Arahoho Blow Hole
8: Not too far past The Blow Hole, we took a small road into the Fa’arumai Valley. At the base of the mountain, we took an enchanting walk to the first waterfall. We crossed a charming arched bridge and followed the path through a bamboo forest. Soon we reached one of three beautiful waterfalls. Then it was back to the ship. | Fa'aumai Valley
10: After leaving Tahiti in the evening we steamed to Huahine, arriving the morning of Sept. 12. The word "Huahine" means pregnant woman in Tahitian. The island gets its name from the shape of the island. When viewed from a distance, it truly does look like a pregnant woman lying on her back. Huahine is actually two islands, when viewed from the air. They are only separated by a few hundred yards of water and joined by a sandspit at low tide, and is surrounded by a coral reef along which emerge several islets. A small bridge was built to connect Huahine Nui and Huahine. It is believed that, at one time, Huahine was one island. Since all of these volcanic islands are sinking, ever so slowly, the two highest portions of the original island are what show above the surface of the ocean today. Off-shore "motu" islets lie inside the barrier reef, providing luscious gardens for Huahine’s watermelon and cantaloupe industry. | Huahine
12: We watched our arrival at Huahine from our bow cabin balcony. Then it was to the buffet for breakfast. At 8:30 am we left on our Sacred Sites & Legendary Places tour. | Arrival
14: Our tour began with a ride to the Royal Village of Maeva, the largest concentration of pre-European marae in Polynesia. Our guide was a young archaeologist that has worked years in the area and provided us with great incites. The village of Maeva, beside the pass where Lake Fauna Nui flows toward the sea, was a major cultural and religious center before Europeans arrived in the islands. Maeva is unique in all Polynesia, in that all the chiefs of the island's traditional districts once lived side-by-side in this single village, which was forbidden to commoners. As a result, the area has the largest concentration of maraes in the far-flung Polynesian Triangle. In 1925, the pioneering Pacific archaeologist Kenneth Emory documented a number of the maraes when he sailed through Huahine on his honeymoon, and since the 1960s Emory’s protege, Dr. Yosihiko Sinoto, has been involved in an ongoing mission to survey and restore the area's hundreds of sites. Lining the shore among scattered coconut and pandanus trees was a row of maraes, with flat paving stones and upright slabs forming the ahu, or altars. Rising over the lake on posts was a thatched, oval-shaped fare potee, or "rounded house," a large reconstruction of a chief's meeting house. Today, the structure serves as a cultural center, with a variety of interpretive displays and replicas of artifacts found in the area. We walked over flat ground patterned with stones forming the vague outlines of ancient structures. The features visible on the surface have been estimated to date back at least 500 years, our guide said, while earlier structures buried underground are well over a thousand years old, making this one of the oldest known settlements in the Society chain. Running through the area was the remnant of a fortification wall, where, in 1846, two shiploads of invading French marines were beaten back from the island by local warriors, led by their pipe-smoking, musket-wielding queen, Teriitaria. | Royal Village of Maeva
18: Soon we started up a trail that climbed the steep hill—called Matairea, or "Joyous Breeze"—into a forest of tangled brush. It was an eerie feeling knowing that we were treading on ground that had once been tapu—forbidden. Cresting the hill, we came across one marae site after the next. The most imposing of these was Matairea-rahi, once the most important of all maraes on Huahine. This was one of the island's two "national" maraes, reserved for only the most solemn of ceremonies, including the practice of human sacrifice. | Mata’ire’a Hill
20: We stopped at the town of Faie, where the locals have, for years, hand fed the Scared Blue Eyed Eels in the river by the town. These fresh water Eels are large and actually have blue eyes. Linda decided to join in the feeding and went down to the river. The locals gave her some food and she hand fed some of the Eels which would actual raise up out of the water to be fed. | Sacred Blue Eyed Eels of Faie
22: From Faie we wound uphill to the Belvedere Outlook high above Maroe Bay. Great views of the island, the Bay, and our ship at anchor in the Bay. Then it was back to the ship for departure and another great dinner with our new found table mates and friends Ken & Vicki Berry. | Belvedere Outlook
23: We left Huahini at 4:45 in the afternoon to start our 575 nautical mile cruise to Roratonga. After another great dinner and evening we retired for the night. We woke the next morning, at sea, to possibly the most spectacular sunrise we've ever seen. After breakfast we spent some time exploring the Tahitian Princess. The ship was built in 1999 and at 594 ft long and 83.5 ft wide it is a small cruise ship, carrying 680 passengers and a crew of 373. Then it was a day of lying in the sun, swimming in the pool, and enjoying the food and drink. The day was capped off by a formal night and dinner. | At Sea
24: Sunrise at Sea
25: Around Ship
27: On the morning of Sept 14, we arrived at Roratonga. Since Roratonga is the youngest island in the Cook Islands southern group it is physically unlike its other volcanic neighbors where erosion and periodic submersions have reduced mountains to gentle hills. Rarotonga's central massif is the eroded remains of a once mighty volcanic pyramid whose crags now form sawtooth peaks and razorback ridges covered with tropical jungle. These are separated by streams running down steep valleys. The island stands 14,750 feet (4500m) above the ocean floor. It is 20 miles (32k) in circumference. At a depth of 13,000 feet (4000m) the volcano is some 31 miles (50k) in diameter. The highest peak is 2140 feet (658m) above sea level and the island is surrounded by a lagoon which extends several hundred yards to the reef which then slopes steeply to deep water. | Roratonga
29: We departed our ship for our tour to Muri Beach which included a cruise of the lagoon in a glass bottom boat and a beach party lunch. Muri Beach is situated on the south-eastern coast of Rarotonga, sweeping in an arch for about one kilometre and backed by tall palm and ironwood trees. Muri Beach also faces four uninhabited islands within the reef (it is possible to just wade across to two of these islands!) and has a lovely shallow lagoon for swimming. | Muri Beach
31: Beach Party
33: After another day at sea, we arrived at Raitea on Sept 16. Linda was not feeling well so I left at 8:30 am on an island tour by myself. Raiatea (or Ra'iatea), is the second largest of the Society Islands, after Tahiti, in French Polynesia. The island is widely regarded as the 'center' of the eastern islands in ancient Polynesia and it is likely that the organized migrations to Hawaii, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and other parts of East Polynesia started at Ra'iatea. A traditional name for the island is believed to be Havai'i. Situated on the south east coast is the historical Taputapuatea marae which was established by 1000AD. The main township on Raiatea is Uturoa, the administrative center for the Leeward Islands (French les Sous-le-vent). There are also colleges which serve as the main educational location for secondary schools for students from the regional islands of Bora Bora, Tahaa, Huahine and Maupiti. | Raitea
35: The Botanical Gardens.
37: Mount Toomaru
38: Taputapuatea marae
40: As we left Raitea we steamed past the little island of Tahaa which shares the same reef with Raitea. | Tahaa
42: The morning of Sept 17 we arrived at the storied island of Bora Bora for a two day stay. With lofty volcanic peaks and pristine tropical waters, Bora-Bora stands out as one of the most idyllic islands in French Polynesia. Part of the les Sous le Vent (Leeward Group) of the Society Islands, Bora-Bora lies about 260 kilometers (about 160 miles) northwest of Tahiti. Relatively small, the island covers 39 square kilometers (15 square miles) and is home to several thousand people of predominantly Polynesian origin. The name Bora-Bora comes from the Tahitian Pora Pora, meaning "First Born." One of the oldest islands in the chain, it was formed 7 million years ago by two volcanoes that rose from the ocean floor. The 727-meter (2,390-foot) Mont Otemanu is the highest point on Bora-Bora; this extinct basaltic volcano looms over the island and then descends dramatically into the Pacific Ocean. Archaeological evidence indicates that the ancestors of the Polynesians arrived in Bora-Bora some 2,000 years ago, establishing an economy based on fishing and agriculture. Noted British explorer James Cook was among the first Europeans to find Bora-Bora when he sailed through the Society Islands in 1769. | Bora Bora
45: Mt. Otemanu
46: Coast Line and Lagoons
49: Back to the ship for a another lovely sunset.
50: A beautiful sunrise started our second day at Bora Bora, Sept 18, and our biggest adventure of the trip. We had decided to go on a bubble helmet dive in the lagoon. Neither of us had done any form of diving in the past. This dive only required that you put on a somewhat heavy helmet into which air is pumped. You step down a ladder at the stern of the dive boat, that extends underwater to the bottom of the fairly shallow lagoon. I bought a disposable underwater camera and it turned out to be an experience neither of us will ever forget. | Bora Bora Day 2
51: The Dive Boat
52: Bottom of the Lagoon.
57: After steaming overnight we arrived at Moorea at 8am on Sept 19 on another beautiful morning. We tendered ashore for our island tour about 8:45am. Returned to the ship around noon for a final afternoon in the sun and a last fabulous evening. Moorea is a high island in French Polynesia, part of the Society Islands, 17 km (roughly 9 mi) northwest of Tahiti. Moorea means "yellow lizard" in Tahitian. An older name for the island is Aimeho, sometimes spelled 'Aimeo or Eimeo. Early Western colonists and voyagers also referred to Moorea as York Island. Like many of the other islands, Mo'orea was first settled by Polynesians from the islands west of Mo'orea. They arrived on canoes coming down from South Asia looking for islands to settle. They arrived at Mo'orea 1000 years ago. There are some ancient landmarks like Marae. Marae are ancient stone rocks that are shaped like pyramids. On the rocks are carvings that tell when sacrifices sometimes took place. The oldest marae is the 'fareaitu Marae located in the island's main village. It was made by the early Polynesians in the year 900. The first European to arrive on the island were Englishman Samuel Wallis and James Cook. | Moorea
60: 'fareaitu Marae
61: Mt. Rotui
62: Le Belvedere Outlook
64: Return to Ship
66: After an afternoon in the sun, we left Moorea. Enjoyed a last wonderful dinner and evening. The next morning, Sept 20, we were docked back in Tahiti. We departed the ship, flying back to Seattle after a memorable trip. | Heading Home