Whale watching on the Savage Island
This flight would be a 25 minute monster compared to the short hop to Moorea from Papeete. After several dodgy airbourne moments on previous flights, another 'incident' made us twitch, adding to the catalouge of near misses! Just before commencing our descent, there was a loud crunch and the plane semed to stall, or at least that's what we thought! Everyone else onoard looked pretty much unconcerned and we were soon banking steeply over the ocean and swooping down towards the small airstrip onthe edge of the island.
We were met by a girl from the pension who drove us along bumpy, dusty roads while we bounced on the bench seats in the back of the Landrover.
Our home for the next week, the Pension Viahonu, was situated on the North West coast of Huahine Nui, it's smaller sibling, Iti to the south. There was no lagoon where we were, only narrow, shelved fringing reef then the ocean. But, once more, we were staying right next to the shore.
We pulled up a couple of loungers and chilled, looking out to sea. Sudenly, Alex spoted a huge dark shape gilding through the water. It was soon joined by two others and they appeared and isappeared, moing slowly up the coast about 50 metes out to sea. They were Hupback whales, stopping off among the islands on their annual migration. They were an awesome sight, rythmically rocking forward to expose a mighty back, occasionally spouting huge plumes of water from their blowholes. Sometimes, if they were diing dep, there was the grand finale of the sweep of a huge, broad and flatened tail as they apeared to wave before surfacing againin a different spot.
Next day, we walked along the shore until we reached a stretch where the fringing reef gave way to the start of a lagoon. The water was deep enough to snokel in and small dark patches indicated that there as coral and, in all likelyhood, fish lurking belo the surface. By this time, we'd become such expert snorkellers, we became Jacques and Jules Plongee and fanciad ourselves as intrepid underwater explorers in the mould of Monsieur Cousteau... to boldly plongee (French for dive) where noman has plonee'd before! Unfortunately, a rather vicious and aggresive chunk of coral leapt fromthe sea bed and ruthlessly attacked Jacques almost as soon as she'd entered the water. A nasty strach was the result and it meant that there would be no more plongee for Jacques that day!
Next morning's prune juice experiment was met with indifferent results. Intended to 'release' certain 'blockages', one half of the party was so effected by the juice that we were conined to barracks until the devastating effects wore off, ouch!
We picked up a rental car to explore Nui and Iti more fully. Heading north first and going clockwise we soon came to Maeva village where there was a series of reconstructed Marae. Apparently, this was where the oyal family lived before the arrival of the Euopeans.
After checking out the Marae, we drove on to the most fantastically located shop in the world! Huahine Nui Pearls and Pottery sits right in the middle of the lagoon on foundations of submered coral. To reach the traditionaly styled Polynesian structure, we had to board a motorised pirogue and be feried across the lagon. On arrival, we were welcomed by an Australian sounding lady who gave us a tour (which didn't last long!) and a detailed explination of how black pearls are cultivated and farmed. The talk revolved aound donors, recipients, and gonad insertion, good job the nearby oyester idn't have ears, it all sounded rather painful!
We got chatting o the lady and it turned out that she was a Norfolk Islander. THe conversation was interesting enough before this fact was revealed but, upon hearing this, Alex could barely contain herself. For years she'd been interested in the Mutiny on the Bounty, the mutineers journey and lives on Pitcairn and subsequently on Norfolk Island, and now she was talking to an actual islander! I nearly had to drag her down from the ceiling whenshe said she was a 'Chistian' which meant that she was a direct descendent of Fletcher Christian himself. Alex was gobsmacked!
It transpired that she was also maried to Huahine's top tatooist and sugested that we stop by and pay him a visit if we got the chance.
We continued round Huahine Nui, stopping at the belvedere loockout near the isthmus between the two islands, taking in the views of the Tearaava and Maroe bays.
Although we didn't think it possible, Huahine Ii was even more beautiful and unspoilt than Nui. The verant landscape was cramed with vaious trees, bushes and palms, their balnket coverage only stopped by the road cutting through the grenery. On the southern tip of the island, there was another viewpoint where we looked out over a wide lagoon and the ocean beyond. It seemed as though every posible shade of blue was contained somewhere in the seascape.
We were up early next day and still had the car so we did the entire two island circut in reverse, just incase we'd missed anything. We ended up at the Sofitel, the swankiest hotel on the island, where we enjoyed a bit of luxury on their soft white, sandy beach. Jacques Plongee was back in action and, along with Jules, explored the coral garden and it's yriad fish.
In the end we stayed far too long and it was a race against time to return the car. We needn't have worried, tha lady in the office was really friendlyand insisted on giving us a lift back to Viahonu. We eckoned that she'd had a slow day at the office as she drove incredibly slowly and seemed keen to chat. A native of Huahine, she posessed both British and German ancestory and was maried to a Texan surfer! (no wonder he moved out here, I've heard the breaks in Texas aren't much to write home about).
She also told us that when she was really small, she'd been told that if you were bad, you'd be taken to Maeva, killed and eaten! When told this, she'd become greatly upset and, when asked why, replied 'My Great Grandfather was from there, that means he used to eat people too'!
On our last full day we spent the morning sunning ourselves and splashing about at the plonee spot. It was baking hot and soon we were in retreat, heading for the cool shade of the loungers. It wasn't long before the whales appeared and we sat back to watch them cruise by. Suddenly, and without warning, one of the whales launched itslef out of the water, performing a graceful half twist in a huge arc which resulted in a huge explosion of water when it smacked the surface of the water on re-entry. It was a breathtaking moment that left us both slack jawed, staring alternately at each other then at the now calm patch of ocean.
The acrobatic Humpback was a tough act to follow so we travelled in hope rather than expectation to the Polynesian Dance performance at the Sofitel that evening. Various combinations of performers took to the stage, ranging from junior school age girls to men and women, all telling stoies through dance o the accompanyment of a small band which played guitars and ukeleles. Other members of the band beat out a frenetic rythmn on slit drums while the dancers either swayed or gyrated according to the tempo.
On our final morning, we went to see Tihoti, the tattoo artist husband of the lady from Norfolk Island. No sooner had we arrived at the studio at the end of their garden when a scary figure emerged fromthe house and moved purposefully towards us. As the figure drew near, it was unmistakably Tihoti. Wearing only a pareau, the ight side of his body and face completely covered in tattoos.
Appearances can be desceptive and Tihoti proved to be wram and friendly. He invited us into the studio to see his portfoloi and talk about his work As we chatted, he became increasingly animated and emphasized parts of his conversation with expresive hand gestures and sound effects. He couldn't believe how long we spent each day tied to a computer and said, although he suffered the same stresses and strains, rather than a trip into town on his lunch hour as we'd do, he'd revitalise himself by sprinting round the garden or going for a swim in the ocean!
Alex asked to take his photo and he was happy to oblige. He also reccomended a good tattooist on Tahiti as I said I may be thinking of geting one myself. We saddled up and headed back to Viahonu.
Less than an hour later, I was buying another pair of sunglasses at the airport. I'd left mine at Tihoti's and was now averaging a pair a month! I hoped I'd get plenty of use of the new pair at our next stop... Bora Bora!