Tuesday, July 08, 2008

We have been having a lot of fun since the last time I wrote. We had a wonderful Canada Day party onboard with a couple of heartfelt renditions of Barrett’s Privateers to let everyone in the anchorage know we were celebrating far from home. There were 3 Canadian couples and a transplanted British couple (one was Aussie and one was French who had lived in Britain for 20 years) involved and we had a super time. We played Canadian folk music all night and ate Pacific smoked salmon, wonderful.
The next day we headed up to Tahaa again and went snorkeling in a “coral garden”. The garden was located between 2 islands or motus as they are referred to here which were just inside the reef. A pretty strong current was flowing down this narrow pathway and the coral was just spectacular. We walked down a path at the edge of the motu until we almost reached the reef and then we entered the water and floated through the coral garden back to where we started,. In some spots there was barely enough water to float, but there was a pathway in the middle which was about 5 feet deep. The bottom of the pathway was the white sand you get when the coral disintegrates and it was a stark contrast to the more colourful coral. We stopped and swam back against the stream when we saw some interesting fish or held on to the coral to get a better look at things. We could swim across the current and find other pockets of deep water with more fascinating coral structures. It was by far the best snorkeling we have experienced.
The Canadian navy consisting of Cat’s-Paw IV, Tarun and Toketie headed across to Bora Bora the next day. We managed to sail most of the 20 miles, but the winds were pretty light. As soon as we dropped anchor we all headed off to the bank to insure that they would save us some New Zealand dollars, for when we get our bond (that we had to post in the Marquesas) back. You can’t get your bond back until you leave the country and you don’t want to get Pacific Franks back because you have to leave and would have no where to spend them, SO you go to the bank and request that they please save enough New Zealand currency for you so you won’t have to exchange all your money once you arrive somewhere else, quite bizarre actually if you think about it.
On the way back from the bank we watched a traditional Polynesian sport. A bunch of men dressed in cloth which was wrapped around their loins and dropped to their knees where throwing spears. At first I thought they were doing their version of throwing a javelin, but I noticed that they were tossing them underhand and they were going quite high in the air. All the spears landed almost in the same spot so I thought instead of going for distance they were trying to hit a target on the ground. I just couldn’t figure it out, so I asked. I was told they were trying to hit a coconut so I was staring around on the ground trying to see it and the fellow I asked said, “en haut” so I looked up and there it was about 25 feet in the air at the top of a long pole. All the contestants (over 20) would throw about 6 or 7 spears and then if any stuck into the coconut they would lower the pole and pull out the spears and figure out which team it belonged too. One team had red cloths on and the other team had light blue with a white flower on it, I was routing for the team in the red!! This contest went on for quite awhile. That was a real thrill for me to see this performed.
That night we went to a night of singing and dancing. It is part of the celebration of Bastille Day and the fete will continue on for another 2 weeks or so. There were 2 acts the night we went to watch, one was mostly choral signing and the other was mainly dancing. The singing was a treat, wonderful harmonies with changes from major to minor keys all perfectly in pitch, at least to my ear, a lot unaccompanied, and then they added ukuleles and drums. The second act was mostly dancing. They told the story that the dancers were portraying in three languages, Tahitian, French and English. The dancing took place on a big rectangular area that was covered in white sand. The dancers would glide across the sand in their bare feet weaving in and out and around each other. The stunning red and white costumes stood out against the sand and the whole effect was mesmerizing, a wonderful evening.
The next day we moved away from the town and anchored the west side of the island in front of a sandy beach with a fancy over the water bungalow hotel just next to us. They don’t generally encourage cruisers to partake in the exclusive resort scene so we discreetly kept our distance. We saw a bunch of tour boats congregating out on the reef, we had heard that they fed the rays and sharks so we all hopped in our dinghies and motored on over to see what was going on. When we arrived there were a bunch of sting rays swimming about. We stayed off to the side and let the tour guide do his thing and just watched. The rays came over to see what we were up to and were swimming around us, we had our snorkels on so could get a good look at them. A few black tipped reef sharks about 4 ½ feet long came swimming by to join in the fun. Once the tour was almost finished a guide came over and offered Brian a fish and he fed one of the rays. After that they started coming closer and all of us had them brush up against us, it was rather like gentle touch of a feather brushing against your skin, quite the experience.
Today we are anchored just off the famous Bloody Mary’s restaurant. It was made famous in the musical South Pacific which I had a chance to perform in 4 years ago in Yellowknife. It was quite the thrill to actually see the spot and have our picture taken on the grounds. We hope to get in to see more of the islanders celebrations in the next couple of days, I am looking forward to it.