Letters from the South Pacific • July 30, 2021

Letters from the South Pacific • July 30, 2021

Today, we enjoyed an all day tour of the island — almost a full eight hours! We saw every­thing, and all sorts of things; learned about the island’s his­to­ry, its tra­di­tions and its peo­ple. Our tour guide was an incred­i­ble source of infor­ma­tion, and real­ly a lot of fun. There were just eight of us on the tour, and, as you will notice, when we were just with our group, we some­times went with­out masks. This was because all of us had been vac­ci­nat­ed, and had at least two, some­times three covid tests with­in the last forty eight hours. When we were around oth­er groups, we were always masked.

Masks Were Required everywhere, and that was a happy thing!

I have to say we found it fas­ci­nat­ing to be in a coun­try where the virus, and mit­i­ga­tion tech­niques like masks, had not been politi­cized. Lit­er­al­ly all the natives, tour guides, busi­ness peo­ple and hotel employ­ees wore masks, encour­aged mask wear­ing when any­one for­got, and rec­og­nized the impor­tance of masks and social dis­tanc­ing. When asked, they could not real­ly com­pre­hend why peo­ple would NOT take pre­cau­tions against the virus. Very enlight­en­ing, and very refresh­ing.


Nature’s abundance!

Our very first stop was as at a nature pre­serve which was run by a fam­i­ly that was pre­serv­ing all the native plants, fruits and, also the many med­i­c­i­nal plants.

We enjoyed a vari­ety of local­ly made jams and jel­lies as well as some oils and per­fumes.

We also got to check out their Vanil­la Orchid green­house, which I obvi­ous­ly enjoyed. The first pho­to was of a bloom. First time I’d seen a Vanil­la Orchid bloom­ing in per­son.

The sec­ond shot is some seed pods, which are still grow­ing.

These will need to mature, then be dried before they will achieve the full vanil­la fla­vor we all enjoy.

Mountain Views, and Scooby Doo!

We got to go to sev­er­al of the high­est peaks on Moorea, includ­ing “Mag­ic Moun­tain,” which has amaz­ing 360 degree views.

I have the say that the view real­ly was mag­i­cal, even if it made me think of Scoo­by Doo and Mel­low Mush­room Restau­rants.

The ride (up and down) was pret­ty spe­cial too with nar­row, some­times par­tial­ly paved roads, steep inclines and hair­pin turns. It was sort of like a Dis­ney inspired roller coast­er ride through the rain for­est.

We were bumped and twist­ed and turned all over the back of the four by four truck we were rid­ing in the back of, and the padded seats, while very much appre­ci­at­ed, were sec­ond to the roll bars and places to hang on when it came to gain­ing some sense of secu­ri­ty. Oi!

Next up, a pineap­ple farm, and this one was noth­ing like vis­it­ing the Dole Plan­ta­tion in Hawaii. This pineap­ple farm made every­thing from fruit juices to wine to rum to tequi­la — all from pineap­ples! We enjoyed a tast­ing of many of their prod­ucts, although both Stephen and I abstained from the alco­holic options. I have to say that if I hadn’t, I don’t know if I could have made all the way through the day!

Next was a trip up anoth­er moun­tain, where the views were once again fan­tas­tic. Before we got there, though, we saw the Criobe Moorea Research insti­tute, which stud­ies glob­al warm­ing and its affects on the coral beds in and around the islands of the South Pacif­ic, as well as the shrimp farms which pro­duce most of the shrimp con­sumed on the islands.

Then, it was up, up, up!

Anoth­er steep and wind­ing road (although all paved and in much bet­ter shape than the one to the top of Mag­ic Moun­tain!

Much of the moun­tain, and the val­ley below was once been owned by a Hawai­ian fam­i­ly, and when the Poly­ne­sian gov­ern­ment pur­chased it back from them, the stip­u­la­tion was that it had to be pre­served and nev­er devel­oped.


Every­where you cast your eyes, you find anoth­er breath­tak­ing view. And the moun­tain peaks them­selves are quite ver­ti­cal. Although most­ly cov­ered in ver­dant green jun­gle growth, it is clear that vol­canic rock lies just under­neath.

Look­ing up, you can see many of the famous peaks that are the remains of the long-gone vol­cano that formed the island, and look­ing down you can see two large bays — the Opuno­hu bay, and Cook’s Bay.

Both are large bays, but the Opuno­hu Bay is actu­al­ly so large and deep that whales some­times swim into the bay. This is Whale sea­son in Tahi­ti, but we have not seen one so far.

Down from the moun­tain­tops and down to the beach, where we enjoyed a relax­ing time and had a love­ly lunch of raw fish, cocoanut milk, lime juice, raw car­rots, raw cab­bage onions and lime juice. There was also pineap­ple, cocoanut bread, a cocoanut con­coc­tion that was rem­i­nis­cent of tofu (but sweet), papaya, and more. Need­less to say, we were not hun­gry at the end of our meal.



And finally the Waterfall.

The Water­fall” was the high­light of the trip, at least accord­ing to the web­site, and, although I should prob­a­bly not have attempt­ed to go up to it, it was def­i­nite­ly worth see­ing. We’d heard all sorts of sto­ries about it since we’d arrived, the most con­cern­ing being that there had not been enough rain and it was not as dra­mat­ic as usu­al. Nev­er­the­less, it was part of the trip and we did not want to miss it

The road up to the water­fall was unpaved and fair­ly rough, and wound through a col­or­ful local neigh­bor­hood, com­plete with rust­ed out cars, chick­ens, goats, dogs, cats, notable char­ac­ters (one of whom informed our tour guide that it was his moun­tain and his water­fall, and that we need­ed to pay him to go see it).

Our tour guide said it was nei­ther, and that he just want­ed some mon­ey for a drink or two, but she gave him some cash any­way just to mol­li­fy him. Some­times you just got­ta go with the flow.…

When we final­ly arrived (at the lit­er­al end of the road), we got out and stared up at a fair­ly steep, wet and mud­dy trail. We set off at a pret­ty good clip, which I was not real­ly able to keep up with, but I was still mov­ing along…then the trail got steep­er and wet­ter, the mud got mud­di­er and the leaves got. slick­er. I had to stop and take a break. Stephen could see I was strug­gling so he came back to check on me. We stopped for a few, then pro­ceed­ed on. That was about the time I slipped and (almost) face plant­ed into the trail and the mud. Afraid to fall and out of breath, I almost stopped. Then one of our fel­low tourists came back, and between he and Stephen, we got with­in sight of the water­fall (with only one mishap that soaked my right foot and show) in one of the many brooks flow­ing down the moun­tain and across our path. At that point, I looked up at the next part of the trail, and the rope I’d need to use to climb it, and I sug­gest­ed that Stephen and Dylan just go on with­out me. For­tu­nate­ly (or unfor­tu­nate­ly), both of them, along with out tour guide urged me to try it and I did. We made the last leg up to the water­fall, and although wet, sweaty and exhaust­ed, I have to say it was worth it. It was, no mat­ter what any­one said about not enough water hav­ing fall­en, just spec­tac­u­lar! And we got to rest.

I have to say that going up to, and com­ing down from  the water­fall real­ly restored my faith in peo­ple. Let’s face it. We were with three oth­er cou­ples. All straight — one in their ear­ly for­ties and from Min­neapo­lis (and with whom we struck up an imme­di­ate com­er­aderie), anoth­er new­ly­wed cou­ple in their ear­ly thir­ties (from Paris), and a third cou­ple, also new­ly­weds, very young and seem­ing­ly a bit uncom­fort­able around us. She was very South­ern and blonde, and he was of either Japan­ese or Kore­an descent, although both had grown up in the Unit­ed States. I caught them chat­ting about one or both hav­ing gone to a Chris­t­ian col­lege and so I assumed that like­ly was the rea­son they were a bit frosty to us. But I digress. Dylan, the hus­band of the cou­ple from Min­neapo­lis, had real­ly come to my res­cue on the way up to the water­fall, and both he and Bruno (hus­band of the French cou­ple) both did so on the way back down, and as much as I hat­ed admit­ting it, I need­ed the help. Two hip replace­ments and not being in the best of shape real­ly told on me. Those guys didn’t have to help. Stephen was doing his very best to help me and I could prob­a­bly have made it with just his help, but this hon­est and open act of human com­pas­sion real­ly got to me. Once back to the car, every­one seemed more open. It felt like, some­how, my need had pulled us all togeth­er as a group. Every­one chat­ted more on the way back, and all of us exchanged emails. Stephen put togeth­er a won­der­ful pho­to album for every­one and shared it. Moments like these are restora­tive.

What a Day!