Monday, November 30, 2015

Jour 136 - Explorer le Vrai Ecueil en Outrigger

Heureusement il n'y avait pas de soleil toute la journée, mais quand même mon père s'est brûlé. Après le petit-déjeuner nous avons fait de la plongée jusqu'à la passerelle, avec un peu plus de lumière qu'autrefois. Mais cela n'est pas comparable au écueil plus loin... A midi environ nous nous avons préparé pour faire une petite excursion au loin. Notre logement offre des kayaks et aussi un outrigger gratuitement dont nous ont emprunté l'outrigger. Ceci n'avait pas l'air stable, mais ça marchait. Voilant, mon père et moi, nous ont pagayé jusqu'à ce que nous sommes arrivés à un pal au milieu d'écueil - voilà le paradis des poissons!
Rentre dans l'outrigger, c'est vite dit: grimper et ramper comme un pinnipède. Mais je ne me plains pas. Le seul truc que ne me plaît pas est que tout les poissons me craignent...
La petite randonnée que nous avons fait après n'était pas trop spectaculaire, mais j'ai appris comme les papayes grandissent. Le plus spectaculaire étaient les mêmes requins qu'avant-hier au fin de la passerelle. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Jour 135 - Belvédère

Ce matin on pouvait voir le soleil un petit peu, et nous avons pris notre petit-déjeuner dehors. Dans cette photo on peut voir notre petit village de vacances avec les dix cabanes. La cabane à droit avec le toit vert est partagé en quatre chambres dont une est à nous. A l'arrière-plan on voit un tant soit peu de la structure volcanique de Moorea.

Parce que nous avons loué une voiture, nous avons décidé de faire une excursion jusqu'au point s'appelant "Belvédère". Quand nous sommes arrivé à une école d'agriculture nous avons garé et sont marché le reste. Cela n'était pas trop fatigant heureusement, parce que nous sommes allé sur la rue. Pendant notre marche il y avait deux sites archéologiques, une installation pour le tir à l'arc, et une site sacré avec des marae, les temples anciens des maori. De temps en temps il y avait plu faible ou très fort, mais ce n'était aucun problème: la pluie est chaud. 

Arrivant au point le plus haut nous étions salué par deux indigènes qui nous ont raconté l'histoire des montagnes autour de nous (avec une 1,5 litres bouteille de bière): la montagne ronde dans la première photo était considéré comme la tête d'une pieuvre, avec ses tentacules vers le bas du vallée. Avec ses huit bras elle pouvait se défendre des ennemis dans la baye. La montagne à droite du petit fjord était considéré comme le poisson-pierre qui a piqué chaque homme qui voulait débarquer. Cette montagne était tabou de monter.

Il n'y a pas seulement ce seul fjord, mais un second aussi. Parce que sur mon panorama il y a une voiture blanche et moche, je crée un liens vers le panorama sur Wikipédia.
Le reste de la journée il y a pleuvait très fort, c'est pourquoi nous ne sommes pas allés nager...

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Days 132 through 134 - Journey to Moorea

When I was kayaking for a last time, I already saw the Queen's boat coming. From then on we had two or three hours left for a last swim and to pack our stuff. Since we were the last guests on the motu until April 2016, the Queen, her husband and a caretaker had to clean up everything, to barricade the sheds, and to prepare the installations for the cyclone season. As a consequence of the climate change, storms tend to increase in number and strength so that the Queen and her husband don't want to cancel reservations on short notice due to adverse weather conditions, or even to put guests at risk of being stuck at the motu.


By the way: the colors look photoshopped, but represent the true colors of the lagoon. Believe it or not.
I felt so sorry for our hosts, because they had to lift our heavy baggage into the boat and out of it again. In that heat! You really saw them struggling.

Due to the flight and ferry schedules (once per week, only this day, only that hour, too late, too early blabla), we had to spend one more night in the Queen's Garden Lodge (where we also spemt our first two nights on Aitutaki). A last time admiring the flower splendor in the big garden: hibiscus, frangipani, flamboyant, other beautiful flowers and plants, and even some pineapple plants where we could see pineapples growing. I have to admit, I have never seen something funnier and embarrassingly simple stunning thing. Embarrassing, because I eat pineapple so often, but never really could imagine their way of growing. I knew from once visiting a "Dole" pineapple plantation on Hawai'i that you put the leaves in the earth, but I still didn't get it.

After a depressing movie we saw on the computer in the evening which let me sleep badly, I was quite happy to hear the chickens and roosters crowing in the morning. Almost on time we were picked up to take us to the airport. But the airport was empty! Alright, no worries. Despite the worsening wind during the last days which made us worrying whether Air Rarotonga would fly at all, the check-in was open, more and more people arrived (most locals with 'eis) and not much later we saw our plane arriving at the airport.

This plane, by the way, was the most important one on our entire trip: If this one flight would have been canceled, we would miss the Thursday-only flight to Tahiti, and of course then also the next Tuesday-only flight to the Easter Island, and our complete trip would be ruined. So my dad was quite nervous.

A few words about the airport: at first, there's no security checks. Also when we flew from Rarotonga to Aitutaki there was none, because the flight was domestic. No, neither terrorism nor crime, they just don't have time for this, neither the reason, nor the necessity. Secondary, there's one single gate. And everyone can enter there. The gate's seating is outside. The gate literally is a gate, a fence gate.

Aitutaki's beautiful lagoon

The reef that separates the lagoon from the open sea.
The waves break here very high, but the lagoon
behind is very calm - yet windy. Ideal for sailing!

Just like paradise: over the rainbow...

Arriving in Rarotonga we had plenty of time. The first thing we did was stocking up the blog, because we had no internet all the time, and checking e-mails. For this we could use 20MB at the airport and then had to buy another few MBs until we were finished. Unfortunately it began to rain heavily, so that we had to stay some extra time until we could go to have lunch. We met a nice Swedish young woman there who stayed on Rarotonga for three months, how great is that.

The plane to Tahiti was a little delayed (no wonder in this weather), so that we arrived in Papeete, Tahiti, when it was already dark. When we came around the corner after leaving the aircraft, we were greeted by two musicians and a dancer who delighted our arrival in a Tahitian way. We were picked up soon and brought to our hotel. At the reception I had to learn that I am totally out of practice with my French. Except for bonsoir and merci I couldn't find the vocabulary, even less build a proper sentence. "How to say that again? Uuuuummm..."

Anyway, most of the people speak English very well, but what a shame. The receptionist recommended to eat at the food trucks (where we met our fellow-travelers from Rarotonga airport, the plane and even the lunch place) and it was just delicious. We had fresh fish, what could be better on an island in the heart of the Pacific?

The next morning we saw Papeete in daylight. We had an awesome French breakfast at the ferry terminal (where we met fellow-travelers from Rarotonga again) and spent 45 minutes on the upper ferry deck towards Moorea. I noticed an insignificant topless guy, but didn't give him any more attention. I say this because after half an hour I randomly looked behind me and instantly I noticed frantic gestures - the topless guy. He tried to tell me something in sign language which I didn't get. He wanted to take a picture with me - alright... For some reason, he wanted my dad to take a picture of us with our camera, which was still strange. The highlight however was that he later gave a strange note to my father. I won't tell any details here, you can ask me for it, but we were a little concerned - in particular when we later searched the Internet for his name. Strange world!

A part of Papeete

Moorea ahead

I was really happy to finally leave this ferry. Unfortunately there was no bus where it should have been and when it should have come. We waited for about 45 minutes, bought some fruit in the meantime and decided then spontaneously to rent a car, which was no bad idea concerning the cab prices, and concerning the rain that we had later. The original idea had been to take the bus to our resort and rent a scooter there.

We went shopping groceries and I felt like when I was buying my lunch in the supermarket during my language stay in southern France: Carrefour! 95% of the stuff they sell is imported from France and is extremely expensive - because Tahiti, Mo'orea and all the islands around still belong to France, the ferry also waved the French flag. The only affordable stuff is local produce like Pineapple, Bananas and fish. So we ended up with the nicest baguette since Singapore, and some macarons.

Parce que nous sommes finalement arrivés dans notre "village de vacances" où on parle français au fait, je commence à écrire en français un petit peu. Pour réanimer cette région de mon cerveau ;-) et parce que mon père ne parle pas mieux que moi, et parce qu'il n'a pas installé un contrôle d'orthographe je serais heureuse de tout les remarques et soutien. Simplement écrivez des commentaires en bas. Je suis totalement hors de la pratique, désolé.

Dix petites maisons peuvent être loué qui sont vraiment adorable et tranquille. Le village est bien situé juste près de la jetée qui fini sur l'écueil. Même s'il était un peu froid (23 degrés seulement) nous voulions fait de la plongée. Et il y avait une mauvais surprise: quatre requins d'une taille enormement on fait son tour à travers de l'écueil. Ils avaient une longueur de probablement deux mètres! Mais nous étions courageux - les requins ont fuit de nous. Les photos en bas ne sont pas de bonne qualité, mais nos impressions s'en réfléchissent. Regardons comme cela sera avec lumière de soleil ;-)


Friday, November 27, 2015

Days 128 through 131 - Barefoot Dreams

This morning we had to adjust to Cook Island time: our hosts came half an hour late. But I used this time “wisely” by trying out our rental scooter by myself. I drove several rounds through our garden, and then even on the streets. How fun this is! It’s like sitting on a bicycle but without the effort.

When our hosts came we drove by “Queen Express” to four different places for shopping, because we had to bring all our food and drinks for four days onto the island: First to our usual supermarket for most of the stuff (including the only cereal on the island), to another supermarket to buy 18 liters of water - the first supermarket wanted to charge us 18 dollars per 4 liters, at the other one it was half of that prize. The next stops were the fruit and veggie market to buy capsicum and a papaya for a few NZ dollars, and finally the gas station to fill up a canister for the island’s generator and to buy a pineapple and a watermelon. Phu! That’s a lot of stuff. But if it was too few we would have to be hungry.

At the port we packed all our things into the boat (notice that our hosts are both 69 years old), and got some help from the housekeeper. The boat ride on this turquoise water was wonderful, but our host had to be careful to not hit a sandbank or a coral. Nearer and nearer we could see our destination come, and the excitement rose.

At the beach we were greeted immediately by a swarm of mosquitoes that didn’t want to get off. Pretty embarrassing for me to see the others watch my desperate mosquito dance. Even when I wanted to take out the anti-mosquito spray, I was being hunted. How horrible, I thought, if it was like this the entire five days.

We took a walk over a jungle path to reach our island’s East coast. It was so stormy there! Not far from there was already the end of the atoll, where the waves break. We saw several crabs fleeing from us, and some crab skeletons that were picked by birds. Around the beach area you find many of these hermit crabs in various forms of shells crawling around. They’re about 1-2cm long, but the real monsters you only find in the twilight or at night: tarantula like red hairy 15-20cm long things that cannot even hide in their shell because it’s too small for them.
The kitchen

Also other animals are cool to observe, for example black heron birds collecting stuff to build a nest. They are smart enough to pick dry needles, drop them in the calm waters of the lagoon, and pick them up later when they are smoother to build their nest. Besides of mosquitos, crabs and birds, of course the most important fauna is reef fish that we watched closely when snorkeling between our and its neighbor motu (uninhabited island). I saw some things for the first time in my life, for instance huge blue sea stars, huge sea cucumbers, sea urchins, goatfish, or breathing and living mussels (blue and green Elongate Clams). I caught two air bubbles coming out of the mussel! So cool. Another scene happened between a fish that wanted to protect his coral area and my GoPro on a stick: the fish was fighting my camera. I think it wouldn’t have dared this with me... Too giant ;-)

The jungle way to the snorkeling bay

Last but not least: on this island (fortunately on the last evening, otherwise I wouldn’t have slept well again) I saw the most gigantic spider ever. Better: my father, a spider phobic, saw it first, when he grabbed for his towel in the shower. In its normal position it would probably size about 10cm, the body alone about 4 x 2 cm... I understand that he was completely terrified, and he actually had the horror written in his face when he told me that we “had quite a problem”. In the end we could get rid of it, with our blood completely filled with adrenaline.

We never had a better sunset than on the first evening. Randomly my dad looked out of the window when the sky was burning red. Unfortunately a camp fire still doesn’t shy away the mosquitoes... So we spent the evenings inside, with nothing but our kitchen light, and outside the pitch black night. Not really pitch black, to be honest, we had the support of the moonlight :-) but it still was creepy, walking around alone. And yet there’s another thing: beware of falling coconuts. Probably more people living in the tropical areas die of falling coconuts than of accidents.

Our "Dining Room" window in the pitch black
Although it is quite difficult to keep the balance when doing Yoga standing in the lagoon water and on loose and sharp sand, it is also wonderfully beautiful and relaxing! Every time you open your eyes you see a wonder world in front of you. Just some spontaneous stuff, but nevertheless.

A last activity worth to mention is kayaking. Actually, we wanted to kayak to the “One Foot” motu but it was too windy. The wind picked up during our stay on the motu, reaching levels where it is not wise to venture out too far. So we just kayaked in the wind shade of our own Akaiami motu which was already challenging enough.

And if you’re not motivated to do either of these things (walking around, snorkeling, kayaking, even reading), there is still enough to watch, mainly around lunch time, when the “Lagoon Cruise” boats arrive. It is fun when small boatloads of tourists arrive, people run around taking pictures like crazy, and then are ordered back on their boat to head to their next stop. Even by doing nothing you’ve got your activity: spoiling other persons’ holiday pictures, which is a lot of fun. Or you just talk to passengers or boat staff members - this is how we met “Nga”.

In the end we used about 50 liters of petrol during our four days. And we didn’t even use it the entire day. From breakfast until lunch (because of the heat we needed the ventilator inside), and from shortly before sunset until bedtime. The thing was, you had to control your own electricity and water: there was a wooden building in which a generator stood, with a water container on top. My dad was “responsible” for those things (even on his birthday, because I’m just not willing to stand for ten minutes in a mosquito area that the world hasn’t ever seen, it was really bad). Before refueling the generator (two to three times daily), we had to fill the gas from big containers into small, 2-3 liter containers that are easier to control. And while the generator was re-starting, the water had to be pumped up from the well to the water container on the roof, using a car battery... Everything very creative, though. Thanks to a solid infrastructure provided by our hosts and their instruction, both the electricity and the water supply worked well on our island.

I have to say I truly enjoyed this stay on Akaiami, I enjoyed the isolation and the not-being-connected-all-the-time feeling – even as we had a few “guests” from tour boats for 15-20 minutes, and a couple rented a cabin on the other side of the motu on our last night. You’ve got so much more time for thinking, relaxing, enjoying. I would do it again, with my loved ones, to spend some time with them, because you have plenty of time there. It's simply and absolutely the European imagination of tropical holiday islands per se. Lucky me!

Our breakfast table

Day 127 - Exploring Aitutaki’s Island and Culture

Our garden lodge in the middle

This morning we were picked up by Ngaa Kitei, an Aitutaki native and hobby archaeologist. He wore a straw wreath and spread so much island lifestyle. My dad sat next to him in the front of the car, and I had the back part which was completely open (almost like a pickup car) for my own. Our first task was to pick fresh Hibiscus leaves at the roadside.

We first drove to a place near the airport to pick up a filming team from Japan which filled up the entire space in the back. The cool thing: I sat opposite the “Miss Cook Islands”! A really beautiful young woman, half Cook Islander (Aitutaki) and half American, who had to speak Japanese for the TV travel show which probably will sound quite funny for the Japanese audience...

At Nakitei’s site, a traditional meeting house, the “kitchen” and the plantation of important traditional plants have been recreated. Among other plants, we saw Banana trees and passion fruit trees, and something that was later explained to us to be a “tattoo ink tree”. The stones in the umu (earth oven) had already been heated up to 200°C with the help of fire. We then watched how to make our lunch in the umu: put banana tree trunk pieces on the hot stones (to not burn the food and to give a good taste), then spread the chicken pieces, the pumpkin pieces and the cooking bananas barely, the fish coated by banana tree leaves onto the trunk pieces. Cover the entire oven with banana tree branches and hibiscus leaf plates (for the better taste), and a number of coconut leaf sheets and other sheets. The hibiscus plates we had to wattle from the picked leaves.

While the others went kite surfing (to make their TV show more exciting) we were instructed to make plates out of coconut palm leaves.

Later we drove to a sacred site. Aitutaki once was home to 4000 people (today 1000) that belonged to 12 tribes – and every tribe had a sacred site. What remains today (after the Christian missionaries burnt these sites) is an odd array of black lava stones including an altar and a stone “chair” for the masculine circumcision. Ngaa Kitei had organized the first excavations at that side, uncovered some small artifacts and even remainders of a human scull in their umu. We obviously are on a (once) cannibal island.

After visiting the sacred site at the south tip of the island, we wanted to pick up those kite surfing lads, but they weren’t ready after ten minutes of waiting. So we went back alone to the umu and started to eat. It was SO delicious! You didn’t even need spices, there was so much taste in the food itself. I really became a big fan of cooking bananas, which were pink by the way, and we could eat the pumpkin together with its skin. The chicken and the fish of course - unbeatable.

Doesn't this look awesome?!
When we were brought back by Ngaa Kitei, we relaxed a little from this meal, and soon headed on to the Piraki lookout which was a real thrill ride on a scooter. While the main street around the island was sealed after 2002, all other “streets” are dirt or grass paths. On the steep parts, we were sliding on the sand all the time. A nightmare, if you think about how you would look after an accident with only flip-flops, shorts and a light top on... But we made it to the top (if only by walking the last part, on which I hurt myself a little when going down because I slid). Just beautiful! You could see the entire atoll around you.

Before we went back home, we decided to have a short splash in the lagoon. So we just parked our scooter and jumped into the turquoise water, with our shoes on, because you never know what’s on the ground. How warm and calm the water was! Back home the first thing to do was: re-packing (again...) for the Robinson island ;-)

All the graves are built on the ground.
They say it's a Christian manner, because
they used to dry their corpses in the sun.