Adopting the Polynesian lifestyle in Huahine

For the first 3 or 4 days the weather was a bit changeable, but we enjoyed the time relaxing inside when we had to and on the beach when we could. The weather was been warm but cloudy with persistant (though intermittant) rain. And the gusty winds are something I’ve not experienced before – they come through every few minutes and make me think the house is going to fall over!

Beautiful tropical waters and typical weather- sun versus cloud/rain at the “Eagle ray spot” at the edge of the Fare beach:

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It’s gorgeous here and there are far fewer people than the other islands we’ve seen so far. We are staying at a well-known pension on the main road of the biggest town – Fare. But it’s a pretty small town, just big enough to have a supermarket, bank, pharmacy, post office, a couple of pensions/restaurants and a small market area. And for the first time, we’re in a dorm (as it was FAR cheaper) but aside from the lack of privacy and constant mosquito attacks, it’s actually kind of fun. There are some great people here – a German family, an Australian couple and a French couple. We hang out together in the living room/kitchen during the day- playing Scrabble and making meals. We even did a cocktail hour last night- we made Pina Coladas in a big pot and all 9 of us sat around the table chatting.

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Every day we walk 5 minutes to the beach and snorkel. There isn’t much to see in terms of coral or even fish but there is a resident family of eagle rays whom we have seen everyday. There is a Muma ray with her 4 babies and they let us snorkel with them for 10-15 minutes

The Muma ray that we snorkel with at the beach across from our pension:

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John snorkeling at about 4m with the Muma eagle ray:

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In the afternoons, between snorkeling, we eat baguette sandwiches and play games with people – I learned chess but Scrabble is a fav. I can’t remember the last time we had so much time to just relax, read and play games. It’s been really great but we were keen to rent a car for the day with 2 of our dormmates, Jess & Dave and spend time around other parts of the island. We visited the marae (ancient stone temple platforms), snorkelled, lunched on the beach, grabbed a banana split and coffee for a treat and snorkelled again. The weather is getting better but the afternoon was still cloudy!

Visiting the marae on the coast, 5km from Fare. Built about 1000 years ago.

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Climbing a coconut tree to retrieve two of the coconuts – opening them later was a challenge:

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Also we discovered driving around the island that they have some sort of Baguette postal service and instead of mailboxes they have baguette posting boxes outside their homes to receive fresh baguette every day – this one looks kind of like a baguette rocket launcher!:

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On the 4th or 5th day the weather really improved, the wind dropped and it has been mostly sunny. We explored some other snorkelling spots within hiking distance of town – and guess what, more eagle rays! They seem to be everywhere here in big family groups (quite unusual to see this) and it is really great to dive with them – I think the highlight of our stay here. Out of around 15 times we went in the water, we saw eagle rays every time except twice. The best snorkelling spot we found was around 40 minutes walk to the south-west of Fare – around the next bay to the point where there’s a very small beach to get in the water. The coral here was much much better (near Fare it’s mostly dead or in a poor state – the yacht anchorage close to town doesn’t help the situation) and there was a nice reef dropoff to dive down.

Hiking with our snorkel gear

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We found bigger and bigger groups of eagle rays:

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The largest group I saw in the water at one time was 12 eagle rays! I think I captured 10 of them in this picture. This is really impressive given that in other places in the world we have seen them, generally it has been a surprise to see even 2 or 3 together:

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We were lucky to be visiting at the time of the Heiva – a traditional Polynesian festival (but this particular one seemed to be in honour of Bastille Day – or at least coinciding with it) – and there were dance events on at a stadium near town. We went on the finals night and it was really a great show. The dances looked very exhausting, we lots of very quick movements to rapid drum beats. We didn’t understand anything of what was said or sung (it was all in Tahitian, with hardly anything said even in French) – but it was great to see a show that was put on for the local people, not for the tourists.

At the Heiva dance finals show:

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On the last day the weather was glorious and everything looked proper tropical! We met a lady on the beach called Rosie who was a princess from the Marquesas, visiting Huahine for a few days. She was hunting in the water for a type of sea urchin which had edible meat – she harvested a few and gave us the meat to try – raw marinated momentarily in sea water of course. It tasted a bit more like a vegetable than fish.. not too bad, but a rather unpleasant slimy texture. She also found some nice shells and gave them to Stef as a present. We finished the day by grabbing a bottle of the excellent tahitian Hinano beer and sat on the rocks at the end of the beach to watch the sunset.

Fare beach with the yacht anchorage in the background – definitely a great place to stop if you’re sailing through the area:

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Rosie, our polynesian princess sea urchin fisherwoman friend, brandishing some sea urchin meat:

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Sunset on our last evening in Huahine:

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Enjoying a beer watching the sun go down:

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We did great on budget in Huahine – our accommodation in the dorm for 6 nights cost 21000 XPF (~210 USD) for both of us including airport transfers and we spent on average around 3000 XPF (~30 USD) per day in the supermarket on food – we didn’t eat out at all and the only cafe purchase was a coffee on the day we drove around the island – for which the car rental was only 3300 XPF (33 USD) as we shared the cost with Jess and Dave – so all up around 225 USD per person spent here vs our $75/day budget for French Polynesia which would have provided 450 USD per person for our time here. So we’ve earned a couple of dives on Raiatea, and it’s important we achieved this anyway in order to pay for some islands where the cheapest place to stay is in excess of $100 per night. Hopefully we can continue to be a little under budget in Raiatea as that’s the last of the “cheaper” islands we visit.

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