May 14, 2020 ; 3:28 PM
17°54’S, 149°57’W – Papeete Marina
After a majorly phenomenal outing on our last tour with Tracey, we had to book another one (with Remedy and parts of Amari and Aurora). This time, we were less interested in an overall view of the island and more interested in specifically awesome activities, which led us to the lava tubes.
We thought we were headed on a four-wheel drive through some seriously Jurassic Park-looking jungles and up the mountain to the start of a trail, where we’d take a nice, hour-long hike to see the lava tubes and some waterfalls, followed by a local lunch and some Polynesian dancing by Tracey’s daughter.
When we got out of the truck, Hermé (our guide) handed us wetsuits complete with large scratches and holes, as well as helmets with headlamps. We knew right then that we were in for an adventure of epic proportions.
Quickly, we learned that the wet-suits were not just for the ice-cold water but for the bumps and scrapes we’d become covered in on a 5-hour hike up rocky streams and through dark lava tubes to see a series of gorgeous waterfalls. We also learned that the helmets were strictly necessary.
This adrenaline junkie could not have been more delighted. Check out these pics:
Yes, that picture you looked at twice because you didn’t believe your eyes IS Admiral Anne scaling a cliff. Yes, Admiral Anne is a badass.
Most of the hiking was basically an all-fours bear crawl for balance among the slippery rocks and uneven surfaces. We swam in crystal-clear ponds along the way and even waded through eel-infested waters (the only place the first mate’s anxiety reached the same level as Admiral Anne’s). We climbed cliffs and scaled down rocks. We laughed and encouraged each other and did more squats and knee-ups than in a whole month of HIIT workouts. We explored caves and tunnels with our headlamps.
In the final tube, we were rewarded by a ceiling covered in glittering gold algae that reflected our headlamps back at us. The beauty was unreal.
Admiral Anne skipped that final tube to sit on the banks of a waterfall and chat with a friend from Remedy. I think they had as much fun gabbing as we did hiking, and I know they spent their time talking about how stupid we were to wade through the eels, into a waterfall, and up cliffs into another pitch-black cave after 4 hours of climbing. I disagree 😊.
When it was time to turn back, we were promised an “easy grass trail”. We received a muddy jungle followed by a knee-high, thorn-infested field. Back at the truck, I spent 15 minutes picking thorns out of my foot. It was not my favorite part, but the rest of the day was so worth it.
And Hermé knew just what we needed to get our spirits back up. He took us to his home (accessible only by wading through a river) to eat food prepared by his family. We were greeted by Tracey’s daughter and Hermé’s granddaughters doing traditional Tahitian dances. We ate chicken fresh from their yard that morning, smoked with papaya in a bamboo chute, as well as fresh baked banana bread and banana crepes all made on an open fire. There was more fresh pineapple, coconut, and other tropical fruits than we could stuff our faces with and Tracey made sure we had some ice-cold Hinano beer. Most everything besides the beer was grown naturally in their yard, and everything was scrumptious.
The family played music on their ukuleles, danced, and told us stories of their way of life. The dances are elegant and beautiful and tell stories on their own. The families don’t need much, because they live off the land. Electricity, running water, and from what I can tell, walls, are completely optional. Hermé teaches others on the island to fish and grow food to help their families be self-sufficient as well.
Throughout the day, Hermé told us about his manna, which is his connection to the earth. He says that because he lives in the nature, he has a connection to the earth and is one with it. After watching him scamper up streams and waterfalls without skipping a beat, eating an incredible feast from his land, and seeing how much joy he has in the simplicity of his life, I agree.
Hermé’s backyard is a black sand beach where his family plays. The view is breathtaking. I can’t think of a more idealistically romantic way to live your life, except maybe on a sailboat 😉.
Speaking of, my favorite story of the day was about when Hermé built a traditional Tahitian canoe (like an outrigger with a sail, think Moana) and sailed it no compass and no navigation equipment through 2 typhoons to China. He navigated purely by the stars and it took him (and the 2 other crew) 4 months to get there, but they reached their destination. He says it was easy for them because of his manna, which grounds him even through the ocean. That boat is now in a museum in China.
It was an exhausting, exhilarating day with the perfect combination of extreme hiking and culture. The more time I spend in nature here and among Tahitians, the more I fall in love with the island.
But while that was our most exciting adventure since my last post, we’ve been busy exploring on our own as well!
We attempted to hike Fautaua Valley but were stopped short because it is literally always a French Holiday- so we settled for a refreshing swim in a clear spring.
We took the dinghies out to the reef and had a snorkel party with the other World ARC boats on Mother’s Day, after enjoying Mother’s Day brunch courtesy of chef Kristen.
We ate at another French restaurant, Le Souffle to celebrate the best lady ever, Admiral Anne.
I learned that souffles are delicious, but I should stick to my carnivorous tendencies and order meat at restaurants, because I always prefer it. The atmosphere was a little less fancy and more fun/French, and we had the most amazing champagne, but we agreed that L’O A La Bouche is still our favorite.
We went on another incredible dive, with so many brightly colored fish we’d never seen before (mostly not pictured because we mostly enjoyed these dives without the camera). There were unicorn fish and Pinocchio fish and glow stick fish and big lip fish. At least one of those is an actual, official name.
I took the ferry to Moorea (now open) with some friends and spent the day visiting a friend who now works on a super yacht there. You’ve seen lots of pictures of Moorea from afar, because it’s the island our marina looks out to, but seeing it from another perspective was a blast. We explored, snorkeled, had cocktails on the beach, and even built a sandcastle. The only casualty was a bite by a triggerfish. These things have impressive, pretty markings but they’re incredibly aggressive. They were everywhere and would swim hard at your face and play chicken before backing off. I got by unscathed. My friend, however, was BLEEDING from a fish bite! I guess we can’t complain, at least it wasn’t a stonefish…
Tracey hooked us up with a black pearl wholesaler (Charles) who told us stories of dressing royalty. His wife (who makes the jewelry) had enough elegant and extravagant pieces to show us that we couldn’t doubt his stories were true. Admiral Anne and I spent hours trying everything on. We tried necklaces that were so heavy they made us slump a little, earrings that combined black pearls with polished coral, elegant strings of pearls, etc. Captain Dave even bought us our favorite (less insane) pieces as birthday and anniversary gifts. Man, you gotta love that guy <3.
And, of course, there were chores and in between time. Captain Dave worked with the rigger (who can climb the mast like a spider) and fixed some things on the boat. We cleaned, cooked, grocery shopped, and took care of bills. We read and sundowner-ed and bananagrammed and the captain and admiral got into bridge tournaments with Celtic Star. It was a very full, fantastic week.
First mate, Amazing Grace
TLDR: If all hikes were helmet required hikes, we’d have bums of steal.