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Moorea September 7, 2004 Español

Posted by Belle in : Moorea, French Polynesia

The sail from Tahiti to Moorea was only three and a half hours. It’s usually an even shorter sail, but there was no wind. You can see Moorea from Tahiti, all of its green mountains, it looks beautiful from far away and only gets more beautiful as you get closer. We sailed into Cooks Bay and dropped our anchor. Moorea was by far the most beautiful anchorage. Cooks Bay is surrounded by gorgeous mountains, lush and green. Cute little houses climbed up the hillside, enough to feel like a town, but not so many that it feels overdeveloped.

One of the first days we were there we rented a car and drove around the whole island, which is about a 35 mile trip. We went to the pineapple plantation and bought some juice and some party drink with pineapple, rum and other secret ingredients to offer guests who come to the boat. Since Wence invites just about any human being who has ever been on a boat onboard. We went to Belvedere point which has a great view of Cooks Bay and the adjacent bay. Driving around the island was such a nice treat. All of the villages were beautiful, very small. We had lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel because we wanted to see what the resorts were like here. It was very nice. But too quiet. Nobody spoke, everyone just looked out at the sea, or out at the sun bathers. We were the loud family laughing and running after Diogenes who thought the hotel was his new playground and decided he needed to take a tour of everything, talk to the people, see if they thought he was cute or not. He had a blast. We guessed that at least 75% of the guests were newly weds. They just had that look. And when the women would see Diogenes, this adorable blonde boy with Shirley Temple curls and a smile, they would smile and point, “Look at that cute baby!” Most of them were American. The newly wed men did not have the same expression. Although one did, the rest looked at Dio with complete terror. Yes, babies are the next step after getting married. They hurried their hormonal wives away from the baby and into the first swimming pool or under the nearest umbrella as soon as possible.

The next couple of days it rained most of the day, which gave us an excuse to hang around the boat, reading and relaxing. Wence met our neighbors a couple in their 60s from Rhode Island who have been circumnavigating for six years in a troller. The next day they invited us over for a drink and to see their boat. WOW. Now, the taste was not to die for, although my parents might die if they were forced to live there, but it was HUGE. It really looked like a small house. They had a kitchen with a real fridge with two doors, a freezer with an ice maker, a couch and two lazy chairs, that were of course bolted to the floor. The Master bedroom was gigantic for a boat, but what really did it for me, was that they had a real bath tub. My God. How lucky. But when I asked more about their experiences with the boat, I realized I would never want to be in that boat for this trip, or for any long passage. She told me she would have to strap her kids to the beds because if she didn’t, they might actually hit the ceiling. Poor little kids. She also gets so sea sick (she’s tried everything and nothing seems to work except lying completely flat ) that they designed a special area in the navigation room where she can do a watch while lying down. They had two nice sized guest rooms and a huge engine room. Basically, it was a moving apartment. You would think after living six years in a boat she would have either gotten used to it, or left. She told me she was too afraid to cross the pacific because the thought of being so sick for days in a row, possibly an entire week, was just too much for her. I really admired that woman. I have not gotten sea sick very many times, but the two times I really felt it were terrible. You feel like jumping off the boat. That she had gone six years, and was able to enjoy the trip, really enjoy it meant she had a lot of courage, or patience, or was a definite martyr or something.

Lloyd and Fiona arrived the next day with Fiona’s father. We had been looking into some sort of diving trip and had made a deal with Hiro from the Bali Hi Hotel. We would give him two out of three of our battery operated walkie talkie radios (We don’t use them because the batteries are always dead. Wence has another kind that he likes to use better) for a free day of snorkeling. When Lloyd, Fiona, and her Dad came we asked Hiro if we gave him one more, if they could go too. Hiro said yes. Quite a bargain for something we don’t use at all. And what a day it was.

The first stop on the snorkeling/tour was feeding the sharks. I decided that since it was close to Dio’s nap time, I should really stay and try to get him to sleep. That was my excuse, anyway. By now I realize that Wence will never let me get out of doing things like swimming with sharks, hangliding, helicopter rides, sailing around the world, but I cherish those minutes before, where I believe there might be a possibility that this time, he might not talk me into it. Yes, I swam with a white tipped shark in the Galapagos, but that was one shark. And it was kind of far away most of the time. As I looked down into the clear, turquoise water, I saw at least six sharks. And they were big. And obviously, hungry because they were chomping away at the fish our guide had dropped in the water. I watched all of the tourists climb off of Hiro’s boat and string themselves on a long rope. To ME they looked like a bunch of sausages, I could only imagine how yummy they might look to a shark. As I was getting into the water, our guide, whose name is Tahiti, assured me there was no danger. Nothing had ever happened to a tourist. Immediately I felt better. Maybe it really was true what everyone had been telling me. That sharks don’t attack people on purpose. I smiled and thanked Tahiti for making me feel better. To be polite, I asked Tahiti what happened to his hand. It had so many bandages on it, it looked like the bandages were holding his hand onto the rest of his arm. He started laughing. “Go ahead, get in the water,” he said. Maybe he didn’t hear me, I thought. So as I got into the water where wence was waiting for me, I asked again. Louder. “Hey Tahiti! What happened to your hand!” He smiled and answered, practically screaming, holding up his arm so everyone could see, “A SHARK BIT ME!” I immediately started running for the stairs to the boat to get out of the water but Wence yanked me back. “Come on Bella, it’s great!” I looked back at Tahiti who was waving at me with his shark-devoured hand from the safety of the boat. It was too late. Before I knew it I was strung up on that rope just like the rest of the sausages, praying to the Sea Goddess, Buddah, God, Allah, Jehova, Vishnu, and Jah to please spare me from these man eating machines. I threw Wence in front of me every time a shark even looked at me. He was laughing so hard. Fine. Laugh all you want, but you better be my SHIELD. But they never swam up to anyone. They were there to eat the fish. They really didn’t have much interest in us at all. After about five minutes, I felt that I had done it. I had faced my fear and swam with the sharks in tourist infested water. Now I didn’t need to be so afraid of sharks. Well, at least Black Tip and White tip sharks. I got out of the water and let Sophia go face her fear of sharks too. She loved it and was one of the last to get out of the water. With Wence, of course who was the last one.

Our next stop was to feed the rays. We went out to a shallow bank off the coast of a moto (small island) where there were at least ten very large sting rays. The men from the boat did flips off the front of the boat and fed the sting rays with chunks of fish. They would pull them up out of the water so we could touch them. I felt like I was petting a huge Portobello mushroom. They’re so soft and smooth. Suddenly a shark darted by me. I was so startled, I jumped into Fiona’s father. What the hell are the sharks doing here! They’re supposed to be back their in the SHARK AREA. As if the ocean was segmented into rooms for each tourist attraction. Pretty soon there were sharks all over the place. Wence and I saw a really big one. They swim so fast, it’s amazing how they dart around. Sophia stayed in the boat with Dio who was taking a short nap.

We had lunch on a nice moto with a couple of other tourist groups. The water was very shallow and perfect for Dio to walk, sit, and swim. He loved it. Some rays came up to us, they kind of pace back and forth getting food and I guess we were in their pacing course. Dio refused to touch them, but after they went around us a couple of times, he didn’t seem scared by them at all. They made a really good barbecue with mahi mahi and steak. Wence and I went snorkeling in a nearby lagoon after lunch and saw some beautiful fish and HUGE manta ray. I could snorkel for hours. Unfortunately you start to get cold after about a half hour, even if the water is pretty warm, so we headed back just in time to catch up with our group as they packed everything up and got back on the boat. We had so much fun, we were sad the day was over.

The next day Wence and I decided to rent a moped and go to this cute little restaurant we had seen on our drive around the island. It was a restaurant that was made out of a barge type of boat. It was really cute. When we had gone, it was closed, so we decided to go back. In the morning we took Dio for a dinghy ride, his favorite activity. Of course my definition of a dinghy ride for fun, and Wences’s definition are two completely different things. When Sophia and I go with Dio, we go nice and slowly, making nice curving turns, we go close to land so Dio can see the roosters and doggies. Wence floors it and heads straight out into the sea, past the protected bay. As Sophia, Dio and I were holding on for dear life, Wence stood up, calmly looking out over us sprawled on the dinghy floor, staring at some invisible point of reference, looking like something out of a Winslow Homer painting. Suddenly the dinghy stopped. After a minute of trying various things, Wence realized we were almost out of gas. End of the nice dighy ride for Dio. I held the plastic container with the gas up on one of its corners so the gas would have a better chance of getting to the engine. Wence floored it again, going back towards our protected Cooks Bay, and our boat. We all held our breath. Maybe we’ll make it.

I remembered all of the times Wence and I had ALMOST run out of gas. In California, in the middle of the night, on the way to our vision quest where we went four days without food or the site of another human being in the desert with Jorge and Conrado. That night we had to coast down mountains until we found an open gas station. In Patagonia, on the way to the airport where I was going to take a plane back to Miami just in time (one day late) for the beginning of the next semester, We coasted down a slope into a town called Facundo at 5AM. My flight was at 7AM and we were already cutting it close. When we found the one gas station in Facundo, of course it was closed. What could we do but wait. I got out of the car and walked towards a mother horse and her foal, pregnant with Diogenes, I was fascinated by all kinds of animals (and people) and how they were with their young. Maybe I can learn something, I told myself, trying not to stress about missing the plane. Knowing that if I missed this plane, there probably would not be another one for me to catch that day. Who the hell knew when I could back to Miami. I started doing some yoga breathing to calm myself. I looked back towards the car to see what Wence was doing. Suddenly this old guy started stumbling towards the car. Great. The town drunk, I thought. Now we’ll be forced to talk to this guy for hours. I watched as he went up to Wence. They started talking for a bit. And then the guy disappeared. Good. I thought. He’s too drunk to hang out. It turned out he was the mayor of Facundo, and one of two men in the town with the key to the gas pump. With the key in his hand, the fly on his pants down and a smile on his face, the drunk mayor of Facundo filled our tank and I made the flight back to Miami.

Maybe Wence has some kind of gas mojo I told myself, as we zoomed closer and closer to Cook’s Bay, one hand strapped around the gas container and Dio and the other around the dinghy handle. If I fall off the dinghy, today will be the day. But no. I can’t. Because then Dio will. As we got nearer and nearer the mouth of Cook’s Bay, I smiled at Wence, amazed that we had been lucky again. Sputter sputter spit. The dinghy suddenly stopped moving. Uh Oh. Our boat was all the way on the other side of Cook’s Bay. We had oars in the dinghy, but it would take quite a while to make it back. The wind and the current were working against us. Wence realigned the gas container, told me to hold it just so, and we were off again. I laughed thinking we were just barely going to make it. And isn’t that fun, just barely making it. Suddenly the dinghy stopped. Wence’s luck had finally run out. Sophia and Wence started paddeling. I watched two of the Polynesian pirogues zoom by in the water with one person and one paddle. I started making up a song, some stupid song about being stuck in the middle of cook’s bay in a dighy with a baby and a boludo and Sophia would sing the chorus. We all started laughing, maybe too much because suddenly Sophia fell in the water. We still don’t know what happened to her. It’s not as if they were paddling so fast that a quick jerking movement forced her to plunge into the water. Who knows, but we all started laughing so hard. Sophia was afraid her paddle was going to sink, so she was almost drowning trying to save the paddle. Dio and I laughed and laughed. Suddenly we heard the sound of another dighy! An older French couple from a nearby boat came to rescue us, grumpily.

Later that day Wence rented a moped so he and I could go to this cute little restaurant on a boat for dinner. We had seen it when we drove around the island. He had some other things to do, so Sophia and I played with Dio until it was time for us to go. When we got to the moped Wence realized, there was no gas. We went to the nearby gas station. It was closed. We asked a teenaged boy if there was another gas station nearby. At first he said no. Then he told us there was one by the ferry. How far away is that? Pretty far, he said. I was ready to get off the moped and try one of the restaurants nearby, but Wence zoomed off. We went by lots of nice little restaurants. People were waiving at us, people driving in cars were waiving at us. Wow. Everyone here is so friendly. As we turned a corner the road that had been lined with street lights now went pitch black. Not only did the moped have no gas, it had no goddamn light. I was pretty scared because you really couldn’t see a thing and how could any of the cars see us. By this time, we were pretty far from home so it seemed like we were stuck. When we got to the gas station it was closed. We saw someone closing up a gate around it. Wence begged him for a little gas, just enough to get back, but the guy refused. He said alarms would go off if he reopened the gates. Wence was more than skeptical of his explanation, but whether he was telling the truth or not, it didn’t matter. He would give us no gas. We started driving back, in the pitch black, basically waiting for the moped to run out of gas, or some guardian angel to swoop down and fly us back. Up ahead we saw a bunch of young men on the side of the road, hanging out drinking beer and blasting music. Wence pulled over and asked them if they knew anywhere he could get gas at this hour. They mentioned all the gas stations we had already tried and then said, no. Wence asked them if any of them had any gas he could buy from them. No. Then wence noticed the music was coming from an old truck. He asked if whoever owned the truck could take us back because there was no way we would make it back. The only guy who spoke English went to go talk to the owner of the truck, a short, fat, very drunk smiley guy. The first response was they were going in the opposite direction. When wence begged the guy, and said he would give him some money as compensation, you could see the owner of the truck was bending. He really didn’t want to stop hanging out with his friends or stop drinking, but you could see he felt badly. Finally he agreed. Wence and some of the guys hauled the moped into the back of the truck and we were off. All the other guys were following us in three different cars. As we sat in the back of that truck, surrounded by empty beer bottles, I couldn’t help but laugh. It was so wence not to check the gas gauge when he got the moped, but it was also so wence not to give up when put in what seemed to me to be a dead end. I would have started walking after the guys had said no the first time. Just as we were both feeling some what relaxed that we were going to make it back in one piece alive, the truck pulled over at the top of the hill. All of the other cars pulled over too. All the guys got out, beers in hand and started laughing and whispering to each other. As I watched them all cavorting, I thought, MY GOD. These are probably THE criminals of Moorea. Suddenly they all looked like two bit street gangsters to me. They broke out some joints and started smoking, laughing, and pointing at us. A cop car went by and didn’t seem to care that eight men, each one with a beer bottle in hand, were standing on the side of the road getting thoroughly intoxicated. One of the nicer looking ones came over and asked us if we would like to smoke. I motioned that I was pregnant-which was entirely possible because wence and I had started working on the second baby a few weeks earlier. They seemed slightly annoyed that we wouldn’t smoke. Then they offered beer. At first I said no, but then I realized it would be a problem if I said no to that too, so wence and I got out of the truck, walked over the gang and shared a beer. Two of them tried to make conversation with me. One asked if I surfed. No I don’t. He struggled to find something else to talk about, but found nothing. I guess surfing is his life. Then another one came and spoke about how beautiful the view was, asked what we were doing in moorea, where we were from. He seemed nice enough. Then he asked where the twin towers had been and if I lived there. I explained they had been in new York, and although I had lived there, I was not living there at the time of the terrorist attack. Then he started mimicking the towers falling down and said, that was good no? How could I respond to that. I couldn’t. I just watched him and his friends, laughing as he mimicked the towers falling again and again, and felt like I was watching children talk about something they did not understand. I remembered when I was five I had asked my mom what suicide had meant. And although she tried to explain the gravity of the word and the deed, I wasn’t in the mood to be serious so I started singing a little song, dancing around the kitchen happily, incorporating suicide into one of the lyrics from the musical Oliver. I was used to my parents thoroughly enjoying my antics, but when neither of them cracked a smile, instead they seemed to get even more serious, I stopped and got scared. I tried to remember that as I looked at these young men. For whatever reason, they didn’t get it and nothing I said would change that.

Wence managed to pry our driver away from the pack and remind him of his mission to get us home. Another guy came over, obviously angry that we were screwing up his Friday night and told us to go. When we just stood there he asked us why we needed to get back in such a hurry. Why couldn’t we wait a while with them. Lies started flying out of my mouth faster than I could keep track of them. It’s our anniversary, I said, and we really want to have a nice dinner together, but my sister was taking care of our son and she had a party to go to soon, so we wanted to have dinner so she could go to the party. Also, I am pregnant and can’t stay up very late, and am starting to feel a little sick. I looked at this guy, who seemed to be the leader of these criminals, and realized that as aggressive and mean as he seemed, when he heard our supposed situation, he started to feel a little something for us. How funny. So, we were off again, in the truck, this time one other guy came in the truck and the rest of the guys stayed behind.

Twenty minutes later we arrived at the hotel in front of out boat. The guys helped us get the moped out and wence reached into his pocket and pulled out his bill fold. The driver immediately put his hand over his eyes, as if seeing the bill fold was very tempting to him. Wence handed him the equivalent of 100$, the guy looked really really surprised. He thanked us, we thanked him, and we left.

We went to a restaurant nearby where he had a good dinner and got back a little late, but in time for Sophia to go off to her party. She was invited by one of the guys who were on the shark/ray day trip. What a night.

We left Moorea two days later.