25 July 2008 | Huahine
We called the Raiatea Carnage first thing in the morning and talked to the yard manager. He had no concerns about making the rudder repair and booked us in for the 18th of August. After some discussion I was upbeat on their facility. There is a Moorings charter base on the island and the facility is known as the primary yacht center in FP. We, as always, have lots of little projects we are looking forward to completing (after the rudder ding is glassed up of course).
That behind us we dropped the dinghy in the water and set about heading up to the Fare Pote'e on the north side of the island. This overwater structure houses the Marae museum of Huahine. Huahine is unique in that many of the Marae here have been restored by the industrious Japanese professor Sinoto. Working with the University of Hawaii, Dr. Sinoto has almost single handedly recovered huge amounts of Polynesian cultural history. In particular he discovered the only remains of an early voyaging canoe ever to be found in the area.
The dinghy trek follows a marked channel up into the area of the Tiare Pass. After a skinny bit just north of the Farerea pass you enter a large lake like area. A small island in the middle of the lake serves as the black pearl farm's visitors center. The setting is enchanting and it is well worth a stop. There is a nice gift shop where wonderful local pottery and pearl jewelry are sold and the ladies at the facility will actually walk you through the pearl making process with real oysters.
Heading north you wind up toward a false pass where on the point you find the deserted Hotel Sofitel Huahine. There's a big shoal in the middle of the open water here but it appears plenty deep for a dinghy though we didn't try every track. We walked around the hotel grounds in awe. It was really in reasonable shape. Almost as if everyone was spirited away in the night by the ghosts of old who want to keep the island to themselves. The most recent round of hurricanes seems to have ended the interest in maintaining a major tourist foothold here.
Huahine is the most natural of the main societies, having no major hotels (left), many rebuilt Marae, and a history of independent spirit (they fought the French off several times, were the last island to receive French citizenship, and voted as an island for independence in the referendum mid last century).
Moving north from here becomes tricky. Our AB VS12 is very shoal and with the engine tilted up one notch we can motor along in a foot of water with no problem, the prop being protected above the hull draft. As we headed up the river we came across many Huahine residents who all greeted us warmly. You need to be careful in the river as the foot of tide can double the depth in places and there are also nets and even stone fish traps farther up. You will also see many boats cranked up into the air amid stands with four posts and bicycle like wheels attached to straps that lift the boats clear of the brine.
The ancient stone fish traps are interesting. Sinoto also assisted with the reclamation of some of these. Lac Maeva in the north of the island is salt water but otherwise much like a shallow lake. The river flows with the tides in and out of the lake. On the way out the stone fish traps, shaped like a big V, funnel fish into a round basin at the bottom of the V. Here the Polynesians can easily spear lunch or dinner.
We pulled to the side of the river just past the first stone fish trap. A friendly young lady indicated it would be ok if we tied up to the old post near a vacant lot. You could probably navigate under the bridge and into the lake if you wanted to. We were parked just next to the first two of the restored Marae. The walk along the coast of the lake takes you through the largest section of restored Marae. You can just imagine what the area must have looked like at its peak. It is a sight to see. The museum inside the Fare Pote'e was closed the whole time we were in the area, which was disappointing. They supposedly have maps of various trails you can follow to visit some of the Marae up on the surrounding hills. We took a hike mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide up to a Marae almost consumed by a humongous banyan tree. We pressed on looking for the continuation of the trail but after thrashing through the jungle for a while we gave up and turned back.
As we walked back along the coast we went by the school where a local group was rehearsing Polynesian song and dance. A great free show to be sure. We mixed in with the other locals and tourists who were looking on. Back at the dinghy the tide was up a few inches which made getting back much easier than coming in. It was a lovely day in Huahine and we will likely come back to spend more time here. However we need to be off to Bora Bora tomorrow to make sure that Nobu has some time to enjoy the most famous of the pacific isles.