Maupiti Island Tour
22 September 2008 | Maupiti
The last of the stragglers are leaving French Polynesia. We're on our way tomorrow, some friends on Thulani were on their way across this morning when we listened in on the Anzac Net. There are still a few boats we know of in Bora Bora but they're leaving within the week. Most are targeting New Zealand by mid November to avoid Cyclone season. Some are heading for Australia. Only one other boat that we have met is heading north however.
Our current plan is to cruise up the Solomon Islands and from there Yap, Palau, Truk (Chuk) and Guam and then on to Japan in May. We would really like to go to New Zealand but they have ridiculous dog regulations for visiting yachts. Australia is still possibly in the running but they are almost as bad as New Zealand. Fiji will be the last stop before we'll have to make a call and turn left or right. We have also considered just spending a season in Thailand.
After our standard morning of breakfast, weather and radio nets, we set off for Maupiti proper with socks and shoes. It is strange wearing socks and shoes for me now. I think the last time I did was hiking around in Tahiti almost three months ago.
We had 8,000 francs (about $110 US) left and our goal was to see the island and spend every last cent. We had called the only hiking guide from the Lonely Planet Book in the morning but he didn't answer. We tried again from town with a different number we found on a poster but still to no avail. We were on our own.
We dinghied down the marked channel to the town quay in short order. This stretch can be a little choppy due to the large fetch offered by the sizable lagoon. That said, we always enjoy our dinghy rides. During various trips in the lagoon we have seen Sting Rays, Eagle Rays and Manta Rays, among other interesting creatures.
We pulled into the little harbor and were the only boat there. It was a little before noon and the gas station attendant was still on duty. We bought 5 gallons of diesel for our Jerry Jug and asked if we could leave our dinghy there. He said no problem. We left a full 5 gallon gas jug and the recently filled 5 gallon diesel jug sitting in the dinghy with a handheld VHF and various other things in the anchor locker, all unlocked. We normally would have locked it all up out of habit but the attendant told us that he would move the boat if need be while we were doing our hike, so locking wasn't going to work. We did not have a minute of hesitation though. Maupiti is the kind of place that you just can't imagine getting robbed in. The other Societies, yes, Maupiti, no.
We set out on foot to the north and the more populous part of town. Before long we reached a cute little snack. It looked like a lady's out door kitchen. We ordered a Panini and a couple of soft drinks which came to 550 francs. This is by far the cheapest meal we have had anywhere in Polynesia. The sandwich was a nice toasted ham and cheese on a fresh baguette and the sodas were ice cold, what more could you ask for.
We headed on through town stopping in at the Marie (Town Hall). They have a photo timeline of Maupiti over the last hundred years in one of the conference rooms that we were allowed to look over.
The road around the entire island is paved now and most everything is on the lagoon side or the mountain side of this one closed loop street. You can't get lost in Maupiti.
Further into town we saw several schools, a couple churches, the town's big restaurant and bar (about the size of a Dairy Queen) and lots of friendly people who all smiled and waved back when we said Iorana.
The entire walk around the island is picturesque and I couldn't help but notice how much cleaner Maupiti was than most of the other Society islands. The cleanliness really comes out when you walk the streets of an island. Most have plastic bottles and other trash laying on the side of the road. This was very rare in Maupiti and we noticed several anti pollution promotions at the town hall.
The sheer mountains tower over the main road for much of its length adding contrast to the beautiful blues in the lagoon. Just outside of town we found the dirt road leading up into the mountains to the site of some prehistoric petro glyphs. Nothing on Maupiti, including the petro glyphs, is as grandiose as you might expect in other more developed locales, but that is part of its charm. We found the petro glyphs in a dry river bed just lying there as if we were the first people to find them.
A ways back down the road some talented artist had carved an impressive monument out of a large stone. We weren't really sure what it was for but it seemed to commemorate something and had been adorned with various talismans by the local folks. It was a lovely collage of creatures with a whale, turtle and others coaxed from the surface of the rock.
Passing onto the north side of the island we found the one dive shop. It is the guy's house, like so many shops here, but there is a Plongee sign out front. The view out across the lagoon and back up into the mountains continued to evolve into new an striking vistas. As we walked down the west side of the island we reached the one fork in the road. You can follow the pavement to the left up over a little arm of the island to continue on to town or you can head straight ahead to the Tereia Beach.
It was getting into the afternoon at this point and we had more or less given up on finding a path up into the mountains so we headed for the beach. The beach here is sandy and lovely and faced with a huge sand bar carrying all the way out to the motu across the lagoon. We ran across a couple of folks from the motus loading copra from a skiff into a truck on the beach. They greeted us with a hearty Iorana as we passed by.
Back on the south side of the island we scrambled over volcanic rocks as we made our way back to the road. This is a fun little beach hike and was easy to do at low tide, which is when we made the transit.
Back on the road we kept a look out for the one marked Marae (though we saw at least one other). We arrived back at the docks having missed it. The one little store, that actually is a store, on the island is just south of the dock and they packed a surprising amount of goods into the single isle that reminded me more of a walk in closet than anything. They are attached to the town bakery however so we availed ourselves of some fresh Chocolate Croissants and a few bottles of water.
As we were leaving I asked one of the ladies outside if she knew where the Marae was. She said sure and told us to hop in her jeep, which was covered in vanilla vines. She drove us back up the road a bit and dropped us off right in front of the large sign that said, "Marae". In our defense you can not really see it when walking in the other direction. Really.
We thanked our ad hoc guide and walked down to the beach to take a look. This is not the most well kept Marae. That said it is supposed to be one of the more sacred of the Marae in French Polynesia and the most sacred on Maupiti. There is also a monument here in remembrance of the devastating cyclone that hit Maupiti in 1997.
After a nice day on the island we walked the short distance back to the fuel dock. It had taken us almost four hours to circumnavigate the island by foot with various stops and detours, you could certainly do it faster. We gave the fuel man every last cent we had and asked him to put it in our dinghy gas tank. He obliged and we said a sad farewell to French Polynesia as we motored back to Swingin' on a Star.