Friday, November 10, 2023

Huahine French Polynesia

Today you could say we had two tours. The one we scheduled through Holland America was the Pearl Farm, Maeva Marae & Vanilla Plantation tour which started at 12:30. But since we had arrived by tender boat a couple of hours early, we decided to hire a driver to take us around the smaller southern island, Huahine Ito. I guessed (correctly) that our 12:30 tour would focus on the larger northern island, Huahine Nui.

On our arrival into port, the view of where our tender would land showed just how sparsely populated the island is. With a population of just a bit over 6,000 people, it's a very small community. But it really is a community, where everyone seems to know each other and they look after each other.

For our 1.5 hour southern island drive we hired a driver to take us around the island, since we had spare time before the 12:30 tour. Our driver barely spoke English so we had to use Google maps to see stops that might be of interest and then ask the driver to stop there. We had to be careful though because sometimes she thought we wanted to visit a place when we were just trying to figure out if it was worth spending time at. As a result, our first two stops were a small grocery store, without anything of interest to us, and a Vanilla farm which we didn't really want to visit since we'd seen one already and would be visiting one later that day. After that we were a bit more careful and ended up stopping at some scenic stops in Huahine Ito. It would have been nice to have even more time to visit, maybe even try snorkeling and/or boating in some of the coral reef areas.

Our first picture stop, the third stop of our first "tour", was at a craft shop with beautiful te mau pāreu, wraparound skirts with beautiful patterns worn on many South Pacific islands. I wanted to stop mainly for a view from the nearby beach, but Elizabeth had been wanting to buy a pāreu and ended up buying a handcrafted one from the shop.

Our second stop was at Anini Mara'e. There are a number of maraes on the island, we had a closer look at one on our second tour, "...maraes are a sacred rectangular complex, where multiple types of rites and communal meetings have taken place prior to the arrival of Christianity"[*]. It's said that Anini Mara'e was the site of 14 human sacrifices.

We stopped next at the Tefarerii viewpoint.

Our final stop for the first tour was at a spot overlooking some unique rock formations. Legend is that when some of the male gods defied a female god by visiting the island, she cut off some of their private parts and put them atop the mountain.

Our scheduled Holland America tour, Pearl Farm, Maeva Marae & Vanilla Plantation, turned out to be much more interesting than I expected, due in large part to our tour guide, whose name I don't remember. What I do remember is that he spoke excellent English and grew up in a house over the water near the pearl farm we visited later that day. In fact, his wife also worked (maybe ran or helped run?) the pearl farm. His father was from the US, growing up in Los Gatos California. Our guide was born in Sonora California and spent many summers in Groveland, a small town I pass through all the time on the way to Yosemite.

Another major point for this tour over others we booked with Holland America is that they divided us into groups of eight people, each with their own transportation and tour guide. This made it much more enjoyable than the big bus tours we often had with 30 or 40 people in a bus with one tour guide.

One of our stops on this second tour was at an area overlooking the cruise ship. It was from the opposite side of the bay from where the tender boats docked.

After a stop at a Pearl Farm, which I unfortunately didn't get any good pictures of, we stopped at Marae Manunu, another pre-European religious site.

We also visited a vanilla farm. Unlike the one we'd seen in Tonga, this one was covered by netting. The tour guide had said this was to protect it from the pounding rain, but I'd read that it also reduced the glare of the sun, giving the vanilla plants more of the shaded light they prefer.

Our final stop of the day was at a location which wasn't officially part of the tour, the Distillerie Huahine Passion. Here they make some delicious liqueurs based on rum with various passion fruits.

Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Huahine, French Polynesia photo album.

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