Thursday, August 22, 2013

“Stuck” in Bora Bora

Moon shot in Bora Bora

So after several stops in Huahine, Raitatea and Tahaa, including lots of white sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters, we landed at our final stop in French Polynesia – Bora Bora – the place everyone dreams of.  I’m happy to report it’s every bit as beautiful as they say it is – so many great places to anchor we thought, how could we choose?  Little did we know, there was no need to choose – we would end up staying at all of them!

Bella Vita and Cherokee Rose anchored in 8 feet of water!
Originally we had planned to be in Bora Bora for about a week, but Mother Nature apparently had alternative plans for us.  She decided to bring down the hammer weather wise to the land of Bora Bora and make sure that the cruising fleet was going a whole lot of nowhere.  Because of weather delays, we ended up staying two weeks, a full week past our official check out date!

Cool mega yacht named "A" owned by a Russian
gazillionaire - can you say "Bond....James Bond"
Yes, I can hear you all now….”You poor, poor creatures – stuck in Bora Bora!”  I’m sure you are feeling immense sympathy for us right now, eh?  HA!  But alas, the winds were blowing about 20-30 knots for over a week and the seas outside the sweet shelter of the reef were forecast to be in the 15 foot range - so nobody was going anywhere.  With the high winds and grey skies, I can’t even imagine what the poor people who were paying over $800 per night to stay in the over-the-water-bungalows where thinking, but hopefully they were all honeymooners and so didn’t care!

Dinner out before Heiva with Mazu,
Bella Star, Bravo and Mystic Moon
So what’s a cruiser to do when the weather is bad and you can’t go anywhere?  Even though it was windy, it was fairly easy to move from spot to spot, so we spent the time checking out about 7 different anchorages around the island.  We stayed close to the “town”, we stayed across from the town, we stayed in front of expensive bungalows, we ran the gauntlet of some shallow navigation areas to enjoy the back side of the island and stopped at several beautiful spots in between.  We definitely EXPERIENCED Bora Bora and all it had to offer.écor at Bloody Mary's
Of course a great part of this involved socializing with other cruisers and meeting new folks along the way.  First off was a mandatory lunch at Bloody Mary’s – the famous restaurant in Bora where all the rich and famous stop to eat (their picture board proves it).  Bloody Mary’s is sort of legendary for their burgers and their bathroom décor (think large, male… replicas).  It’s here that I must digress a bit….about the burgers people!!!

Lunch at Bloody Mary's with Cherokee Rose
The word on multiple blogs and within the many cruising guides we read was that Bloody Mary’s was THE SPOT to have the best burger in all of French Polynesia.  We even heard this directly from cruisers who had visited in the past, so we were really looking forward to checking it out.  Upon entry we were delighted with the décor of the place – really cool looking – just the place to spend a few bucks on a good beer and burger.  And while I do agree that Bloody Mary’s makes a pretty good burger, I am here to tell you that the burgers at the Maikai Marina kick little Miss Mary’s butt! Yes – I’m throwing down the gauntlet and going against the crowd, but my highly trained taste buds just can’t be wrong.  Not only does Maikai make their own buns, but they cook the burger perfectly medium – it’s melt in your mouth goodness.  To top it off, they are served with skinny fries that are crisped to perfection – who could ask for more? 

The owner of Maikai hard at work mixing drinks
Maybe we hit Mary’s on a bad day, but I found their burger to be overcooked, on the dry side and come on – steak fries????  Really???  Does anyone really like steak fries or do you agree with me that the only reason anyone eats them is to remember why you prefer crisp, skinny fries?  Oh – and the straw that broke the camels back (although the decision was already quite clear), unlike all the other restaurants in town, Maikai offers their perfect burger on their dinner menu – not just for lunch.  Case closed as far as I was concerned.  In fact, that Maikai burger was so good that we budget conscious cruisers actually went back just two days later for another round as we just couldn’t stand missing a repeat performance on our last night in Bora Bora.  We wish them continued success in their bid to take over the world with that perfect burger.

On our anniversary
Okay – so back to what we did while we were “stuck” in Bora Bora.  While making our way around the island some highlights were:  several great dinghy trips with our buddies on Cherokee Rose, including some good snorkeling spots, lots of sting rays and a VERY aggressive huge eel that swam around outside the coral in a very non-eel-like fashion.  There was also a fantastic beach barbeque with about 10 other boats that Brett organized on our anniversary (yep – it’s official – 11 years married now), several excellent gatherings with friends at the Maikai happy hour (buy one, get one free pitchers of local beer – awesome!) and my personal favorite – watching the dancing during the annual Heiva festival. 

Giving it their all...right before the rain!
Heiva is a HUGE deal throughout these islands.  Countless hours of practice by thousands of dancers and drummers from the various islands culminate each year in a competition to be deemed the best – this is VERY serious business here with the awards “bling” to prove it.  While there are many different activities and competitions during Heiva, the dance competitions were the best.  While we all know (or have at least heard rumors) that those Polynesian women can move their hips in some pretty magical ways, the men had some pretty incredible moves of their own.  Each “team” tells a story through chanting, song and movement that relates to the history of the islands, and a big part of what they are judged on is how well they tell that story.  Each group represents a specific town and is comprised of approximately 100 dancers – split equally between men and women, along with a choir of about 10 singers and a band of drummers about 20 strong.  At times the drumming almost reaches down to the most primitive part of you and you’d swear you once knew how to move like that yourself – if only you could just remember.

Heiva dancers in action
Each group performs for about 40 minutes – and I’m talking all-out dancing and music that is carefully crafted, choreographed, practiced and presented to the audience and judges.   It was fantastic to watch and I can’t tell you how hard these folks worked out there – performing their hearts out.  They would be covered with sweat and at times some of them looked like they might pass out.  Most impressive though was that they didn’t let the weather get to them.  Even when it started pouring down rain and the audience members were diving for cover – these dancers still gave it their all.  What an absolute gift to get to witness a real dance competition here in the islands – fantastic!

Say goodbye to baguettes.  :(
So after all the burgers, beers, dancing, exploring and talking about wind and wave heights, there was finally an opening in the weather window and off we went – our 90 days in French Polynesia officially at an end.  All in all our stay in the Marquesas, the Tuamotus and the Society Islands was everything we hoped it would be.  If you ever get a chance to come this way and visit these amazing islands, I suggest you grab it with both hands and hold on for dear life!

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