Friday, February 12, 2010

Huahine Island Tour and Evening

Tendering to the island had us a bit concerned.  As this was our first "tender" and  we had heard horror stories from other mass market cruise lines regarding obtaining your tender tickets and/or times the evening before, waiting in long lines to get on the tender, etc we were curious how it would all work out.  So far our experience on the ship led us to believe that this would be a wholly different experience.  However when we arrived on deck 3 we did indeed have to wait in line... for a total of about 45 seconds while the person in front of us went through!  With a furtive "I can't believe how great this is!" smile we handed over our cards and less than a minute later we were sitting on the top deck of the tender;  it was only about half full.  So easy.   

Our tour guide Joelle met us with the lovely Heia as we exited the tender and we joined the other 3 couples on the tour, a fun group and a fun day. Joelle is American and has spent many years living in the islands while raising his family.  He is an expert on local flora and its various medicinal uses, and he entertained us with local legends and lore throughout the trip.  We circled the larger part of the island and took in full flowing waterfalls, beautiful vistas, the Belvedere, blue-eyed eels, tiny villages, a local vanilla "farm" (more later on this), maraes (ancient ceremonial temples) and sandy beaches.  Throughout, Joelle talked about what is like to live in Huahine as a local.  A good amount damage from a recent cyclone was visible in many areas along the tour, not much structural damage, but quite a lot of brown, tattered vegetation.  Joelle explained that spray from the sea water caused many of the plants to turn brown, but that they would soon flourish again.   Numerous downed trees (mostly banana) and a bit of a landslide were seen throughout the island.  About half way through our tour Joelle asked where our ship's Captain was planning divert us due to a little cyclone named Pat.  Apparently she was planning on visiting the Cook Islands on the same day we were.  Joelle was curious about our itinerary deviation, at which point we all looked at him and had no idea what he was talking about!   He just smiled and said, "Wait and see."

Joelle teaching us about banana trees

View of the ship from the Belvedere

Feeding the blue eye eels

Coral on the beach

While the highly advertised stop at the Vanilla farm was indeed interesting, it was not quite what I expected.   The "farm" was basically in someone's front yard and they had a room off the side of their house that served as a storing/sales area.  Joelle's information about the growing and labor intensive drying of vanilla beans was enlightening and we definitely came away with an understanding of why vanilla beans are as expensive as they are.  I had no idea just how much work went into pollinating, growing and drying the beans.   Hand pollinating each flower to produce the beans and then daily laying out and turning of the beans in the sun is indeed a big job.

I did purchase some beans at this venue, but have not had a chance to try them yet.  The prices were very good when compared to home and I am excited to toss them in some home made goodies one day soon!

Vanilla "Farm"

Vanilla Beans

Huahine Vista

Fish for dinner??

All in all we very much enjoyed the Safari tour and are thankful for the opportunity to have seen and experienced much of Huahine.  The island is beautiful and not commercialized. The tour ended at the pier where we waited for only 10 minutes or so for the tender to arrive and take us back for the muster drill and dinner.

The mandatory muster drill was held at 5:30.  The drill began with a good amount of standing around waiting for everyone to arrive at their stations, then direction on what to do in case of an emergency.   At the end of the drill the captain asked that all guests meet in the Grand Salon for "some information about our cruise".   Looks like Joelle knew what he was talking about!

We dressed for dinner and then headed for the Grand Salon.  I would say approximately 2/3 of the passengers came to the meeting.  At this point the captain explained about Hurricane Pat and two other tropical depressions and their intentions to visit the same island that we were scheduled to visit.  Apparently Pat was headed directly for Aitutaki and that he felt it was in our best interest (safety and passenger comfort) to change course, eliminate the Cook Islands and head to the Tuamotus.  For Brian and I this was no big deal as we had never visited any of the islands mentioned.   I had absolutely no desire to be sea sick and I was hoping for days of sun and relaxation not rain and rolling waves. Others who had planned this trip because of the Cook Island itinerary were understandably disappointed, but the crew put together a new itinerary and our course was now headed to Raiatea.

As we had no plans for dinner took our time to enjoy a cocktail in the Piano Bar and then decided to head to the main dining room, L'Etoile for our meal.  Brian and I have never experienced joining others for dinner on a cruise.   On this trip, though, we thought it might be fun to mingle and get to know other passengers so we decided to put on our social hat and join a larger table.  The waiter directed us to a table where we met Ed and Barbara, one of the nicest couples on the ship!  Within minutes were were laughing and felt like we were old friends.  Susan and John joined us shortly thereafter and we spent first of 11 evenings laughing the meal away.   I fully understand the "joining others" now that I have done it and have very fond memories of our dinnermates from all over the world.  

The after dinner show for this evening was Viva Polynesia featuring Les Gauguines with songs and dances of Ancient Tahiti.  Unfortunately the fatigue combined with a couple of glasses of wine sent us to bed early and we missed the show, however I have heard that it was very enjoyable and an entertaining event.

Tomorrow... Raiatea!

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