We had wanted to go directly from Moorea to Maupiti---then return to Bora Bora to check out of French Polynesia---but the weather conditions upon leaving Moorea were too poor to make it through the pass
at Maupiti. Reluctantly, we headed to Bora Bora instead. We ended up having a great time on
Bora Bora due to the fact that there were several crews/boats we’d met before
in the anchorage. In addition to reuniting with crews from Kahia and Oyaragh, whom we'd met in Nuku Hiva and Moorea, respectively, we met the rollicking crew of Nakesa for the first time. We also finally met the crew of Morning Glory, a boat that we'd been seeing off and on since we'd shared an anchorage with them in Puerto Ayora. Last but not least, we once again ran into one of the Brothers Bruyn.
Adventures on Mount
Unbeknownst to us, the cargo ship that followed Silhouette through Teavanui Pass into the
Bora Bora lagoon was carrying two crew members from Double Bruyn.
They had left the boat in the yard at Raitaea and
were in Bora Bora for a quick visit, where they planned to stay on a
friend's yacht. After securing our mooring at the Bora Bora
Yacht Club and taking the dinghy in to the dock to check in, we met Paul Bruyn and Double Bruyn's most recent recurring crew member, Richard,
already downing their first beers at the yacht club. We joined them for a
"catch up" session, and we decided that we would all climb Mt. Pahia in
When they found a hiker on the mountain in bad shape three
days after he set off to climb Mt. Pahia, the city of Vaitape adopted a resolution that it
would prefer hikers to go up the
mountain with a guide. If you are an experienced hiker who knows your limits,
you can easily follow the trail without a guide. The start of the trail does
not appear on any of the tourist maps of Bora Bora, and I haven’t seen any topo
maps here. But if you ask around, the locals will help you find the start of
Be aware that climbing Pahia is more than a hike: Scrambling is
involved, and there is a short (roped) section of technical climbing near the
summit. Several sections of the trail are roped; however (depending on one’s
ability and the weather), the ropes are not necessary on all of the sections in
which they appear. The trail would be difficult to impossible in heavy rain
(especially the descent), and the saddle and summit approach would be
dangerous in high winds. The entire trail is steep, and there are many slippery
sections over mud or wet rock.
|Mt. Pahia as seen from Vaitape: The true summit is to the right of the saddle|
The road leading to the trail is five shops north of the
Gendarmerie; and in 2012, there is an open air shop selling curios and
ukeleles at this spot. The residential road leads back into the hills, and
there is a sign posted on the road advising hikers not to go up the mountain
without a guide. You can’t see the sign from the main road going around Bora
Bora; you have to be back near the shops because the sign faces the residential
cross street leading to the trail. The road dead ends at a private home; just
before the house, a left turn takes you on to the trail. The lower reaches of
the trail are marked with unique trail markers (clusters of empty plastic water
bottles hung on trees or ribbons tied to trees); once past the lower reaches of
the trail, there is only one way to go and the route is obvious.
|Mt. Otemanu and Mt. Pahia from the island's north side|
The trail starts climbing immediately, and it isn't long before you get your first views.
|Teavanui Pass and the city of Vaitape from partway up the mountain|
Once you are two-thirds of the way up Pahia's slopes, you traverse around to the back side of the mountain, traveling under a rocky ledge.
|We met some other hikers on their way down the trail----notice everyone holding on to a tree!|
|A collection of cairns under the ledge on the traverse|
You scramble up two rock/mud gullies before ascending another steep section of trail to emerge on the first (west) summit. From the last section of trail, we had a splendid view of Bora Bora's highest peak, Mount Otemanu. Otemanu has never been climbed, and some people have died trying. The rock on Mt. Otemanu is so crumbly that climbing aids (which are obviously necessary) pull right out.
|We added our own to the collection|
|Mount Otemanu, the barrier reef, and the lagoon|
|Hiking companions on Mt. Pahia: From left, Patrick, Richard, and Paul|
We rested and had lunch here while waiting for the mists that had come in to clear on Pahia's true (east) summit, only a few meters higher. After lunch, some of us set off to attempt the true summit. The vegetation along the saddle gave a possibly misleading feeling of security: The ground was very spongy and may not have been altogether solid in places.
|Mt. Otemanu and Pahia's true summit: Pahia looks taller from this angle, but it's not|
After crossing the saddle and beginning the climb toward the summit, we came to a short (12-15') section of vertical rock that required climbing skills or enough upper body strength to use the rope positioned there to ascend. I didn't feel like I could climb it without the rope, and because it was exposed and it wasn't my own gear, I didn't want to put all my eggs in the rope basket. I stopped climbing at this point. Paul and Richard made it past this crux move and on to the true summit.
|The blue speck on the saddle is Paul and the two orange specks below him are Richard and Kirsten|
We had a wonderful time climbing Mt. Pahia, and the views
from partway up and from the top were amazing. We definitely felt the strenuous climb the
|Paul is above the crux move; Richard is ascending; I'm standing at the bottom of the rock face where I remained|
Adventures With Gear
While in Bora Bora, a number of things on the boat began to
fail. Our Pactor modem had recently been acting funny: It had become more and more difficult to get
a signal to receive weather reports via the radio. Thus ensued a trouble-shooting
email exchange between Patrick and the US factory representative; after Patrick tried everything they suggested, our Pactor modem was officially declared “dead.” Our
modem was a 20 year-old Pactor 2 modem. However, before leaving to go cruising,
we got the Pactor 3 upgrade and had the unit tested at the factory. It passed
all of the tests, and we were advised not to replace it because they "last a long time." Now we are told that the units can have unseen corrosion
between the layers in the circuit board. We probably won’t replace the unit
until we get to New Zealand; however, we can no longer receive some types of weather data, update
our position, make a blog post from sea, or send and receive email from sea. As you can see, we've lost a very important member of our crew: the communications officer!
We can check weather from the internet when we're in port, but once underway, our options are limited. We will have to rely more on radio reports and reports from other cruisers than the GRIB files we've been using. On long passages, we intend
to check in with the Pacific Seafarers’ Net, and they will file position
reports for us. On short, one to two night passages, we probably won’t check
in, so there may be a lapse of several days without an updated position report
Our outboard engine for the dinghy had also been sounding
funny and occasionally stalling. We determined that the float in the carburetor
was probably stuck, dismantled the carburetor and got the float “unstuck,” and
reassembled the engine. We thought we had the problem fixed until we were en
route to the north side of the island in the dinghy to see the manta rays. The engine started
stalling again. Here’s Patrick changing the spark plug in a last-ditch effort
to determine the cause of the problem.
The new spark plug didn’t help, so we turned ‘round and
limped back to the anchorage. Patrick replaced the carburetor (for a 6 Hp
engine) with a spare (intended for a 4 Hp engine), and the problem was solved;
although our speed and ability to plane were reduced.
Finally, the primary bilge pump was “sounding funny.”
Removing the bilge pump to investigate the problem required disconnecting the
muffler from the engine and disconnecting the prop shaft, in order to maneuver
the large bilge pump out of the bilge. The good news was that the bilge pump
(although having some debris stuck in its screen) was fine; the bad news was
that removing it broke the old, brittle hose carrying the water from the bilge pump overboard. Patrick
replaced it with some new hose and the bilge pump was good to go.
Adventures on the
The Bora Bora Yacht Club held a party while we were there. I can’t even begin to describe what it was like dancing to
really bad canned music with three men wearing a petite woman’s cast-off tight black
T-shirts (decorated with 80’s disco themes) that exposed their midriffs. Don’t even go there. The
petite woman was also present, as was the female crew member from another
vessel, and moi. Let it be known that two prudent male skippers kept their distance from
the nonsense and conversed about rational things until 1:30 a.m.
Adventures in Baie Anau
One of the absolute best days I’ve spent cruising was
snorkeling with giant manta rays on Bora Bora. Patrick and I took the dinghy to
Anau (about an hour's ride in our dinghy), where the giant rays were reported to hang out. We anchored the dinghy
when we saw a cluster of dive boats and snorkel tour boats and donned our
snorkel gear. As I glided out over the reef and into a deep channel over a
submarine canyon, I held my breath in disbelief as I spotted the first of these
magnificent beasts. A giant manta ray was gliding over the canyon floor. The
visibility was amazing, and we could see 30 to 50 feet below us while
|Manta rays flying over the reef on the canyon floor|
|A giant manta ray: The eyes are on the side of the head at the base of the silvery palps|
Although I’d heard the term “giant manta ray,” it does not
prepare you for the sheer size of these creatures. The ones we observed were
anywhere from six to ten---perhaps twelve---feet from wing tip to wing tip. The
immensity of their surroundings (deep canyon in a vast lagoon) made it
difficult to judge their true size.
|This ray's mouth is only partially open: You cannot see the strainer-like structure inside in this view|
|Scuba divers along the canyon floor|
The mantas were graceful, gentle creatures.
They struck me as friendly but wary. After snorkeling with the mantas for a
couple of hours, the tour boats and dive boats began to thin. Every time the
boats and throngs of people disappeared (“throng” is a slight
exaggeration---dive tours were small groups of 4-6; while snorkel tours had up
to 20 people), the mantas would start behaving differently. While they
separated into small groups and kept to the bottom when the tour boats were around, when the boats
disappeared, I found myself surrounded by up to eight giant mantas at a time.
The manta rays would then climb higher in the water column, spiral around each
other, and sometimes swim upside down.
|Champagne-like bubbles created by scuba divers|
Their feeding behavior was more evident when the tour boats were gone,
and I could see their huge, basket strainer type mouths working the plankton in
the water column. (I never did get a good picture of this.) The presence of many humans definitely affected the behavior
of the manta rays, but when it was just me (Patrick had by now retired to the
dinghy to warm up), the rays seemed indifferent to my presence, and it was magic.
Patrick and I snorkeled with the same group of rays for two
to three hours. Even though they disappeared and reappeared throughout the
morning and early afternoon, we were able to recognize individuals. There was a
large satiny ray with a pure dark back. There were several manta rays of
varying sizes with white to silver patches on their dorsal sides. Another giant
dark-backed ray was missing one of its palps. All of them were beautiful,
graceful, and regal.
|A satiny manta ray with a truncated palp|
|Two rays with white and gray markings|
I stayed in the water with the manta rays long after my
camera battery died and I was thoroughly chilled. I barely explored the reef
above the canyon, which---in and of itself--- was amazing. I did notice my
first spotted eagle ray soaring over the canyon wall with its blunt, rat-like
face. I also saw a gigantic box or porcupine fish (not sure which): It was the biggest fish of this type I had
ever seen. There was an entire school of flutemouths hovering over the canyon
rim instead of just the one or two scattered individuals you usually see. The
shallower you got, the clearer the water became, and the reef fish and giant
clams, ever more colorful. If it hadn't been our last day in Bora Bora, I would have definitely returned to this spot again.
|Free diving with a manta ray below me|
|Four manta rays on the canyon floor with a remora|
Fabulous post, Kirsten.ReplyDelete
I love the way I am transported away from Ballard, and the boys in the den playing Lego(at this very moment,) to a magical world, there for any one of us to explore.
Yeah, all this south pacific stuff is cool, if you're into that sort of thing. More importantly, though, I wanted you to know that some of these shielded RCA cables you gave me are coming in _way_ handy for connecting up a little solid state linear that I got for the HF rig.