Thursday, June 28, 2012

Taking in the History, Culture and Tour of the Island

Today, Wednesday, we started our day by arranging for and taking a guided tour of the island. The tour bus was a yellow Toyota 4X4 pickup truck with two benches installed in the bed running longitudinally and facing each other. There was a green vinyl canopy covering the seating area with huge 4" extra heavy pipe roll bars (we would soon find out why). We were picked up at the beach off of which we are moored by Ron, a Dutch immigrant who has lived here since 2005. He spoke English very well and looked like a surfer dude from California. He was barefoot the entire time. We were told that besides the three of us (Barbara, Michael and myself – I'm still the guest writer) we would have to pick up one more customer. - she never showed so we had a private tour.

Our first excursion left the main perimeter road and headed up a mountain. The road was barely wide enough for this truck. We passed fields of grapefruit, papaya, and oranges as Ron maneuvered us though one switchback after another. Near the top of this 2,000+cliff called Magic Mountain the trail was only wide enough for the truck with shear (and I mean shear) cliffs down each side. We stopped about 50 ft. from the top where we had to walk a narrow trail with rope handrails on one side. The view at the top was spectacular as we could see about 1/3 of the island's coastline. From were we snorkeled with the Sting Rays to Cook's Bay. Astarte was just a speck moored in Opunohu Bay. Interesting story that our guide told us was that Captain Cook landed in Opunohu Bay not Cook's Bay – the same bay we are in.

The next stop was inside the extinct volcano, where today Pineapples are grown and cover the ground. The spot where we were standing was the scene from the movie about the Bounty starring Mel Gibson where Mel and the tribal Chief exchanged gifts. The two tallest mountains on the island also surrounded the caldera and rise up to 1,300 meters (about 4,000 ft). A mountain to the west has a large hole through it about 50 feet from the top. Legend has it that one god tried to steal the mountain for his island and was stopped when another god shot an arrow through the mountain. Where the arrow supposedly landed with the rock from the hole is considered the holiest ground in Tahiti.

Additional stops included the Agricultural Station where pineapple research and other plant research is conducted. Moorea is known for it's pineapples which are said are the sweetest in the world – but none are exported. Moorea is known as the pineapple island and other islands in this chain are known for black pearls, watermelons and vanilla beans. Each island has a distinct personality. We did stop at the pineapple distillery but the plant has been shut down for three weeks waiting for a part from Australia. Many people have been left unemployed and the pineapples are rotting in the fields.

We stopped at ancient ruins to view what is left. There were 40,000 people on Moorea at one time – they were happy and content and had a great society until the English missionaries came. They brought western diseases and made the locals wear clothes which caused more disease as the clothes got wet and mildewed causing lung problems. Today the population of Moorea is 14,000.

Our final stop was the shrimp farm where pond raised shrimp are raised. The were good looking shrimp but they wanted almost $25 per kilo. - we passed.

Tomorrow we leave Moorea to sail back to Tahiti. My time is short and we want to take a tour around Tahiti.

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