Viatape, Bora Bora
This was our first visit to Bora Bora, an island Rick has wanted to visit since he read James Michener’s Hawaii when he was in high school. So he was out on deck early on January 14 for the sail in. Curiously, not many passengers were out this morning for what turned out to be a pretty spectacular approach with the sun rising behind the big mountain that dominates the island.
I’m sure I am not the first to notice this, but this huge island mountain made me think of Bali Hai in the movie South Pacific. Which is not far fetched since Michener spent time on this island while in the Navy during World War II before writing the book on which the musical & movie were based. But Bali Hai is undoubtedly an amalgam, since the view of Moorea from Tahiti is also reminiscent of the movie. Our friend Peggy was on deck for the sail in too, and a nice fellow passenger offered to take our picture, undoubtedly under the impression we were a couple.
We anchored surprisingly close to shore & could see the town of Vaitape clearly from the ship. We could hardly wait to get there, it looked like such a beautiful spot. On an island across the water from the town was an abandoned resort that looked like it might once have been quite a nice place to stay.
Our plan was to explore the town during the morning, then we had an open truck tour of the island scheduled for 2:00. So after breakfast we took the short tender ride into town, where we were greeted by a musical group.
The town as a whole was a real disappointment. It was small & crowded with commercial buildings. The traffic was unrelenting on the one road in the town & there was a very touristy commercial vibe, nothing like what the island looked like from the water. Of course, the touristy vibe was emphasized by the hundreds of tourists who poured into this tiny town, constituting the majority of people on the street.
There were two interesting churches in town. One was pink with a red roof & steeple, which looked nice in front of the green mountain. We aren’t sure what denomination it is, but the other one may be Catholic since it had stations of the cross inside. The second church was less attractive from the outside, but inside was a large window with stained glass around the sides, painted images in the middle & a number of clear glass panes that allowed a view of the mountain behind. Very interesting.
We wandered up the street & back, perusing shops & art galleries but finding nothing we wanted to purchase. We went back to the ship for lunch, then tendered back to the pier in time for our 2:00 excursion. There were eight folks in the truck for this outing. The roads on this island were built by the U.S. Navy, which maintained a supply base here during World War II. We found that many of them go straight up a mountain, no switchbacks or zig-zags, so we had to hold on tight to avoid sliding into the next person’s lap. But it was fun.
While some of the travelling was a little rough, the lookout spots on the mountains were well worth it. Bora Bora has a particularly wide lagoon inside its reef & our guide told us there are 14 colors of blue in the water here. While we didn’t count them, we believe it because we saw a lot of shades of blue on our short visit.
During World War II the US Navy had an important supply operation on Bora Bora. To protect the island several large cannons were put in place on the mountainsides. There was never any actual fighting here, however, so the guns were not used. But they are still there and we visited one of them.
At the gun site were several reddish flowers lying on the ground, having fallen off a tree. We were told that these were a type of Hibiscus. The flower lasts only one day: it opens yellow in the morning, turns bright red in early afternoon, then turns dark red & falls off before evening. It sounds kind of sad, really. We saw a lot of other nice flowers on this lush island, so there are some more pictured below.
We stopped at a beach & also drove by several of the expensive resort hotels with glass bottom bungalows over the water.
We stopped at a place where they were making pareos, decorated Polynesian cloth that can be folded to wear as a skirt, dress, shawl, etc. Many are printed in bright designs, but the more interesting ones are sort of tie-dyed, then left in the sun with decorative linoleum cutouts on top. The exposed dye is activated by the sun in a way the covered dye is not, giving the design (often including the name of the island) a varied & colorful design. Pareos are everywhere in Polynesian shops.
We returned to the dock & tendered back to the ship. Here are a couple of miscellaneous pictures that didn’t fit anywhere else.
In 2016 we had a number of cook-outs on the lido deck, which were fun. But last year the health inspectors nixed that for some reason, so now they have “cook-ins” in the lido buffet and you can take the food out on the deck to eat. This isn’t nearly as much fun. But tonight there was a Polynesian cook-in at the Lido, complete with suckling pig & drinks sipped out of coconuts. We ate in the dining room.
Sunset was behind an island, but Bora Bora itself was bathed in sunlight.
We sailed away from Bora Bora looking forward to a relaxing sea day (finally after 4 consecutive ports). The sky was clear, the moon was bright & of course there was a towel animal at bedtime.