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Oceania » French Polynesia » Raiatea
November 4th 2019
Published: November 4th 2019
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I would never have imagined there's a backpacker trail of sorts through the islands of French Polynesia, but the multi-island flight packages offered by Air Tahiti ensure travellers continue to bump in to each other. For me this has always encapsulated the magic of travel, and to see friends you have a genuine connection with in multiple locations helps solidify the special bond that only comes from getting out and exploring the world. I have to admit it was with a degree of sadness I prepared to bid goodbye to my travel friends in Moorea after our unforgettable adventures together, however after some preliminary discussions we began to realise this is a special crew. So it was off to Air Tahiti, and before you could say voila we rearranged itineraries for a second week of island hopping in paradise, and I for one couldn't be happier with the turn of events.

The journal left off at the conclusion of our visit to Moorea, where I boarded an Air Tahiti flight to the island of Huahine. With great fortune and timing this visit to French Polynesia coincided with the annual va'a canoe race on the islands. This is the biggest event in French Polynesia, where six man crews paddle four hours from island to island over the course of four days. Due to the race there's absolutely no accommodation on the island, and I was fortunate to have booked my room more than a month prior in Australia. But it was even more fortunate in that I could embark on a reconnaissance mission of sorts for my friends, who had changed their flights so that we could continue our travels together, but were completely stumped for any accommodation options. I was picked up at the airport by the owner of Camping Hiva, and we headed down to the south island after a stop in town for some essentials. It's around 25 kilometres from the centre to the camping ground which is quite isolated, but it's right on a beautiful beach and in an idyllic location. I had my own room but most of the guests are campers, staying in tents by the beach. During the course of my stay everyone got up super early for breakfast, apparently it's just two hot to be in a tent after 6:00am.

I walked up the road a kilometre to a five star resort on the first evening, and was able to wrangle the wi fi password from the staff member at the front desk, despite a bit of reluctance at first. She took me aside later, and explained her group manager was behind her in the office and that the wi fi is for guests only. This was despite my offer to pay for access; anyway everything worked out and I got online to catch up over a beer while watching the glorious sunset out past the resort jetty. I ducked across the road to the food truck, and the wi fi from the resort was still operating. How good is that, the food truck opens at 5:00pm and is parked next to benches that are under shelter. It seems a perfect office was taking shape! I spent the first day exploring the island on a scooter, and had a few days to myself before my friends came over. Staying at Camping Hiva entailed mornings at a deserted beach I quickly christened Tom's beach. It's stunning and remote out here on Huahine, and the marine life is spectacular which adds that extra dimension.

I was thrilled to see my friends again as the band got back together, and we had accommodation sorted due to my early arrival with one friend sharing my room, and the other in a makeshift tent the owner scrambled together. We went for a shop at the corner store and in to the resort to check online, and also explore for rental wheels. In hindsight because Huahine is so remote and not really tourist friendly, in combination with the upcoming va'a race, conspired against us to a certain extent during the reunion tour. The internet was practically unusable from sunday onwards, and we could not get wheels of any description for love or money. We made do as best we could, but it became apparent to all of us an extended stay on the island was not really an option. Nowadays with social media it's essential for modern travellers to have access to reasonable internet, and our group are no exception!

We agonised about our predicament after a few days on the island, and decided there was no alternative but to move on. We wrangled a lift with the owner to town for help at the Air Tahiti office, which coincided with a huge pre race va'a parade. It was loads of fun to experience, and towards the end of the day one of the top Tahiti crews gave us a ride in their pick-up truck all the way back to the camping ground, although it was far out of their way. We were all up early next morning for another ride to town with the owner, to watch the start of the race as the canoe teams raced past on the way to Raiatea. The owner drove me to the airport for an early morning flight, with my friends to join me that evening. Incredibly, I settled in to a hostel by Raiatea harbour after the island hopping flight and scooted to the shore to witness the va'a crews arriving at the end of another leg of the race. There are over sixty crews competing in the race, and the atmosphere in the town is buzzing by the waterfront, with supporters screaming encouragement as the crews race to the finish line.

I was thrilled to meet with my friends again on a third island, and to our delight the new accommodation at Chez Moeava is immaculate with high speed internet. We were lucky to get a bed at a full hostel during the va'a race, and the staff and guests are super friendly. We spent a wonderful four days in Raiatea, It's hard to describe the atmosphere but I'd suggest the locals are even more friendly on this island if it's even possible! We were enthralled to watch the va'a competitors racing off to Bora Bora. Straight after the race launch we snaffled a rental car and explored the island for a day. This culminated in sunset views over a jetty with incredible drone footage of our extended group now including a couple of french travellers. For another day we arranged to join a diving/snorkelling half day trip, and this proved the most amazing snorkelling experience ever. The snorkel featured superb visibility in the deepest water I've swam in, with a channel that stretched as far down as the eye could see. Naturally fish are much bigger in deep water, and the coral on the reef by the channel is spectacular. I was fortunate to see a large eagle ray flying gracefully underwater, what a privilege that was!

The atmosphere at the hostel is brilliant, and the laughs keep on coming. One morning a swiss guy and I went shopping at the supermarket for breakfast while our friends slept in, but forgot our keys. The staff are only around intermittently, and we had no wi fi so could not contact them inside. We were throwing pebbles at a window for 45 minutes, all to no avail and our friends didn't stir despite what we had seen in the movies. Finally we recognised a local who had a key to the building, however once back inside suddenly realised we had been bombarding the wrong residence, with a slew of pebbles on the balcony three doors down. Oops! And finally to our mutual surprise and delight we bumped in to the va'a team from Tahiti who so kindly gave us a lift in Huahine. They placed creditably in the race but were chasing former glories. It's been wonderful in French Polynesia, basically all of you should be here now!


"I surround myself with good people who make me feel great and give me positive energy." Ali Krieger



As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now

Tom

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