Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Something Cancelled, Something Gained

This morning we learned that our Glass Bottom Boat excursion on Bora Bora was cancelled due to bad weather (read: occasional torrential downpours!) and poor visibility. However, we refused to let a little thing like that get us down. Who knows when or if we'll ever see this island again? As long as the ship's tenders were running, we were bound and determined to have an adventure!

On shore, we found a nice young man named Bruce who offered us a circle of the island tour in his air conditioned Land Rover. He was born on Vanau (the real name of the island of Bora Bora.) His father is an American who came here to run one of the fabulous resorts, and ended up marrying a Tahitian woman. Bruce speaks English, French, Spanish, and Tahitian. He's married and has two beautiful kids.

We learned that formal education ends at age 16 here in the islands and there is no university on Bora Bora. Many people used to work in the tourism industry, but since 9/11, the number of visitors has dropped considerably. There are easily a half dozen resorts standing empty and employing only enough groundskeepers to keep the vegetation from taking over the buildings.

Bruce says that other than needing to pay for water (which is provided by the French government through an expensive desalinization plant) and electricity (also through the government) many people have few bills. The government provides health care, including medications. The residents grow their own fruit and vegetables. They raise chickens and hogs. They fish in the abundant waters around the island. And, I'm sorry to have to tell you, they also enjoy eating wild dog. We saw dozens of these miserable creatures slinking around the island. But this is the culture and I can only thank God I've never been hungry enough to eat dog.

The island is spectacular, lush and heavily overgrown. Multiple waterfalls cascade down the steep mountainsides. The lovely, calm interior bay is actually an ancient caldera, the remains of the volcano that gave birth to the island.

During WWII, the US military had a strong presence in French Polynesia. There are still man-made caves that housed cannon to defend the harbor. And in what seems to us today an astonishing disregard for the environment, the harbor was made easier for destroyers to enter by blowing up part of the reef.  Of course, it also made it easier for our cruise ship to visit, too.

As wonderful as the scenery is, the people are even more lovely. We stopped at one road-side shop operated by a family. They offered us samples of fresh coconut, breadfruit and grapefruit. I passed on the grapefruit, but the breadfruit was amazing--like nothing I've ever tasted before. A truly unusual texture as well.

Here's the DH taking a sip of extremely fresh coconut milk. The natives use every bit of the plant, from fiber to weave into necklaces and use as tinder to fermenting the shells into coconut oil for use in skin treatments. We also watched the natives use flowers and other plants to create dyes for the sarongs the island women wear.

The welcoming committee

Bruce prepares fresh coconut for us.

WWII canon cave

This older resort was once owned by Marlon Brando!

There's a reason the island is so lush and green. Liquid sunshine falls in abundance!

We also visited Bloody Mary's Bar (think Rogers & Hammerstein's South Pacific!) and walked along a stretch of golden sand, letting the warm waters of the ocean caress our calves. The tour was so much better, so much richer an experience than riding in a Glass Bottom Boat.

Today reminded me that it's foolish to be upset if your plans have to change. Life is filled with moments when things don't go our way.

But it doesn't have to mean things can't be even better than we'd planned. We had a ball on Bora Bora!

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