Thursday, July 31, 2008

We Met the Mara'amu

We met the mara’amu in Huahine. Our overnight passage from Tahiti brought with it a change in the winds, which clocked south, cooled off and brisked up. Whenever a wind pattern has a name you know you’re in for trouble. Every so often a herd of cattle would trample the heavens overhead and relieve themselves in a proud stream of rain. We tolerated the drenching and prepared for landfall, only to find that the pass of our choosing on the east side of the island was roiling a bit more than we’d hoped. We changed our destination and rounded the north end of Huahine, bound for Fare, the primary village through the safer and slightly more protected Avamoa Pass. Naturally we arrived just as another squall made its appearance. Murphy has some law about that.

So, we hunkered down in Fare, as it didn’t seem the mara’amu was going anywhere in a hurry. We found Fare to be bustling on our first visit to shore, with vendors lining the main street selling local produce and typical Polynesian prepared meals. We descended on the grocery store with locals and fellow cruisers during the appointed hour of the baguette. These carbs go in a hurry, as the Polynesian waist line would suggest. The next day we took a walk and, as usual, found ourselves face to face with dogs in need of a dermatologist. These three in particular, all residents of one home, seemed the worst off. We couldn’t find anyone home so we took mental notes of their approximate weights and planned a return visit with medications in hand the following day. These dogs deserved a special effort.

The next day we trudged back through a downpour and found, again, no one home. Another visit that afternoon was finally fruitful, but we had to wake up the guy that lived there, Hérald, to get on with it already. He explained that the dogs belonged to his wife and then had to go about chasing the dogs because they wouldn’t come to him. Hmmm, that seemed a concern. But, we saw to all three (Lady, Keatau and Boo Boo), explained the various medications and he thanked us kindly. He said his wife might have questions about the treatments so we agreed to meet in town the next morning.

That morning Sylvie, Hérald’s wife, kissed us in greeting and then started to cry, so grateful she was for the care her dogs had received. It was immediately evident that she had been trying to do what she could for their skin problems facing the limited access to veterinary care and that they were very much loved. They invited us to their home to share lunch with them, and then took us on a driving tour of Huahine. Unfortunately the mara’amu was especially torrential that day so, while they showed us all the island’s sites of interest, we were confined to the car, darting out for brief drenchings. We visited a marae (the stone remains of an ancient ceremonial site) and paid a visit to Faie, the home of the “sacred” eels that writhe through the shallow waters of a stream. These eels are frequently visited and therefore amply fed. This explains their outgoing personalities and wide girths. They lift their fat heads out of the water for offerings of fish, or squirm onto shore to reach their meal if so enticed. They are so friendly, supposedly, that you can pick them up and drape them over your shoulder if you’re moved to do so. It was too rainy to give it the effort in this particular case. Sylvie and Hérald asked us to join them for dinner later in the week but we couldn’t commit, as we were finally looking to move south and explore other anchorages on Huahine.

Once the rain cleared we were on our way. We followed a buoyed channel south through the lagoon and stopped in Haapu village for the night. We grappled with the anchor and bumped our rudder on a coral shelf, our visibility obscured by the roiling murk of muddy run-off, the result of the recent rains. But, the anchorage was tucked in and protected. The next morning we explored the village there, consisting of quaint little houses and a diminutive convenience store. Ben got to talking with kids playing Foos Ball at the store and was invited to play doubles. No mercy – winner take all. Afterward we paid a visit to an Italian couple on Evasione, the only other boat in the anchorage, and then we both lifted anchor to head one bay south to Avea Bay.

Oh, and this was worth the trip – brilliant colors in the lagoon, breaking waves on its barrier reef, sandy beaches and a colorful and quiet settlement of homes, pensions and restaurants. Other cruisers had found it a destination as well, as demonstrated by the number of us at anchor (about 8 or 9). We found this the best snorkeling so far, with a vast expanse of healthy and varied coral, a great variety of fish, immaculately clear water and, finally, no sharks. We stayed a few days, and would have happily stayed more.

But, we had accepted an invitation from Sylvie and Hérald to attend a performance (one they had helped organize) by the kids of a summer camp so we made our way back north to Fare. We assumed this would be a small event but it turns out they were pretty well organized. Kids and teens put on quite a show, a mix of traditional singing and dancing, with a little hip hop and break dancing thrown in. As always the costumes were colorful and larger than life. We said goodbye to Sylvie and Hérald the following morning as we prepared to make our departure from Huahine, and were sent on our way with fish, produce and shell necklaces in thanks.

Next stop: Tahaa.

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