Saturday 28 May
Beautiful Mo’orea is encircled by a road that runs around its coastline at almost sea level. As Temptress is anchored only a short distance from the shore and it was a sunny morning it seemed a great idea to get the bikes out for the first time since Shelter Bay back in February. Like Tahiti Mo’orea’s roads are marked with at intervals with stones showing the distance in kilometres which enables you to judge exactly how far from the airport you are on the coastal road. The anchorage is at PK14, at the foot of Mt Rotui, just east of Opunoho Bay. The pair of us, having secured the dinghy by its stern anchor and locked it to a palm tree assembled the folding bikes and headed off east towards Cooks Bay.
The first diversion was up to the Moorea Juice Factory to sample their wares. After a warm welcome, we tasted the Rotui Ananas juice (pineapple) we’d been buying in 2l tetra parks in Carrefour before moving onto banana and vanilla, lychee and strawberry then banana rum followed by two different rum cocktail mixes based on their juices which can also be purchased in Carrefour. Having several litres of Caribbean rum still onboard we limited ourselves to 4 litres of various fruit juices at 250CPF a carton all of which will go well with rum or gin for sundowners! Wish we could afford a bottle of banana rum or banana brut (sparkling wine made from bananas) but the price of alcohol in FP is well beyond our budget. From Tuesday to Thursday there are free tours of the factory at 9am and 2pm – apparently it is not the main pineapple season at the moment so Thursday is recommended as it is the only day they are processing pineapples.
Then on along the road towards the village of Poapoa at the head of Cooks Bay. After a photo stop at the quay we decided to try the Ananas Route signed with brown tourist signs up the valley and from our rough tourist information map round to Opunoho. The road changed from Tarmac to concrete as it gently climbed through the fields of pineapples. An elderly American couple hiking down thought we were a bit nuts to be riding up and described the road ahead of us as winding, we soon discovered why. The sealed road ended abruptly becoming a red hard mud bumpy surface which was damp and quite slippery on the shaded parts. It wound its way up the valley.
At a junction we decided to follow the purple bicycle arrow though it soon became apparent that this muddy track might well double us back to Cooks Bay. We retraced our steps with me telling Kevin to be careful just ahead as I’d nearly fallen off as we’d come the other way. Too late the wheels of his trusty steed slid sideways to the left, depositing him in slow motion to the right; somehow he rolled’o onto the shrubby plants and grass alongside the track without injury or covering himself in the thick red mud, just his handlebar end and wrist needed cleaning up! An amazing escape.
Onward. A shiny new information board described various hikes and bike routes in the Oponuhu Valley area, explaining this was the initial phase so not all the signage was yet in place and the text was in English as well as French and Tahitian. The little very new French footpath signs on wooden posts we’d spotted earlier were part of this project. There is a black route for experienced mountain bikers and having read the description, we declined that option, our large wheeled folding bikes might make it but we just aren’t fit enough.
However the Belvedere mentioned in various cruising guides sounded attractive and was reachable by road as well as by a variety of steeper footpaths or bridleways up through the jungle. On we cycled down to a surfaced road once more. Turning left at the signs for the Agriculture College and the Belvedere the road started to climb like a snake around the mountainsides past a 2km marker that had us wondering is that measured from the top of the hill or from the bay? Later we passed another at 4km.
As the sun climbed high into the sky Temptress’ crew toiled upwards, mostly walking, carrying 4l of juice in addition to our packed lunch, camera, binoculars etc didn’t seem like such a great idea. Tourists in hire cars, on scooters or in the back of Landrovers passed us, how we wished for a lift but it was not to be. It better be worth it the skipper muttered several times when we paused for a gulp from our water bottle. Forty five minutes to an hour later we rounded the last hairpin and the final few steep metres up to the Belvedere were ours.
At the top a local guy had enterprisingly set up a stall selling ice cool coconuts for 250CPF – he opens the top, inserts a straw so you can drink the refreshing coconut water, then he cuts the nut in half and runs a very sharp former butter knife now specifically curved for the job around both halves of the shell lifting the soft flesh away in chunks. Just what was needed once we’d devoured our hunks of baguette stuffed with camembert and homegrown cress for lunch.
Refreshed and recovered from the long climb in under the midday sun we could admire the view. It was breath taking, the Belvedere is high enough to be able to see down both valleys into the bays either side of Mt Rotui (899m high) with the mountain itself centre stage. Wow it was worth the effort. The trip down was four kilometres of freewheeling broken only by stops at the archaeological sites (one of which was an archery practise platform for ancient Polynesians) and at the college for an ice cream and a brief bit of wifi. By 2:30 we were back aboard Temptress preparing for a much needed cooling swim and spotting Yollata and her crew Scott, Tracey plus youngsters Will and Molly dropping their hook just behind us.