Today we planned to rent scooters and take a tour of the island. We took the dinghy over to the town of Paopao in Cook’s Bay, where the scooter/car rental place was located. The ride over was interesting. There is coral all around, so you have to be careful. There is a small boat channel that is clearly marked, and as long as you stay in the channel, you are fine. It just looks kind of crazy as you are in the channel because it seems like the coral is so close to the surface that you can’t possibly get through, but it really is deep enough.
The rental place opened at 08:30 and we were there by 09:15. Much to our disappointment, the guy in line ahead of us got the last scoter they had left. So we got a funky little no frills car called a Dacia. Neither of us have heard of the brand. BTW, this is a good time to make a couple of car rental notes. Our first car was a special discounted rate of $115 American for 24 hours including gas. This second car was $85 American for 8 hours without gas. The scooters cost $60 for 8 hours without gas. Talk about expensive! The other thing to note is that they don’t ask you if you can drive stick, they just assume you know how and give you a stick shift car. We know in Europe most cars are stick and we guess it must be the same here. So make sure you know how to drive a manual car if you plan to come to Moorea.
We went to the restaurant across the street for breakfast. As soon as we sat down, the sky opened up and rain poured down. Suddenly we weren’t so sad about not getting the scooters, after all. We saw the most vivid double rainbow we have ever seen in our lives. Sadly, the camera was in the car. We broke our rule of always have a camera handy.
Our first stop was the agricultural school in the interior of the island. They grow several kinds of crops, including bananas, pineapples and vanilla. Eric loves vanilla and was very interested in seeing how vanilla plants are raised and harvested. The road into the interior was a steep, curvy, unpaved mountain road. As we climbed up the dirt road in the pouring rain, we were even more thankful about not getting a scooter. We arrived at the school along with a lots of other tourists. There is a little food stand near the parking area that sells ice cream, sorbet, pineapples, pineapple chips, jams, honey, vanilla beans, and other things made at the school. We went up to the counter and asked about a tour of the plantation. We were told “No tours today because of the rain”.
Back in the car we went, up to the viewpoint at the top of the road. Despite the thick clouds all around us, we were able to see the ocean. There were a couple of hiking trails that began here that took you through the forest and down the mountain to the bays, but we decided to skip hiking since it was still drizzling and looked as if more serious rain was yet to come.
Our next stop was an archeological site near the school. Like in Tahiti, most of the natives on Moorea lived in the lush interior of the island, not on the water, until after the Europeans took over. The site had a little walkway lined with stones that led you from ruin to ruin. In between the ruins, the scenery looked much like Lord of the Rings, green and damp and lush. There were a lot of Tahitian Chestnut trees. Here is Christi crossing a small stream.
Like in the Marquesas, the ruins were basically just rock foundations for what used to be grass hut structures.
Lonely Planet said that the walk was circular, and for some reason we assumed that it wasn’t a very long walk. After a good 15 minutes of walking, the pouring rain resumed. Hmmm”¦. We had no idea how much farther it was around the circle. You would think that for as long as we had walked, we had to be near the end, but for all we knew, we could only be a small fraction of the way around. We debated turning back or pressing on and opted for tuning back. Back at the entrance we looked at a map and saw that we had been ¾ of the way along the path. We should have kept going forward. Much to our dismay, the magic bug oil didn’t repel the mosquitoes in the forest.
We headed back down the mountain and got on the main road around the island. It was getting to be lunchtime. We saw a handwritten sign on a chalkboard saying crepes and juice. Yum. Crepes. Much to our surprise, the only place we have seen crepes anywhere before today was in downtown Papeete. You would think that in French Polynesia crepes would be everywhere. We stopped off. Turns out the shop was actually a catamaran with a big wooden deck over the two hulls and a grass hut surrounding the top part of the hull. It was hilarious. No one was there, so back in the car we went.
Much to our delight, there was another crepes place a few miles down the road. Eric got a Tuna pizza and Christi got a three cheese crepe. For dessert, Eric got a rum and sugar crepe (which needed more sugar) and Christi got a banana, chocolate and rum crepe (which could have used a little sugar). Our crepes craving satiated, we headed out.
There wasn’t a whole lot of places for us to stop as we circled the island. Most of the recommended stops were beaches or shopping, and it wasn’t beach weather and we aren’t into shopping. We sat back and enjoyed the pretty views. Here is a good shot of the light blue water in the lagoon, the reef with waves breaking on it, the ocean behind the reef, and Tahiti in the background.
Like Tahiti, the entire shoreline is developed. It is mostly residences, with commercial buildings scattered here and there. We noticed there were restaurants pleantiful. We could be happy living in a place with so many restaurants to choose from. We like to eat out a lot.
Almost all the way back at the car rental place was our last stop, the Rotui juice factory. Rotui is the most common brand of juice in French Polynesia. We drink lots of Rotui juice on board. We parked and entered what looked to be the visitor center. It was a store, selling juice, soaps, perfumes, lotions, clothing and bric a brac with Hinano beer logos, and a big variety of liqueurs. There was a counter at the back. We asked about a tour. No tours offered, but would we like some samples? Sure, samples sounded good. Turns out they only offer samples of the liqueurs, not the juice. They had white and brown rum, which we passed on trying. They had chocolate, mocha and vanilla crÃ¨me, which are yummy and similar to Bailey’s. They had an assortment of tropical flavored liqueurs, including pineapple, banana, pampelmousse, coconut and orange. Those were pretty good, some flavors better than others. They are probably awesome in mixed drinks. After all that booze, we hopped back in the car and headed back to return the car. Don’t worry, we only took small sips of the samples.
We got back to the boat shortly before sunset and enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets to date. The entire sky and ocean turned red. It was incredible.