After a very lively overnight sail from Moorea we entered the easy Avapehi pass in through Huahine’s protective reef and headed to Avea Bay on the south western tip of the island. There are a lot of charter boats in this area, mainly catamarans, and the anchorage off the small town of Fare at the north end looked pretty busy so we chose to spend most of our time in the quieter southern part of the island.
Avea Bay – A beautiful anchorage fully protected from the sea by a wide expanse of reef and shallow water
Quite possibly the coolest house boat ever
There was a small hotel ashore with a dock and they very kindly allow cruisers shore access, so we left our dinghy on the dock several days in a row and went hiking. Huahine is very different from its south-eastern neighbour Moorea, with less dramatic terrain and fewer agricultural plantations, but it has a beautiful coastline and such lovely friendly people too.
Archaeological ruins along the coast, all made of coral rock
Lunch with a view, we regularly have to pinch ourselves!
At the top of the hill over looking the small village of Parea we found a very well manicured look-out with some imaginative planting and a spectacular view of the reef
One of the many meandering rivers flowing through the village of Parea
More attractive look-out points on the road heading north
Another day in Paradise
On our hike north along the quiet main road we came across a vanilla plantation, and after a chat with the owner and a purchase of some vanilla beans we were given a free tour of his organic plantation, originally started by his grandfather.
The vanilla plant is related to the orchid and originally came from Mexico. The plantations are usually under cover to give them protection from the elements, in particular rain as this damages the flowers. Coconut shells are used as a mulch providing nutrients for the roots.
A labour of love – A Vanilla plant can take three years before it flowers, it is then ‘hand pollinated’ using a fish bone as a tool. The flower cannot self-pollinate due to plant tissue covering the stem, and the pollen is quite inaccessible to most natural pollinators such as bees and butterflies. So the tool is used to transfer the pollen from the anther to the stigma.
New flowers forming
The pods can take 6 weeks to grow to 6-10 inches, then go through a further 6 month drying or ‘sweating’ ritual. A healthy vine can produce up to 100 pods in a year.
We can now certainly appreciate why vanilla is so expensive to buy, the farmer has spent several years nurturing a plant and it’s harvested pods before he has a product to sell.
Some amusing local art decorating a car port!
Among the overgrown banana and papaya trees along the roadside we found some wild chillies!
A new experience – the Star Apple fruit. We came across a lady along the road selling fruit from her garden, so we bought a huge bag of Star Apples and some coconuts. The Star Apples are strange, as they are cut they pour with a milky latex sap, the flesh scooped out from the skin has a creme caramel texture and mild flavour but with a beautiful purple twist.
Huahine was a wonderful island to explore and we had excellent weather, I think this is my favourite Society Island so far. As always it is difficult to tear ourselves away from such a paradise, our next destination is in sight and just a days sail away.
Raiatea and Taha’a are just 20 miles away and visible from Huahine.
The Society Islands – French Polynesia