The island of Niue is mostly coral and caves that make the fifteen-meter cliffs full of deep holes and chasms. You can walk through the lush tropical forest, to the cliff edges and around unique rock formations to arrive to deep arroyos and stunning views. Togo Chasm is nestled in the midst of the islands tall rock face just off the water’s edge. You can then climb down a slippery wooden ladder from the crag above. Below, is sand, palm trees and towering walls to each side that leave you with a view of the cloud dotted sky. The air is salty and filled with the scent of rotting coconuts and soggy lichen clinging to the rocks. We walked right into a secluded little paradise away from the rest of the world. On the other side of the island, a short hike through a low cave puts you on a sprawling rock outcrop just above an expansive coral platform full of little pools and an exquisite view of the famous Talava arch on the other side of the coral. The water is crystal clear and you can see colorful algae, reef fish, and huge sea slugs moving their flower like antennae in front of them as they slowly slide forwards. Waves are crashing at edge of the arch making for fantastic picture opportunities and if you pick your way through the sharp rocks you can reach the side of the arch. Climbing down onto the coral platform allows you to move around atop the wet rocks. There are many other places you could visit that are all spectacular in their own special way, but these are definitely two of the most dramatic destinations on the gorgeous islands of Niue.
With a single island in the center and a towering peak Bora Bora is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to (beautiful; yes but it is also very touristy). The whole island is covered in tropical plants due to the rain that pours over Bora Bora almost every night. We had multiple adventures around the island that were all very exciting.
The first one was a short hike up one of the ridges to World War II guns overlooking the bays bellow us. We started up a muddy and rocky hill and the farther up we ascended the muddier it became. Eventually the mud was sticking to our shoes and it felt like we were walking with an extra five pounds on each foot. One thing led to another (aka I don’t remember how it started) and Eoin and I began throwing the mud at each other. That ended in a few bruises and a very dirty coat that it now clean curtesy of mom! When we arrived at the top there was a gorgeous view of the bays, motus and extensive barrier reef. From that height the water looked so turquoise blue and you could see all of the coral bombies in the water. We sat on the huge guns and enjoyed the view before making our descent back to sea level.
The second great adventure happed over many nights and one eventful morning. During the time that we were in the Society Islands there was a month-long festival happening called Heiva. It was a big festival on each island but because we were at Bora Bora they had huge dancing troops, choirs, and other musicians performing every night. So, each night at around eight pm we would head in to town and watch the traditional Tahitian dancing. Some nights they told stories (in Tahitian), other nights had slower dancing and some had fast dancing but all of it was fantastic and showed off the skill of the dancers. The women were amazing at moving their hips in separate motions than their upper body and walking while doing so. We also attended the parade one morning. It was mostly a parade of people in different shirts sponsoring hotels and other businesses around Bora. All in all, the Heiva celebrations were very entertaining! We saw the dancers almost every night and one-night Kyra didn’t want to go mom asked, “How often do you see Polynesian dancing?” and Kyra mumbled, “Every night!” (one of my favorite things she’s said)
Another escapade we embarked on was a dinghy trip around one of the motus on the other side of the bay, out across the reef and around the far side of the island to an outer motu for a snorkeling trip. We came around the small motu and into an outer anchorage and there, near the reef, was a mast sticking out of the water. We pulled the dinghy up to a mooring ball right next to the sunken sail boat and plunked in the water. We snorkeled around the 30-foot boat for a while before continuing on to a recommended snorkel site. It was full of fish and tons of different types and colors of coral. I could have stayed there much longer if I hadn’t gotten cold and had to get out.
The last jaunt we went on before leaving Bora Bora was a circumnavigation of the island via bike. We got up that morning and prepared everything for a day on the road but when we got to Avis they told us that they had already rented out all of their bikes for the day. We continued to look around town but couldn’t find anywhere else that rented biked and so Papa rode our folding bike around the bay to where there were more resorts. There he found and place that we could rent bikes from so the rest of us took the dinghy across the bay. After a delicious lunch at a restaurant on the beech our day on the bikes finally began. We rode around the island on the main road by the water. The road was mostly flat except for one hill that allowed as a view of the tall mountain. We continued around the island making for a 20-mile round trip ride with gelato as a treat at the end! Those were four of my favorite times we had in Bora Bora!
After crossing from the island of Moorea we spent a windy, and rainy night in a large bay deep in the Island of Huahini. The next day we skirted around the north end of the island and headed down the easterly shores of Huahini in the inside of the reef, towards the south bay to meet up with our friends on a catamaran, Counting Stars. Played all different types of card games and board games while the parents went to have drinks during happy hour. The next day the two girls, Merin and Isla, and their mom were picked up by a lady who make pareos on the island, and was going to teach them how to paint their own. We made a plan with her to make our sarongs the following day. We then had a delicious lunch at the resorts restaurant with the oldest, Eoin, and his dad followed by an afternoon of swimming in the rain. The next day was full of more rain and wind. Then in the afternoon we were picked up my Natalie and taken to her house farther south down the island to paint our sarongs. When we arrived, we were greeted by her five dogs and the single cat that lived in her shop/studio. But don’t let the single cat fool you, twelve more lived within the house and the grounds but the fluffy black and white one didn’t get along with them so she got a small house all to herself. There were three pieces of cloth stretched taught between their rectangular, wooden frames. We each chose the designs that we liked from her already completes racks and worked with Natalie to put them together in the way that we desired. I chose dark blue and dark purple as my two colors. I have three large flowers with oval like petals diagonally across the middle, a hibiscus flower on the top and a dolphin on the bottom. The big flowers in the middle separate the colors; purple on the top with a blue hibiscus and blue on the bottom with a purple dolphin. The flowers in the middle are brushed with a little bit of blue and purple with the background of the petals remaining white. This makes the flora in the middle the main eye-catching part of the piece. To paint the cloth, we used water-based paints and rubbed the color into the fabric with big paint brushes until the color was dark enough that when it dried, the color wouldn’t completely desert the textile. When we finished we left them with her to dry and picked them up the next day while we had our rental car and were touring the island we stopped by her house to retrieve them. The only thing left to do was soak them in salt water then dry them to allow the color to set. After this I sent mine through the washing machine to take away the crusty feel and salty smell from the beautiful and finally complete piece.
A Shark in the Dark
The day started as good as any; with a dive through a gorgeous channel in the south of the Fakarava atoll in the Tuamotus. We took the boat out to a float at the entrance of the channel and descended into the glamour of the underwater world holding onto a very unglamorous line to assure we wouldn’t be swept away by the current. We floated through the channel with minimal swimming because all we had to do was release our hand hold and away we went. We drifted amongst throngs of reef sharks and coral beds teeming with life. Schools of snappers surrounded us and trigger fish with unusual markings nibbled at the flora. After what seem like hours but was only 43 minutes our heads surfaced, and we had to return to reality. Where the crunching of fish feeding on the coral is replaced by casual banter and the quiet tranquility that is only marred by spacious breathing is none existent with air surrounding our heads allowing us to fill it with every sound and interruption imaginable. So, with all the sounds of civilization we undid our gear and retreated to the dining dock to fill out our logs before we returned to boat for lunch. As I was talking to a lady staying in one of the small bungalows for vacation I over heard Papa asking Mark about a night dive. We had previously been conversing with a man who lives in Miami and was here as a researcher with a team of cameramen working on attaining footage for a documentary. He was the one who had originally informed us about the sharks’ behavior at night. A copious number of top predators in the vicinity would congregate in the channel to feed on the reef fish throughout the night. Upon hearing that Papa was signing up for that evenings night dive I dropped my conversation and quickly informed him that I wanted to go to! Mark then proceeded on adding our name to a list on a white board then telling us to arrive at 5 p.m. to get gear ready and wait for the opportune moment to get in the water. So, with me practically bouncing with excitement we loaded the family into the dingy and sped back to the boat because all of us were extremely hungry after our exhausting dive. I worked on math but even with most of my focus on solving quadratic equations I was dwelling on the upcoming dive. Papa and I made chocolate cookies for no reason other that a good chocolate chip cookie makes us happy! Finally, the time came, and we loaded the dive gear into the dingy and zoomed to shore with the sun setting off to our starboard side. Papa and I got our tanks geared up and then returned to the dining dock to await the sunset. As soon as the sun dipped behind the horizon we donned our tanks, BCDs, flippers and masks then jumped in. Almost immediately we were swept away by the outgoing current and when Mark told us all to descend, I let all the air out of BCD and still I remained floating on the top. I didn’t have enough weight. I flashed the light at Papa and he came back up. I told him the problem but there was nothing we could do as the current had already torn us away from the dock. Papa grabbed my hand and pulled me under and by the time we got to 10 meters I was able to not float up… too drastically. The only light came from our flashlights and the dim glow of the glistening moon shining through the clear water. As we drifted farther out of the channel more and more sharks began to appear. When you initially shine the light on the grey sharks you can only see their eyes and fins, so you basically only see one glowing eye and fin. All the reef fish were hidden in crevasses of coral in hopes that the hungry sharks won’t find them. Most of the fish wouldn’t even risk moving for fear of becoming a meal for the next hunter in the food chain. I shone a light on a beautiful blue parrot fish. It twitched just a little bit and a shark zoomed in after it with such agility I barley saw it strike the fish. It bolted and hit a head of coral so hard it broke. Slightly dazed from its coral encounter it swam off slightly slower than before, but now that it was in the open without and shelter from the reef, at least 80 sharks zoomed towards it, fighting for the opportunity to get a bite of the big fish. Throughout the dive you could observe the prodigious amounts of sharks scouring the coral heads to find an unfortunate fish that hadn’t hidden itself well enough. They would stick their noses into and under the coral looking in vain for the fish that had buried themselves in every available crevasse. Finally, it was time to ascend and during the three-minute safety stop it was all I could do not to float up to the surface. Eventually the three minutes was up and we all loaded onto the boat to return us to the dock. After taking apart the gear we loaded ourselves into the dingy and headed back to the boat for dinner.
1/17/18 – 1/20/18
After a two night overnight while coming down the coast we pulled into the marina in Huatulco at first light. I wasn’t awake when that happened because I’m usually asleep until the sun has been out for at least 5 hours, and I remained in my cozy bed until ten thirty when I was forced to emerge from my bundle of blankets and pillows. We were in a cute little rundown marina with a dive shop and delicious restaurants. I immediately started to do school work, as most of my mornings commence with. When one o’clock came around we where all hungry and went up to one of the cafes for lunch. There served incredible baguette sandwiches and lemonades. After getting my fill of food, I headed back to the boat to finish my school work before we went out to dinner. After three more nights out on the town at night and our daily school work the high winds finally ceased and our window of opportunity opened. So, tonight we are pulling out of the marina to anchor until midnight then pull away from Huatulco to head across Tehuantepec and to Puerto Chiapas.
1/12/18 – 1/15/18
Let’s just say I did not experience much Acapulco, I left the marina once to go look at the cliff divers. The night that we arrived there I only left the boat to go to the bathroom. Then next day I spent mostly doing my school work and at the end of the day I went up to the pool do to some laps because swimming is almost the only exercise I get, other than cranking a winch. I didn’t venture away from the dock until two days later when I participated in a diving adventure. The first dive had a ton of current and if I stopped swimming then into the channel in would have gone! The second dive was lovely because we swam with the current the whole time and the boat picked us up around the corner. There was an adorable turtle and many interesting fish that most of the sites have. Finally, on the day we left we walked to the other side of the bay to see cliff divers. We bought lunch at the restaurant on the hill in front of cliff. There were eight divers. One who dove from the lower rock to start, then two jumped at the same time from the middle, a third went after about five minutes of preparing to jump finally did. Then there was on more jumper before the man on the top jumped. As soon as they all finished we hurried out to get food and then return to the boat to pull out of Acapulco. I pulled away from the dock at 5:45 pm and drove the boat until the we realized a tanker was coming right at us and handed the wheel over to mom and dad. They circled around being the huge boat and we continued our journey south.
That One White Family
This morning we got up and headed straight in to town. We went to a restaurant or coffee shop called Cuattro Cycle. We ordered food, obtained a Wi-Fi password, and got comfortable. We remained in the coffee shop until 3:30, catching up with the website, and emails. The food was delicious, but my favorite was the strawberry cream smoothie, so basically a slight healthier milkshake. That night Kyra and I had school work to finish, and since I didn’t want to go out again we stayed on the boat ate left over pizza and watched Jurassic Park. Yet another excited day for Camille!
Fishing boats galore
Today we left Zihuantanejo, and all the fishing boats weren’t about to let us leave without each one taking their turn at cutting us off. As soon as the anchor was lifted, I ramped up the engine and a panga headed straight in front of us. I jerked the boat sharply to port (left when looking toward the front of the boat) and passed behind them. The local driving, and the other people in the boat smiled and waved as if they had no idea that they had just cut of the boat that had the right of way. We then continued out of the bay and turned around the point to be greeted by even more pangas and a large fishing boat. I had intended to go between the big rock and the fishing boat but that’s not what the fishing boat had in mind. It started headed directly where I wanted to go, so I turned the boat to port, and continued along thinking I had solved the problem. Haha, nope! It then turned to that it was coming straight at us from the starboard side. I cranked up the engine and powered past the fishing boat, right as it came to a stop. Finally, no more fishing boats. Just points to set on the map to get to Papa Noa, a small fishing town for a night on the coast. Well, no more fishing boats to navigate around, there were still the pogas zooming back and forth all at dusk and six in the morning. Oh well, if this is how I get to eat delicious fish, hello ear plugs!
Melaque and the missing scooter
Today started with each member of the family individually coming into my cabin to wake up Violet and I, and without fail each one mentioned the terrible stink wafting out as they opened the door. I looked at Violet in confusion, but later discovered that the terrible smell was the head leaking gas from the black water tanks. The bed was then torn apart and left to air out for the rest of the day. It didn’t do any good. Although I was sitting in the salon with a fan pointed at me, I could feel the heat climbing from 82 to 84 then hit 86 and I finally gave up. I got up and left the boat with my laptop and piano books and headed for the air-conditioned lobby to play the piano and work on my science. After playing piano, I headed back to the boat, and when we arrived at the location were Kyra had left her scooter before going up the lobby, and it was gone. Someone had taken her scooter. We looked around for it and finally decided that we needed to meet Violet’s family in town, so we put up three signs around the hotel in hopes to find the missing scooter. We went to town and got on a very unreliable bus with holes in the floor, and the seats falling through the floor, if you could call it that. The bouncy bus took us to Melaque a town on the other side of the bay. We got ice cream that was appalling, then continued down the road and looking in swimsuit shops. Violet and I got our second matching swimsuits. We got the same bottoms and tops with black “stringy” backs and when we returned to the marina just as the sun was setting we went up to the pool for a quick night swim. Then had a calm night just hanging out.
Violet and I slept in until 12:30 after the late night. She came in to wake me up and told me we were going surfing at two. I rolled out of bed to find that mom and dad had gone on a hike with Jake. I got all of my stuff together, and when they got back at about 1:15 Mom gave me the money and after waiting way to long for a water taxi arrived at the surf shop to get the board I would use from Carla. Carlos brought us down the beach to stretch then we got in the water, with booties on to avoid getting cut up feet. Violet and I paddled out to the small waves that were breaking because the surf wasn’t too good today. We waited until a good wave came then Carlos pushed me in and I almost stood up. A few more tries and I was standing up almost every time. The first time I stood up the darned wave abandoned me, and I was left just standing on my board. When our time was up we got out and gave the board back to Carla and Carlos. Violet and I then returned to the water with her board and tried to surf on our own. Turns out we have absolutely no ability to predict where a wave it and missed virtually all the good ones. After another hour we came in and ate pastries our moms had bought. Right before we left a big Mexican family set their stuff about three feet in front of us with no apparent consciousness that they were extremely close, and just sat their talking and drinking beer until we left. We headed back for the boats to get ready to have our last dinner with the Scotts. We went to the place next to the one we went to for Mom’s birthday. I ordered beef fajitas and they were delicious. I slept well that night after a filling dinner.