A Three Hour Tour of Moorea...Moorea Pearl Resort...Jim's Deal of the Day
MOOREA PEARL RESORT, Tahiti - A bit of rain falling on the moment. That's the bad news. The good news is that Tuesday finds me sitting on the sun deck of a posh overwater bungalow at this
resort on the shores of perhaps the most beautiful island in the world.
Sunday night I stayed at Club Bali Hai and was entertained constantly by two of the so-called Bali Hai
Boys who chucked their California jobs in 1960 and moved to paradise. It's got the greatest view of any hotel I've stayed at, and I've stayed at a lot. You look across beautiful Cook's Bay to some of this island's most remarkable mountain landscapes. And you get to have drinks with Muk - assuming you bring your own - and here some remarkable stories; some of them undoubtedly true.
I had time for a brief tour of the island after breakfast, grabbing a Ford Fiesta and heading west. First stop for most tourists on this part of the island is the Belvedere; a concrete lookout pad nestled in the bosom of the Moorea mountains, with tremendous views of Cook's Bay and Oponuhu Bay next door. Captain Cook himself dropped anchor in Opunohu Bay way back when.
You drive up a twisty, turny, corkscrew, narrow little road to get to the lookout, but it's only a couple miles.
You also get to pass some old stone marae; sacred religious sites with stone walls from several centuries back. it's a nice chance to check out a little bit of Polynesian history, which is filled with remarkable battles and fascinating customs.
After that it's a very leisurely drive of about 50 kilometers, take or give, around the semi-circular island.
You pass low-slung homes with dogs lolling in the grass and handsome chickens dashing about, and the multi-colouredblues and greens of the lagoon and the Pacific Ocean are never more than a few feet away. There are lots of magasin shops selling bread and water and canned goods and fruit, but it's more fun to stop at a roadside fruit stand for some bananas or pineapple. There also are tons of snack shops selling croque monsieur or pizza.
But it's the views that'll grab your heart; achingly beautiful bays, crystal green lagoons, towering, other-worldly mountain spires and palm trees that seem to touch the sky.
A DIFFERENT WORLD
Club Bali Hai offers perhaps the most beautiful views in the world. The property is great. And I personally don't care that there's no TV or telephone or Internet. Okay, no Internet was a bit of a problem for a travel writer but for $15 down the street I got a signal and a tall glass of fresh pineapple juice so what the heck.
My overwater room was only a couple feet from the garden, and it desperately needs some redoing. Management said the room actually was to be renovated starting as soon as I checked out, which I'm trying not to take as an indictment of my personal hygiene.
They're pretty tired rooms from the look of things, but then again Club Bali Hai has rooms from $150 U.S. or so to $200 and a bit. Anyway, the point is I go from there to the Moorea Pearl, about five minutes down the road but a completely different world, with fancy shops selling Tahitian Black Pearls, an enormous bar decorated in teak and mahogany with a towering roof and huge photos of Tahiti natives. They have tons of activities, an enormous pool and restaurants considered some of the best in Moorea.
There are a couple dozen overwater bungalows. They don't stretch far from the shore, but they're all fronting directly onto an enormous lagoon with some of the most brilliant blue and deep orange fish I've ever seen. There are decent views of some of Moorea's mountains, and the sun sets just over the water and one slice of the mountains to the west of the resort (which makes sense, as the sun does set in the west last time we checked).
The room is luxurious, with a flat screen TV and a DVD player and a two-by-two foot glass section in the floor where you can look down at the coral reef. Not many fish in that part but it's kinda cool. I kept expecting to look down and see a snorkeler peeking up. There's the obligatory thatched roof and a couple of nice chaises lounge and a wooden table on the deck, and you look out to a seemingly endless sea.
There was a huge freighter heading north (Honolulu? The Marquesas?) around 7 p.m. when I went for a drink with the manager. When I got back from a Meditteranean buffet dinner around 9, I could just see the light on the ship twinkling on the horizon.
Today it's a morning at the hotel - more snorkeling and maybe a kayak ride and some interviews - and then an early afternoon flight to Huahine, where they're busily preparing for the Hawaiki Nui Va'a canoe race. Dozens of teams have already assembled on Huahine, where the race starts very early Wednesday with a blessing and then, an enormous commotion of boats as they dash off for the first leg, which will take them to the island of Raiatea, believed to be the ancient island of Hawaiki. It's said that the people who sailed thousands of miles to what is now Hawaii were islanders expelled from Hawaiki or Raiatea, so I can't wait to see what it looks like.
But first it's Huahine and the preparations for what's been called the World Cup of outrigger canoeing.
Should be awesome.
JIM'S DAILY DEAL
New to the Cosmos line up for 2010 are LeisureScapes, offering two weeks in the mild winter climates of Italy and Spain. Other 2010 itineraries range from nine to 30 days and visit multiple countries on one trip (the 15-day Wonders of Europe), or focus on one destination only (the 10-day Irish Explorer or nine-day Jewels of France). All 2010 tours include savings of $150 per person when booked with airfare by Dec. 1, 2009. And thanks to the strength of the Canadian dollar, minor fluctuations notwithstanding, prices start at $86 per day. See www.cosmosvacations.ca.