Huahine prepares for the Super Bowl of Canoeing...Jim's Deal of the Day
FARE, Huahine, Tahiti - It’s like Mardi Gras meets the Grey Cup meets the Olympics.
Usually this tiny village is a sleepy, little outpost on the French Polynesian island of Huahine, a lesser-known gem that suffers from all the attention given to Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. But when the Hawaiki Nui Va’a canoe race comes around, the place goes bonkers. I flew in early Tuesday from Moorea and immediately was knocked over by the energy and the crowds.
Thousands of people were milling about, filling the supermarket carts with cases of water and Hinano beer. Folks on the street were selling enormous mangoes, cartons of eggs, whole bonito fish, t-shirts and baguettes filled with chow mein, which isn’t as bad as you might think.
It’s a wild, wild scene, and there are perhaps a hundred outrigger canoes – a long canoe with a stabilizing beam off to the side lined up on every vacant lot in town. Officials were giving them the once over as race participants slapped on last-minute sponsor decals and looked things over. There are teams from all over Polynesia, as well as Germany and Brazil.
It all starts at something like 7 a.m. Wednesday, so it’s up and at ‘em for me at 5:30 as we dine quickly and hop on a press boat that will follow the racers. One of the boats looks big enough, but the other is basically a rowboat with a motor. In the middle (well, not quite but you get the idea) of the Pacific, that could be interesting….
Spent the night at Le Tiare resort on Huahine, which you reach via a 10 minute boat ride from Fare. Lovely, lovely place with overwater and garden bungalows. I took out a kayak for a half hour ride and was surprised when a school of small flying fish sailed right over my lap in the lagoon. A real treat.
An incredible sunset over the sacred island Raiatea, too, which is where the canoe racers will head in the morning.
Moorea Pearl Resort is a great spot. But I was taken with the fact they have several wild cats roaming around at breakfast. Not to mention dinner and lunch, and probably high tea.
Manager Alain Drouet said he'd like to get rid of them but that most folks don't mind. Most don't mind the chickens that cluck all over the island or even the early morning rooster calls, although some people are taken aback.
Drouet said a bigger issue down the road is all the dogs. They're all over the place in Moorea, and he says many don't appear to have owners. But Polynesians are reluctant to get rid of them, so they've tended to multiply.
JIM'S DEAL OF THE DAY
Savvy Marriott and Renaissance are capitalizing on the dark and depressing days of November with a travel promotion that promises savings in the new year. With this deal, book any Marriott or Renaissance resort in the Caribbean, Mexico or Costa Rica by Nov. 30, 2009 for travel Jan. 1 – April 30, 2010 and you’ll get a 40 per cent discount off regular room rates. Participating properties include the St. Kitts Marriott, Aruba Renaissance and Aruba Marriott, Grand Cayman Marriott, JW Marriott Cancun and the Puerto Vallarta Casa Magna Marriott. For groups, the maximum booking is nine rooms. Black out dates may apply. See www.marriott.com.