Monthly Archives: January 2021

St. Michael's Church, Christmas in Gambiers

Christmas in Gambiers

Beauty is all around us as we spend Christmas in the Gambiers!  We celebrate a few days before Christmas in a small bay on the West side of Taravai called Onemea.  We are all by ourselves and have an unobstructed view of the sunset. Once inside the bay you are surrounded by reefs on three sides which provide excellent snorkeling.  Matt flew the drone and captured these beautiful photos.

Onemea on the West Side of Taravai

Onemea on the West Side of Taravai

A beautiful rainbow over the hillside.

Matt gets the drone out and captures a really pretty photo of Sugar Shack with the sun and puffy cloud.

Onemea bay, Taravai

Onemea bay, Taravai

Cookie Baking Day

Our family used to do a cookie baking day where all the ladies gathered together to bake dozens and dozens of cookies.  When I moved to Texas, I continued the tradition by inviting my girlfriends and their daughters over for baking and decorating.  It was a great way to get out of decorating the cookies and getting sharing the cookies.  I love to bake but decorating does not bring me much joy.  Last year, I invited several gals from other boats and we decorated them together…but this year I was all on my own.  I made the dough for two recipes (gingerbread and sugar cookies) one day and then put them in fridge.  The next day I baked 288 gingerbread cookies (with red hots) and 130 sugar cookies (stars, hearts, sea horse, bells, and a mermaid). 

The next day I made 75 white mice (or Mexican wedding cookies) and 75 chocolate candy cane cookies with white chocolate drizzle and peppermint topper.  Then I made frosting for the sugar cookies and decorated the bells, hearts, sea horses, and mermaids.  Whew!

Christmas in Gambiers is a day of Sharing

Part of the joy of baking is being able to share the cookies with others.  So, Christmas in the Gambiers came on Christmas Eve.  Each boat in the anchorage (6 of them) received a cookie care package and 5 different local families did too.  What fun!

Christmas Eve Activities

There are only 8 boats in the entire archipelago right now which is amazing, albeit shocking!  One of the boats is a family of 4 with a teacher from the UK.  They invited everyone onshore to do caroling.  They even had song sheets.  I must say we sounded terrible!  But it was great fun.

After caroling, we headed to St. Michael cathedral for  evening service.   We were not sure how they would handle service with the pandemic restrictions, but it went off really well. Everyone wore their masks, no hugging or kissing (which is huge for French and Polynesian people), and we all tried to sit with at least 2 people space between us.  It was crowded and hot though.  I can only imagine what it is like when they are literally full to capacity with people body to body. 

The church was decorated so beautiful with natural plants and flowers.  A beautiful nativity highlighted at the entrance and of course the beautiful stations in each of the corners.

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael’s Church

The alter was decorated with live trees and fresh flowers.  Everything worked in harmony to accentuate the stunning alter covered in natural pearl shells.  Truly beautiful.

Christmas in Gambiers at St. Michael's Church

Christmas in Gambiers at St. Michael’s Church

After service, I went back to Stefan and Manu’s place to enjoy a tasty dinner.  Stefan had been cooking since noon and man oh man did he cook for an army!  I thought there would be more people but it was just he and his wife, their two young kids and Matt and I.  I am not sure where he thinks we can put all this food!

Stefan literally prepared a feast with lamb, lobster, oysters, potato casserole, and many many side dishes.

As we were headed back to the boat, we heard the Taporo coming in – yeah!  The supply ship has arrived. 

Christmas in Gambiers – The Supply Ship

I have written about the supply ship on many blogs.  If you might recall, I always say it is like Christmas.  And wouldn’t you know it – they actually arrive on Christmas day this time!  It is so amazing to see all the locals congregate on the dock waiting for their packages and presents.  We saw new bicycles, TVs, outboards, fresh food and produce, fuel, propane and oh so much more.  Everyone was happy and excited to get their holiday on!

Everyone checks in at the little “hut” where you order and pay for your goods (upper left corner photo).  We had wanted to buy 25kilos of flour and 4 cases of beer, but they were out 🙁 So sad for us.

Several boats needed fuel, so we loaned out our jerry cans and gave hand – because that is just what you do.  

Stefan and Manu invited us back to their house for lunch (Christmas eve left overs) – who would say “no” to more lobster?  We stumbled back to the boat after being overly fed and rested for awhile before going over to “Auntie” a new cruising friend that we met. Eve on “Auntie” invited other cruisers over for Christmas happy hour which was lovely and just a perfect way to end this beautiful Christmas celebration.

Although I miss my family tremendously, Christmas in Gambiers showered us with love and happiness (both from the locals and other cruisers).  Life is good and truly blessed.

Events from this blog post occurred around 12 December, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Christmas Tree of the ocean

The Ocean’s Christmas Tree

Kimberly, my beautifully talented sister, went Christmas tree shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend with her family.  Pangs of jealousy and want shot through me.  Not only because I was not there with them for the holiday, but also because we would not be getting a tree as well.  Sure, we have a small wooden one for the boat, but it is not the same.  Yes, even living in paradise, with the one you love, still has you wanting more.  Greedy little thing that I am!

A few days later, Matt took me snorkeling in the little protected reef where we are anchored within the Amanu lagoon.  It has been calling to us to explore for a few days, but the winds have been such that it was not conducive to good visibility.

There were not many fish, but there were tons and tons of ocean christmas trees!  I love these little creatures (yes, they are live)!  When they are out in their full glory, they look just like miniature christmas trees

Sure, I can’t smell them or decorate them or even enjoy them for a month like you landlubbers do.  But I have living, breathing, colorful christmas trees.

Love the variety of colors on each christmas tree

Love the variety of colors on each christmas tree

Each worm (yep they are worms) sprouts two trees.  You always see two by two in the same colors.  They also seem to like the same type of coral.  Check out the black tree with a white top (3rd photo down on left).  Just love all the colors.

A Christmas Tree in every nook

A Christmas Tree in every nook

They are fascinating and fun to play with.  Probably not nice, but I love to watch them disappear and reappear.

We also found loads of clams with a rainbow of lips.

Colorful clams

Colorful clams

Several really large oyster shells – all growing upside down with little things that look like teeth.

Large Oyster Shells

Large Oyster Shells

A beautiful, little starfish sitting in the middle of the sand with nothing else around her, large sea cucumbers, and my own little fish enjoying the snorkel.

The reef is full of beautiful coral sculptures that invite closer to visit its communities.

The reef itself is beautiful.  The top photo is the reef above water and the rest are below water.

When they get scared or feel threatened, they suck themselves up into their little tubey thing.  These are my favorite shots from this snorkel.  I love the pink and white christmas tree.

Love the pink christmas tree

Love the pink christmas tree

We may not have access to all of the holiday trimmings, but seeing these sweet christmas trees brightened my holiday season!

Events from this blog post occurred around the 1st week of December, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Cicumnavigating Mount Rotui

Opunohu Bay is located at the very heart of the island of Mo’orea.  The highest summits of the Opunohu valley lay around the collapsed caldera which gave rise to the island.  Mount Rotui (899m) and Mount Tohivea (1207m) being the two tallest peaks.  Rich soils, gentle slopes, and crisscrossed rivers, make it suited to agricultural activities.

Pineapple plantations, citrus plantations, vegetable gardens, pastures, pine and mahogany patches are all developed to feed the local market covering over 300 hectares.  An additional 100 hectares are rented to local farmers and 35 hectares are dedicated to agricultural establishment dedicated to teaching programs (vocational education and training in the farming sector).

Opunohu Bay Caldera

Opunohu Bay Caldera

Matt and I needed to stretch our legs.  We decided a walk about was in order.  Our original goal was just to explore the Opunohu Bay. However, we ended up circumnavigating Mount Rotui which was a surprise to both of us. 

Orbiting Mount Rotui

We started out near Ta’ahiamanu (say that three times fast) and walked past Vaihere. At Aaraeo we turned left (by the blue arrow) and walked through the pineapple plantations and gardens. Continued on to Pao Pao (Cooks bay) then back on the road, past Urufara, and back to Ta’ahiamanu.  Ended up being 21,456 steps, 9.6 miles!  Follow the map starting at orange line, to white line, back to orange line.  Who knew Mount Rotui took 4 hours to circumnavigate!

At the start, we walked along the and pass a beautiful public park with lush green grass and towering palm trees that line the beach.  Can you see Sugar Shack way, way back?

We came across a man playing Amazing Grace on the bag pipes.  He was just pacing back and forth along the shore playing his music.  It was lovely.

A local fisherman had his trophies displayed outside his house.  He clearly catches a lot of marlin!  Look at all the tails and beaks.  Holy moly.

There are two monuments celebrating “Captain Cook” in Opunohu Bay.  You’d think they would be in Cooks Bay, but no.  The funny thing is the bottom pedestal on one of them is upside down (lower right photo)! I am pointing to where we are in the world (sort of).

Captain Cook Memorials

Captain Cook Memorials

Just before reaching Aaraeo we stumbled on a new museum being built.  Really interesting shape – sort of like a clam with arched steel covered with solar panels.

New Museum

New Museum

Across the road is a beautiful look out.  It had several legends outlined on the plaque which are pretty darn cool.

Entering the heart of the valley

In order to complete our loop around Mount Rotui, we had to cut across the valley through the pineapple plantations.

The plantations and gardens popped up, once we made the left turn toward the center of the valley.  Lots and lots of pineapple fields – it is the pineapple island after all.

Pineapple plantations

Pineapple plantations

Lots of animals along the way, cows, horses, goats.

Beautiful pastures and sweeping views of towering mountains.

We crossed several creeks and rivers.  Most were flowing because we had heavy rains for a few days.

There are lots of trails around these mountains.  We did not hike up any of the mountains (this time) as our track would be close to 10 miles when we are done.  The different colors show the different trails on just Mt. Rotui.

When all was said and done, we were exhausted, hot, and hungry.  We made it back to the boat, and took a dip in the water to cool off.  We relaxed the rest of the day!

Events from this blog occurred on 8 November, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.