It's many years since I was on Huahine but the island has always had a special place in my heart. Way back in the late 80s, I even named my little company after it; Huahine Shirt Company where I made tropical print shirts.
My old business card
So going back to the island was very special for me.
The villa we had rented included a car and a skiff and was located a few miles outside of Fare, the little town. We were met at the airport and our bags loaded into the back of a pickup, while all five of us squeezed into our little car that was nicknamed the Molly Maid car, due to the sticker on the side! I became the designated driver so followed the Raphael in the pickup, who took us through town and to the house.
Set in lovely gardens, the house was comfortable and had everything we needed, including a washing machine that was quickly put to use.
The island feels much more rural than the others we had visited. A much more relaxed vibe altogether. In the little town of Fare, not a whole lot has changed. Yes, there is a new dock but I was transported back when I saw the shelter where I took photos so long ago and the women sitting under the old tree looked very much the same as the ones I remember from years ago.
We had a busy couple of days, exploring Huahine and Huahine-Iti. Having the car made it possible for us to go where and when we wanted rather than relying on tours and other people.
Our first foray, late in the day, was just a short jaunt north. The roads all over the island are very narrow and windy and with some quite steep hills, which are little car battled up, carrying all us girls! With a stick shift, I barely made it out of second on some of the hills. We did try to get out to the coast where we had been told there was a good swimming beach, but the dirt road to it was more than the car could handle, bottoming out on some of the high/low spots. Everyone got out and I turned around and returned to the main road!
We found a little grocery store and bought the bare necessities (a baguette) as we had brought quite a lot of leftover stuff from the boat.
As usual, I was first up the next morning, loving the early morning sounds and stillness. The air was so still and soft. Walking barefoot on the dew-wet grass reminded me of summer mornings in South Africa. The gardens surrounding the house were filled with frangipanis, hibiscus and all sorts of flowering gingers. And granadillas (passion fruit) climbed the coconut palms, with the fruit dropping on the ground, to be greedily eaten by the mynah birds, although I did manage to rescue a few!
The island is populated by thousands of chickens that literally rule the roost. They don't have an alarm clock and with the roosters incessant crowing, have no idea that people are trying to sleep at one in the morning. They are all over the roads and verges with very little signs of road kill! So they must be traffic savvy as are the numerous dogs that roam the countryside.
In town, we explored the little stores, did a little shopping and visited the Huahine Yacht Club, a ramshackle bar on the beach. It was definitely time for several Hinano beers!
Sunday was a big day! Early morning excursion to explore the marae (archeological sites) on the island. We had seen a cruise ship entering the bay the evening before and didn't want to be swamped with tourists as we visited the sacred spaces. In the early morning light, they were stark places which emphasized how difficult life way back then must have been.
We also stopped to see the ancient rock fish weirs that dot the lagoon. According to legend, only Tahitian royalty have permission to remove them and apparently some are still used. Up and down the lagoon, small houses dot the banks, with outriggers and other small boats hauled out on shore and on hoists.
Further along, we stopped to see the sacred blue-eyed eels that live in a fresh water stream running beside the road. A young man on a bike stopped as we got out of the car and Betsy used her French to find out more. Instead, he offered us fresh donuts he must have just got from a friend up the road!
The eels are huge and very slithery and slippery! The young man appeared again on the other side of the water, climbed down into the stream and proceeded to feed them! There was no way I was getting in there with them but with a ladder provided by our accommodating young man, Barbara, the other Susan and Jane did!
As I said, this was a very busy day and we hurried back to the villa to change into appropriate clothes for Tahitian feast at Chez Tara on Huahine Iti. Chez Tara is where we had originally hoped to stay, but it was fully booked.
We arrived as the food was being removed from the cooking pits. People were crowded around (I think the cruise ship people were there) but after a bit of confusion over our not-to-be-found reservation, we were seated at a wonderful table right in front of the entertainment. Food was served buffet-style and once again we were treated to a vast array of traditional foods which we enjoyed while the band played island music.
A long time ago, I was told by a psychic that the next time I came to the islands, I would find something on the beach that I played with as a child. Apparently, in a previous life, I was a Tahitian princess. I was feeling a bit let down, as up until this time, the day before we left, nothing had appeared to me.
As I walked along a private beach we had been invited to after the feast, just down the road from Chez Tara, cowrie shells popped up as I shuffled my feet in the ankle-deep water lapping the shore. Cowries are my favorite shells and I realized then that this is what the psychic meant. Obviously, children didn't have toys as we know them; they would play with whatever was on hand. And cowries were plentiful.
So I collected some and made an offering to the gods, placing a flower lei around a lava tiki (who was guarding the beach) and put some of the shells in his hands. Now I know why I feel so at home on Huahine, because it was home!
With numerous vista viewing stops along the way, we made out way back to our villa. Barbara and Susan would be leaving early the following morning so they spent the evening sorting and packing.
Of course, knowing there is a distillery on the island meant visiting it!
What a treat!
Distillerie Huahine Passion is a tiny little place that produces eau de vie, fruit liqueurs and brandies. Interviewing Christian, the master (and only) distiller was difficult as my French is non-existent and his English is limited. But we managed to communicate, and Betsy, Jane and I proceeded to do some serious tasting! It is well-worth a visit and we wished we had gone there the first day we arrived.
Our afternoon was spent packing up and heading to the airport for the flight back to Papeete. Jane and Betsy were booked on a flight back to Los Angeles late that night and I had another full day on my own in the city as my flight to Australia didn't leave until Wednesday.
We waved goodbye to Huahine from the air and said our goodbyes in the airport in Papeete.
Until next time.