Today was a day of doing errands in the island way.  First, we went to check in at the Yacht Club.  We’ve been tied up to a mooring since Saturday morning, but we finally made it over to check in today.  We were getting back in the dinghy to leave because the office wasn’t open yet when Paul, the bartender and only waiter from the night before, caught up with us at the dinghy dock.  He works every day, and in addition to being the bartender and waiter, he also handles check-in.

Then it was off to buy gasoline for the dinghy and compressor and try to get two of our propane tanks filled.  At more than $6.25/gallon, buying gas is always a painful experience, but this time we had even more fun, as the station doesn’t take credit cards and we didn’t have enough cash.  Lauren waited while I walked to the bank and withdrew enough money to cover our gas bill.  We left the Galapagos with 3 nearly full propane tanks, and we just started using our 3rd one the other day.  The station also supplies propane, but with a bit of a twist as well.  They’re out of propane until Wednesday, when they will sell us a canister of the local type, but they can’t fill our American-style propane canisters.  If we can find or build an adapter, we can do the transfer on our own, but finding an adapter is probably not going to be a trivial task.  I brought along an extra hose to build an adapter, so if we can find a local hose to purchase, we my be able to get things done, expensive as it may be.

After that good news, it was time to visit the gendarme to do our check-out.  They’re OK with you hanging around for a few days after checking out, so I wanted to get things taken care of first thing Monday morning.  The gendarme that helped us was clearly new to the job.  He didn’t seem extremely certain of the proper paperwork and double-checked all the passport numbers, birthdates, etc.  In Latin America, that’s expected, but the French authorities are typically much less interested in the details.  He was also responsible for answering the telephone, which for some completely unimaginable reason rang about every 45 seconds.  Six forms and a fair amount of time later, we were off to the bank to collect our bond.

Bank Socredo was so backed up (this is not uncommon) that there were numerous people waiting in the parking lot, as all of the seats in the bank were full.  They were serving number 63 and we drew number 102.  With only about an hour before the 11:30 lunchtime shutdown, I was afraid we may have to return after lunch, but we sat down on the floor and started waiting.  We’d brought a magazine to read to kill time (don’t you plan on that when you go to the bank?), I took a trip to the marine store, and then Lauren went grocery shopping.  With only about 2 minutes to go before closing, they called my number (numerous people had tired of waiting and left) and the bond processing got underway.  Dragon had experienced some problems with the bank not liking the paperwork from the gendarme, and I really didn’t want to start making trips back and forth between them and waiting in long lines.  When the teller explained that she needed a stamp from the gendarme on a particular document, I was ready.  "No problem," I said, "I’ve been to the gendarme and have the stamp right here" (on a completely unrelated document).  She seemed a little unsure but agreed that everything was fine, and we continued.  About 45 minutes later, I walked out with our $5000+ bond returned in the form of $2000 dollars worth of American Express travelers checks (could you please sign all 40 now) and $3000+ in Polynesian francs.  The bank was out of New Zealand and US dollars and weren’t sure when they’d be getting more.

Back on the boat we had lunch and Lauren took me up the stick to replace the worn shackle for the spinnaker halyard block, which went very smoothly.  Then it was time to head back into town to try out the medical establishment in French Polynesia.  Ever since free diving to untangle the anchor in Papeete, I haven’t been able to hear much out of my left ear and its been ringing the whole time.  Our first attempt to get directions to the public health clinic landed us at the pharmacy, where the woman on the other side of the counter explained that public health services weren’t for us since we were tourists, and we’d need to go to a private doctor.  I thought the public clinic was worth a shot, but there was a private doctor two doors down, so we took a number (written in marker on purple construction paper) and sat down in the outdoor waiting room.  In about 45 minutes our turn came, and Lauren and I went in.  The doctor was a very kind and good-natured man who spoke English pretty well, and I explained the problem.  After a couple of questions he had a look in my ear and said that although I’d come close to rupturing the eardrum, it was simply inflamed with fluid inside the eardrum.  After experiencing significant hearing loss for a couple of weeks, I was pretty relieved to learn that the problem was only temporary.  After completing the diagnosis, it was time to fill out paperwork.  He pushed a blank piece of paper across the desk and asked me to write down my name, date of birth, and the name of the boat.  That was it; paperwork complete.  He chatted with us while he typed my information and prescription into the computer.  It turns out he sailed here from France 23 years ago with his 6 and 8 year old sons.  He was planning to circumnavigate as well, but once he got to Bora Bora he never left.  We thanked him, gave him a 5000 CFP note (about $59) for the payment fee in cash and left for the pharmacy.  His prescription for three types of pills and eardrops came to about $90, but it will be worth it if I can hear again in a week as he claims.

Not long after we returned to the boat, we enjoyed another beautiful sunset, watching the sun dip over the motu at the north edge of the pass.

DSC_0759 Sunset yesterday from the Bora Bora Yacht Club dock

DSC_0766 Sunset today from Pura Vida

Someone asked me the other day why Bora Bora is so well known, and there seem to be a at least a couple of reasons.  One is its natural beauty, which is widely acclaimed.  The natural beauty comes from three things: the picturesque, rugged peaks, the clear lagoon, and the fringing motus.  There are three peaks, and all are rugged and beautiful, offering a changing skyline as you travel around the island.  The mountains of the other islands are larger and they have peaks that are just as beautiful, but Bora Bora is like a small "best-of" island where only the prettiest of the mountains of the other islands are present.  The lagoon is incredibly clear (I could easily see our anchor chain on the bottom in 40 feet of water at 7:30 am, with the sun still low in the sky).  Surprisingly, although the colors of the lagoons are beautiful everywhere we stopped in the Tuamotus and Society islands, Bora Bora is by far the clearest we’ve seen.  Antoine said that the lagoons of some atolls in the Tuamotus are clear and others aren’t.  I don’t know why the lagoon here is so clear, but it’s pretty amazing for diving and snorkeling and makes the colors of the lagoon all the more spectacular in the sunlight.  Instead of a fringing reef, Bora Bora has many motus along the edge of the lagoon that provide idyllic sandy beaches and a taste of atoll geography.  Many of the high-end bungalow-over-the-water hotels are on isolated motus.  The US presence here during WWII also seems to have played a key role.  In addition to familiarizing people in the US with the name of the island, the airstrip that was left behind was the main airport for French Polynesia for almost 20 years, ensuring that Bora Bora would become a feasible tourist destination.

DSC_0732 Another view from near the top of the mountain

The main town of Vaitape isn’t much to see.  It is built on a fairly wide area of the coastal plain, in the style of the Society Island towns — most businesses are strung along the main road around the island, and houses are built between the main road and the mountains.  As a tourist destination, the town is pretty dismal.  It’s not attractive at all and is half-comprised of the shops that fill the districts where cruise ship passengers disembark.  The real pleasure in Bora Bora is in the high-end hotels, sandy beaches, beautiful waters of the lagoon, and natural beauty of the mountains.