We’ve decided to see some other parts of the island, so yesterday Lauren and I went ashore to get the bicycles and check out with the Yacht Club.  Before heading back to the boat, we took a bike ride to see one of the WWII-era shore gun installations that was left by the US.  We biked a few miles to a point of land on the northwest part of the island and then climbed up a short but very steep road to where one of the guns was mounted.  There are a pair of 7-inch gun installations, although one of the guns is missing.  Beside the gun that’s still there was an ammunition hut, and a bit higher on the hill was a small pillbox, apparently for spotters.  The support for the gun still has a very legible stamp from Bethlehem Steel, dated 1906.

DSC_0770 7-inch gun

DSC_0776 Yeah, OK. But there are engineers that read this too.

DSC_0780 View from the gun

The ride to and from the gun is like a long ride at the edge of town, not completely rural, but different than the local version of the urban scene.  There were a few interesting sites.  One was a thatched roof under construction.  It’s build by nailing woven coconut panels onto a wooden frame.  Many of the houses we passed had a another unique feature as well – graves in the front yard.  Some were like little shrines, but most were fairly simple affairs constructed of outdoor tiles, sometimes no more than 10 feet from the front door.  I guess ancestors are still revered here, even if it’s no longer the basis of a religion.

DSC_0789 Coconut palm shingles

DSC_0797 Fellow bicycle travelers

After returning to the boat, we headed south to anchor off of Point Te Raiiti, which is near the well-know American restaurant Bloody Mary’s.  Lauren and I were planning to either try to see a fire-dancing show at the nearby Hotel Bora Bora or have dinner at Bloody Mary’s, so at sunset we took the dinghy over to the hotel to see if there was a show.  Not only was there no show, but Hotel Bora Bora, the oldest hotel on the island, is not open and in a state of disrepair/construction (apparently they’re looking for buyers).

That left us with Bloody Mary’s, so we dinghied over and tied up to their dock.  In typical American style, they have two big celebrity boards outside the restaurant where the names of visiting celebrities are painted.  It doesn’t look like it’s been updated in a while, but they’ve definitely seen their share of big name entertainment, sports, art, and political stars through the years.  Inside, the floor is covered with sand, and they have a shoe/sandal check.  We didn’t need to be asked.  You’ve got to love a fine-dining restaurant where you can show up in flip-flops and then self-check them behind the desk.  We showed up not too long after the restaurant opened and just had beers at the bar while the hotel busses came in one at a time, dropping off their guests for dinner.  Although there were Brazilian and Japanese tourists, the majority of the patrons seemed to be well-off American newlyweds on their honeymoon. 

To put this in context, imagine large diamond rings, lots of makeup, "I’m on my honeymoon" dresses, cameras, and the latest US and international fashion.  Then there’s me and Lauren.  Lauren went nearly all-out.  She had put on a nice T-shirt with a collar that makes it look not so much like a T-shirt and jean capris instead of shorts.  She also spent a fair amount of time brushing her hair (which looked great) while I was getting the dinghy ready.  There’s no better than about a one in four chance of catching me in a pair of shorts that meet the stateside definition of "clean", and yesterday wasn’t one of those days.  I added a black "going ashore" T-shirt that didn’t clash too badly and we were off.  All of the American guys had nice short haircuts and were clean-shaven.  Lauren gave me a haircut a couple of days ago, but I hadn’t bothered to even see what my hair looked like before heading out.  As for shaving, I’m not sure when I did that last, but it feels like it was maybe two weeks.  At any rate, we felt comfortable and at home, although a bit more like locals or ex-pats than tourists.  We struck up conversations with several American couples that were waiting for tables, including two very nice honeymooning lawyers from New York, Matt & Farrin.  Joe, who’s been here since 1978, and his brother run the place, and we also had a chance to visit with Joe for a while.  Several of the moorings he’s put out for the boats of restaurant patrons have been damaged, and we may use the dinghy, GPS, and dive tanks to help him find a few of them today or tomorrow.  We also joked with Joe about the missing flies.  There is a fair amount of fresh fish laid out in the restaurant (see below), and unlike the dockside areas where fresh fish are sold, there was a conspicuous absence of flies.  Joe related that it takes a fair amount of work to keep the place fly-free, and when it gets more humid here during the upcoming summer it will be a bit more difficult.  His efforts are especially impressive when the lack of traditional walls, windows, air-conditioning, etc. in the restaurant are taken into account.

DSC_0824 The honeymooners

The dinner menu at Bloody Mary’s is an ice table where the various catches of the day are filleted and available for selection.  Joe’s brother talks through the various selections of fish varieties, lobster, shrimp, steak, and chicken and then goes over prices.  You make a decision on which piece you’d like  then head to your table.  Lauren got the chef’s special Mahi Mahi, and I got the vegetarian plate.  Both were excellent.  Lauren’s was so good that even though the fluffy white pet cat ended up hanging out by our table for a while, Lauren refused to share. (The cat was obviously well-cared for, so despite Lauren’s soft spot for cats, it wasn’t going to get it any $35/plate chef’s special Mahi Mahi).

DSC_0825 Joe (left) and his brother explain the menu

We met up with Matt & Farrin at the bar after dinner, and they passed up the last bus to take the brave adventure of joining us for drinks on the boat and a dinghy ride back to their hotel.  It was fun to visit with some Americans our age, and hopefully they enjoyed the chance to check out something a little less touristy.  The dinghy ride back to their bungalow was a bit of an adventure as it was a cloudy night, and the route passes through the one part of the lagoon that’s too shallow to navigate by sailboat.  Lauren and Matt sat in the front and used a bright light to see and direct me around the coral heads until we were eventually able to beach the dinghy at the hotel.  By chance, on the way back we found the small unlit or unmarked channels we should have been using, and things were a bit easier.

DSC_0832 Matt & Farrin on their post-dinner private yacht excursion

Today Lauren and Tiff are off to dive a shallow site only a few hundred feet away that boats seem to be visiting several times a day.