Bora Bora. This iconic South Pacific island has always called to Kongo. He wanted to come here to see the mountains and beaches and crystal-clear waters. He got his wish on a two-day stopover at this little jewel surrounded by a formidable barrier reef that only has a single passage into the lagoon.
As we motored ashore, boys in modern outrigger canoes paddled furiously to catch the wake of the tender boat and surf along with us on the short trip ashore.
Like all the other Society (Sometimes called Leeward) Islands, Bora Bora is the sunken cone of an extinct volcano. Polynesians called this island Porapora, which means “first born.” They felt this was the first of all the islands.
Captain James Cook was the first westerner to visit these islands. His expedition came ashore in 1769. English missionaries followed fifty years later and converted most of the island to Protestantism. The French annexed the island in 1888 and it remains a French protectorate today.
During World War II the Americans arrived and set up a supply base for the U.S. Navy’s thrust against Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands. Five thousand sailors and marines were based here and built a wharf, storehouses, and an airstrip.
Imagine those lucky guys who thought they were being sent off to slug through the jungles in intense warfare only to find themselves in spectacular Bora Bora. When they moved on after the war, they left behind several howitzers sited up in the mountains to cover all approaches to the island.
Coming ashore at the village of Vaitape, island explorers from the ship sorted themselves out and climbed about various forms of island transport. The Kongos were off on a trip around Bora Bora in the back of a Land Rover. Boraborans are a happy lot (like what’s not to be happy about in this little paradise?) and this girl on a scooter typified the attitude.
This was pretty much a perfect day except for some rain. Lots of rain. But this is the tropics and the rain is warm and when the clouds pass you dry out pretty quickly. The tarp over the Land Rover collected gallons of rain that tended to wash down Kongo’s back at every curve in the road which was like every minute or two.
High up in the mountains the monkey visited an artist’s hut and Mrs. Kongo bought some pareas (large colorful fabric rectangles which are the equivalent to South Pacific Hermes scarves) for daughter-in-laws. Kongo got some slices of fresh coconut.
A trip around the island wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the world famous Bloody Mary’s bar and restaurant. Kongo had two of the delicious drinks and chatted with a guy from Australia who was sailing around the world on his boat, or maybe not, but he was pretty sure he’d left Panama in May and had been in Tahiti for “a while.” It’s that kind of place.
The next day Kongo was sailing around the island in a catamaran. He got soaked by the rain again but what are you going to do? Viewing the posh resorts from the water was fun. Sting rays swam by the boat in the pristine turquoise water. Kongo didn’t go snorkeling on this excursion but some did. Currents were strong and the wind was blowing about 25 knots.
Back ashore Mrs. Kongo dragged the monkey along to several pearl shops. Even when it started raining again Mrs. Kongo trudged on. And on. Kongo gave up and in a short pause in the deluge broke for the wharf and took the tender back to the boat for lunch and a nap.
Travel safe. Have fun.