Mo’ore’a. A heart-shaped island in the middle of the Pacific pierced by a shallow harbour on its northern side and barely a half hour sail from Tahiti’s capital, Papeete.
Mo’ore’a is truly a paradise and still as Charles Darwin saw it from the Beagle in 1835. Standing on the decks of our ship, we are afforded the same natural and unfettered view as he would have seen, for as one local joked, ‘Here you can’t build a house taller than a palm tree’.
A city ordinance I wish the rest of the world had followed.
It is also said that this is the island that inspired ‘South Pacific’. The very epitome of paradise that some passengers from the Northern Hemisphere had come to see. Even those of us from this part of the world had to admit that this is truly bali ha’i - a special island.
The ships’ tenders were full to overflowing with keen passengers off on various excursions, shark diving, swimming with the stingrays, overland tours to the many waterfalls and boat tours to the outer reefs. Here, for the hardened shipboard traveller there appeared to be as much or as little to do as you wanted... The island may be small but it is perfectly formed and there are plenty of resorts and local attractions to accommodate even the most travel-weary visitor.
We had been on the ship for a month now, and feeling a little stir-crazy, I hooked up with another couple and hired a car to drive out to one of the flash resorts on the west coast of the island that will happily host day visitors for a small fee. Driving into the grounds of the hotel, we ‘Cunard Refugees’ were immediately assailed by the sweet smell of the frangipani and vanilla trees set amongst lakes supporting large and beautiful koi fish.
A picture-postcard view: curved palm trees reaching out across a white sandy beach edging onto an azure lagoon and beyond that, breaking surf on a coral reef. Wow!
After admiring the accommodation huts built over the water, with glass floors for viewing the sea life below, we commandeered several deck chairs. Later jettisoning our excess clothing to paddle out into the lagoon where we were immediately surrounded by colourful fish darting in and around us, eager for food. All very nice, until we spotted the reef sharks hovering in the distance.
After enjoying a day in the sea, then taking a quick tour around the island’s bright spots, we returned to the ship to appreciate the air-conditioning and enjoy a beer whilst sitting on the steamer chairs on the promenade deck. The tantalising view of the island glimmered beyond our relaxed feet.
Later that night, on a rushing tide, we drew anchor and moved slowly towards the opening in the encircling reef, but then turned, not towards the open sea, but back towards Papeete.
Most passengers hardly noticed as we slipped back alongside the dock for the third ‘medivac’ this trip. A passenger had suffered a heart attack earlier (probably after receiving his bill for a soda) and with his condition unstable and five days at sea ahead of us, a decision was made that he should be offloaded for his own safety. It must have been hard for the hapless patient to hear the strains of the ship’s band and the laughter and merriment onboard as he was wheeled down the hastily laid gangplank into the waiting ambulance. It seemed a heartless farewell after such a wonderful day on the island.
We again turned our bow out through the narrow harbour of the capital of Tahiti and set sail again, destined for the international dateline and Fiji beckoning on the horizon.
Ever the comedian, Cunard is showing ‘South Pacific’ in the theatre tonight followed by ‘Some like it Hot’.
Very funny Mr Cunard. (ROSS THORBY)