Rangiroa Day 3 Pink Sand Beach

We got up early to go to Pink Sand Beach. It’s over 90 minutes by boat. The boat moves at about 45 km/hr so it’s quite a journey.

This was the view from the restaurant at breakfast every morning.

We arranged a private tour of Pink Sand with two girls who were on the tour with us to Blue Lagoon. They had to be back at 3:30 to catch a plane home and needed to cut the tour short. We agreed because we were apprehensive we wouldn’t get to Pink Sand Beach. They needed a minimum of 6 guests if we booked at the hotel. The guides only needed 4.

It was a long boat ride but we finally made it. Pink Beach is a a very large sand bar at one end of the lagoon. The tide determines how big the beach actually is. We had a long walk, about 1km in the water to get to the sand bar.

If you look closely at the picture you can see two people to our left, way in the distance. The boat is a small smudge to their right!

I did a bit of colour adjustment to show how pink the sand really is. The sand bar is a long way from shore.

I of course will nap anywhere.

Barb was relaxing before the long hike back to the boat. Once aboard we headed to a snorkeling spot.

We anchored near this island and got into the water.

The corals were beautiful and there were a lot of fish. I still regret I couldn’t scuba dive on the trip

This was the first time I saw purple coral.

After snorkeling we headed to yet another island for lunch. As the guys were cooking, we went for a walk on the beach. It was idyllic. White sand, water that you can hardly describe the blues.

What does the sand really look like? It’s not what you think. Here are two closeups of the sand beach.

If you don’t have water shoes it’s almost impossible to walk on the beach. There are some beautiful beaches like at Pink Sand but the majority are like this. Given enough time, the sea will grind the broken coral into soft sand.

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Rangiroa Day 2 Blue Lagoon and Reef Island

After arriving in Rangiroa we decided to book tours just in case they were cancelled because of weather. This would give us a better chance to see the sights.

The first tour was the Blue Lagoon/ Reef Island full day tour that left at 8:00AM returning at 5:00PM. We got on the boat and headed out.

It took about 45 minutes to our first stop, Bird Island. We had a chance to snorkel.

The water clarity was a disappointment. It was turbid with limited visibility. We did get some pictures

Clam growing in coral.

Coral heads.

Sunlight makes a big difference in the picture quality.

After 30 minutes or so of snorkeling, we headed out. There are a lot of small motus that make up the reef.

We arrived at the Blue Lagoon. We had to walk to shore from the boat.

It was beautiful.

One perfect vista after another.

Some interesting fish in the water, black tip reef sharks. They are mostly docile. Leave them alone, they don’t consider you lunch.

Despite the beautiful day, a storm blew in and we got some rain.

The guides cooked us a barbeque lunch.

They made coconut bread, a wonderful smoky coconut flavor.

As we ate storm blew over.

We had a chance to snorkel after lunch. I was hoping to get closer to the sharks but they stayed away.

The coral heads were nice but not a lot of fish.

Here’s a different view of the coral.

After lunch we headed back to the boat to go to Reef Island.

Reef Island actually is part of the reef that protects the lagoon. The atolls are remnants of very ancient volcanoes. Over uncountable millennia the ocean has worn away leaving the remnants to protect the lagoon. When we arrived we were greeted by one of the motu’s residents.

The island was beautiful. The back of the island was the reef. We had to walk about a kilometer to the other side of the island.

This was not a River. It is sea water that has come over the reef forming a salt water river. We followed it to the

The walk would have been impossible without water shoes.

A break in the reef that allows water to enter the lagoon.

I love the shape of this rock. It reminds me of a whale’s fluke.

Weave our way back to the boat and headed to The Aquarium. It’s at the mouth of the Avatoru channel near the hotel. It took over an hour to get back.

The Aquarium is a relatively shallow reef just inside the lagoon. The tides constantly flush the area twice a day bringing in fresh sea water. Even so, it was disappointingly turbid. I did get some good shots of coral and fish.

They call snorkeling a sport. You lie face down in the water, don’t move a muscle and they still call it a sport.

We headed into the channel to see if we could spot any dolphins. No dolphins but very dangerous water. I would have felt safer with a life jacket.

We headed back to the hotel, tired after a long day. We wanted to go to Pink Sand Beach but the hotel wasn’t offering a tour. We asked the guides if they would take us out. There were two girls who were leaving the next day who wanted to go. So, we arranged a private tour with them for the next day.

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Rangiroa Day 1

Aranui added an extra night to the cruise because of technical problems. We learned later it was due to regularly scheduled maintenance. It saved us a night in a hotel but a lot of people were upset because they had to reschedule airplane reservations.

We docked at the Aranui cargo wharf, a much different view than from the cruise ship dock.

Passengers and crew sorting out baggage dockside.

We headed to the airport and flew to Rangiroa.

Rangiroa Airport.

Rangiroa is the second largest atoll in the Pacific. The island of Tahiti will fit in the lagoon. It is one of the most premier scuba diving destinations in the world, famous for rays and sharks, especially hammerheads.

Unfortunately , I had not fully recovered from pneumonia, so I couldn’t go diving. I was very disappointed because we chose this atoll for that reason. We stayed on the island of Avatoru. It’s 11 km long. The major attractions are the Blue Lagoon, Reef Island and Pink Sands. Each is at least an hour ride by boat from Avatoru, Pink Sand two hours.

We were welcomed at the airport with a lei by the Kia Ora staff and bused to the hotel.it is a beautiful resort. We had a beach front villa.

We walked in and….

The outdoor bathtub! Barb actually had a bath under the stars after Michael got the gecko out.

What really blew us away was the view from the bed.

We had a private pool.

Our deck. Here is a view from the hotel pool down the beach to our room

We decided to celebrate with a drink.

The resort is beautiful. Here is the view from the restaurant at dinner with a peek of the hotel pool.

Of course, we had a Polynesian show after dinner.

a great day of travel and a chance to relax before two action packed days of touring.

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Aranui 5 Day 12 Hikueru

This was our last island and unfortunately we only had a few hours to explore. Again we were welcomed with leis on the dock. We walked to the town center. There we were treated to Polynesian culture at the town center by school children and greeted by the Mayor.

We had a bus tour of the island.

It was a bit crowded.

We had music on the bus tour.

They took us to a beach where in the 1960’s the French scientists and technicians lived. The buildings are long gone, only the coarse coral beach is left.

Next was the beach.

The bus took off and left me stranded, so I started walking back to the dock, a hot, long 2 km away. I took some shots of typical scenes on the island.

Many beautiful scenes among the rampant poverty. There are no stores on this island. Most adults were away because the monthly supply ship was in and they went aboard to shop. At one time the economy revolved around black pearls. A hurricane or cyclone as they are known there wiped it out. It has never recovered. You can see signs of neglect amongst the beauty. The church has suffered as well.

The interior is in ruins and entry is blocked. They told us it is ready to collapse.

Residents depend on selling crafts when they can. We tried to support the local economy.

A peek into their home.

We even got a beverage waiting for Barb’s lei.

We spotted an interesting rock in the lagoon on the way back to the boat.

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Aranui 5 Day 11 at Sea

Another sea day to get us ready for the last port of call. It has been an amazing journey of learning and adventure. We just took it easy and enjoyed the view.

Looking back.

We get asked if the ship rocks in the water. The answer is yes. The ship is first a freighter. It’s approximately 156 meters long and does not have stabilizers. Fortunately, we are not prone to sea sickness. However, we did go well prepared just in case. Sometimes you walk like a drunken sailor, struggling up hill, then in the next moment, running down hill. There are handrails in the halls that come in handy. To get an idea how much roll you can experience, check out this video.

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Aranui 5 Day 10 Back to Rikitea

We headed back to Rikitea to tour the island and drop off the customs official. We were met dockside by residents dressed in traditional costume and of course, the market. They treated us to a dance created especially for us.

After the dance, we toured the island. There are two major exports, lychee nuts and black pearls. They export over 2,000 tons of lychee berries. The trees are everywhere. They bloom in September/October and are harvested and shipped before Christmas.  Most of the trees around the old church are lychees.

After a quick bus tour, we were back on the way to the ship.

Always a challenge to board the ship from the barge. Thankfully it wasn’t rough.

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Aranui 5 Day 9 At Sea

We relaxed by the pool, enjoyed the fantastic meals and spent time with new friends, most who have traveled to over 100 countries.

This post will deal with the ship. It is the fourth in the line, named Aranui. It’s 5 because 4 is an unlucky number in Chinese culture. The ship is owned by the Wong family from China. Helen Wong, the ship’s owner was on our cruise.

The company has an amazing corporate culture. They only employ Polynesian crew. They are committed to keeping the Polynesian culture alive and to share it with their customers, The crew is amazing. Everyone works as a team. I have never seen and felt such a family friendly atmosphere in any organization. Three of the crew have over 38 years service with the company and proudly tell you they know the Wong family on a more personal level.

On our last night on board, Helen Wong visited every table and thanked everyone for choosing Aranui for their vacation.

We have never experienced a cruise like this. We were never asked to purchase anything. There were no specials in the jewelery boutique. There were no specials promoted in the spa and no art sale. Tipping was not mentioned once. No deals in the tattoo studio, even though many passengers got tattoos on the trip.Tattoo studio, jewelry boutique, gift shop, spa were all available if we chose. Nothing was pushed on us.

It is a measure of the respect the owners have for both employees by paying them a living wage and for passengers by not pushing extras to gain more revenue. This is a rare occurrence in the cruise world that is world class and first among cruise companies. They could learn a lot from Aranui.

Let’s talk about the ship. It is small. We learned small is better. The ship was specially built as a multi purpose ship. The front end is a freighter that delivers goods to remote islands. The back is a cruise ship the can take a maximum of 220 passengers. On our cruise, there were only 130 passengers. We didn’t deliver freight because they don’t have a shipping contract with Pitcairn. Because the ship is only 126 meters long, it does tend to roll in heavy seas. We came prepared and didn’t need the sea sickness pills.

We were on the pool deck, deck 7. Here is the floor plan.

As you can see, there were only 18 cabins on our deck and not all were occupied. There are 8 decks for passengers. You can get everything from a deluxe suite to sleeping dorm style with 7 other passengers.

So, what does a cabin on a freighter/cruise ship look?

View from the balcony.

Sitting area looking out our balcony.
The crowded pool area..
A busy day at the pool.
Pool snack bar.

Reception area on deck 3
Bar on beck 6.

Outdoor seating by the bar on deck 6.
Barb checking out the jewelery boutique. She didn’t buy anything but I did.

Meeting room on deck 5. We were treated to a talent night.

On the last night, the entire crew greeted us as we entered the dining room.

Dinner being served.
I need to buy some new jewelry.

The bridge.

the Aranui is the only ship I have ever been on that allows and encourages visits to the bridge.

As you know by now, we were taken to shore by barge. Some days the waves were huge. The crew always got us on and off safely.

Check out this crew members necklace. An anchor?

it was amazing to see the cranes lift the barges on board. I timed it. It took 1 minute, 4 seconds.

We can’t say enough about how much we love this ship, We will be back on board for a future sailing. Maybe The Cook Islands? Maybe the Marquesas?

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Aranui 5 Day 8 Rikitea

Aranui 5 Day 8 Rikitea

We headed back to Rikitea to tour the island and drop off the customs official. We were met dockside by residents dressed in traditional costume and of course, the market. They treated us to a dance created especially for us.

After the dance, we toured the island. There are two major exports, lychee berries and black pearls. They export over 2,000 tons of lychee nuts. The trees are everywhere. They bloom in September/October and are harvested and shipped before Christmas. We visited a small church.

The view from the bus wasn’t great. Here are a few scenes.

On the way back to the ship we passed a pearl farm. People actually live out over the water.

We left Rikitea behind us. Tomorrow is a day at sea, a chance to relax and work on our tans.

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Aranui 5 Days 6 & 7 Pitcairn Island

So why Pitcairn ? It is the most remote populated island in the world. It is 5,700 km from South America and 5,000km from New Zealand. It is a British Overseas Territory and a nation in its own right. The population is about 50. The vast majority are descendants of the nine mutineers and their Tahitian wives. Very few people are allowed to set foot on Pitcairn each year. Passengers of the Aranui are among the few who have that opportunity.

I got up early, went to the observation Lounge on deck 9, grabbed a coffee, sat down and waited for Pitcairn to appear on the horizon. I was not disappointed. It came out of the clouds like Brigadoon. I imagined the excitement on July 3, 1767 a 15 year old James Pitcairn first spotted it on the horizon. Following naval custom, it was named after him because he was the first person who  sighted it. 

You can see the island jumpstart in front of the ship.

Just after sunrise, we dropped anchor in Bounty Bay. 

Entering Bounty Bay
The landing
The welcome sign on the long boat house.

Pitcarin has had a dark history from it’s first settlers to today. 

Fletcher Christian and a group of sailors mutinied aging Capt. William Bligh oh HMAV Bounty. They set Bligh and his supporters adrift. Bligh eventually made it back to Britain. The mutineers, with several Tahitian men and women sailed around what is now French Polynesia. Eventually they found Pitcairn Island and decided to settle there in January 1790. They stripped the ship and set it on fire so they could never be discovered or sail away. Their fate was unknown for over 18 years. The location of the island was recorded incorrectly. They were discovered by accident by an American whaling ship in 1808.

During this time many social issues arose including drunkenness, debauchery and even murder. John Adams, the last original mutineer had a bible and began instruction. This brought peace and order to Pitcairn. A Seventh Day Adventist missionary founded a mission on the island and converted everyone. There is a church on the island.

We were driven up the aptly named Hill of Difficulty on an ATV to Adamstown, the capital and only city on the island.  The residents had set up a market so we could purchase souvenirs. They are a very friendly people who were proud and happy to show us their country. 

Our ride up The Hill of Difficulty

While waiting for a walking tour to start we met Sid. He is the newest immigrant to Pitcairn. Originally from New Zealand, he moved to Pitcairn in January. He had the only Can-Am ATV on the island. We booked him immediately for an island tour. It is a very comfortable 4 wheel drive ATV with a bench seat. We had great conversations with him. He took us all over the island. 

Here are some scenes from our morning tour of the island.

The town square just up the driveway
Town square, the center of activity on Pitcarin
The Seventh Day Adventist Church
Typical road on Pitcairn.

A view of Adamstown.
The staircase down to St. Paul’s Pool.
St. Paul’s Pool. You can swim here if the tides and winds are right and you are brave enough to scramble over the rocks.
Highest point.
pacific from the highest point.
Another typical road.
The Aranui anchored in Bounty Bsy
John Adams grave. He was one of the original mutineers.
The museum.
Us with Sid, the newest immigrant to Pitcarin.

He talked about the challenges of moving to Pitcairn. While welcomed by the majority, he was threatened by some men. They accused him of wanting to steal their jobs. Everyone is employed by the government. Everyone earns $10.00 per hour regardless of the job whether it’s  landscaping, building, admin work at the museum etc. A 20 year New Zealand army veteran, he is not easily intimidated. 

He told us he lived on the island for three months before making the decision to move. Pitcairn has a history of sexual abuse and pedophilia.  A significant number of the males on the island were convicted and jailed. He asked the police chief who lived and was a police officer on the island what she would do if she had to arrest her brother, nephews etc. she told him she swore an oath to uphold the law and she would do her duty. As a military officer, he too swore an oath. Her commitment to duty showed her integrity and that was the deciding factor for him. He sold everything in New Zealand, packed up his household goods in a container and moved. He wants to start a scuba diving shop on the island. His last possession, his dive boat in New Zealand is scheduled to be on the next supply shipment. 

After the morning tour, we were treated to lunch in the town square with the islanders. 

After lunch we went to the museum. Sid is the curator. We chatted and hired him to take us to the second landing on the other side of the island. It was built to allow ships to unload incase of bad winds and weather. It is not part of any tour. Roads are actually bad trails and very steep stitable for travel by ATV.

Tim Johnson, travel writer, wanted to come along. We didn’t have room in the cab so he decided to ride in the box, on a box. That lasted 2 km. He had to walk back.

Tim Johnson, travel writer riding in the back. He walked back to Adamstown.

As you can see, they built a beautiful paved road away from the pier but it ends in a bad trail. The trails from the wharf were VERY steep and bumpy! Makes you wonder how they would transport any freight or people to Adamstown.

The road to the second wharf. It ends in a smooth paved road.
The road back to Adamstown.

The Bounty Cannon
Picturesque roads.
Going down The Hill of Difficulty
Back to the wharf.
Inside the long boat boat house.
Boarding the barge back to the Aranui.

Many residents joined us on the Aranui for dinner. They sat at a reserved table which was unfortunate. It would have been great to have them sit with us so we could get to know them better.

I missed getting a picture of the Bounty anchor but managed this one.

On the second day the cruise ship MSC Magnifica cruised into Bounty Bay with its 2,000 plus passengers for a two hour visit.

They were not allowed to disembark. Pitcairners took their longboat out to the ship and set up a market for souvenirs while the ship sailed around the island. After they circumnavigated the island, the Pitcairners headed back in a longboat.

In mid afternoon, we sailed away, after having and experience what few are privileged to experience.

We sailed away with the most valuable of souvenirs, only available to those who have actually set foot on the island.

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Aranui 5 Day 5 Rikitea

Rikitea a small town on the island of Mangereva which is part of the Gambier Islands. The island and several others, all remnants of an ancient prehistoric volcano lie within the reef. You can see the the waves breaking on the reef in the pictures if you look closely.

One reason we stopped here was to pick up French customs officers to clear us when we leave Pitcairn. We were greeted by the local inhabitants, beautifully dressed, and given leis. They had set up a market selling mostly black pearls for which they are famous. Black pearl farms are everywhere in the lagoon, marked by buoys. There are thousands and thousands of buoys.

of course, there was the inevitable market set up at the landing.

We toured St Michael’s church and strolled through town.

At the wharf we saw the old customs house, destroyed no doubt by a cyclone.

We did find one of the two stores on the island.

The biodiversity of plants is amazing. Plants growing on plants.

After a short shore visit, we headed back on the boat and on to Pitcairn!

Through the almost daily short tropical rain storm.

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