Day 122: Let’s Go See A Waterfall

Thur. 13th December 2012

Sofitel HotelOur Hotel……………. is 2 km down the road from this one. This is how I imagined a pacific Island to be, well with a blue and not a grey sky. Most of the Island however is not how I imagined, as the centre is dramatic mountain scenery and covered in lush green trees and glimpses of enormous tall waterfalls – more “the Island time forgot” than grass skirts and colourful cocktails. I expect the latter exists in the plush five star resorts but that is not what our travelling is about.

Breakfast time on verandaWe knew what the weather was like this morning without even opening one eye – it had been pouring with rain and splashing from the gutter all night. When we did look out it was all grey – not even a ‘patch of blue big enough to mend a pair of sailor’s trousers’. After a DIY breakfast on the veranda, we did our daily chores of booking some more accommodation for later in the week and the rain stopped.

After coffee, we reviewed the weather and decided to cycle the in other direction to yesterday on the island’s only road which circumnavigates the coast.  The main attraction that way according to the guide book was a waterfall at Afareaitu 10km away. The first stop however is a viewpoint over the Sofitel Resort pictured above (viewpoint means from a height so up the hill we go,ngrateful it is not full on sunshine as that would have been unbearable cycling weather!)

Afareaitu waterfallWe hoped to find a restaurant (or at least a cafe) by the marina or the ferry port to stop and have lunch. Instead we only find an enormous (by local standards) Champion supermarket – well we are in French Polynesia so we should not be surprised with the French brands. At least the bread is good and we were able to get a freshly cooked quiche and a slice of pizza which we sat and ate on a bench overlooking the coast.

Another surprise of the Island is that a lot of the coast is narrow sandy or even rocky beaches and the only decent beaches seem to have been bought up by the hotel chains for their posh resorts. Even the beach at our small three star resort is disappointing because there is a slippery row of rocks to clamber over to get to the sea which is then quite shallow up to the reef which is only a few metres away, so not any good for a dip and also not much space to lie out.

Made it to the bottom of the waterfallAt Afareaitu we turn off the main road onto a muddy track  and head for the enormous waterfall we can see on the mountainside. The track gets worse and worse until we cannot cycle anymore so we lock the bikes to a tree and continue on foot.

The track continues to deteriorate and we have to wade through streams running across our path. Fortunately, we kept getting glimpses of the waterfall through the trees and it seemed to be getting closer. If we could not have seen the waterfall we would probably have given up before now but its sheer size makes us persevere. By the third stream I gave up but Dave continued on and managed to reach the foot of the waterfall with amazing views.

Too much for the bikesWe return to the bikes with mixed feelings, glad they are still there but reluctant to get back on them as they are so uncomfortable and Dave’s handlebars keep twisting round. As for changing gear, that was quite a challenge  to such an extent at one point Dave stopped and we spun the back wheel manually to get the chain to move to the next gear.

There were two options for the last section home, Dave chose the long route staying on the main tarmac road and then double back past the golf course as this was a smoother route better for his errant handlebars!

Faster than a speeding bicycleI chose the short potholed route around the airport and parallel to the runway. I can safely say a plane is faster than me as one came in to land and sped noisily past as I was cycling along the bumpy path. [Editor’s note: Who’d have thought?] It really was quite unnerving to be cycling along merrily(ish) when a plane comes swooping over your shoulder. Also, Dave’s longer route was quicker than my bumpy shortcut even though he took the time to stop and photograph the plane that overtook me.

Again we are lucky with the rain as we just got back before the heavens opened yet again, so we relax on our veranda with our feet up feeling well exercised after our cycle and start squabbling over just whose idea it was to go and see the waterfall.

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