Hitchhiking around the Society Islands (part 2)
I n case you’ve read part 1 of this story, you might remember that I hitchhiked a fisherman called Puarai from Tahiti to Raiatea Island where I stayed with his family. After few amazing days around Raiatea, Puarai's friend took me to Tahaa Island by boat to see the house he grew up in and have a swim in a nearby motu. On the way, we picked up his lady friend with two kids, so we looked like a big happy family even though none of us was related - except mother and the kids, of course. :))
When we got back to Raiatea, the plan was to leave to Huahine Island in the afternoon, but Puarai was too tired to drive, so we left the next morning at 4 a.m. This time it was only him and me on the boat, because he was going to pick up a bunch of his friends in Huahine to follow his rowing team during a big canoe race that was starting in few hours.
I was SUPER EXCITED to see the start of this race and I was secretly hoping to arrive to Bora Bora at the same time as the winners of the race because the finish line was at the breathtaking Matira Beach and that would be such a cool ending to my own 3,8 years long hitchhiking mission. The only problem was that I had no efing clue how I was going to hitchhike to Bora Bora in time...
The Hawaiki Nui Va’a race is a major sport event in Polynesia where for 3 days, more than 100 traditional canoes compete between the islands of Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa and Bora-Bora. Canoe racers from Tahiti, the Tuamotus, the Marquesas, New Caledonia, Hawaii and France are the best canoers in the Pacific and in the World. I was SO LUCKY to end up in Polynesia at this particular time and totally unplanned, because I’ve never heard of this race before. One thing I knew for sure…many people would be follow the race and there should be plenty of hitchhiking opportunities.
I took a big risk when leaving Raiatea with Puarai in the morning to go to Huahine, because I knew that all the boats are coming to Raiatea and that I have more chance of getting the ride to Bora Bora right where I was……..BUT.I also knew if I don’t visit Huahine now when I have this chance, I probably won’t come back for it, plus the excitement of not knowing how the heck I was going to get back from that island without paying for a ride entertained me quite a bit.
In the complete darkness, Puarai used his torch to navigate us between the reefs and the fishing boats with no lights on. When we finally got out on the open sea and the sky got a bit brighter, Puarai speeded up to get us to Huahine Island in time for the race. It was rainy, windy and the waves were big. I was holding onto the rails behind Puarai and every time we hit the wave, I went flying and landed on the toolbox with my arse. By the time we reached the island, my arse went through 50 shades of bruised and I couldn’t sit properly for a couple of days, because it hurt too much.
Puarai left me on Huahine Island, because his boat was full of people for the race, so I had to find another way to hitchhike to Bora Bora. I didn’t know anyone on Huahine, but I saw the police station in the town, so I went inside and ask the policemen if I could drop my bag and my djembe drum in their office to keep them safe until I come back from hitchhiking around the island.
When I came back to town in the afternoon, I tried to find a Harbor Master to get some info about the boats, but he wasn’t in the office, so I went back to the station and asked the policemen if they know any fisherman who is going to Tahaa or Bora Bora in the next days. They couldn’t speak English, so they called a small lady who I explained what I was doing and she translated everything back to them. They said most of the boats left this morning to follow the canoe race and there are not many boats around Huahine at the moment. I asked them if there is a ferry I could try to hitchhike. After they were done with laughing, they told me there is one every day from Tahiti, but it’s a cargo boat and the limit for the passengers is 12 (across 4 islands), so they can only take 3 people at every island. When you see the photo of the ferry you will understand why.
I said I will try my luck and they told me to be at the port at 11 p.m. and wait, because the ferry can come anytime between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. They also offered me to take a shower in their station, so I did – not because I was dirty, but because I don’t get to shower every day in the Huahine police station. :))) They wanted to feed me, but I told them I was not hungry, so they gave me 4 mangoes “for the trip”. Amazing humans!
One of their friends came to the police station just before the closing time (their station closes at 8 p.m.) …that guy (William) could speak a little bit of English and he was completely freaked out of me being alone on the port from 8 p.m. until the ferry comes. He said that many young men drink on the port every night and he thought I would be an easy target. I didn’t want to tell him that I carry a taser gun with me, because the police probably wouldn’t like that very much. He offered to take me to his house and drove me back to the port around 11 p.m. to catch the ferry and I accepted his offer.
Ferry arrived around midnight and I explained to William that I was only allowed to hitchhike and can’t break my hitchhiking rule now when I’m 2 islands away from Bora Bora. He nodded as if he understood…
He talked to few people and told me he made sure I was one of the three people who is leaving the island tonight and that I should go and buy the ticket now. I told him for the 3rd time that I can only hitchhike and if that’s not possible I’ll not leave the island until I find some way, but I will not pay the ticket. The ferry was leaving and we were still debating about it. He wanted to pay my ticket and I wanted to talk to the Captain. As door was closing, the guys on the ferry signaled me to jump in even though I didn’t have a ticket. As I was running, William pushed his money in my hand and told me to pay a ticket if anyone asks… but no one gave a flying ef. :)))
We arrived to Rairatea around 4 a.m. and tired as hell I decided to find a police station to crash until the sun comes out. It was dark, so I took my taser out (thanks one lovely Kiwi for that gift) and as I was walking I saw a group of men in front of the building drinking and kicking the cans around. I could sense a potential trouble so I turned into another street and circled back to the port.
There was another big ferry at the port, called Tahiti Nui and I thought it was probably going back to Tahiti, but there was no one around to ask. I let myself in and walked around a ferry until I saw a guy…he couldn’t speak English, so I simply asked “Bora Bora?” and he nodded.
Ohhh efing yeees!!!
I waited until another guy (Yannic from the photo above) appeared and full of hopes I asked if he speaks English which luckily, he did a little bit. I explained to him what I was doing and asked if I could hitchhike this ferry. He said it was a government ferry and that hitchhiking shouldn’t be a problem, but he will have to ask the Captain at 7 a.m. when he wakes up. Long story short…the Captain said yes and I managed to hitchhike 2 ferries in one day!!!
…to be continued. The best is yet to come.