To leave Raiatea, we take the Maupiti Express, which as its names does not indicate, does not go to Maupiti anymore but still brings passengers to Tahaa and Bora Bora. It is a cheap 5 hours boat ride on a relatively comfy boat, very animated with all the students coming back from Raiatea's high school on this Friday evening. We get to observe up close Bora Bora's youth, representative or not of French Polynesian's youth. Really loud raggaeton music mixing up old and new tunes and the typical teenager's attitude that you find all over the place and across time, at least for the past fifty years or so. We are meeting upon arrival with Laura, our helpx host. We were lucky to find another volunteering possibility as there are not many in the islands. Laura welcomes us with a big smile and picks up from the harbour. It is already pretty late and all is dark around us. When we get to the Villa Rea Hanaa, a boutique hotel which i'll tell you more about later, she directly shows us our « studio » for the next month. Waouh ! We are amazed ! A kitchen for us, a double-bed, actual tiles on the floor, a shower right behind it all and toilets 30-40 steps away, in the next room. It is a palace ! We did enjoy the barn in Vaihuti Fresh don't get us wrong, as an experience, it is really awesome but it also feels pretty amazing to sleep in in a nice comfy bed in an actual studio ! We are beyond grateful and can't wait to start the next day !

During the 6 weeks we spend at the Villa, we get to know Laura and Sasha. They are wonderful people ! They also travelled the world before us, using helpx a lot to volunteer in many places. It really is a special way to travel, to experience the « real life » of the country, to create new bonds and friendships. They have quite an international life, Laura from Spain and Sasha from Serbia, having lived and travelled through many countries. We speak a lot about the travels but also about how life is after travelling, how to come back to the « real world » which is to say the « standard way of life » which Laura found she didn't want to bend to anymore and so they took on this crazy project which they are currently living, opening a villa built by a famous artist, Garrick Yrondi, and turn it into a beautiful romantic boutique hotel in Bora Bora. They have been at it for three quarters of a year and it is pretty intense !

On a daily basis, we help with little DIY things that need fixing or improving and some cleaning. We spend the last week on media duties. Thomas making a short and a long video to promote the place and myself, writing the website's content and translating it in French. Sasha is a very talented photographer thus the website is beautiful already and just needs additional written content. Discover the Villa through Tom's work just below !

These whole weeks are filled with happy days. We work about 4hours a day and then spend the afternoon either working on the Alterculteurs or going to the beach or visiting the island. We often have nice meals together with Sasha and Laura and also spend memorable evenings altogether, cooking dinner or going out for drinks. As if one good thing follows another, turns out Sylvain, Thomas' friend from Raiatea also comes to Bora every week on Tuesday to work and buy delicious homemade ice-cream so we get to meet again and spend more good times together. Sylvain and his girlfriend, Laura, even come here for a romantic stay and we get to spend a pretty amazing morning on Sylvain's friend polynesian canoe (which is actually a modified boat to make it look like a traditional polynesian canoe as it can hold up to 10-15 people and is very comfortable!). We get to see a huge lemon shark, explore the coral garden with no one around and walk around a very interesting garden on a motu. On another day, we go on an excursion at Fanfan's motu, where we fall in love with a bunch of spotted eagle rays (leopard rays as per their french name which is much more fitting!), they look like birds flying underwater, their funny nose like a penguin and their backs and wings spotted with golden circles on their black skin. They look like they are out of this world ! And we get to enjoy their view to our content as we get to stay on the motu all afternoon and they just fly around this corner all day long. We leave the motu and say goodbye to Laura and Sylvain who are staying overnight for a romantic night on the motu.

Sylvain we meet again each week, it feels like building a life here in Bora, surrounded by Laura and Sasha's friendship as well as Sylvain's, meeting Hilde, the neighbour, a german lady who lived here aleady for 30 years and has incredible stories to tell us, it is a great feeling and a welcome rest from our wandering around.

After a few weeks in Bora, we start organizing a trip to Maupiti. Maupiti is a little island not too far which is known for its Manta Rays roaming the lagoon. Seeing manta rays while snorkelling ! We have to get there, especially as Thomas with all his diving experience has not had the chance to see one yet. The plane to get there is full until June and anyhow, short flights are really the worst for the environment, so we look for another solution.

Lucky for us, Sylvain knows a guy who knows Maupiti fishermen who regularly come to Bora for shopping. We agree with Teimana on a price and off we go on a Potimarana boat one very windy day. The Potimarana is a boat designed especially to chase the Mahi Mahi (Dolphinfish). The design was invented in the sixties by a fisherman who wanted to be able to go fishing alone (because he was reportedly so unbearable that the pilots didn't want to go out fishing with him anymore!). He modified the boat so that the engine could be controlled via a joystick from the front of the boat, where he would be able to seat, pilot in one hand and fish in the other. Hunting the Mahi Mahi which swims close to the surface and being able to follow its every move instantly made him a very successful fisherman and thus the design became famous all around the island. Today these boats are designed for speed and agility and still boast this special design.  

The boat ride is agitated, the weather is windy and grey,. The waves carry huge amount of water. Imagine a volume of water as huge as a whole building, moving with such power beneath the surface and us, small and fragile raft, 5 lives onboard, carried by the skills of our experienced pilot. It is truly a humbling experience.

Upon arrival at the pass which will get us through and into the lagoon of Maupiti, i remember Hilde's warning. « Don't go to Maupiti if the sea isn't calm. Two brothers from the island used to go out all the time fishing. Once they went on a stormy day. Only one brother returned after searching a long time for his sibling, lost at sea when they crossed the pass to the lagoon. » Chilling. I see Teimana and his two friends looking around on approach of the pass. The waves come crashing down on the coral reef surrounding the lagoon, the pass is quite narrow and a current strong enough to be visible comes out of the lagoon and into the sea. The effect is quite a chaotic situation at the pass itself.

But our boat has three heads, 6 eyes looking around in all directions at once and so when the right moment presents itself, Teimana surges the boat forward and in one leap we are through and into the calmer waters of the lagoon. What an adventure ! We arrive all salty and winded out at the pension, just in time for dinner.  

Gloria cooks really well and we enjoy a very hearty meal with a special mention to her Uru, bread-fruit, gratin which definitely fills us up ! We have dinner with a Belgian couple also staying there. They have been here for a few days and thus we listen to their advice. They are very friendly company and make for a very nice evening !

The next day we join them onto a boat they found with a pilot who agreed for a reasonable price to take us out just to see the manta rays. We spend quite some time looking for them, the sea is still a little agitated though lagoon waters are definitely calmer of course. At some point, we think Tom's curse of never seeing mantas will even reach us here in Maupiti. Finally, we spot one, nearly in the pass, swimming against the current. Into the water, we get to snorkel right above it. Beautiful and graceful, it seems to swim effortlessly against the current while we are running a marathon, palming like crazy to keep from being stirred away by the strong current.

To celebrate Tom's curse lift and our sighting, we all decide to share a bottle of rhum and enjoy the evening mixing cocktails with what we have at hand. Lemons and watermelons we have plenty from the island's generous nature, a pineapple juice from Moorea and we come up with very entertaining, more or less delicious, combinations that end up with some Hinanos in hand once the bottle is finished. Anne-Catherine and Frederic are happy and easy-going and we are sorry to part with them as they wake up early the next day to catch a plane out of the island.  

Tom has to deal with the headache while he prepares for a scuba dive excursion. Yannick takes them away into the lagoon and explains that the best way to admire the manta rays is to do mostly the opposity of what one is taught when learning diving. Hold your breath to avoid making bubbles (no risk as they stay in shallow waters), hold on to the rocks to steady yourself and stay in place, have too much weight on you to make sure you can stay on the sea floor bottom.  

We enjoyed our time there but are also glad to come back to Bora. Feels like coming back to our temporary home, not exactly home but something in between that feels nice and comfortable.

Thanks to Hilde, we learned that Johnny Ridge's brother works in a pearl shop in Vaitape. We go to meet him and he calls his brother to get us an appointment with him. Who is Johnny Ridge ? Check it out HERE. We learned about him through the federation for environmental associations in French Polynesia. He is reknown for promoting natural agriculture here. He wrote a book too about « evolution farming », inspired by natural agriculture and his own experience under a tropical climate. We've been looking to contact him for a while but finally, it is through « radio cocotier », the coconut radio, that is the mouth-to-mouth flow of information typical of living on a small island that we managed to meet with him. We were really impressed by his passion and his project on a land he managed to obtain in Bora Bora. It will be beautiful and we look forward to hearing about it in the next years to come.  

Finally, April comes and goes, May starts and soon, too soon, it is time for us to leave Bora Bora, and even to leave French Polynesia. We take the Havaikinui boat back to Tahiti where we have our last dinner from a food truck together with Perrine and Laurent, our very first host in Papeete, 3 months before. The loop is closing. Feels like having to wake up from a very long dream altogether. Saying goodbye to Laura and Sasha is really hard, we promise each other to meet up again, on the road or here or in France and we know we will but it is still a bittersweet time. We are also saying goodbye to Sylvain and his Laura, looking forward to meet them again, Tom happy to have rekindled a friendship with such a good and « heart on hand » person. It feels like French Polynesia is this refuge for nice people of the world, escaping its harshness. Of course, not all is pink and flowers, but it still feels like this. Hilde, Thierry, Paul, Arii'hau, the Jujus, Laurent, Perrine, Leila,... so many good hearted people, so many lives we crossed paths with. If life wills it, we will definitely be back one day !