I can’t believe this journey is almost over; I am writing this with only 5 days left together on this boat. As sad as I am that I will soon have to leave this 134-foot boat that I now call home, we have made the most of our last few days.
Beautiful landscape including the out rigger boat that we took around Raiatea on a tour
The past 4 days we spent at dock in Raiatea. This was a huge change from the bustling city of Papeete. Morgan, Stella, Ali and I started exploring the town. Of course, we started walking through the grocery store (my favorite place to go at any new place I visit). Then, we just walked through the town in awe of the beauty and how nice the locals are, always greeting us with a joyful “ia ora na”.
We found so many fruit trees, coconut, mango, breadfruit, etc., and so many flowers (always tucking one behind our ear!) Then we made our way to the water. You would think we would be sick of it because we just spent a month straight without land in sight, but it never gets old. It was crazy to see the different colors throughout the ocean – the blue water in the distance, brown water by the shore, and green moving throughout the two. It was such a nice day of just walking and stretching our legs, something we hadn’t had the chance to do in a while.
Then on our last day we went on a tour all day. We had an amazing tour guide, Tihoti, who brought us around Raiatea and Tahaˋa on an out-rigger style boat. Our first stop was at a vanilla farm where we learned that they hand pollinate each vanilla flower. Then we saw the process of drying the beans and we got to smell some fresh vanilla extract. Tip: Make vanilla extract by combining vanilla beans with rum and let it sit for 9 months!
After trying some vanilla honey and looking at everything you can make with the vanilla bean, we made our way to a pearl farm. It was a family business where the Tahitian pearl is “grown”. They collect oysters and graft the shells with a good color. Then they take white pearls made from the oyster shell and shipped from Mississippi, and they add a pearl and shell graft into the oyster gonad. It then lives in the water for 18 months and uses the DNA from the graft to color the pearl! We then took a ride down a freshwater river and stopped at a beautiful motu. This motu was filled with hundreds of coconut trees, scattered with the fallen coconuts, and surrounded with crystal clear water. We even saw a spotted eagle ray in the water!
Although I’m sad to be coming to the end of this semester, I am so grateful that I got to be on this journey. I have learned more than I could ever imagine and met some of the nicest and most genuine people.
Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! I love you so much and can’t wait to see you! I already have so many things I want to show you at all these places! Can’t wait to be able to explore together and tell you about everything I have done! Love you tons! <3
Lexi Valachovic, C-Watch, Cornell University