The van turned right and climbed to the Mediterranean style villa on the Bora Bora hillside. We got out, grabbed our bags, and followed our host to our room. He led us down a hallway to an open-air courtyard. Bright pink flowers surrounded the stone patio, a lily pad pond stood on the opposite side, white pillars lined three sides, and paintings and sculptures were scattered.
Our room had a large bed, small kitchen, indoor/outdoor bathroom, and air conditioning (the standout feature). Through a different short passageway we entered another patio. A bougainvillea overflowing with fuchsia blooms led to a sweeping view of the bay, Mount Otemanu, and swaying palms. It wasn’t an overwater bungalow, but it certainly looked promising for our next few days in Bora Bora.
Unfortunately, that promise was soon broken. Our host left and we could better look around our room and the house. The villa was sprawling and the owner lived in a small part of it farther up the hill. We were staying in one of three studios in the lower level, and they all seemed to be the neglected rooms that were rented out since the house was too big for one person. The concrete lily pad pond was green and mucky, which is perhaps understandable since it is a pond. There was also a small pool and it was half full of green water with plenty of bug life. Everything was dirty and we wondered how long the bed had been made and waiting for guests. The air conditioner struggled to keep the small room cool, but then again it wasn’t sealed very well…
The worst part came our first night and reoccurred each night afterward. Dozens of millipedes would enter from any opening. They would be on the floors, walls, and ceiling, from where they would drop down to whatever was beneath them. It was a good sign to hear a loud smack on the tile floor when they hit, otherwise, you knew it was a softer object, like the bed. Quickly, we adopted a policy of cutting them in half. We learned to cut them in two close enough to their head so their two parts wouldn’t continue wandering around.
We cleaned what we could, didn’t bother using the kitchen, and dumped our bug pile out each morning. Our location was on the southwestern side of the island, about halfway between Matira Beach, the only public beach in Bora Bora, and Vaitape, the only town. We didn’t bother renting bikes or any other type of transportation, so it was nice to get back in the habit of walking everywhere.
On our first day, we almost immediately set off towards Bloody Mary’s, a famous yacht club nearby, for lunch. The walk was along the water, as most walks are in these islands. One spot had a vehicle pull-off and was flanked by palm trees. It was the type of scene popular with island pictures. Although it didn’t have a white sand beach, it became one of our favorite spots during all our walks.
Bloody Mary’s has been in Bora Bora for decades. They have a message board by the road full of famous people who have visited. The floor is raked sand and it has a tropical garden vibe to it; soccer was on TV at the bar. It was after the main lunch rush and only one other couple was in the restaurant. After the two guys at the front greeted us, one made an insulting comment to the other as he led us to our table. He seated us two feet away from the other couple, the rest of the large restaurant sat empty.
The insulter came to take our order, and though he already wasn’t off to a great start, he was pushy and annoying. We hadn’t thought of bringing bug spray with us and the garden vibe was complete with mosquitos. I’m sure our feelings about the change in lodging were affecting our experience, but it was all too fake and cheesy for us. The food was good and not too expensive, though, and we left satisfied.
That night I ran to Vaitape for some groceries. It was about two and a half miles away, but less than a mile from our house was a nice looking sports complex where some kids were playing soccer. When I passed the sports complex entrance a teenage boy was leaving on his bike. We waved and said “Hi,” and he turned towards town as well.
We were going about the same speed and so there I was, running on one side of the road, while he was pedaling lazily on the other. Now and then we would look at each other and smile. Soon, he said something to me in French. After several pleasantries that made it clear I didn’t understand him, he asked if I spoke English. I confirmed and he stopped talking, assumedly because he didn’t know English. We had come to our conversational end, but we were still traveling right next to each other. I awkwardly asked if he played futbol with a few words and hand gestures, saying it was fun. He nodded and smiled. I gave him a thumbs up and waited for him to speed up since he was the one on wheels after all. Island pedaling isn’t hurried, though, so it became clear how this was going to go. I sped up and wondered how long I would be able to keep up the pace.
Several minutes later, I checked behind me for my bicycle friend, relieved to not see him so I could rest. I stopped running and walked the rest of the way to the grocery. Right before crossing the street to enter, he pedaled by. I did a double take, smiled, and we waved to each other. I should have asked him if I could join his soccer game.
Each morning we would complete our workout routine at home and then head to the sports complex. There were actual pullup bars! This was a treat since we normally do them on swing sets, trees, or any other random thing we can find. Every time we would visit the bars others would join us – kids from the park trying to imitate us in any way they can or paddlers stopping by during their run to do muscle ups and otherwise show us they are stronger with a smile. It was all lighthearted and we would smile, nod, and gesture encouragement. Physical activity brings people together and is a shared pastime around the world!
The complex also had an excellent grass running track and often there would be a Tahitian music and dance group practicing in a pavilion. The drums and happy yells motivated us to continue it all and created a lovely setting at the base of the mountain and the shore of the bay. We would walk along the water, check out the fish, watch the kids swimming and playing on the police boats, and agree how nice it is to be there in that moment. It even had barrels of jet fuel right next to the waterfront helipad. Kathryn especially laughed at this island aspect of life!
I made sure to tell Kathryn about a gelato shop I had seen on my run. We escaped the “villa” one day to get a cold treat there after lunch in town. The owner was nice and welcomed us to her small shop. The cooler was filled with standard and tropical flavors that made it hard to choose. I settled for a local pumpkin milkshake and Kathryn got one scoop of lemon tart and one of cassis (black currant) in a cone. My shake was gone in less than a minute even though I tried hard to savor it. Then I had to watch Kathryn enjoy hers slowly but surely while I debated my choice. She gave me a couple bites while we noted the free Wi-Fi, delicious treats, and ample air conditioning. We would be back.
Matira Beach was to the south and a bit closer than town. One afternoon we set off towards it, excited to swim and snorkel. A small snack restaurant (lunch restaurant, essentially) drew us in before we arrived. Snack Matira was set directly on the water only about 200 meters from the public beach. We picked a table close to the water, each ordered a glass of rosé wine and a curry, and admired the scenery.
The sand was soft and white, dotted with pieces of coral and rocks. The water was clear and turquoise, darkening into the channel. Palms bent over the water and swayed in the breeze. Several people lounged in the water, boats occasionally passed, and we felt incredibly content.
We discussed places to live as the sun dropped in the sky. This was certainly a lovely spot! It led us to memories of our life in Hawaii and other places, comparing each. No matter where we are we find the positive, make the most of it, and end up being sad to leave our home, but excited for the next one. I guess that’s the whole point of The Cheers Life.
The sun set and everything was framed by gorgeous colors and towering clouds. We toasted our second glass of wine, ate our ice cream cones, and soaked it all in. Few people were left in the restaurant and we lounged with our feet up on the picnic tables as the owner occasionally checked on us. Although we didn’t make it to Matira Beach, the opportunity to live in the moment is a major reason we departed on this whole adventure in the first place. We walked home full of joy.
Our first journey to Matira Beach never was completed in that sense, but we did get closer on another walk. Matira Beach Restaurant was fancier and happened to be between the snack restaurant and the public beach. We went for lunch one day and though it was less food than the snack curries, it was a delightful meal. Other patrons would arrive and depart on jet skis as part of a tour from their hotel since it was also directly on the beach. Our table was closest to the water again and we kept commenting how beautiful it all was. That happens a lot these days.
The lagoon was shallow for what seemed the entire way to the barrier reef. Although we knew we couldn’t actually walk all the way to the reef, our curiosity got the best of us during lunch. The restaurant closed between lunch and dinner, but the owners were so nice we asked if we could leave our bag with them while they changed the tables. They obliged, and we set off on foot into the middle of the lagoon.
We walked about 300 meters without having to swim at all. Once we were in the midst of the jet ski tours and boats we stopped. Not even halfway to the edge of the shallow part, we wondered how far it was possible to walk. An impromptu dance party happened there in the middle of the lagoon with no other people around. When you can hear music from the beach and are in such a lovely place, there’s no reason at all to stop yourself! Regardless, everyone dancing is having fun, and everyone who isn’t wishes they were. Remember that next time you’re at a wedding, or alone in your living room.
During another villa escape we returned to the gelato shop with the computer to do some work. Our disappointment at there being no lemon tart left didn’t last long as the other flavors were tasty as well. The first table was directly in front of the air conditioner and we had to move; we are adjusting to island life with only fans! The shop is quite the successful business. At one point we felt awkward taking up a table since there were so many customers. We figured it was right after school let out and ordered espressos to avoid being squatters.
When it came time to leave our hillside villa we scheduled our departure for first thing in the morning. We had four nights on a motu hotel next and were happy to confirm they could pick us up from the marina early that morning. It was great to walk everywhere again and we loved the sports complex, beach, and restaurants. Our thoughts were all about the future, though, as we motored into the lagoon, off to a luxurious bungalow.
© Cheers Life Partners 2017