We spent the remainder of the afternoon lounging in hammocks, watching the surreally-blue ocean, and drinking champagne. It was absolute bliss. Periodically, we would go for a swim off the beach, and the sea was as warm as bathwater. It never got very deep, and you had to watch where you were going for fear of bumping into the innumerable mini-reefs here and there, all filled with beautiful fish.
Our hosts, Rande and his lovely wife, Emere, then invited us to a sunset cruise with some friends. Of course, we accepted, and at 4:30 we piled into Rande's car for the Fare dock. The boat, a pontoon-bar of sorts, was completely packed, and it seemed like half the population of the island was on it. Rande, Emere and Rudi seemed to know everyone there, and Dave and I got a chance to mingle a bit. Nobody else there was a tourist -- everyone else either lived there, or was visiting family who lived there. Huahine is very cool that way... it has a completely untouched, untrodden feel to it. As the boat sailed out to the bordering reef and into the sunset, village men picked up guitars to sing the island songs. It was magical. We arrived back in Fare well after dark, and the men's singing was still going strong even after we'd pulled into port. We thanked the boat owners with a bottle of NZ champagne (we'd brought two), and he seemed quite touched. (Almost as touched as we were for being able to share such a lovely boat ride.)
Given how early the sun sets so near the equator, we had plenty of time for dinner when we arrived back at the cabin. We'd bought burgers, buns, onions, and some BBQ sauce, and were looking forward to cooking for ourselves. They were toe-curlingly delicious, particularly when washed down with a Hinano beer or two. ;-) We stayed up awhile watching the geckos climb the outside screen and eat the bugs attracted to our cabin's light. It's surprisingly entertaining.
The next day was our last in lovely Huahine, so we decided to go sightseeing. We rented a car and toured the island, which was shockingly since there's only one road, and it runs in a figure eight. We saw a black pearl farm, a sacred ceremonial site (called "marae"), the more remote towns of Huahine, menacing land crabs, and a huge number of amazing lookouts and picturesque beaches. We stopped for lunch at a place known for its food and its view, and were not disappointed by either. After lunch, we found a deserted stretch of immaculate beach (not very hard on this island) and went for a snorkel in the gin-clear water. Sure enough, the reefs there rivalled many I've seen elsewhere... but here, we were the ONLY people in the water.
Afterward, we put towels under a big tree, caught an afternoon snooze, chased around hermit crabs, and investigated plant life. One big surprise was seeing a plant I hadn't encountered since the ruins in Belize I saw when I was 9... "sleeping grass". It's a tiny, tiny fern that grows along the ground, and gently closes up when touched or disturbed. What a thrill to see it again!
Sun was setting, and it was time to return to the cabin and pack, as we were leaving for Bora Bora the following day. I would miss Huahine... everything was so clean, so quiet, so uncommercial, and so comparatively cheap. Thanks in part to its undiscovered qualities, and in part to February being low season, we ran into a grand total of two other tourist couples in our wanderings. How much more authentic can you possibly get? Unfortunately, authenticity in this case also means a healthy population of stealthy mosquitos, little to no reliance on the English language, and absolutely no restaurants open on a Sunday night. Our last dinner in Huahine was cheese sandwiches. ^_^
The next morning, Rande and Emere came to our cabin to say goodbye. Emere gave us some shell necklaces she had kindly made for us, which was so very sweet of her. :-) She'd also given us the idea to make arrangements with the car rental company -- letting us keep the car until our noon flight the next day would save us about $20 in taxi fare. The only condition was that we picked up a staff member at the rental agency so he could drive the car back to Fare. Getting me, Dave, the car, and the Avis guy all together was a comedy of errors, but we got to the airport just in time for check-in, which happens about 15 minutes before boarding. All in all, a fairly smooth transition.