Sunday, February 28, 2010

After the cyclone (and before a tsunami!)

Hey everybody! Sorry for the wait since the last posting (almost a month...). We are now back to Europe, but before sharing our latest adventures in white Denmark, let’s go back to turquoise (sometimes grey...) Polynesia. We’ll also enjoy remembering those holiday moments, when getting back to work on Monday for C...
First of all, at the time of writing these lines, we are relieved to hear from the Polynesian radio that the red alert to the tsunami caused by the earthquake in Chile is now over. Nobody seems to have been hurt, fortunately, although waves up to 4 meters (12 feet) were reported.

Please check back the previous two postings as we have now added photos and a video of our special reporter, commenting live from the cyclone area!

After our cyclone-day inside, things gradually went back to normal. The wind dropped some, it was time to go outside to assess the damages caused by the storms. Many gigantic palm leaves were everywhere, from the roads, to the walkways, to the corals at the bottom of the sea. Where we were, most of the roofs held pretty well. Some of the palm leaf-based roofs of the overwater bungalows got peeled away, especially for the Intercontinental hotel Le Moana, the one we see on several pictures at a distance in the bay. This hotel actually remained closed for two days after the cyclone, because of repairs.

Hence damages on our side of Bora Bora were pretty moderate compared to that on the other side, especially near the main town that faces the only pass to the Pacific ocean. There, the main dock and the roads were flooded and many Polynesians' homes lost their roofs. But by the time we went to town a few days later, pretty much everything had gone back to normal.

So we were happy that this cyclone overall caused “plus de peur que de mal” (more fear than hurt), while sending our warm wishes and support to the families that will need to rebuild part of their homes.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bora Bora. Wednesday February 3rd, 2010

6:30am. A glimpse between the curtains on the bay outside tells us that the depression is now definitely closer. We probably won’t be spending much time outside today. So let’s just get back to bed for a little while!

9:12am. Two maids show up on our doorstep with fresh towels, and rolls of packaging tape. They have been instructed to tape a gigantic X on each of our sliding glass door windows. Maybe this could help with picking up broken glass, although with gusts of wind at 100 mph out there, we’re not sure the two pieces of tape will be enough to prevent glass from flying all over, would anything out there hit the window… Fortunately our balcony is facing away from the direction the wind is blowing from.

11:50am. A call from the reception desk informs us that lunch will be served in the restaurant for another half hour. After that, the place will be closed until further notice. The only food service will be a sandwich brought to our room around 3-4pm. Although we had stocked up on food yesterday, we decide to go because this could be our last “normal” warm meal for a while… At the entrance of the restaurant, the hotel director reiterates that we have 30 minutes to eat, and we thus find ourselves in line with people from this and other hotels for spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce, served from a gigantic pan. We are also instructed to retreat to our bathroom in case of strong winds, predicted to hit us hard in the afternoon.

12:31pm. A special TV report in the main lobby of the hotel announces that the tropical depression Oli is now officially the tropical cyclone Oli. Consequently, the islands here have now gone under red alert, which means no traffic in the streets allowed, and schools closed. Airport and harbor have been already long closed on Bora Bora. Instructions from the officials are to stay indoors, with enough water, and a radio with spare batteries. The 660 tourists on Bora Bora have all been relocated into 11 high standard hotels. Luckily this did not mean any change for us, since we happened to have ended by chance in one of these, in what is actually the safest location on the island to face this cyclone. We are indeed staying in a solid concrete building (with a real roof), standing against a rock wall on a hill, about 50 yards away from the shore and about 50 yards above sea level.

1:05pm. Back to the room, we wait for further development during the remainder of the afternoon, until the cyclone reaches its closest location to Bora Bora, around 6pm tonight according to the forecast.

2:23pm. The tin roof of a local family home is now lodged in a palm tree. Hopefully they have found refuge with a neighbor or at the hotel.

3:12pm. A knock on the door followed by a greeting: “room service”! Chrysa opens the door, and receives two sandwiches (lunch meat, cheese, and bread), two apples, one candle and a matchbox. Guess who’s gonna have a fancy romantic dinner tonight by the blown away palm trees ;-)

4:29pm. We just noticed that the small wooden platform that was attached to the outmost bungalow we can see from our bedroom is now gone. Until now, we had used it as a measure to estimate the height of the water level. Well, now the thing’s gone, who knows where (in a tree?) and the waves are now grazing the bottom of all the bungalows…

5:45pm. For the 126,574th time today, Quentin peers out the window saying:”Yeah…not going into the water today…”.

5:48pm. There’s more water coming down than water in the sea. We cannot actually see the shore any longer… Help… Help… May Day…

6:45pm. The red Bordeaux Chateau Vieira 2002 tastes pretty good with our cold pizza and our sandwiches, taken at candle light…

7:10pm. We learn through the evening TV news that Oli is now 100 miles away from Bora Bora, after being at the closest in the afternoon (70 miles), and it is now heading South, where more islands are now under red alert. So it looks like on Bora Bora we are now in the tail end. Overall, we’ve been impressed by the calm of the population and the effectiveness of the hotel staff and the professionals in general in making sure people were safe, and that people in need of help would get it as fast as possible. Luckily nobody was hurt during the storm. So kudos to the officials here!

7:45pm. The special TV news are still going on, with multiple updates on the situation in the various islands. Again, we both remain struck that at no point during what we thought was a pretty thorough planning of this trip did we come across any information relative to the cyclone danger at this time of year. We almost feel like this is putting potential visitors in danger by hiding such critical information from them. Especially since this situation is well known here, as the hotel manager told us that cyclone season is from December through April, with major cyclones every 3-6 years. This experience makes us realize that wherever we go, we can never spend too much time and efforts finding information about potential weather hazards in far away locations, maybe ultimately by calling locals and asking them directly.

Pictures (and a special video) for both blog entries will follow once we have faster (and cheaper) internet.....
....Pictures are now here!!!! :-)

Bora Bora

Already a week on Bora Bora!
First, we would like to thank all of you for following this blog, for posting comments, for sending us emails, etc. Thanks for keeping in touch!
We have already been here for a bit more than a week now, at the Mai Tai Polynesia. We first had a room with “garden view”, and thanks to some cockroaches that infested the bathroom following heavy rains, as well as to Chrysa for insisting on reporting it ;-) (luv you baby!) we got upgraded to an “ocean view” room. So we now have a balcony overlooking an insanely turquoise and cyan lagoon, lush vegetation, and tiny islands with over-water bungalows…
The hotel offers two quite nice beaches, with coral reefs and a huge variety of fish right there, close to shore. We are also close to a super scenic beach, called “Plage Matira”, with a depth of 1-3 feet that just seems to have no end to it. It also makes for a fantastic sunset viewpoint.
Besides enjoying the scenery and the very warm water, what else do we do? NOTHING!! That was the plan and we congratulated ourselves on picking the perfect destination for it J Well, we read (Chrysa discovered before leaving she could download free books onto her ipod!), we discover the local foods (a lot of tuna and mahi mahi dishes), and we just relax…
However we’ve also been forced to stay in our room for part of the day pretty much every day for the last 4-5 days because of a orange-level tropical depression that’s hitting us hard now. This is the kind that can turn into a cyclone, so that means heavy rains, big waves (15 feet) and strong winds (100 mph)…
We’re keeping ourselves informed through interaction with the hotel management, watching news and reading the web. Doesn’t look like we’ll need to be evacuated yet, but stay tuned!!