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Main Banana Discussion This is where we discuss our banana collections; tips on growing bananas, tips on harvesting bananas, sharing our banana photos and stories.


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Old 07-17-2009, 01:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default French Polynesia

Introduction:
We recently traveled to Moorea, French Polynesia for 8 days (excluding travel time; which is significant).

I am currently in the process of organizing and reviewing my travel notes so that I can post some amazing "Banana" stories.

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Anyone who has ever dreamed of going somewhere "very far away and remote" would love French Polynesia (although it would be hard to imagine anyone who would not fall in love with the Society Islands). The tropical climate, lush beyond words foliage and the amazingly friendly natives always offering a smiling greeting Bonjour or La Orana (Tahitian greeting). Think Donovan's Reef (yes I know it was filmed on Kauai); the movie's remote setting is definitely reminiscent of French Polynesia. Our Bungalow lacked air conditioning; but it was very pleasant due to the overhanging palm frond roof, the enormous trees within the surrounding garden and the Tropical Breezes. The pounding (and I mean pounding) surf off the surrounding reef is constant and amazing (lulled us to sleep every night and greeted us every morning); the surf on the beach is very calm due to the surrounding Atoll. French Polynesia is very unique in that the Islands are surrounded by Atolls. Charles Darwin was inspired for his theory regarding the formation of coral atolls when looking down upon Moorea standing on a peak on Tahiti. He described it as a "picture in a frame," referring to the barrier reef encircling the island.

The Polynesians are the friendliest people I have ever met, always offering assistance and never asking for, expecting or accepting of anything in return. The Gas Stations are all "Full" serve, the attendant pumps up to the last drop on the scooters tank 505 Franks.I am mentally wondering why I did not bring the change purse and before I offer to pay he says 500 Francs. Most of the bikes are not locked and when buying beer bottles requiring a deposit (approximately US $1 per beer bottle) they ask if you brought in empty bottles (honor system). The Polynesians prefer Mauruuru (the one Tahitian word everyone needs to learn) Thank You over Merci (French) and smilingly offer pronunciation assistance. It is amazing to hear Polynesians speak French (until you learn they do not speak one word of English; LOL). Tahitian is different from Hawaiian and Polynesians that I spoke with were not familiar with the most common Hawaiian words, Aloha, Mahalo, Wahine, etc.,

Everyone has tattoos (even the Expatriates), it is a very ingrained part of the culture. People most frequently visit French Polynesia for the beauty of the Islands (which is truly amazing); but are seemingly equally impressed with the culture (think Hawaiians only from small villages). It would be very difficult to explain the concept of Road Range to Polynesians. Small cars, scooters, bicycles, very modern tour busses and antique public busses (affectionately referred to as “Le Truc”) share the small two lanes roads with courtesy. We never heard a horn beep or witnessed an aggressive or dangerous act on the road (where else can you pull a kayak behind you on a bicycle?).

We circumvented the island by two person scooter (twice), bus and rented bicycle (oh my really sore butt). A rented bike is no comparison to a good road bike, 26" less than fully inflated tires (the first 20 or so kilometers; (thank goodness for the Mobil Station). The bike shop (van on the side of the road with a 2 x 4 Tiki hut) cheerfully said good job 62 kilometers around the island (with intermittent elevation changes). Next time I am bringing a seat cushion. There is not a single traffic light on all of Moorea.

There are bananas everywhere on the island and every house has a beautifully maintained garden with several mattes of bananas (if not completely surrounded by bananas). It is very common to see plots of vacant (of buildings) land (belonging to the one of the neighboring homes) covered with awesome fruit trees and tropical flora. All of the banana trees meticulously cared for (dead growth completely removed) and mattes carefully maintained (proper pup management); this is no small task given the many rows of banana plants.

Everyone in French Polynesia is amazingly friendly and I mean "Everyone". We literally covered every populated area and felt completely welcome everywhere we traveled (even though we did not speak the lingo). Hawaiians definitely promulgate the Aloha spirit; but occasionally you come across a piece of beach or area that is Kapu for Haoles and the Caribbean is beautiful but the culture is so new and has not evolved as long as the Polynesian culture. It so truly amazing the distance between some of the Polynesian Islands and as expected the variations in culture. Whereas Hawaii is the big city to Tahitians and Tahiti is the big city to everyone else in French Polynesia and the Tahitian language is completely different from Hawaiian and very few French Polynesians speak any English.

No TV, no Internet ($10 an hour at the internet cafes and the web page is only in French), no Newspapers (in English), no Telephone (T-Mobile $2.95 a minute), no Air Conditioning; but the ever present tropical breeze and pounding surf are excellent substitutes.

Champion is the only Western style grocer on the Island, air conditioned and isles of food. There are a few "Supermarkets" and they are "super" in comparison to the many small markets that carry sparse can goods with "pop-top" cans ranging price from CFP 1.50 to over CFP 2.00 for a small can of vegetables. The fresh fish (when available) is very reasonably priced, usually "Lagoon" fish or Tuna. French Polynesia is definitely French as bread is a staple, every morning and evening you can see the locals walking down the road carrying their fresh French bread. A baguette is 51 PFC (about 65 cents).

The restaurants are a fair value considering the quality and quantity of food. Roadside "snack" stands are a very nice venue offering fried fish, shrimp, spring rolls (chicken) that are very light (even though fried) and thickly breaded (acting as bread for a nice sandwich). The amazing thing is the "consistency" of the food. All of the food is handmade and amazingly consistent between locales (Papeete market and Moorea roadside stands). The spring rolls are tightly packed with vegetables and always chicken.

A local tourist magazine has a helpful table with currency translations CFP to multiple currencies with the range being from 79 CFP to xx CFP. When we arrived at the airport the current exchange rate was 79 CFP to 1 US dollar; gives one an understanding of the strength of the dollar abroad (the CFP is benchmarked to the Euro).

I have never been so overwhelmed by my lack of ability to communicate...I have studied Spanish Rosetta Stone intermittently, lived in Panama' for three years and have traveled throughout many parts of the world and made it by as a slacker based on the knowledge of English of many of the natives..however here it does not work....as we both smile profusely and are as polite as can be..this does not help. In the markets they know English numbers and thank you...anything beyond that is met with the most pleasant quizzical look.

The night sky in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is truly amazing...there are more stars in the night sky than most of us can comprehend..

Ok..this is a banana board and we need to get in to a discussion of bananas. Bananas are everywhere in Moorea. They frame businesses and are present in all of the meticulously well manicured home gardens. Everyone in Polynesia has a home garden as it is very expensive to by goods in stores.

Google Map location of our Hotel:

Hotel Hibiscus Society Islands French Polynesia 561220 - Google Maps

Click the link and then zoom out..gives a nice perspective on "being in the middle of nowhere (Pacific Ocean)"

The Quest for Fei..aka "Bananas To Cook"

To be continued……

Satellite Image of Moorea:

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Day One:

It was a trek to get to Moorea from Tampa, when we finally arrived in Moorea the airport was almost abandoned and ground transportation was nowhere to be found (8:10 pm local time Saturday evening). Apparently it is required to secure ground transportation in advance and the tour busses only accept vouchers which must be pre-purchased (very odd that these are not available for purchase at the Moorea Airport). Not to worry a very courteous attendant called a taxi driver friend (he gave us his cell phone number in case we had a need later; taxis are not very common on the Island) and we shared a 30-45 minute cab ride with a very nice Swiss couple Eric and Erica (who have a son named Erich), they are staying at nearby Hotel Les Tipaniers (that we also considered). We enjoyed the conversation and had the feeling we would see them again.

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The surf breaking on the atoll

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Sunday our first day on the Island we walk through the Hotel’s immaculately maintained garden to the main road (this would become our most frequently traveled path to the main road; eschewing expediency). Within close proximity to our Hotel is Le Petit Village, first action of the day is to hit the nearby store for some supplies; we purchased a few can goods, staples and a few Hinano Beers (Tahitian beer). Every store on the Island carries Hinano, Heineken and Budweiser (variations in other offerings; but consistency in the three primary beers).

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Hotel Bananas
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Next we hit the beach to walk along the water and through some of the lagoons. First we explored south of our Hotel and walked back along the road enjoying the residential gardens, including one with a very nice planting of Vanilla Orchids and took a tally of area dining options for later.

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Vanilla

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Noni
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Then we headed north after walking/wading a ways we came across an expansive abandoned resort….imagine “Site B The Lost World Jurassic Park”…just as impressive and amazing. What was once a very nice Five Star tropical resort has now conceded to thick tropical foliage.

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Tennis Court

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Why can’t I get this germination rate with my coconuts?
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We learned later that this resort was once “Club Med”, as with seemingly every other item I researched on the internet about French Polynesia I got very few hits (I should Google in French). I was able to obtain one small piece of information as follows:

Club Med Moorea closes due to lack of bookings
PAPE'ETE, Tahiti, French Polynesia (29 Oct 2001) -- Club Med Moorea has announced its temporary closure due to a lack of bookings, part of the continuing fallout from the world terrorism crisis.
Club Med Moorea will close December 1 and will reopen "as soon as possible," according to management. The suspension of service is expected to last up to nine months.
French Polynesia's important tourism industry already has been hit hard by the sudden close down of Renaissance cruise line operations in the islands. Mainly American tourists had flown in on special Hawaiian Airlines flights from Los Angeles to board two Renaissance liners in Pape'ete and then cruise to such places as Bora Bora, Raiatea and Moorea.
Club Med Moorea has 350 bungalows, with a capacity to accommodate at least 700 people.
A small number of the Moorea staff will move to Club Med Bora Bora, which will remain in French Polynesia, the management said.


Once proud entrance to Club Med Moorea, French Polynesia
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The story goes that the resort has 15 owners and two do not want to sell, so the resort sits and continues to slowly surrender to the tropical foliage (why can’t I get that germination rate with my coconuts).

After our local explorations we hit the store again and are surprised to learn that alcohol sales for the day are no longer allowed (not our prime motivation; just an observation). We are informed no retail alcohol sales after 10 am on Sundays (7 am to 10 am no limitations) and Election Day. The attendant adds with a smile Polynesians like to drink their beer (the inference being Election Day prohibition has a proven purpose). We are also warned that food options are very limited on Sundays and Mondays as many of the restaurants are closed. So we picked a Restaurant that would be ideal for our first sunset on the Island. We enjoy our Florida sunsets (particularly in Key West) but there is something special about Sunsets on the Pacific (as the Californians can attest to), hence why we selected a Hotel on the west side of the Island (knowing what I know now I would select this Hotel again as the ideal location). Unfortunately the restaurant was closed for food sales; but still offered beverage sales so we pick a nice table ordered a few drinks and watched Sunset. All of the area restaurants were closed (as we were forewarned) with the exception of our Hotel restaurant so after enjoying 90% of the sunset we return to our hotel for the last 10% and dinner.

View from the restaurant:
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Locals enjoying Sunday sunset...they thought I was Australian; because I worked out; apparently not many French tourist are athletic (not my observation:-)
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South
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North
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These boaters would not want to be on the other side of the Atoll
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Enjoying the view:

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Does it get any better?
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Back to our hotel

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Day two we are mobile and heading to The Agricultural School, Point Belvedere and Baie de Cook.

Our transportation options are:

Le Truc (Busses; Public Transportation)
Bike (we are on a volcanic mountainous island and on “vacation”)
Scooter (two can easily ride one scooter)
Buggy (125 hp or 500 hp)
Rental car

The Quest for Fei..aka "Bananas To Cook"

To be continued……

Last edited by Rmplmnz : 08-08-2009 at 10:34 AM.
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Old 07-17-2009, 02:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: French Polynesia

Very nice pics. I thank you for posting them. my guess is Taro AKA POE for the avatar question.

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Old 07-17-2009, 03:02 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: French Polynesia

Outstanding!
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Old 07-17-2009, 03:05 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: French Polynesia

Are those your pictures? IF so, wow---if not, they are still great!
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Old 07-17-2009, 04:07 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: French Polynesia

That must have been some trip.
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Old 07-17-2009, 08:19 PM   #6 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: French Polynesia

...some type of Mofongo.Looks like a trip of lifetime!
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Old 07-17-2009, 09:22 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: French Polynesia

Interesting, your after the Fei's too? Did you bring or ship any home? My guess is that your AV is some mashed and cooked Fei fruit.
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Old 07-17-2009, 09:47 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Yeah I would Say its some kind of Fei.
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Old 07-17-2009, 10:02 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: French Polynesia

Great pictures, Chris, thanks for sharing. Another place I now want to go to some day.

I have no idea what the avatar is, I'll just throw out mashed bananas with coconut cream.
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Old 07-17-2009, 10:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: French Polynesia

Definitely has banana in it, unless the familiar unformed seed specks are spices instead.
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Old 07-17-2009, 10:22 PM   #11 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: French Polynesia

Meant to add, looks like quite the paradise!
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Old 07-17-2009, 11:52 PM   #12 (permalink)
 
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Absolutely gorgeous!!!
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Old 07-18-2009, 03:24 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: French Polynesia

Quote:
Originally Posted by momoese View Post
Interesting, your after the Fei's too? Did you bring or ship any home? My guess is that your AV is some mashed and cooked Fei fruit.
Wow Mitchel you are good!!

That was quick....yes I am after Fei....I had two that I got in 1998 on Oahu and lost them...

PM me with your banana selection (ex-Fei:-)

You edged Conejov by about 20 minutes...

The mashed boiled Fei story is forthcoming...and 5 videos ..following is a teaser.....



Moderator: I removed the YouTube tag, so that the post is not sectioned into windows.

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Old 07-18-2009, 07:54 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greenie View Post
...some type of Mofongo.Looks like a trip of lifetime!
Frank..nice guess..Mofongo made with Fei would be amazing...

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Old 07-18-2009, 03:54 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by conejov View Post
Yeah I would Say its some kind of Fei.
Congrats...Mitchell has graciously deferred on the contest which moves Conejov....to First..

PM me with your corm request...
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Old 07-18-2009, 04:29 PM   #16 (permalink)
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WOOOHOOO!! Thanks Mitchel!
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Old 07-18-2009, 05:13 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Thanks again for the pics and contest. But i have to ask, What is this "Fei". Maybe someone can fill me in.

thanks,
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Old 07-18-2009, 05:55 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
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WOOOHOOO!! Thanks Mitchel!
You're welcome, I hope you pick some good ones!
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Old 07-18-2009, 05:57 PM   #19 (permalink)
 
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And share with us other winners!

Just playing.
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Old 07-20-2009, 12:42 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: French Polynesia

Awesome pictures, Chris!
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