Sunday, April 7, 2019

Running in Oceania: a 60K ultra tour of Moorea

Last stop of our first week in French Polynesia: 4 days on the island of Moorea (also spelled Mo'orea in Tahitian). We flew there from Huahine (~30 minutes, see my post) and got back on Tahiti (previous post) by ferry (~40 minutes) afterwards. As you can see on the picture below, the island has a unique shape with a long coast around volcanic formations culminating at 4,000 feet (1,200 m). When Agnès planned our trip, she mentioned that the circumference of Moorea was 60 kilometers, that made me thinking, and dreaming... Well, that was before I discovered, while packing the day before we left San Francisco, that the weather conditions were similar to Singapore or Malaysia, that is super hot and humid. At least I was glad that this wasn't a race, and I could run in the 7 to 8 min/mile range to avoid overheating...
Like the other islands, it is covered with rain forest but at least there is one marked trail, crossing the island over the Col des Trois Cocotiers (the pass of the 3 coconut trees). As a matter of fact, the trail still wore markers/signs of a recent X Terra trail race:

While we hiked this treacherous trail on Wednesday with Agnès and two friends we made on Huahine, I decided to stay on the road for this solo ultra.
I started at 6:20 am to beat the heat as much as possible, then met Agnès at the Lagoonarium on the other side of the island, 35 km away, where we ended up spending 6 hours (snorkeling and swimming with sharks and skates). I then had 25K to finish the loop which I did from 4 to 6 pm, making the whole run lapsing from dawn to dusk, yet, only 4:46 of moving time, not too bad for running in 90+ F temperatures and high humidity! I have to admit I was happy to finish and rushed for a cold shower to cool down as I had entered the red zone of overheating at the end. Except for the temperature, yet avoiding the hottest hours of the day (10a-4p), most of the course was very pleasant, with amazing views at every turn. The only exception was the section between the ferry area of Vai'are and the airport at Tema'e, a stretch of about 3 miles (5 kilometers), where there is not only no bike path, but the road is so narrow that you have to step outside of the road when crossing traffic. At least, I'd say most drivers are careful and don't drive faster than 35 miles/hour.
Situation vis-à-vis nearby Tahiti
And a 1-minute 3D fly over of my run, including a few pictures (click on the image below or this link):

If you attempt this loop and ultra, you'll need plenty of water of course. I carried 2 Ultimate Direction bottles which got me through the West Coast of the island where there isn't much option to refill, unless you take the risk of drinking untreated water at the spot locals fill their bottles/containers (shortly after the km 29 marker, see picture below). On the East side of the island, you'll find a few convenience stores, and many on the North shore (the touristic part of the island).

More pictures and details of my run below.

Sun rise over the mountains at 6:30 am
Oponohu bay (means reef stonefish in Tahitian, an ugly and super poisonous fish which can kill you with its venom if you step on it!)

A new 'faré' (house)

Km 21 marker (I started at km 16 on the North side, with the airport being km 0)

5 miles later, still in the shade of the mountains before 9 am

The water sport where the locals fill bottles and containers
Protestant temple in Ha'apiti

Still in Ha'apiti, the Catholic church of the Holly Family

For one second, I thought they were selling avocados, only by appointment! It's just a lawyer, stupid! ;-)
Ma'atea, river flowing from the mountains

After 35K, arriving at the Lagoonarium of Motu Ahi, in Afareitu (snorkeling, shark feeding)

 The bay of Vai'are (harbor)
 Aremiti ferry
 Viewpoint of Toatea, with views of Tahiti
And view over the famous Sofitel, the first hotel to build bungalows over water, in French Polynesia
Sunset over the mountains, from Cook's Bay

 Km 12 marker at the end of Cook's Bay

Happy to be done!
I'm writing this post from home in California, enjoying the cooler weather but with plenty of amazing memories of the Polynesian way of life in my head. 'Till the next visit down there, 115 more islands to visit in French Polynesia, but back to work for now! Highly recommending making a trip to that region, especially to my friends in California, given the direct fights from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Go discover and run the world!

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