The island of Moorea is known for its beautiful lagoon, white sand beaches, its ma’a tahiti at the edge of the water, diving spots, and countless water activities, among other things. On the mountain side, Moorea is also full of treasures with a sumptuous profile mingling volcanic peaks, calderas and ridges covered with lush green vegetation.
On our way to the Ōpūnohu domain, a site entirely dedicated to ecotourism: viewpoints, hiking, archeological sites, tree climbing, culinary discoveries of local products at the Agricultural High School, mountain bike trails, agricultural plots, aquaculture, etc. The Rural Development Department (SDR), in charge of the area, has also produced a map that allows visitors to choose their hike according to their desires (archaeological sites, viewpoints, …) and the level of difficulty thanks to a color code (from the family walk to the sporty hike for experienced walkers). The map lists eight routes.
After the Mou’a Puta hike, this time we will take you to the Ōpūnohu ancestor trail and the 3 Pinus Col, walk surrounded by nature combining sport and culture. Before going to the Belvédère, I made a stop at the Agricultural High School to enjoy a tasty and refreshing pineapple juice.
The 3 Pinus Col (Te ‘aro’a Pu’uroa) is a 3.4 km loop that can be reached from the marae Te-ti’i-rua or Belvédère. For my part, I made the choice to leave the Belvédère. In front of the mountain, the path of 3 Pinus is on the left. It begins with a regular descent for a few minutes before taking a path on the right which will take us in 40 minutes of shady climb to the 3 Pinus summit. This path crosses the path of the Ancestors and of the marae, facing the mythical Mount Rotui.
The trail of the 3 Pinus Col unfolds under the foliage of tumu marumaru (falcata), pūrau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) covered with twining lianas, the forest of centenarian mape (Tahitian chestnut) and their trunks with majestic sizes and shapes as strange as beautiful, along with streams (bathing is possible depending on the weather conditions). The mape trunks always amaze me as our ancestors used them to transmit messages by hitting the thin surface to make a sound resonate in the valley. Out of the question to try not to damage them!
The path is lined with plants, ferns and fruit trees: ape, ō’aha, ‘ahi’a, moeruru whose red flower serves as a natural champoo (memories of my childhood in Taha ‘a), nahe, etc. It is also lined with imposing stones and platforms where the rituals of our Tupuna (priests) took place. The further we go, the thicker the vegetation becomes. In some places, the sunlight cannot reach the ground.
To enhance this ethno botanical richness, the SDR has put in place informative signs describing the names and characteristics of plants and birds in Tahitian, French and English, with the aim of raising visitors’ awareness of the fragility of our environment and the need to preserve it sustainably.
Stumbling between trees and streams, the green color is omnipresent and has a peculiar smell, blending aromas of flowers and plants, of decaying plants and the smell of damp earth. I inhaled plenty of chlorophyll to renew the oxygen of my lungs.
Drunk with chlorophyll, my companion and I stopped in front of a huge banyan, the Ari’i tree. So I took the opportunity to tell him that in Nuku-Hiva (Marquesas archipelago), a majestic banyan tree rises in the valley of Hatiheu, Tohua Kamuihei and is considered the guardian of the place. It is like a cathedral in the jungle where the marquesans perform the dance of the pig (haka puaka) under this tree and my body shivered to the sounds of pahu (drums) and their voices imitating this animal. In the past, these trees were sacred because they sheltered the spirits of the most respected chiefs, priests and warriors.
Then, we continued to sneak between the mape trunks and other gigantic stones. When entering the last part leading to the col, the trail climbs steeply. The steep climb follows basaltic stone steps, roots, surrounded by pandanuses and their red and fragrant fruits are called hinano.
A few meters from the summit, I had the privilege of seeing a magnificent Ruro (laughing jackass) quietly resting on the branch of pūrau. An encounter that I wanted to share immediately with my companion but he had taken the lead and had already arrived at the view-point. Trying not to scare the Ruro with my calls, I admired it alone, with the rustle of the wind in the leaves of the trees in the background.
A few meters left and I am at the foot of the 3 Pinuses with an exceptional view at an altitude of 309 meters, surrounded by peaks, open to the bays of Cook and Ōpūnohu, facing Mount Rotui, with pineapple plantations. Before starting the descent and despite the rain threatening to fall, I took the time to admire the landscapes and appreciate the silence of it all … Then, I decided to immerse myself again in this green vegetation.
The descent was only a formality. It is less physical, except when it is quite steep, in which case it is better to approach it at a slower but dynamic pace. Once this part is over, the hiking is much easier!
I continued by taking the Ancestors’ trail to discover archaeological sites in the shadow of centenarian mape. An opportunity to immerse myself in the culture of the first inhabitants of the Ōpūnohu Valley, 600 to 1,100 AD, and picture their way of life, their rituals, their homes, etc.
The Ōpūnohu Valley is a real natural and cultural treasure. It contains 550 remains that have the advantage of being the most preserved and most studied of the Society archipelago: different types of marae (temples), ancient sites of homes, paepae (platforms), terraces of cultures and platforms of archers. The many studies conducted over the past years have established a solid interpretation of the cultural history of the site and its archaeological landscape.
It seems useless to give an archaeological course on its cultural relics, the information provided by the Department of Culture and Heritage and the website Tahiti Heritage do it perfectly. And above all, my archaeological expertise is limited or almost non-existent.
The Ancestors’ Trail (Te Ara Tupuna) is the shortest circuit with a loop of 1.5 km achievable in one hour or more, a place full of mana (power). My cultural initiation departed from the marae Te-ti’i-rua, the one that is oriented towards the Mou’a Roa. The wall of this marae is imposing, covered with mape and bordered with ahu. There are also many stones erected, probably the chiefs’ seats at ceremonies.
A second banyan crossed our path, a sign that we were probably near a marae or the principal dwelling of a chief. Then, the trail leads to other platforms including Ahu-o-Mahine marae and Afare-aito as well as archery platforms. At this very moment, you just have to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and imagine the tahu’a (priests) perform their rituals and ask the gods for mana, the vital spiritual force that connects all living beings.