This route crosses the island from the ferry wharf to Cooks Bay and can make a good return route from Mouaputa if you are staying at Cooks Bay. The route is a very worthy destination in itself, especially if you want to get a good close up view of Mouaputa and the surrounding peaks, but don't have the skills/desire to climb the peaks.
Getting to Moorea is easy. First, you must fly to Papeete (actually the suburb of Faaa), the capital of French Polynesia which is located on the island of Tahiti. From the wharf at Papeete, several ferries depart for the island of Moorea between the hours of 6 am and 5:30 pm. The boat ride cost $9-10 each way in November 2005, and takes 30 minutes to an hour depending on what boat you book with (ferries that take vehicles are slower).
Once on Moorea and at Vaiare and at the wharf, walk south a short distance to the store Magasin Chez Meno. The correct road heads west just north of the store and is marked for "route to Paopao", or something similar.
To find the route, start at the market Magasin Chez Meno and follow the road west. Take two rights on the road. At the next junction, go left instead of crossing the creek. Follow the road until it becomes mostly overgrown (November 2005). Look carefully to the left for a trail marked with two small yellow dots on the tree. Once on the trail, it is easy to follow, but it can be hard to find. There was a false start just before the correct trail, so it may take a bit of searching to find. If in doubt, try asking the locals about the route to Paopao.
The trail climbs very steeply to the spectacular pass between Mouaputa and Fairurani peaks.
The trail splits at the pass, and I went right. I’m not sure where the left fork goes. The trail then follows the knife edge ridge north before dropping very steeply to the Paopao Valley. It is steep and slippery, so you must cling to roots, branches, and vines to make the descent. There is a maze of roads here, but just follow the roads down to the north and towards Cooks Bay and Paopao. Note that this trail would be nearly impossible to find from the opposite direction, so you should hike it in the direction described.
A good pair of boots and 3 or more liters of water is needed.
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