Words by Birdheye
The Birdheye View is a monthly journey into cannabis culture as seen through the eyes of musician and debonair world traveler Christopher “Birdheye” Gordon of Jamaican band, the No-Maddz. Each month, Birdheye explores a different avenue of ganja culture, taking us from Kingston to the South Pacific, as he seeks out the best strains, cannabis competitions and marijuana travel destinations, and updates us on the latest in marijuana reform and technology. This is his third column.
It was the second half of our last spliff in luxurious exile. As my owl eyes gazed on Mount Otemanu, the Mountain of Birds, the slight ebb and flow of the Tahiti Blue massaged my mind, and I passed the joint delicately to my partner in travel and life.
This was our encore session in the beyond-beautiful island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia. The massive pull had her eyelids sprinting to the top of her forehead. I had to grab my camera. Then the unspeakable happened! But for now, let’s rewind.
La Orana! I received the warmest of greetings as I exited my plane in Papeete. A well-fragrant leis made of the Tiaré, or Tahiti flower, complemented my arrival. Vibrant folk music with ukuleles energized the arriving visitors, as a group of Tahitian women danced with waist movements like rattlesnakes on Redbull. As I entered the airport, the music faded. The feeling of being somewhere remote, and the casual demeanor of the locals, gave confirmation that I had a successful escape from the secular west. There was not much time in my layover to galavant, so I quickly found refuge in a discrete area housing a pile of cigarettes. Two Polynesian men walked over and, after a glance my way, began to smoke something that was not a cigarette. I was tempted to inquire, but it seemed like a bad idea to interrogate a giant, 6″7 , tattooed, barefoot man wearing sunglasses before 6a.m.
From there, a small plane filled with couples and an abundance of love flew us to the Pearl of the Pacific. Bora Bora is surrounded by a lagoon and barrier reef, a natural product of coral formations. You can stand at the edge of a reef with water at your ankles but, with one step, find yourself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A popular vacation spot for A-list celebrities (Justin Bieber and his girl had just left, and Floyd Mayweather had been there the week before) and other members of the upper echelon, it hosts some of the world’s most aqua-centric luxury hotels. The five-star Four Seasons Hotel is at the top of that list. Known for its overwater bungalows, it is prized (and priced) for having “the most beautiful view in the world.” The Birdheye was there to blaze, and take in that view thoroughly. I was back on the ganja trail, in search of the best draw in Bora Bora.
I could not have predicted the first obstacle to my mission. The hotel was located on a private islet, or motu, that only allowed staff and guests on property. Evidently, boat was the only means of travel here. Fortunately, the hotel offered a complimentary daily shuttle. Otherwise guests could hire private boats that cost $300USD for less than a 30-minute trip.
We commenced our adventure with a delicious Polynesian breakfast and a Tahitian massage. Next, it was time to snorkel in 50 shades of blue. The variety of aquatic life found amidst the bountiful coral would make the set of Finding Nemo seem underpopulated. We left the safe lagoon, and headed towards the deep blue Pacific via speedboat. As our boat came to a halt, a few large shadows began circling the vessel. I started to pull on my vape pen like an asthmatic countering an asthma attack. Time to go in! shouted the tour guide. It was time to face my fear.
My first encounter with sharks couldn’t have been more perfect. I swam amongst them in the Pacific wild on a stormy, wave-crashing day. The locals have an exceptional bond with sharks. In Bora Bora, they are reverenced by the people as the carriers of their ancestors’ spirits. Interestingly, this does not carry over to other Polynesian islands: The same sharks do attack.
After my shark encounter, I got straight to the point: Where can I find marijuana? The tour guide smiled and replied: My neighbor. Bingo to bloodclaat — I had my first breakthrough.
The ganja quest was on. I booked the shuttle for the following day, and traveled to Matira Beach, ranked the No. 8 beach in the world by CNN. (For the record, the most beautiful beaches in Bora Bora are completely owned and protected by local tribes. They do a great job of preserving their sacred land.) As I arrived, I saw a few Polynesian hustlers sitting by themselves on the shore. It was too conspicuous. It may be remote territory, but they do have a police department. Safety first!
I went to a restaurant instead. In the same breath that I ordered grilled mahi mahi, I asked for some “good mari mari.” The waitress was astonished, and humored, by my openness. She made a favorable gesture, and I subtly stepped outside. The language barrier made communication difficult, but fortunately I had learned the code word. Locals do not call the herb ganja, marijuana, hemp, or cannabis. The golden word is PAKALOLO!
Inside a tiny shack, a youngster tried the tourist hustle, but thanks to my friendly tour guide, I knew what to say. A combination of Kingston street smarts and CXC French got me the local price of $50USD per matches box. Luckily, those are bigger than the ones in Jamaica — about 3 to 4 grams. He loaded a small joint, out of courtesy, and curiosity. This was the first time he had smoked with a Jamaican. Likewise, I was orientating myself to the world of the Polynesian Pakalolo.
As I headed for the shuttle back to Motu Tehotu, I heard two men in a pickup shout, Rastaman! Apparently, my dreadlocks seemed to be a spectacle in this region. I approached casually. They had the demeanor of green merchant, so I knew they had more Pakalolo for sale. I respectfully declined, but they just smiled and gave me some for free. All I could say is, Maururu!
Now, it was time to light up the bungalow. The Pakalolo was rich in terpines, with a surprisingly spicy taste similar to Jamaican sativa. A favorable resin count facilitated a tremendous lift of a heavenly sunset. This led to days of “ganjavanting” around the five-star property. My favorite leisure was canoeing in the lagoon to my No-Maddz album, with a massive spliff in my jaw corner. I stood about three miles out with a proper spliff at a floating bar and chased a few eagle rays. The fish were so plenty they swam right into my hands. I advised a few of the parrot fish and snapper I encountered not to try that if they ever swim to the Caribbean. They would surely get a steamed surprise!
My stash dwindled faster than the Jamaican economy in the first year after general election. It was time to venture off the motu again. This time, I didn’t want to wait seven hours for a shuttle to get my grades. Instead, a private Jet Ski tour did the trick! I pushed that machine across the blue towards the green like it was my first time for both. Selassie I know, it was my favorite journey to obtain ganja in my life.
Originated in Hawaii, Pakalolo is grown amongst coconut trees on the motu islets in a very hot and salty environment. Unlike Tahiti, which has a vast mountain region with springs, Bora Bora is mainly sand, coconut trees, coral and fish-filled lagoons. (The island has a heavy roster of imports, including drinking water and fruits.) Somehow, saltwater has to be a part of the growing process there. Growers in Polynesia have had an ongoing battle with the French government. There have been political talks about possible decriminalization in recent years. Yet, large fields and grows are frequently demolished by police in helicopter.
On eve of our departure, we sailed to a motu of our own, for a fresh-catch French Polynesian feast. To conclude our evening, we had a few giant pakalolo joints in silence. Sometimes, that’s the best way to say Uua here vua ia oe to that irreplaceable one.
Sadly, it was time to say Nana. Our Pacific voyage concluded with a private helicopter trip. Yes, the Birdheye View was getting a bird’s eye view of the Mountain of Birds. There was love in the air, literally and figuratively. We flew over Bora Bora to neighboring Tupai, the heart-shaped island. With its undisturbed beauty, the view gave a tranquil healing. After a safe landing, it was a speedy escort back to the Bungalow.
I began to ask myself some questions. Is the Caribbean island paradise fading, like the shores of Hellshire Beach? We continue to degrade our paradise, through corruption and violence, for capitalistic heights. Polynesia has taught me that, with enough fishes, a shark will swim in the arms of a man. Jamaica has a surplus of ganja — enough to constipate the greedy, and liberate the poor. Hopefully, the emerging green gold industry will shine a positive light that spreads throughout the region.
Bora Bora is the most romantic place I have ever seen, but never imagined. I had to pinch myself a few times. I experienced an array of rainbows, dozens of wild dolphins and sunset sailing next to giant humpback whales, coconut milk baths and breakfast delivered by canoes, to name just a few heights. To conclude the bliss, I rolled a super joint. Ganja was a catalyst of love on this romantic exile, a well-needed ingredient in our euphoric and exotic freedom.
I passed the joint. She took a hefty pull that brightened her Grand Canyon-like eyes, and revealed her infallible smile. Then, the unspeakable happened. The spliff slipped between her fingers, through a tiny crack, and into the water below. We were dumbfounded, but not heartbroken. I guess those fishes needed some. Selah. We laughed hysterically and resorted to the acme of euphoria for the last time. A few wise words from the Bird: Never go to Bora Bora solo, and don’t leave without smoking Pakalolo. This will guarantee the adventure of a lifetime.
It sounds like a dream doesn’t it? So let us call it that, for the record. It was a damn good dream that I made up.
Give thanks for life. Stay high, and stay fly
— The Birdheye View.