Day 35 — Feb 4 — At Sea
Another normal At Sea Day, if you can have a normal At Sea Day. Except that we move our clocks back another half hour so we are now 2 hours earlier than our home in California. Onboard games, cards, meals and a show about 80’s music and we turn in for the night.
Day 36 — Feb 5 — At Sea until 6 PM
Again, another At Sea Day for the most part. We are scheduled to arrive in Papeete, Tahiti (pronounced, Pah-pee-ee-tay) at 6 PM this evening. This afternoon Shuffleboard is offered again and I shall attempt to defend my title. Unfortunately, my defense falls far short. But the games are fun among friends we have met and the afternoon progresses into Rummycub and Mexican Train Dominos.
The island of Tahiti is in sight and light rain is falling. The prospect of rain as we walk about Papeete is high and we are prepared with waterproof clothing. We have about a dozen people meeting when we dock and the plan is to go into town for a local dinner. Rain or Shine, we’ll enjoy the town.
The ship docks and we get the announcement to disembark. Our group has grown to about 20 and we walk into town. Up and down the local streets we go and we seek out restaurant menus. We settle on a restaurant named “El Retro” and we get tables and we find there is free wifi which we haven’t seen in a dozen days. So everyone transacts whatever business they have while our food is ordered.
Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia and is considered a ‘commune’. It is located on the island of Tahiti in the “Windward Islands” as opposed to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands. Windward and Marquesas are 2 of the 5 Archipelagos comprising 118 islands. We are only 2 clock hours west of Los Angeles and still east of Hawaii, something I never calculated.
It has stopped raining as we walk into town and the air is comfortable yet humid. By the time we return to the ship it has started raining again and as our luck would have it, it downpours on the last 100 yards to the ship. But we remain mostly dry as we walk up the gangway onto the ship. We deposit our wet outerwear in our room and grab drinks in the pub before retiring for the evening. We have a scheduled tour of the island bright and early at 8 AM.
Day 37 — Feb 6 — Papeete Day 2
We arise early and get ready for our 8 AM Tour of Tahiti. Right on time, we walk out and our ride, Tahiti Eden Tours, is waiting for us. But, alas, I should have come out earlier as someone else has my front seat “Photo Seat”. Oh well, I climb in the second seat and soon figure out I can open the window and point my camera outside.
Our driver today, Fabrice (Pronounced like the air freshener, Fabreeze), introduces himself in good English and we are on our way. He explains that he grew up here and in school it is mandatory to learn four languages, Tahitian, French, Spanish & English! We ride off on the only real road on the island that circumnavigates the entire large half.
Our first stop is at a religious location where human sacrifice was the norm. We asked for volunteers but there were none. We also see a tree that grows blossoms that resemble pineapples. The intriguing thing about this blossom is that the painter, Paul Gauguin stayed here for many years and he used parts of this blossom as a brush to do many of his paintings!
Then it’s off to a botanical garden with 3 Grottos, “Grotte De Mara’a”, “Grotte De Vaipoiri” and “Grotte De Mata Va’a” where our cameras are once again entertained with colorful sights and Fabrice describes the history of the island. In these Cave Grottos, the water that permeates the rock permanently drips in the caves like rain. We make some other stops including a hiking trail around the Botanical Garden. We then hike a short distance to the Vaipahi Waterfall. A small token of waterfalls yet to be seen.
We learn that when a High Chief or High Priest died, he was put into a Tupapa’u and his body dehydrated before being put into a remote grotto with items identifying his importance. After death, he was visited by the Te’ura I Hamanu (the Priest Goddess) who would purify his soul with the sacred waters. After that, the soul would visit its purgatory springs, the Te’Faa Oroma’i where it would be watched over at it went through its final cleansing. Then, the departed entity, the Vaipahu, wakes up and is led to the last bath, the Vaipahu Waterfall where it becomes a butterfly, and flies to the Te-rua-mo’o, the Cave of the Lizard where it is reborn. Sounds like quite the ritual to me but there you have it!
We reach a side road that heads uphill towards the middle of the island. We arrive at a trail to the 3 Waterfalls of the Fa’Aruma’i Valley waterfalls that tower hundreds of feet above us. We are in The Valley of 1000 Waterfalls! The water cascades in such a furious torrent that it leaves a heavy mist in the air that soaks everything including our cameras. I coach Elee to keep her camera pointed at the ground and only pick it up to shoot a fast image before pointing it down again.
We get some fine photos and head back down the trail to the van. Once inside the van, we carefully wipe down our cameras like you would treat a fine race horse. We drive off, continuing around the island, until we get to Matavai Bay, an historical area on a black sand beach and again, the cameras are put to work. Tahiti’s beaches are 80% Black Sand with only a few White Sand beaches.
Samuel Wallis, Capt. Bligh & James Cook all have parts of their stories told here, many faceted and colorful the stories are.
This is a black sand beach in an historical area of the island called Pointe Venus. The first lighthouse in the South Pacific is here, the Tepaina Venuti, built in 1867, designed by the father of Robert Louis Stevenson. During WWII, the natives painted palm trees and coconuts on the four surfaces and the Japanese could not find a reference because of this.
On the beach here, we see many Va’a or Pirogues, a kind of fishing and war boat carved out of one tree each. They also have an outrigger for stability. When carved correctly, they are very fast and only need one paddle.
The views are fun and we find ourselves heading back to the ship. Fabrice drops off one passenger at his ship, a four masted vessel that is quite the interesting looking ship with only 150 passengers. I do believe that ship is out of our budget. Then Fabrice brings us to our ship where we walk to the gangway in hot blazing sun. We board the ship and go to our room to drop packages and grab our laptops for we have heard of a bar named Bora Bora, same name as the next island we will visit tomorrow, that has good free WiFi.
We go back to the gangway to head into town. Not more than 5-6 minutes has elapsed since we came onboard in the hot sun and we find it is raining torrentially! So we go back on board and grab a salad for lunch while we wait out the storm. A half hour later the storm has let up and we disembark with sun shining again! We seek out the the Bora Bora Bar and sure enough, there is good free WiFi. So we pull out our laptops and start working on our blogs and this is the reason that you will see our posts through Nuku Hiva by Feb 12.
After an hour in the open air bar, we hear a big crash and look up from our computers to see stand up signs outside the restaurant crash to the ground and the wind whips things around violently. My suspicions about the weather are confirmed when, all of a sudden, the rain pours down in sheets as another squall sweeps over the island. Our guide this morning told us this is their rainy season. So we continue our blogging and watch the rain and people in it.
Sure enough, the rain lasts about a half hour before abating. But this time, blue sky does not replace it. The air is thick with humidity, roads outside stay wet and the cold flavored cider we have been drinking keeps going down way too easy. We have another hour or so before a set of popular Food Trucks is supposed to open a short distance from here. We’re hoping to hold out that long and wondering if the weather will cooperate.
We suddenly remember that we still need to get our magnet and we head out and find one. Then we locate the Food Trucks which conveniently turns out to be on the way back to the ship. There’s only one truck set up so far so we go back on the ship and put our computers away. Then we find our way back to the trucks and there are 3. We look at all the menus and decide on the first one that we saw earlier.
I order Meka with Haricot Vert which is Marlin with Green Beans, another popular local food here. Elee orders the Special Chow Mein. We have agreed to split the meals but when the food arrives, it is in such quantity that neither of us can finish them. In fact, 6 people could have easily dined on the food and had left overs! The food was very good also! I’m not sure I’d order Meka again as it resembles cooked tuna which I’m not a fan of.
Back on board, I take my big camera up on deck for some nighttime time exposures of Papeete before we depart. Then a glass of wine and back to the room to upload photos and finish the blog. Tomorrow we’ll arrive in Bora Bora early so as the ship sails out of the harbor I find myself finishing up the blog and photos.