Touring Papeete

Standard

 

Map 6 Auckland to Tahiti

 

Fri 28 Mar 2014

Late rise and breakfast. Good bed and restful sleep. Late morning catch the big yellow bus transfer back to the airport. Can’t check in my bag until I show the check-in agent my return ticket. Everything’s hunky-dory after that. Spend the rest of the day waiting around the airport for my flight.

1830hrs: Board Air New Zealand flight NZ40 for the 5 hour flight to Tahiti.

Note: Clock wound back 24 hours crossing the International Date Line.

Fri 28 Mar 2014

0055hrs: Arrive Tahiti. Trio of 2 Tahitian men singing and playing a ukulele and a graceful hula dancing woman greet arrivals at the International airport. No problems through immigration and a customs man just nods me straight through. Met outside by an over-sized taxi driver named Pascale sent by the Ahitea Lodge where I’ll be staying for the next few nights. Short trip of about 10 mins into Papeete. Very little traffic about. CBD area brightly lit with quaint street lamps.

0200hrs: The lodge is not at all what I expected. More of a homestay and very basic. No TV, fridge, radio, clock, rubbish bin or desk except a little bedside light stand. Nor is there a glass for drinking water let alone guest soap. Probably an oversight. At least there’s a hot water shower, it’s clean and within walking distance of the CBD.

0800hrs: Breakfast is simple fare; coffee or tea with powdered milk, orange juice cordial and a roll or two of bread and jam. Everyone speaks mainly French and all are Tahitian.

0920brs. Tahiti Safari Expeditions arrive in a Nissan 4WD that is similar in function to the bemo’s that the Indonesians use, i.e. an open back with bench seats and canopy. There’s 6 other people consisting of 3 couples from Taiwan, USA and Italy respectively. Our driver/guide is Eric who is a native Tahitian aged 54 years, an ex-French Legionairre, now going grey and obviously proud of his culture.

Tahiti has only one main highway and that’s around the coast. Other roads branch off into the centre of the island. We follow the coastal road easterly going past Matavai Bay where Captains Cook and Bligh had once anchored. At about the 18km point we turn into the interior to make our way along the Papenoo valley until we stop at a restaurant for lunch.

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The tour group stopped for photos. Start of the Papanoo Valley
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Eric showing a “time” flower which changes
colour from yellow in the morning to orange
in the afternoon.
A wild orchid
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Typical roadside scenery  There’s at least 10 waterfalls cascading
down this mountain.
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A tour guide from another tour company. The setting for lunch.
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View from restaurant verandah. The receptionist is also the dancer/entertainer
and waitress too. Note the markings on her neck.

The receptionist with a deep voice and flat-chested woman/man – some of us are not too sure which, dances for us to Tahitian music on a stereo. Does a great job too.

Afternoon: Push on to the caldera of the 3-million year old, now extinct volcano that spawned Tahiti, ending at a tunnel through the caldera and which marks the end of the navigable road. During the day our driver/guide Eric shows us a hydro electric power station, numerous plants and their traditional uses, awe inspiring waterfalls and a Polynesian temple. Mosquitoes get far too friendly if we stop too long and I’m reminded of a sign at the airport advising there is a current outbreak of Dengue fever in Tahiti. Eric also points out an introduced makonia plant. It’s everywhere and is slowly killing the native jungle and forests. Am surprised on the return home by a long traffic jam on the road heading outbound from Papeete.

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The road up the valley ends at this tunnel.
It’s private property from here and the track
becomes very dangerous.
Inside the tunnel.
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A section of the caldera wall. Mikonia plant.

According to Eric the Tahitians have to learn two languages with French being the main one and traditional Tahitian. English, German and other languages are optional. Plenty of people getting around with tattoos but seem to be mostly on one arm or the neck. Apparently tattoos are not there for decoration. They have much more serious and symbolic reasons, not the least being to identify an individuals “totem” animal, e.g. dolphin, fish, wild boar. But it seems the young Tahitian people are slowly moving away from their culture. For example, and to Eric’s disgust his son does not want to speak Tahitian in his own home. Nor is he doing too well in school either but Eric doesn’t care too much. “Let him work in the plantations”, he says.

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A Polynesian Temple lays hidden in a
clearing beside the road. A number of “memory” stones are scattered about.
Temples like these are where Tahitians come to remember their ancestors, although no one is actually buried here.

Evening: Ta’eva from the Lodge takes me into the CBD. He shows me where the bus station is located and drops me in front of an ATM. I haven’t had a chance to draw any Polynesian Francs yet. Being a Friday night there’s plenty of activity around. Crowds of people milling around especially on Place Vaiete, a large area next to the ferries and cruising ships. Lots of food and market stalls similar to Mindil Markets in Darwin except all menus are displayed on billboards in French. It’s suddenly quite difficult to know what to order. Can only find one place that can produce a menu in English so the method of getting something to eat is to point to a billboard photo of what you want. Then you have to work out the exchange rate. However most people seem to be able to speak a little English though comprehension sometimes takes a little work.

Sat 29 Mar 2014

Walk into town fairly early. Only about 10 mins plus time looking into various shops along the way. Visit the Tourist Bureau for information about public buses on weekends. There isn’t any, at least not after about 10am on Saturday. Pretty much Mondays to Fridays only and even then it’s haphazard – they only go when they’re full up. The only way to get down to the other side of the island tomorrow is by taxi, or go on a round-island tour and get off half-way, or hitch hike.

BIG mistake arriving in Tahiti at the end of a week.

Check at the local taxi rank and arrange for a driver to come to the Ahitea Lodge about 10am and take me the 47km or so down to Taravao. Quotes me $11,000 Polynesian Francs (roughly just under $140 AUS). Actually works out better. Cost will be about the same as booking another night at this lodge plus bus ticket, and I can get the driver to go directly to the Carrafour (pron. Gafoor) Supermarket where I’m to meet skipper Andrew for the first time. At least I won’t have to lug my bag along the side of a road.

Follow a tourist trail on foot around the city taking in the sights. Have coffee. More walking. Getting hot now. Have lunch. More walking and return to Lodge. Do the washing. Take a swim in the pool. Watch a bit of TV but it’s all in French. Lose interest when a soapie comes on, though at one point there’s an unusual actress literally shaped like a barrel and only about half the height of everyone one. Peroxicide blond too.

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Ladies making haku headbands of flowers Completed haku headbands.
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Papeete market. Papeete Cathedral – Roman Catholic in gothic  style built in 1875. Survived a tidal wave in 1906,  bombing by the German Navy in 1914, cyclone in 1983  and riots in 1987.
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Queen Marau’s House. Married a Tahitian prince  and became a Queen in 1877. Marriage didn’t  last and she moved here with her 3 children to live  out her life in this modest wooden house. Street scene
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Street scene. Street scene with memorial to Tahitians who served  and died in the French Army during WW1.
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Street scene. Street scene.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Left: The Paofai Gardens has several acres along the  foreshore of Papeete Harbour. Colourful brick pathways,  green lawns, fountains and ponds with fish and water lilies,  trees and coconut palms. This is called a  fare potee – little hut.

Evening: Not quite as busy downtown as last night but almost. A band of 4 aged gentlemen sit busking, playing a variety of ukulele type instruments and sounding from a distance almost like Mexicans. Getting a little used to some of the French words and not quite so much of a problem getting a meal tonight. Very quiet in the back streets as I walk back to the Lodge. Small groups of people with children out in the street. Not so much vehicle traffic.

Ta’eva greets me back at the Lodge. Offers me a ride to Taravao for $7,000 Franks which is about $50 AUS cheaper than the taxi. Watch a movie on the laptop.

MORE TO FOLLOW

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