Currency = Central Pacific Franc, 1 GBP = 177 CPF
2/6/05 Thursday (Paul writes...yes, he's managed to wrestle the keyboard away from Rita)
By the wonders of the international date line, we arrived in Pape'ete the day before we set off from Auckland. So, from being 11 hours ahead of you lot in UK, we're now 11 behind. Oh well, we'll catch up before we get back to Old Blight in August.
We arrived late, 9pm, so headed out to a cheap (by Tahitian standards, anyway) place near the airport for our first night, but there was no room at the inn. Returned to the tourist information desk who gave us a list of recomendations, the best/cheapest of which appeared to be the Maerau (not sure of spelling) with air con room, private en-suite, only 6500 CPF a night, plus 1000CPF each for airport transfer. Very reasonable. (A little sarcasm was intended in that last sentence)
The air con turned out to be a fan, and the private bathroom was shared in between two bedrooms, we just had to lock the door to the other room whenever we wanted to use it. However, a couple from the USA arrived shortly after us and promptly took up residence of OUR bathroom for nearly two hours. Bar-stewards. It was after one in the morning before we could use it again.
3/6/05 Friday (Paul writes...)
When the morning sun rushed in through our blinds, I realised two things. 1, it was morning. 2, the blinds were quite porous to light, meaning that during the previous night, while I'd been strutting my stuff around our private room (with not so private bathroom) in the nuddy, the whole island and his dog were able to watch like it was a big screen TV. Note to myself: turn the light out before I get undressed tonight.
At this point I must correct anybody's impression of Tahiti as a paradise island with soft white sandy beaches, gently lapped by the turquoise sea, and overhung with palm trees. That's Bora Bora, or a few places on Mo'orea, or many other island in French Polynesia . Not Tahiti. Geography lesson: Tahiti is one of the Windward Islands, as is Mo'orea. The Windward Islands together with the Leeward Islands, form the Society Islands, which in turn, together with several over groups of islands, form French Polynesia. That ends todays lesson.
Tahiti island is the largest in French Polynesia, and is the business and industrial heart of the group of islands. Not that its terribly poluted, but the only pleasant sandy beaches are in private hotels and are man-made. The traffic on the island is quite heavy, especially in and arounf Papeete, the capital, and, in our experience, they don't like cyclists very much either. Despite this, we decided we would give it a chance and cycle around the island for a couple of days.
Today we spent cycling around Pape'ete, to get a feel for the place. And the feeling we got was, expensive. I suppose, in comparison to what we normally pay for anything in England, it wasnÄ‚âšĂ‚Â´t that bad, but after spending a lot of time in South East Asia (very cheap) and Australia and NZ (not so cheap) its a bit of a shock to start paying full price again. Especially when it comes to the essentials, beer and food. A small glass (about half a pint) of beer was usually 400 CPF, and main courses in the restaurants started at 1500CPF.
The town of Pape'ete, like I said before, is busy, but has little to hold the attention for too long. If its cultured black pearls youÄ‚âšĂ‚Â´re after, this is the place to be, but I managed to persuade Rita they would clash with her eyes.
After cycling most of the town, we ended up near the ferry terminal, where the roulottes gather at night. These food vans are the local equivelant of the British burger van, but on a bigger scale and possibly a little more up market. They set up tables and chairs around their van, have numerous staff working for them, and serve a wide range of food, pork roasted on a spit over an open fire, seafood, chinese, and of course, burgers and chips.
After a lovely, but rather large, plate of chow mein, we returned to our lodging, only to discover that our private bathroom, despite assurances from the owner the previous night, was once again shared.
4/6/05 Saturday (paul writes....)
Our bargain discovery of the day is that a stick of french bread is only 45 CPF. Breakfast consisted of french bread and jam (not so cheap).
The guesthouse owner's mother, Nelly, invited us to stay at her house in the South-Eastern part of the island. She asked if we had a tent, but when se said we hadn't, she said we could sleep on the floor. We planned to cycle all the way around the island, about 120KM, stopping at a couple of places on the way, so this offer fitted in well with our plans. We gratefully accepted, then thought we had better offer to pay, and asked how much. We were a little surprised to find out she wanted 6000 CPF, just to sleep on her floor, but she would provide breakfast as well- How generous! Taken a bit by surprise, we agreed to be at her play by tomorrow afternoon.
We took a couple of hours to cycle the 32km down to the hotel we had selected to stay at tonight. The ride was far from enjoyable, mostly due to dangerous driving of the 4x4 pick up trucks. I get the distinct impression they dont think we should be on the road.
The Hiti Moana Guesthouse is a wonderful little place on the south-west coast of Tahiti. It comprises the owners house, with half a dozen chalet type buildings in a verdent garden, with a small swimming pool, and a jetty into the lagoon. The cost for one night only was 10000 CPF, but this went down to 8500 if we stayed for 2 or more nights. So, without a second thought, we decided to stay for two nights here and cancel our visit with Nelly.
We brought some provisions from a supermarket a few kms up the road, and settled down to a half sunset. We were too far south to actually see the sun setting, but the colours in the sky were spectacular, and to me thats the best part of a sunset.
5/6/05 Sunday (paul writes...)
Cycled 20km down to the Gaugin museum for a look-see. He apparently came here several times, and lived and worked here for a number of years.
After cycling back in the afternoon, we borrowed a twin canoe (thats two narrow canoes joined by two poles) and paddled out into the lagoon for an hour or so. Most of the island of Tahiti is circled by a reef, ranging in distance from 50 meters to 1000 kms from the shore. The waters within the reef are very calm, with quite a few coral reefs, and is very shallow in places, but quite deep in others. This gives the waters the variations in colours you see in the postcards, from bright turqoise to deep blue. We paddled over both types of water, but when I scooped some of each colour of water up in my hands, they all turned transparent! How weird is that.
Actually, that comes from a tale we were told on the island of Roatan, off the coast of Honduras, when we were last there (name dropping again!). The story went that a group of American tourists were taken on a boat around the island, and one of them had three empty jars with her. When the captain asaked why she had the jars, she replied she wanted to take home some seawater as a momento of her holiday. Why 3 jars? Well I want some of the dark blue water from over there, some of the light blue from here, and some of that turqoise water as well!!!!!
In the lagoon we saw many small colourful fish, and a sting-ray too. Not too big, maybe 2 foot across, but great to see anyway.
Ran out of beer early in the early evening, and can you believe it, shops don't sell beer on Sundays here! We'll have to move to a more civilsed place soon.
6/6/05 Monday (paul writes...)
Cycled back into Pape'ete, did a bit of interneting, then caught the 2pm slow ferry to Mo'orea, 800CPF each plus 200CPF for the bikes. Quite a pleasnt crossing, only takes an hour and is a couple of quid cheaper than the Express that takes half an hour.
The island of Mo'orea is far quieter than Tahiti, and has a few sandy beaches as well. It can be seen from Tahiti, but always seemed to be in the shadow of clouds surrounding the peaks of the islands hills. As we approached the island, we could pick out more details and could see the lush green vegetation and the details of the hills. A very welcoming sight.
There werenĂ„âšĂ˘ÂĹˇÄ‚âšĂ‚Â´t many vehicles on our ferry, so soon after docking we were cycling off around the island, goinf in an anticlockwise direction to Cooks Bay, where we hoped to find some cheapish accomodation.
Cook's Bay is apparently a bit of a misnomer. Cook was certainly here in the 18th century, on one or two of his expeditions in around the Pacific, but here apparently moored at the next bay along, not this one. Never mind, I wont tell anyone if you dont.
The bay is a long narrow inlet surrounded by tall conicle shaped hills, rising steeply from the shoreline. It is quite a breathtaking sight when you first arrive, especially if its not too cloudy.
We stayed at the Motel Albert for 6500CPF a night for a double room with kitchen. Quite a bit more than we had planned to pay but the cheaper cabins had all been taken, and at least we had a kitchen so we could save money there.
First task was to stock up on provisions, namely beer and food and beer and water and, um, there was something else, ah yes, more beer.
Rustled up a raqther large vegetable curry, using up the last of our Clive of India curry powder we'd been carrying around since the Philippines. Not as good as a Pataks Vindaloo curry paste, but it will certainly do, especially when you've got a little extra chilli powder and some garam masala to chuck in, which we had.
Tuesday 7/6/05 (paul writes...)
Breakfast of toast and fruit, then set off to cycle around the isÄ‚âžĂ˘ÂĹˇÄ‚âšĂ‚Â±and. Mo'orea only really has one road, which circles the entire island, mostly next to the shoreline, except for a couple of hills. It was a little overcast when we set off, which we took as a blessing because it would have been fairly hot cycling up the steepest of the two hills between the aiport and the port. I had elected to go around clockwise so that we may be able to photograph the east side in the morning, with the sun on it, and by the time we got around to the west side, depending on how fast we cycled and how much we stopped, the sun would be shine on the west side as well.
Unfortunately, after about 25km, it started to rain. We sheltered under some tree for a while, and the heavy shower passed after 10 minutes. Soon after, we arrived at an interesting restaurant on a boat moored just off the shore, with a zig-zag jetty leading out to it. Checking our watches, we saw it was beer-o'clock, so popped in for a swift one, which turned out to be a longer one as it was so much cheaper (per litre) to buy a large beer than the smaller sizes.
Our timing could have been better, for all the time we were on the boat, the weather was dry. But 5 minutes after setting off again, the skies opened up again and caught us in open area with no shelter. We had out waterproofs with us, but there's no point wearing them in this climate while you're cycling because it just makes you sweat so much. (Too much detail? Sorry)
So, having got quite wet within a few minutes, we thought we might as well carry on. It wasn't as if it was cold.
After another hour or so, and another refreshment break, we arrived back at Motel Albert, more than a little wet.
Rita's turn to cook dinner, mashed potatoes (hurrah!) with onion gravy and loadsa veggies (hurrah!) DidnĂ„âšĂ˘ÂĹˇÄ‚âšĂ‚Â´t fancy the look of any of the meat at the local shop, so kept to veggies.
Wednesday 8/6/05 (Paul writes...)
Mo'orea is supposed to be quite bad for mosquitos, so even though our patio area in front of our room was protected by a mesh screen, we had taken the precaution of burning a mosquito coil, but stopped short of getting out our mosquito net.
However, I woke up this morning (thats a cue for song) to find most of my upper body covered in large itchy bites. I was quite surprised as I hadnÄ‚âšĂ‚Â´t heard or seen a mosquito all night, and Rita didnÄ‚âšĂ‚Â´t appear to have any, either.
Finished off the leftovers from last nights dinner for breakfast, then slowly (there was quite a lot left) cycled the 12km to the port, going espcially slowly up the steep hill after the airport. The advantage of this hill is that it gives you a fantastic view of the stretch of water between Mo'orea and Tahiti, with the (apparently) differently coloured sections of water spreading out before you, like you've seen in so many picture postcards.
Arrived in good time for 1230 ferry, which, by a remarkable coincidence, cost the same as the outward ferry.
Back in Pape'ete, we cycled around the town for a while and also did some email and website stuff. I also managed to upload some driver software onto Rita's PDA so she could start using her portable keyboard with the PDA again, something she hasn't been able to do for a month or two.
Returned to the roulottes on the sea fron at 6pm for a final chicken chowmein, which was not nearly so good as the first one. I often find that when you go to a restaurant and have a fabulous meal, if you return subsequently and try to re-create that night again, it never works. It's better to go with very low expectations, then you can only be pleased, and if you're not you certainly shouldnÄ‚âšĂ‚Â´t go back again. That ends todays lesson.
Sometime later we cycled the 7km out to Faaa airport. Its a strange name, Faaa, it pronounced Fa-a-a, as if you've got a little stutter, although it looks like it should be an acronym. Maybe - Federal Airport Abusing Albatrosses. Does that work got you? No, I know what you're going to say, albatrosses dont come this far north.
Faaa airport is not a terribly busy place. They only seem to have one plane coming or going at any one time, and all the international flights arrive overnight. We arrived at 730pm for our 1230am flight to Easter Island, but they were only checking in passengers for the 10pm flight to Los Angeles. It was only after the 10pm flight had departed that started to let us book in.
Once through to the departure lounge, there was little to occupy us except an expensive bar and some even more expensive shops, so Rita used up the remaining credit on her expensive phone card talking briefly to family back in England.
Easter Island watch out, we're on our way!