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Tahiti and Moorea

The Start

February. We're just back from Melbourne. And as anyone who knows me knows, I don't like being in a 'no holiday booked' situation. So as we were on an economy drive due to having spent too much on alpacas, there I was on the Air New Zealand website, looking for cheap flights to Samoa.

And what should pop up, but some really reasonably priced flights to Tahiti! 'Much more exciting', says Art, 'Book it'. So I did. 10 days away from the Auckland winter - bliss!

'So - where are we going to stay? I hear it's expensive'. Now he tells me. I hit www.travel.com then my favourite cheap hotel websites - www.hotels.com and www.wotif.com, and discover a new one www.bookings.com.

'We land at midnight on the 24th so how about a couple of nights in Papeete, then off to one of the islands'? Sounds like a plan. We settled on 4 nights at the Radisson Plaza in Papeete (as 4 nights was cheaper on www.hotels.com), then took www.tripadvisor.com 's recommendation and booked in at www.marksplacemoorea.com on the nearby island of Moorea. Finally back to Tahiti and www.pensiondelaplage.com on the west coast.

Final consideration was travel when we got there. Another search online for car hire turned up a cheap deal with Hertz in Papeete - a 'cheap as chips' micro car with very expensive (44 XPF) additional kilometers. Even so, we went with it as it allowed us to use it as a run-around to get us from the airport to the hotel without having to find a taxi, and to the local supermarket, restaurants etc.

Getting to Moorea was easy. There are regular ferries that take round 35-40 minutes. You just turn up, pay your fare, and away you go. Mark arranged to meet us from the ferry.

All sorted…

The month Before

As you may have noticed from other pages of our online diary, we now have a number of alpacas. Normally this is not a problem, as Dick from down the road would call in to feed them, and Caroline from www.paqocha.co.nz would be there for emergencies. Unfortunately our emergencies started a month before we were due to go. Massive worm problems - so big, that we lost one of our beautiful girls. And one of the others was so ill, it was looking like we were going to lose her too. She see-sawed between life and death, and we could not find the best treatment for her. Nothing seemed to be working. I was very stressed, and feeling extremely useless.

We left for our holiday having discussed a second blood transfusion for our girl, and leaving her in Caroline & Dick's capable and much more experienced hands. I did not expect to see her alive when we arrived home.

Day 0 - Traveling

Friday 24th August

We arrived at Auckland airport feeling drained with the emotion and stress of leaving such an ill alpaca. And we knew we were stressed, because we were bickering - which is very unlike us. Time for one of the perks of having a 'Flying Kiwi' gold credit card from Kiwibank - vouchers for entry into the Koru Club lounge. That first glass of wine signalled the start of the holiday. I tried to switch off to what was going on back home.

Our flight was scheduled for 17:00 on 24th August, landing at 00:05 on 24th Auguat. Yes - we were going back in time. Or more precisely, over the International Dateline. (PS this needs careful planning when booking hotels - we had to book our first night for Thursday 23rd so that it was ready to move into when we arrived). First problem - the incoming flight was late in, meaning we were late out. The flight was only 4 hrs 30 mins though - so not huge issue.

We arrived to a sleepy but very nice lady at the Hertz Rental desk. She handed over the keys to a small brand new Hyundai i10. Basic, but perfect for what we wanted. The back seats folded down so we could stow the cases, and best of all - it had air conditioning. With a map with the hotel marked in pen, and warnings about making sure we drove on the right hand side of the we were off.

And I was very glad that it was (by now) 1:30 in the morning, and there was no traffic about. We took the main road through town, to the roundabout that the lady had marked on the map. No hotel! It can't be difficult to miss a hotel the size of the Raddison, we thought. We drove up and down a couple of times. Nope. Next roundabout up? Nope.

We drove back to a 24 hour petrol station we'd spotted. 'Ah yes - 6 roundabouts further'. Six! The lady was six roundabouts out! No wonder we couldn't find it! We drove on, and eventually found the right roundabout. By 3:00 we were in our bed and asleep.

First day in Tahiti

Friday 24th August (again)

Groundhog day. And due to a lack of a 'Do not disturb' sign in the room (we did look) the maid woke us up at 8:00. Not Amused.

But the room is more than we expected. We have a suite on two floors - lounge and balcony below, bedroom & en suite above. Very comfortable. I will say, though, that as it's a Radisson I was expecting it to be good. The hotel was apparently built in 2004, but to me felt older. It's not spectacularly luxurious - everything seems a bit tired. Even the toiletries and towels in the room are not quite the quality of other Radissons I've been in - and I can say this from direct knowledge, as it just so happens I 'borrowed' them from the last Radisson and brought them with us! Also the fridge doesn't really work that well, and of course there's no kitchenette so self-catering is a bit limited. Art says I'm being picky - but that's the way I see it.

I'd had the foresight to grab some bread, milk and ham from the petrol station where we'd asked directions, so breakfast was a very pleasant affair on the balcony. We'd printed off some tours we were interested in, but as we didn't have any internet connection we headed for the tour desk. 'Why' I hear you ask, 'You have a hire car'. Well generally we have found that you lear more from a local guide than trying to follow a map and a guide book. And we wanted to go into the interior of the island, which would mean a 4×4 and not our pipsqueak little Hyundai i10.

View from room

The lady on the tourdesk sorted out the interior trip for the next day. The price was more than on the Internet ('The price is out of date') and we had to have the one that included lunch (such a waste - Art never eats it - we'd rather have a discount and take our own) but - hey - that's life.

Then she said 'There's a half day round-island trip going this afternoon'. Ideal. That would fill up the remainder of the day, and we'd get an overview of the Island.

Lighthouse at Point Venus, designed by Robert Louis Stephens father

We were picked up by a Hawaiian called Dave. He reminded me of Magnum without the moustache - a nice guy. He'd come out 23 years before for the surfing, fallen for a local beauty, and never left. He made the trip, pointing out lots of things along the way. In one village a house had burned down overnight. Apparently there was a dispute in the extended family over who could build where - and family justice was being imposed.

Sunset at Point Venus

Point Venus was the spot James Cook used for timing the transit of Venus in 1759, it was also used in the Mel Gibson version of Mutiny on the Bounty, although the film crew imported white sand as all of Tahiti Nui is black volcanic sand

That evening we took the car to the local supermarket and stocked up with cold meats, cheese triangles ('La Vache qui Rit'/'The Laughing Cow'/'Cow Cheese' (as known in our house by the kids as toddlers)), tomatoes and hamburger rolls (tip - baguette is lovely when fresh but hamburger rolls stay soft for longer). Then we tried out the roulottes - these are roadside vans that sell a mixture of foods, but are in effect posh hamburger bars. We went for steak and chips, an chicken with rice. Very nice, but if you don't like rare steak, don't forget to ask for it to be cooked for longer. Even then, the French influence means it will still be pink in the middle. The standard price seems to be around 1,000 XPF - which seems expensive (that's about $15 NZD) until you try and eat in a 'normal' restaurant.

One advantage of staying in a Radisson is a large comfortable bed - I slept like a top.

Day 2 in Tahiti

Saturday 25th August

We are off into the interior, up to the crater, in a 4×4 safari run by www.tahititours.com. Pick up was supposed to be at 9:30, so by 9:50 I was getting a tad impatient. Eventually a very French Tahitian turned up with a safari-type truck where everyone sits on benchseats along the side. Good to see that nowadays there are lap belts to stop you bouncing around too much. There were 8 of us on the trip - 4 French speaking, and 4 English speaking. Our guide could certainly talk - unfortunately most of it was in French. I could see the other New Zealand lady getting quite wound up about it (makes a change for it not to be me!). When he did talk in English, he didn't really say very much. We travelled inland on a concrete road, stopping at various points for our guide to show us things. One of the sad things is how many introduced plants there are on the island, which are taking over. Our ancestors have a lot to answer for.

As expected, the lunch was not worth it. There was no choice, it consisted of a plate of raw fish salad (apparently a Tahitian delicacy) and a chicken & spinache something-or-other with rice. Fortunately the lunch was saved by a shared bottle of Burgundy with the other New Zealand couple.

Arriving back late after bumping about on a truck all day, we didn't really fancy heading out as planned for dinner, so ended up on the balcony again eating brushetta with cow cheese, tomato and salami. All washed dow with Duty Free Baileys & brandy & coke.

Day 3 in Tahiti

Sunday 26th August

Everyone had warned us that Tahiti closes on a Sunday. They were right. We planned to head into Papeete for brunch, then take a walk around ('There will be cafes open, surely') FYI, there is a market that is shut by 9:00, a bar ('Les 3 Brasseurs') and a cafe ('Le Retro') open. Most supermarkets are open until 12 noon. The ferry doesn't run. Papeete is like a ghost town, populated by the odd bemused tourist wheeling wheely cases round looking for some life.

We had a very expensive hamburger & chips in 'Le Retro' - we'd thought to eat outside of the hotel to save money, but it was actually more expensive. But Art was happy as they were playing old British and American music.

(Tip - cheapest place to eat is McDonalds - a 'Bearnaise Burger' was 280 XPF. We were tempted)

The rest of the day was spent back at the hotel, in armchairs around the swimming pool. I think there were a number of locals there too, with their families - it's obviously a standard Sunday outing.

That evening we decided to try the hotel restaurant. And very good it was. Not the cheapest of evenings, but as we'd noticed, eating out anywhere in Tahiti (even the local 'roulottes') is not cheap.

Day 4 - Tahiti to Moorea

Monday 27th August

We'd arranged to take the 12 noon ferry to Moorea, so that Mark (from 'Marks Place') could meet us. We packed, loaded everything in the car, paid the hotell bill (ouch!) and headed into Papeete at about 10:15. The traffic was worse than our last 2 trips (not unexpected, considering the day and time), but manageable. I'm glad it hadn't been my first experience of Papeete traffic though. We found the Hertz office on Rue Des Remparts, and the girl in the office very kindly dropped us off at the ferry terminal.

There are a number of ferries from Tahiti to Moorea. These seem to be quite modern and fast, and stagger their departures during the day. However, there are more than one ferry company, and tickets bought for one won't work on another one. There are two 'Artemis' ferries, and a new one called 'Terevau'. 'Terevau' goes at about 11:30 am, Artemis 5 goes at about 12 noon. When you turn up as a tourist I haven't the foggiest how you know which one to go and buy your ticket at. We ended up on Artemis 5 then watched Terevau steaming out of port.

One good thing about the ferry terminal - it is very modern, and has a good and reasonably priced cafe in it.

As promised, Mark met us at the ferry. He's a lovely amiable American, who got off on the right foot with me right way by stopping (in spite of Art's protestations) at the local supermarket so I could stock up with supplies. This was a god-send, as there are very few stores within walking or even cycling distance from Marks Place.

We'd booked into a garden room, which Mark showed to us - and very nice it was too. Then he offered us an upgrade. No choice! I am currently sitting typing this in a lovely large bungalow, with a separate bedroom, lounge/diner/kitchen, patio to the front and back, and a mesh-covered 'conservatory' where you can sit in the evening with a cool breeze and no insects! Dinner was chilli con carne, and tomorrows dinner will be steak on the barbecue. There are a couple of 'roulottes' across the road, and a Tahitian pizza place down the road. Could be interesting…

We also went for a bicycle ride. A very short one. I think I need to build up my stamina a bit….

Oh and Mark arranged a mornings diving for us at www.fundive.com. A 7:40 pick-up tomorrow morning…

Day 5 - Moorea

We were picked up for our diving, and driven the short distance to Moorea Fun Dive. Our driver was the co-owner with her husband, but as we discovered from her, it's not easy being not French in a French protectorate. She is Swiss, and a qualified PADI scuba diving instructor. But she is not allowed to take any divers out at all commercially because she doesn't have a specific French qualification. And to get that qualification you have to go back to college (in France) and take a whole sports course (not just scuba diving). To add salt into the wounds, even though she is co-owner of the dive centre with her husband, until she became a French citizen she wasn't allowed to be paid a salary. And now she is, she's allowed to be his secretary. I stress, she's a joint owner. So in effect, unless you are French it is virtually impossible to work in the Scuba diving industry in French Polynesia. Talk about job rotection. I'm afraid the more I hear about French standards the less I like them.

Anyway - back to the dive. This was off the North-West point of the island, between the reef and the island, in 'Lemon Shark Alley'. The coral was in poor condition, but I can't fault the fish life. Apart from a high volume of small, medium and on-the-large-size fish (and a good selection of them too) we saw at very close range a large turtle chomping merrily away on the coral, multitudes of black-tipped sharks (real cuties - about 1m in length) and three Lemon Sharks. Now I've never heard of these - but they were between 2.5 & 3.5 metres in length, and each came with a couple of Ramora (their own personal vacuum cleaners) and a shoal of bright yellow pilot fish just under their chins. They swum round and through our group for about 30 minutes - very cool.

Unfortunately we don't have any photos as in the process of moving house I appear to have mislaid a number of things, including my dive computer, prescription lense dive mask and my underwater camera. When I find one, I'll find them all, no doubt. (So - Lee - that photo on Facebook wasn't mine!)

We decided to stick with just one dive, and headed back to the room. Our intention was to get two scooters and tour the island - but the heavens opened. We decided that a small hire car was probably more comfortable and safer. Mark did the honours and arranged a car with Avis.

So we booked the car for the next 3 days, then spent this afternoon touring round the island sussing it out for future trips.

We've decided we like this island. It's much quieter than Tahiti, and has no 'big town' to talk of at all.

And as it is now tipping it down with rain (there's a reason it's green here) we're going to have the steak with some soft, fresh baguette and salad from the Champion supermarket. (PS I can understand why they eat so much baguette - at 48 XPF that's the equivalent of 75 NZ cents. )

Day 6 - Moorea

The weather overnight has been very blustery, with torrential downpours. This morning, it's still overcast, with the threat of more rain. I'm very glad we went for the car and not the scooters.

We've decided that Moorea is a place where nothing gets done fast. In addition, there's not a huge amount of activities, and what there are, are generally expensive. These include 4×4 safaris and quad bike trips into the interior, scuba diving (of course) and boat trips of various types around the island. Things to do for free are relaxing and swimming on pristine white sandy beaches, borrowing the bicycles and kayaks from Marks Place (probably not free at other establishments), driving round the island in our rental car taking photos (well, free apart from the car hire), and driving up to the Belverere viewpoint.

Bearing in mind the weather, we headed for the Belvedere viewpoint.

The weather made the view very dramatic - with its swirling clouds and black skies hiding many of the peaks, with a tantalising peep of blue sky showing beyond the clouds, it reminded me of a movie set for 'Jurassic Park' or 'The Lost World'. You expected a Tyrannosaurus to pop out from behind a fern at every turn. A group on quad bikes, all clad in red raincoats, made it to the top car park with us. Not the best day for such a tour, especially as we knew they were heading further inland. We stayed around until they had carried on, then headed back down.

There are two free things to do on the way down. The first is a visit to the ancient Tahitian marae (yes - spelled the same as the Maori). But we plan to do that another day.

Second is to visit the 'Lycee Professionell Agricole' (School of Professional Agriculture). There's a kiosk for the tourists where you can do jam tastings and buy drinks and the jams etc (tourist prices - I bet the guys studying there pay less in their canteen), but the other thing you can do is take a walk around their grounds. Ask at the kiosk about the walk - for a deposit of your car keys they will give you a map, and fact sheets about all the plants you'll find along the route. It's in French though so brush off that phrasebook. It's a very pleasant walk though, albeit a bit muddy on the day we went.

After that we decided to head out for lunch.

We've decided that we're going to have one meal a day 'out', and eat the rest back at the room. Eating out is not cheap, but we've decided on Moorea to make it one of our 'entertainments' of the day.

Today we are heading for a beachside restaurant at a hotel that has been recommended to us - 'Les Tipaniers'. There are actually two restaurants - one on the beach for breakfast and lunch, and one by the road for evening meals. Les Tipianers is also a hotel. It doesn't have a swimming pool, but with grounds that open directly onto the white sands and a beautiful sheltered and shallow lagoon-type sea, who needs one? There are also boats to hire, and a number of the boat trips appear to pick up and drop off here too. We had quick peep into one of the rooms, and they look basic, but comfortable.

This North-East part of the island seems to be the best for hotels and restaurants - it would be possible to walk quite comfortably along, choosing where to eat. There are a few shops too. However, it is not crowded like on Tahiti. In fact there is no big residential or commercial area on Moorea at all.

Anyway - back to 'Les Tipaniers Beachside Restaurant'. The view from the restaurant is lovely - blue seas, palm trees and an island with white sand and palmm trees in the distance. There's a good menu, with some (relatively) cheap options like hamburgers, and some more expensive items such as steak. Interestingly, no pizza, which we know they do in the roadside restaurant in the evening. I'd have thought it was an obvious choice for lunch. Art decided on a mid-priced Chicken & Prawn Kebab with rice & a mild (and very delicious) curry sauce, and I went for 'Mokimoki', the fish of the day, in a lemon sauce with french fries, all washed down with a demi-litre of house rose wine. Both were cooked over charcoal, and both were delicious. The fish was like a very tender chicken, and did not smell or taste 'fishy' at all - I think because it was so fresh. We finished up by moving out to a comfortable chair on the deck, with a home-made ice cream, where we stayed for the afternoon.

Then back to the bungalow for a snooze, then the leftover chilli & rice with baguette for dinner. What a busy life.

We also made a momentous decision. We're supposed to be going back to Tahiti on Friday for two days befor we fly home - but we'd rather stay here. The bungalow is lovely and spacious, and we've discovered that one of the ferries (Aremiti 5) does run on a Sunday. As it's such a short journey and the boat is quite modern, there is very little chance of it being cancelled due to bad weather (always my concern), and the timing is such that we can take the 2:40 pm ferry back then a bus straight to the airport in good time for our flight. Also take into account that Marks Place is cheaper than where we're moving to, we'd have to pay for a taxi there and back to the new hotel, and we really can't be bothered to pack, unpack, then repack again - I'm happy staying here in our little corner of tranquillity with my borrowed dog and my comfortable chair. Fortunately, although I feel guilty doing it at such short notice, we can cancel the Tahitian room without penalty.

Day 7 - Moorea

This morning we're diving again. Art was 'nesh' (an English Midlands term for 'feels the cold') on the last dive, so has come along with two rash shirts to go under his wet suit. Then he borrowed a shorty to go over it as well. We went back to Lemon Shark Alley - not ideal - I'd have preferred to do something different. But it was very good for sealife again. The lemon sharks came up almost straight away. But I spent the dive looking at everything else - there really is a huge variety of fish on this dive. My favourites are the sling-jawed wrasse, a beautiful little box puffer fish (so cute!) and a large octopus who hung on the bottom of rock and blinked at us. There are so many black-tipped sharks too. As we swum to the surface I counted over 6 in view. There must be so many of them in that area.

After returning to the local quay for air refills and hot sweet tea and bananas we headed further off shore, beyond the reef.

When we arrived, Art decided he didn't want to dive - he was still feeling the cold! The second dive was similar - the reef is generally not healthy. However there are definite signs of coral re-growth which is a good sign. One interesting thing to watch was our dive leader. He was always surrounded by fish. Apparently his secret is to make knocking & clapping sounds, and they flock round him. It's quite a sight.

We returned home, and spent a very lazy afternoon at the bungalow. So this is a good point to give you a better overview of Marks Place, Moorea (www.marksplacemoorea.com).

Marks Place is on the south-west side of the island, in a village called Haapiti. It is not on the beach side of the road, but a short way down a dirt road next to the Catholic church on the land side. The local village is s short walk/bike ride away - however there isn't a lot there. There's a shop which isn't open all the time (it seems to close in the afternoon, opening later in the evening) and a 'Roulotte' van in the evening (which we haven't tried). Just down the road (too long for a walk) is a pizza place - very local, not posh, but apparently it makes 'interesting Tahitian pizzas'. So it pays to stock up at the Champion supermarkeet when you get off the ferry as your optiins are a tad limited.

At the moment we are the only people booked in - bad for Mark, good for us. The lovely thing about the place is its seclusion & homeliness. That's not to say that there are no other buildings around - but the grounds themselves are surrounded by hedges and trees, and the noise from next door consists of children playing and chickens and roosters. Not bad. Mark has bicycles and kayaks available too. He will also pick you up from the ferry, call in at Champion and wait for you, and arrange for anything you want - he arranged our diving, and the rental car (which we got for a discount price because we booked it through him).

We were originally booked in to a garden room, which was very comfortable but quite small. But (probably because we're the only ones here!) Mark showed us the bungalow that we're in, and asked us if we wanted to upgrade. We jumped at it - it's a lovely bungalow, which would be more than big enough for a couple to live in on a long-term basis. It has a double bedroom, bathroom with washing machine (and desk - v. peculiar!), a large lounge/dining/kitchen (with two electric hob rings, microwave, rice cooker, kettle & toaster) and a conservatory which is surrounded by mesh where you can sit in the evening without being annoyed by insects. Plus it comes with Chocolat the dog. It does not, however, come with coffee & tea - so buy some at Champion on your way past.

Mark is a furniture maker, and has made all his bungalows. This shows, as they are all well made, with good internal furniture, and many homely touches such as reading books, radio, television, wooden ornaments and pictures.

All in all, we think it's excellent value for money here, and have booked to spend an additional 2 days here rather than go back to the main island of Tahiti.

Day 8 - Moorea

Just a quick update on yesterday evening - we'd gone out to try and eat in the 'Mayflower' restaurant, which had been recommended to us. But it was full! So we are booked in to eat there on Saturday night. So we went back to 'Les Tipanoiers' and tried their evening menu. Art had duck, and I went for a pizza. Both were good, and the prices of things that were also on the lunchtime menu had not been increased in price.

Anyway - back to today. The weather was good - no rain! We decided to leave on an anticlockwise direction around the island and make it a photographic day. Art was suffering with insect bites. The antihistamine tablets I had with me were making him sleepy, but didn't seem to be having the desired effect on the bites. So we needed a pharmacist. I was going to stop at 'Champion' to see what was in their medicine aisle, but he insisted we needed a 'proper pharmacy' - a bit of a problem as there are only two and both were on the other side of the island. We'd stop at one when we drove past it.

We had a few photographic stops along the way, then came to the viewpoint to the south-east of the island, looking over the Sofitel hotel. Now there's a hotel I'd like to stay at. There were water bungalows extending into a beautiful turquoise lagoon. Golf carts could ferry you along the jetties. Even the pedal boats looked up-market! We stayed and savored the cool breeze for a while.

Sofitel Hotel and tahiti Nui

Then we headed off and took the first road on the right, down to Temae beach. This is a public beach, and appears to be a popular place for local people to drive to with their lunchtime sandwiches. We carried on, down the dirt road that runs along the seaward side of the small airport. There are a row of properties bordering the sea here, including a couple of pensions & small hotels. We stopped at one called 'XXXX' for coffee, and (even though it was too early for lunch) a quick look at the menu. This was interesting - the place was run by a Chinese lady, and the menu had more than half Chinese fare on it. The bungalows were beautifully kept (in stark contrast to the surrounding resorts, which looked deserted). There were four bungalows that had 2 bedrooms (and could sleep up to 6), and one smaller one. I think it would be a great place for a family to stay, as the airport had very few flights and the beach was deserted.

In fact this is a sad thing in French Polynesia. Since the recession, tourism has slumped by over 30%. Flights from Europe have in some cases more than doubled in price, and their traditional market from France are visiting closer to home. Tourist service companies (such as our dive resort and Marks) are really struggling. Up until today. we've been the only visitors at Marks - such a shame.

A few more photo opportunities and it was time to stop for lunch. We went traditional Tahitian (yeah, right!) and stopped at the Canadian Burger House. Art went for the Cheese and Bacon Burger, and I went for the Pouton. Delish!

We still hadn't found a pharmacist - but there was one just down the road. Only one problem. We got there at 1:30 - and it was closed between 12 & 2 for lunch. Ah well - we could hang around for another halg hour. Art insisted we continue.

A bit further round is another very sad sight - the most wonderful old hotel, which is completely deserted apart from a snack roulotte in the car park. This hotel really ought to be used in a film set. I felt like going into the grounds and exploring - I'm sure there would have been a few ghosts there.

We were aiming for the 'Belvedere' viewpoint again (surely we'd get one clear day for a photo!) so took the 'Route des Ananas' (the pineapple route) which cut inland. A mistake in a small rental car. It soon turned into an extremely badly maintained dirt track. Plus we think we missed a turning. At the point where we appeared to be heading down into a valley (and we were expecting to climb) we turned back.

And so back to the tarmacked track up to the Belvedere. By the agricultural college we passed a group of women out for a walk. Further up the road is a car park for the Opunohu Valley, and the 'Marae Titiroa', an archaeological site of Polynesian temples. There is a board in the car park that shows a circular path. Art wasn't in a walking mood (the antihistamines were still having an effect) so I decided to walk the route by nyself. And a lovely walk it is too - in the forest and very shaded and cool. The path is well marked too. Only one problem - it isn't circular. I kept on heading down. About the point where I met the group of ladies from the college coming up, I decided that maybe I'd better turn round and retrace my steps! And of course it was all up hill. So that was my exercise for the day.

By the time I arrived back at the car, Art was getting tetchy. He'd woken up a bit, but mainly because the antihistamine was wearing off. He needed that insect cream! Hopefully the one on the homeward journey would still be open. Thank goodness It is! So one tube of hydrocortisone cream later he was looking a bit happier.

So we're back at the room now, and it's time to cook our dinner. Fresh New Zealand steak in Baguette with salad - what else!

I usually get a few bites on holiday, but nothing on this scale. I feel I being eaten alive one bite at a time. I cannot pin it down to any one area, I have bitten in our bungalow, in restaurants, in the car, in fact no where is safe. Worst thing is that no one else seems to be affected!!

Day 9 - Moorea - Final full day

Today I left Art sleeping in bed and went diving without him.

And this is a good point to drop a couple of not so subtle hints to 'Fun Dive Moorea' about a couple of things I think they should consider changing. Don't get me wrong - it's a lovely couple that run it, and they're having a hard time of it (probably because of the downturn in tourists) but there are a couple of things that could bring more people in.

First the name - 'Fun Dive' - immediately puts off a lot of serious divers. They want interesting, & maybe the option of a couple of more difficult dives. 'Fun dive' says you'll get easy, shallow & pretty fish. And in fact that's what you do get.

Second - I know the reef is in poor condition following the hurricane a couple of years ago (and there's not a lot that can be done about that) but if possible, a dive shop should try and take divers to different places. Art dived twice - both times at Lemon Shark Alley. I dived 5 times - and 3 of those dives were at Lemon Shark Alley. And the last dive was pretty damned similar.

Although the fish, sharks & turtle on this dive site were great, there was no new coral growth to talk of (there are other dive sites where there are), and I was getting a tad tired of lemon sharks by the end of dive 5. We never got to see any stingrays, which I understand can be found on other dive sites (but not on the ones where we were).

So, mainly for the lack of variation in dive site, I really can't recommend them.

I was feeling hungry by this point, and quite fancied a hamburger for lunch. So I rushed back to take Art out for lunch. We headed north towards the 'Hibiscus Hotel Beach bar & Restaurant', but never quite made it. Art spotted the large Tahitian statue before another restaurant and said 'Let's stop here'. The owner was a jovial Frenchman who was chuffed that he'd just received an award from 'Trip Advisor. And the food was very good. However, they didn't do burgers or anything similar. The cheapest meal was 2,000 XPF. I ended up with Mahi Mahi in a ginger sauce and a beer, and Art had a fresh pineapple juice and a glass of wine. 4,000 XPF. Ouch. Also, they do not accept credit cards! Bearing in mind the size of the bill, this could have been very unfortunate (not to say embarrassing). Fortunately we scraped together the required cash between us, and Art did not need to do the washing up. One great thing while we were sitting there - we say whales over by the reef.

Then it was back to the room for an afternoon nap, before our last meal of the holiday.

We'd tried to visit 'The Mayflower Restaurant' by the Hibiscus Hotel on a local's recommendation earlier in the week - but it was fully booked. So we booked for the Saturday evening. It was obviously the 'in place' for the local French population to go - most of the clientele were local families, who greeted each other like lost friends. Even the owner of the restaurant we'd been to at lunchtime was there - quite a recommendation. There was an extensive wine list - but the wine was very expensive.

I fancied the lasagne, and Art went for fillet steak in a peppercorn sauce with dauphinoise potatoes. They were both delicious. However, I don't think the French know the meaning of the word 'well done'. Art doesn't like blood in his steak, and this one still had a pint and a half in its veins. Nevertheless, a lovely restaurant with some superb food on the menu.

Day 10 - travel day

Today we woke up to sweltering hot weather - really quite uncomfortable. We packed, fed the remainder of the left-over chicken to Chocolate the dog, and paid the bill.

As the ferry was at 2:40 pm, and all we needed to do was drop the rental car off at the Avis ferry office, we had plenty of time to do a final tour of the island. I wanted to find a bar on the beach, but Art didn't want to leave the car with all the luggage out of our sight. Mark had recommended one which would have been ideal - except it was Sunday, and closed. So we drove round until we spotted one that was open - 'Fifi's Cafe'. And found the cheapest place to eat yet. A large cheese and ham panini (which was big enough for 2 of us) was just 350 XPF. Bargain! She did a good cappuchino and a litre bottle of sparkling apple juice for a good price too. We ate at her tables, but I wish we'd jumped in the car and driven another 5 minutes down the road. There is a long public beach, with good parking on the road and picnic tables. It would have been ideal.

We carried on round to the viewpoint above the Sofitel and took in the last of the scenery. It was still sweltering, but you could see dark clouds and rain over Papeete, and the west side of Moorea. At 1 o'clock we trundled on down to the Avis car rental, handed the car over, and wheeled our cases towards the ferry terminal. When we were nearly across the road the heavens opened! We just made it to the covered walkway with a few large sploshes of rain on us. Others who were following were not so lucky.

It rained and rained for the next hour and a half, while we were waiting for the ferry to let on passengers. It was very entertaining seeing the people arriving with some very flimsy rain protection. One guy on a scooter (dressed in jeans and a white shirt) looked like a drowned rat. It was a fitting way to leave Moorea, and Tahiti.

Unfortunately the rain followed us. It was raining just as hard when e landed at Auckland!

Tahitian vs Maori

As we now live in New Zealand, we've picked up a few Maori words, and of course understand a bit of the culture. Tahitian and Maori cultures and language seem very similar, which of course they would be, as both are Polynesian.

Both have 'Marae' - meeting places. The difference is, in New Zeland these are usually wooden structures while in Tahiti the historical structures are stone.

The languages have more than a passing similarity.

Here are some examples:

English Maori Tahitian
Goodbye Haere Mai Haere
Hello Kia Ora ia orana
Forbidden Tapu Tabu
Man Tane Tane
Woman Wahine Vahine
Canoe Waka Vaka

Bougainvillea The flower 'Bougainvillia' is named after the French captain 'Louis Antoine de Bougainville' who landed on Tahiti in 1768. Unfortunately he was a year too late, as, unknown to Bougainville, Captain Samuel Wallis had landed there the year before and claimed it for the British.

Bougainvillia

Another item of note from his journey - he carried the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. A youth called 'Bonnefoy' was on board to help the resident botanist (who also named the plant after his captain). Apparently the crew thought he was a tad unusual. The Tahitians knew he was. It turned out 'He' was a 'She' called Jeanne Baret! She also had a plant named after her in Mauritius - 'Barentia', a plant with flowers of cryptic sexuality. (source - 'Moon Handbooks - Tahiti)

Summary

This is the fourth 'South Pacific Island' we've visited, and - dare I say it? - there are very few differences between them. Papeete reminded me of Port Vilar in Vanuatu. Tahiti is a tidier Tongatapu (the main island of Tonga). Moorea is like Rarotonga. Each has a similar culture (and for the Polynesian islands, language - replace the Maori 'W' with a 'Tahitian 'V') and land. Vanuatu and Tahiti are very French. Most are extinct worn down volcanoes surrounded by reefs. Many have introduced plants that are taking over the island. All are very beautiful, and usually with the exception of the main town, very relaxed and run on 'Island Time'. We were warned that Tahitians can be unfriendly - we have not found that at all. Without exception they have been friendly and helpful.

We still intend to visit Samoa, but my guess is that it will be very similar.

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