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The nice thing about the trip we're doing is that from time to time you meet people who are going the other way and are happy to recommend places to stay and things to do in the countries you are heading for. Tahiti was no exception. Whilst on Easter Island we had chatted to a French couple who had recently arrived fro Tahiti and another Frenchman who lived there but was travelling a bit. They both said the same thing; go to Moorea.
Tahiti is just one of the islands in French Polynesia. Bora Bora, a popular and expensive holiday destination, is another. People tend to refer to the whole lot as Tahiti partly because it's easier than saying French Polynesia and partly because Tahiti (the island) is more or less the biggest island, contains the capital of French Polynesia (Papeete) and has the biggest airport. Tahiti is a French colony and French is the language here although some of the accents are odd. English is also fairly widely spoken. (This came as relief to us as we've been in Spanish speaking territory for nearly two months and every time we try French it comes out as Spanish.) The bonus of being a French colony is that EU citizens can walk through immigration much quicker than everyone else can. It is also a lot easier for an EU citizen to move to Tahiti. Other foreign nationals apparently have to prove that they have a skill that a Tahiti native does not in order get a job here. Apparently the Americans aren't too pleased about that! One thing I hadn't remembered about Tahiti until I was flicking through our guidebook just now was that the French conducted nuclear tests here as recently as 1996. I can remember the news stories about it now. Fortunately the tests were carried out some 720 miles away so it's unlikely that any mutant fish have come this far.
Our flight from Easter Island arrived at about 10:30 local time (4 hours behind Easter Island) and we quickly retrieved our luggage and changed some money. The currency here is the French Pacific Franc (CFP) and the notes are quite large and very colourful. There are about 100 CFP to $1 which makes for relatively easy conversion. The fun thing about Tahiti (compared to say Chile) though is how far you get for your money. It's actually a bit of a shock to the system, even if you're expecting it. Our three minute taxi ride to Easter Island airport (including a few bits of the taxi scraping and clunking along the uneven ground) cost $1.50. A five minute journey into central Papeete from the airport cost $27. Food, restaurants, wine and internet access are all comparatively expensive too. But we knew it would be expensive so I'm not actually complaining.
Our first night we spent in a Hostel in Papeete and we left quite early the following day to find the Air New Zealand office and a ferry to Moorea. Courtesy of a handy city plan, both were easily achieved. We had planned to spend about a week in Tahiti originally but we decided that we ought to be a bit careful as it was quite expensive and so we brought our flight to New Zealand forward by a couple of days. The ferry to Moorea took about an hour and was pretty uneventful. Moorea itself is much, much smaller than Tahiti. The main coastal road that follows the entire circumference of the island is about 37 miles long. The hotel we planned on staying at was located on the far side of the island. To get there we would need the services of les trucks our guidebook told us. A truck in this case turned out to be a medium sized lorry that had been converted into a bus. Passengers squeeze into the back and ring a bell when they want to get off. Travelling around half of the island took us about 45 minutes.
We had found the Moorea Village Hotel by doing a few Google searches and it seemed like quite a pleasant place to spend a few days. We're no more than 15 metres from the shore here in a pretty nice room and as soon as I 've finished writing this it's lunchtime. Brie that will do a runner on me if I turn my back and a nice cold beer from the fridge. The local beer is called Hinano and it goes down quite well whilst watching waves / sunsets / rain / grass growing etc. It's certainly laid back here. I've read one and a half books since arriving and I 've had a few naps and been swimming in the pool and the ocean / lagoon (there's a reef out there but more about that later). I also tried Mahi Mahi, a local fish. It was very nice and very garlicy but it may have disagreed with me slightly. Nothing another beer won't fix. When we went shopping the other day, Claire found Cadbury's chocolate and a Bounty in the shop. The Cadbury's wrapper states that it was made in New Zealand and it has Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese writing on it so we're hopeful of being able to find a bar of Dairy Milk in quite a few of the countries we're heading to.
I'm not the biggest fan of boats and water in general. Calm ferry journeys, sailing on water that isn't too choppy, canal boats and swimming pools are all fine by me. Most other stuff I'm not so keen on. In theory, taking a canoe (with some sort of bouyancy aid on one side) out on the lagoon should be no problem. The coral reef that surrounds the island breaks any incoming waves about a mile out creating a very tranquil lagoon by our hotel. How could anything go wrong? On our second day here, we borrowed such a canoe from the hotel and set out to have a paddle and maybe see how big the waves out there were without actually leaving the lagoon. Once we got coordinated it took about 20 or 30 minutes to get out there. We stopped short of the breaking waves and Claire (in the front of the boat) started taking some pictures (with a waterproof disposable camera I should add). Even though the reef breaks the waves, there is a bit of a current as water from the lagoon goes back into the ocean. This current started to draw us towards the big waves. Oooops. Unfortunately, as we were backing away, we ended up slightly broadside to the remnants of a wave that had come over the reef. Our poor little canoe got a little swamped at that point. Being a little heavier and lower in the water than before, the canoe became a little unresponsive and before we could get away, we were hit by another small swell that made it over the reef. This time it was enough to tip us over though. Doh!
To cut a long story short (see Claire's diary for more details), we swam for a bit pushing the boat until a nice man with a motor boat helped us out. We were all psyched up to come clean to the hotel about having capsised only to find out that a neighbour had tipped them off already and that they had sent the man in the boat out for us. More doh! Most of the rest of the day was spent relaxing. Something we're quite good at!
Our final full day on Moorea was spent partly riding bicycles and partly relaxing again. The hotel had some bicycles that we could rent and we decided to cycle about a quarter of the way around the island to see one of the supposedly beautiful bays. We didn't quite make it. About half way there the storm clouds gathered over us and it became unbelievably muggy. Whilst neither of us would have minded getting wet, the humidity was a bit overpowering and cycling in the rain would have have been clever either. So we headed back to the hotel, via an internet café that we saw on the way, and dedicated ourselves to some more relaxing. Later on I think Claire is going to swim over to a small island 100m offshore and tomorrow we'll have to head back to Papeete to catch our flight to Auckland. It leaves at 4am local time on Monday morning and arrives 8 hours later at 9.45am on Tuesday morning. Doctor Who?
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