Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tahiti, French Polynesia

Date: 9th July to 16th July
Accommodation: The Radisson Plaza Resort, Arue, Tahiti
Weather: 25 Degrees +
Season: Austral Winter
Rain: Some tropical downpours over the mountains very few on the beach
One word: Awesome
Agenda: Rest, Relax, Explore
Tahiti is one of those countries that everyone dreams of going to, but not many people do, so when I saw it on the itinerary it really made up my mind to do it. However once I had booked, I realised the reason why not many people make the journey, Tahiti is very expensive - however there is a way of doing things cheaply, but for our trip we decided that this would be where we spoilt ourselves.

The journey from LA to Faaa airport in Tahiti was 8 and a half hours, we flew Air Tahiti which was awesome, the food was wonderful, the air hostesses looked like they were on holiday it was really magic. We left LA at 23:00 and with time difference arrived in Tahiti at 4:30 in the morning, however it was already about 20 degrees at that time of the morning.

We made our way to the car hire place, as I said everything in Tahiti is very expensive, so we ended up hiring a very small car for the week, not like in the States where a little money gets you a very big car. After a few wrong turns we finally ended up at the hotel, I had booked us in from the previous night so that we did not have to wait until 2 in the afternoon before we got into our room - very wise!

The porter took us to our room which turned out to be and upstairs downstairs, two balconies, the biggest shower I have ever seen and totally awesome.
This photo is the view from our room, looking over the pool and Matavai Bay.

This photo was taken from the upstairs balcony looking down onto the downstairs balcony. Once we arrived we decided to first go down for Breakfast, which was a buffet with loads of tropical fruits and all kinds of stuff, we then headed off to the pool where we spent most of the day, and then went off to sleep as it had been a long day.

The next day after Breakfast we headed out to find a supermarket, which was interesting, what was most interesting was the fact that a lot of their tinned fruits and sweet corn came from South Africa. We stopped at One tree hill on the way back and marvelled at the scenery. After a bit of shopping we headed into Papeete to the Market.Then back to the hotel to spend the rest of the day by the pool and on the beach.

The sand on majority of the beaches in Tahiti is black as it is volcanic sand.

The next day was Saturday, we decided that the hotel was becoming a wee bit too expensive to have breakfast there every morning so we headed to a village close by called Mahina and had brunch, after brunch we drove to the Cascade waterfalls where we stopped to walk to the falls.They were awesome, I also took a picture of our hired car which you will see why further down in my story. We decided from there to drive around the Island, according to the map, there was one road around the Island which takes about 2 hours and then a road through the middle of the Island which intrigued Derrick.

Half way round the Island we decided to stop at a beach on the west coast called Papara so that Em could have a swim, well this was obviously surfers paradise as the waves were rough and their were hundreds of surfers, Em ended up losing the bottom half of her new Bikini. After a swim we headed back to our hotel where D took this amazing photograph of the sunset.

The next day Monday 13th we headed to the supermarket to get Em some strawberries for Breakfast and found a snack bar where we stopped for breakfast, well the difference in cost was just phenomenal, where they had charged us about 7000 xpf (french Polynesian francs) for a buffet breakfast at the hotel, we could get and omelet and coffee at the snack bar and an ice cream for Em for 900 xpf, so we had found our new breakfast bar.

After breakfast or brunch we went to Papeete again and then once again spent the day at the pool and on the beach.

The following day was a public holiday in Tahiti a very important French holiday Bastille Day, we started off with breakfast at our new found snack bar but first a stop at the supermarket for Emily's strawberries. D wanted to find the road that went through the middle of the Island, which he assumed was a short cut and here the story starts:

Indiana Rowe and the tunnel of Doom
We picked up the road at Papenoo which winds along the river bed, there are loads of camping spots and because today was a public holiday there were loads of locals camping, swimming and generally just enjoying their day off. The road was mainly dirt and had some scary bridges but the scenery was beautiful. We stopped in a few places where there were 4x4 tours, and then we got to the sign that said something in French and 4x4, D said that he is sure the trail would be the same as what we had just come through, well ...

We first had to go through a tunnel, with dongas and ditches and water running down, now remember we were in a small 1100 little KIA, I was sitting in front with D and Em at the back, this is the very last picture I took before our adventure as I held on for dear life.As we came through the tunnel there was no road so to speak of but just a trail with big and small boulders winding down and down, with lots of hairpin bends. With almost every movement the car made we could hear the boulders hitting the car underneath, as we kept going down we thought it couldn't get any worse but it did, however there was no turning back as there is no way the car would be able to go up the path it had just come down. Emily was having great fun, and she even said so, in the words "this is so cool, just like a movie". Little did we know but we were actually driving through the crater of the Volcano, we had obviously come up the 4,800ft on the other side of the tunnel and we were now going down.
I kept thinking that if anything happened to us, nobody would know we were missing and would not look for us, and we could be swallowed up by the mountain and be trapped in the rain forest forever, yes I am a bit of sensationalist ;).

After bashing the car underneath about 50 to 100 times over dongas and boulders we finally saw the road (trail) coming to a straight bath at the end of the mountains, and it was now just a matter of heading towards the main road near Mataiea.

The Highway Man

As we headed towards the end of the trail, we noticed a guy on an off road scrambler come past us and then stop, he told us to stop and asked us where we were going, when D told him he told D that the road was closed, my first thought then and there was I was going to get out and walk. We felt sick, but then the guy said not to worry as he can open the road if we paid him 200 xpf which is equivalent to about 2 Euro, so we said no problem.

Then as we passed the first house we had seen in forever, a deranged looking woman wearing a T-shirt with Vietnam on it came running in front of the car telling us to stop shouting at us in French, the guy on the bike then spoke to her and they let us continue.

We then got to the gate that the guy had to unlock and of course he came to collect his money first which had now gone up to 2000 xpf, which is probably because he now had to give some money to the deranged old woman. It felt like we had been hijacked and could not wait to just get out of there.

Once we eventually got to the main road, we thought that by now the exhaust had come loose and who know what other damage had been done to the car, but thank goodness only the front fender was dragging on the ground all the way back to the hotel. Once there Em and I headed for the pool while D proceeded to do a cosmetic job on the car, get rid of the scratches and fix the fender.

I think D and I had about 3 tequilas each that evening just to stable our nerves, we decided that dinner in the restaurant at the hotel was the order of the day, which we all enjoyed.

Our last day

29 Degrees Celsius

It was Wednesday and our last day at the hotel, our flight was leaving for Auckland the next morning at 7 a.m. which meant we had to leave the hotel by 4:30. So today we went into Papeete for the last time, there were two Cruise ships docked, one huge one from London called the "Princess Dawn" and the other smaller one called "The Regus", some of the passengers had come back to the Radisson and while I was watching Em swim I got talking to some of the passengers. I met Claudette and Jim from San Fransisco, what a lovely couple. After sunset we went back to the room and had a wonderful Room service meal.
I would do it all over again, I can see why Marlon Brando fell in love with Tahiti after filming Mutiny on the Bounty, but just a word of advice, go in the Austral winter there are no mozzies or flies and no humidity either.

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