Tag: Tahiti

Groundhog Day – Tahitian Style

Groundhog Day – Tahitian Style

Punaauia, Tahiti, French Polynesia – August 9, 2017

The International Dateline makes for a very odd travel companion. I departed Wellington on the afternoon of August 9, a Wednesday. I arrived in Tahiti on the afternoon of August 8, a Tuesday. That meant when I went to work the following morning; it was August 9, a Wednesday; a day I had already lived! I could only think of the movie Groundhog Day. Luckily, I was stuck in paradise, not winter.

I stayed at the Le Meridien Hotel, the same place Leslie and I visited the year before. It was every bit as lovely. The weather helped make it beautiful. August in Tahiti is the seasonal equivalent of February in Colorado. However, even though the temperatures are much more moderate in Tahiti than during their summer, it is lightyears nicer than Colorado in February.
The Le Meridien Hotel.
The view from the hotel room toward Moorea Island.

From the beach at the hotel, one can easily see the island of Moorea.  It makes for some scenic photos.  I know I am pushing my luck since I have been fortunate enough to go to Tahiti twice; but, if I ever return, I will make time to explore Moorea.

Moorea as seen in the early evening.
Moorea Island in the early morning.
Birds flying around the huts.
A gnarled tree at the beach.
Some of the over-the-water huts at the Le Meridien Hotel.
Looking to the south.
Tiny saltwater fish.
A lily.
A view of Moorea from a vantage point high above Papeete.

I completed my work on Friday, but my return flight was not until Sunday morning.  That meant I was able to take an island tour on Saturday.

The van picked us up at the hotel around 10:00. The group consisted of me, a woman, and two couples. Our first stop was the Fern Grotto of Maraa. There was a small parking area from which a trail meandered into the jungle. After a relatively short walk, maybe 100 meters, we arrived at the cave. Our guide explained it was an ancient lava tube. It is now about half-full of water and surrounded by ferns.

The sign for the Maraa Fern Grotto.
The grotto, an old lava tube.
The beautiful Pacific Ocean.  This was directly across the road from the grotto parking area.

The next site was a twin waterfall. It was in the jungle, just across from the ocean. It is hard to describe just how dense is the forest. There was a splash of color provided by planters made of stacks of painted tires.

Colorful tires.
The twin waterfalls.
Jungle view.

We spent quite a bit of time at the Jardins d’eau de Vaipahi, a botanical garden.  There was a gentle, winding trail on which one navigated through the jungle.  The wild jungle plants and flowers are numerous.  It is difficult to do justice to the sights with the few photographs I took.

Pollination in progress.
Flowers at the Jardins d’eau de Vaipahi.
Tiny freshwater fish.
Flower at the Jardins d’eau de Vaipahi.
Waterfall at the Jardins d’eau de Vaipahi.
Waterfall at the Jardins d’eau de Vaipahi.

After walking through the Jardins d’eau de Vaipahi, I stood near the van to wait for my tour companions. I noticed across the road a small business. It seemed to offer just about any kind of water conveyance one could want. If I had had more time, I would have gone over and talked to the shop keeper. After all, the ouvert (open) sign was out.

Rental hut across the highway from the Jardins d’eau de Vaipahi.

We climbed back into the van for a reasonably long drive to the Arahoho Blowhole. This feature is directly on the northern coast of the island. It is an old lava tube, the diameter of which is about two feet. I saw some tourists stand in front of the blowhole. When a wave hit the ocean-side of the blowhole, one could hear a roar in the tube followed by a significant blast of wind. The guide mentioned there are times when tourists get soaked because the wave can make it to the end of the blowhole. I surmise that may be during high tide.

Cove at the Arahoho Blowhole.
Another view of the cove.
A wave crashing against the ocean-side of the Arahoho Blowhole.

Our final stop was the observation deck at Col du Tahara’a. From the observation deck, one has a great view of the town of Papeete. As with so many sights, the island of Moorea looms in the distance.

A panorama from the observation deck at Col du Tahara’a.
View from the observation deck at Col du Tahara’a. Moorea Island is in the distance.

In total, the tour covered about 100 kilometers (62 miles) around the edge of Tahiti.  The journey took about four hours.  When I got back to the hotel, it was time for a refreshing, Tahitian beer!

Now we’re talkin’!!
On the Way to Yesterday

On the Way to Yesterday

Tamanu, Tahiti, French Polynesia – March 21, 2016

We left home around 05:00 to make our early morning Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. The Mount Victoria tunnel was closed. Because of that, our taxi driver took us along Oriental Bay. Even though it was dark, it was stunning.

After checking in, we had coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Then it was off to the gate, onto the plane, and on to Auckland. It was smooth sailing all the way.After our uneventful arrival in Auckland, we walked to our next gate.
There was some delay in boarding the aircraft. One of the gate attendants told us it was because they were trying to load a stretcher on-board. There was someone in Papeete, Tahiti that was waiting for evacuation to New Zealand.

Once we got on the plane and pushed away from the gate, everything was fine.
Our trip to Tahiti is one of the oddest trips I have ever made, for one reason in particular; our travels took us to yesterday! We left New Zealand on Monday morning. We arrived in Papeete, Tahiti on Sunday evening. That is what happens when one travels to the east across the International Date Line.
Well before our trip began, we applied for and received French visas. We needed the permits because I was traveling to Papeete for business (indeed a sentence I never thought I would write).
The plane landed around 16:00 Tahiti time. When we arrived at passport control, we went to the Diplomatic line as usual. The immigration officer did not speak English very well. Leslie and I speak nearly zero French. As his questioning began, I knew it would be a problematic entry because I was having a challenging time hearing him. At one point, he asked if I had a military escort or an entourage waiting for me. I assured him all I had waiting for me was a taxi.

I could tell he was getting frustrated. I assumed that it was because of our language difficulties. At that time, an Air New Zealand employee happened to walk by the booth. The immigration official called out to her in French. He emerged from his booth, continuing to speak to her. Soon, all four of us were huddled in a group. We both used her as a translator. Finally, after numerous questions, he stamped our passports and allowed us into the country.
When we finally had our luggage and emerged into the terminal area, we spotted our driver. As we approached, she placed a beautiful flower lei on each of us. I put our bags in the rear of the van. Within 15 minutes or so, she delivered us to the Le Meridian Hotel.

The “newly” weds at the hotel.

At the check-in counter, the attendant immediately offered us a small glass of cold mango juice. It was both refreshing and delicious. After receiving our keys, we walked to our room. Our baggage was already there. I grabbed my camera and we walked down to the bar near the beach. The sun was just setting as we arrived at the bar. The views were absolutely stunning.

Sunset with palm and the remains of a pier.

We transitioned from the bar to a table by the ocean for dinner. The beautiful setting, the food, and the wine made it one of the most romantic dinners we have had in quite some time.

Ready for a seaside dinner for two.

Our room rate included a daily continental breakfast. One morning, we decided we wanted a hot breakfast. We went to the breakfast buffet to get eggs, bacon, and potatoes. That was the last time we did that. Breakfast cost us the equivalent of US$75. When we complained about that; the staff responded that it was an “all-you-can-eat” buffet. They were not interested in reducing the price. For the remainder of our stay, we kept ourselves to the continental breakfast side of the restaurant.
The restaurant was a beautiful setting. Along the oceanside of the restaurant, there was a large pond containing koi and water lilies. On the other side of the water was a large stone patio. Beyond that were palm trees partially obscuring the ocean view ocean. It was very relaxing to sit there and enjoy coffee in the mornings.
The beach at the hotel sloped gently into the ocean. No waves were striking the beach because of the barrier reef. The reef and breaking waves were about a half-mile offshore. The water was warm and crystal clear. In the water, there were large clumps of coral. Several types of fish swam around the corals. It was beautiful to behold.

The le Meridien Hotel and pool.
The over-the-water huts at sunset.
Some lilies in the pond.
Lily detail.

On one of my days off, we took a morning shuttle from the hotel to downtown Papeete. Our guide parked at the ferry terminal. We walked from there toward the tourist information building. From there, she led us across a busy street for a block until she pointed out the market. The walk was close to one-half mile.
The market was very clean and nicely done. In addition to some tourist trinkets, the ground level housed fruit and vegetable stands, butcher shops, and fishmongers. The upper level housed an assortment of tourist trinkets, clothing, jewelry, and artworks. I bought a couple of Tahitian shirts. On the way back to the vehicle, we stopped in another store where I bought some more shirts.

A woman shopping at the Papeete Market.
The Papeete Market sign.
The main market in Papeete.

When we walked back to the ferry terminal and port, we had some time to kill. The most impressive yacht we saw was the Arctic. Doing a little research, I found the boat began life as an icebreaker. It is nearly 88 meters (289 feet) long. It accommodates 12 guests and 25 crew. I guess that would be an OK way to travel the world.

The 88 meter Arctic yacht.

Later that afternoon, I used the hotel’s plastic kayak. I paddled nearly halfway to the barrier reef. It was during low tide, so periodically, the bottom of the kayak scraped slightly against the tops of the coral. I could look down on either side of the kayak and see the ocean floor. It was not very deep, probably eight to ten feet. Looking down, I saw all of the fish. The whole experience seemed surreal.

One morning we walked to le Musée de Tahiti et des İles (The Museum of Tahiti and the Islands). Similar to downtown, the walk was about one half-mile. For a small museum, the displays were numerous and well done. The vast majority had descriptions in English as well as French.

When we left the museum, we walked about 100 meters to the sea wall. There, the ocean waves crashed against the wall. There was not a barrier reef at this portion of the island.

A wave crashing at the breakwater. Moorea Island is across the way.
Moorea Island seems to always be cloaked in clouds.

Our afternoon highlight was sitting in a chaise lounge, enjoying a glass of wine, and watching the sunset. The sunsets we saw were just stunning.

This is my favorite sunset shot from our visit to Tahiti.
An amazingly colorful sunset.

The highlight of our trip, by far, was the Polynesian dance show. The show happened on the patio near the restaurant. The dinner buffet was a part of the price paid for the show. The performers included about ten men and ten women dancers. The drumbeats during the various dances seemed to reverberate right through our abdomens. If only I could move like the dancers, I probably would not be fat!

The costumes were very ornate.
Looking right at the camera.

We woke up early and departed our hotel. We arrived at the airport at about 05:30. Getting out of the country was much more manageable. The passport control officer quickly stamped our passports. We breezed through security and sat down at the gate to await our flight.
We boarded the flight a few minutes late, but we did take off on time. During the trip, there was some turbulence, but nothing too severe.
We arrived in Auckland a little late. The Air TahitiNui pilots taxied the plane to the arrival gate and switched off the fasten seat belt sign. Everyone stood up and began removing items from the overhead bins. While that was happening, I noticed I could still hear the sound of the jet engines. I also noticed the plane’s door was not open. We stood there for twenty minutes. Finally, one of the pilots announced we were waiting for gate personnel to respond. We stood for an additional 10 or 15 minutes before the engine finally stopped, and the door opened.While we were standing, Leslie and I were getting nervous about making our connection to Wellington. Waiting for us when we finally got off the plane was a wheelchair attendant for Leslie. We informed him of our tight connection. While he nearly ran through the terminal, he told us the reason for the delay is that the engine had not stopped. That did not make sense to me. Regardless, the race was on to the Wellington gate.
When we entered the duty-free area of the terminal, people packed the central pedestrian aisle, of course. The wheelchair attendant veered off and rushed us through the paths of one of the duty-free stores. Shortly after merging back into the central aisle, we arrived at passport control. The immigration officer quickly stamped our passports.Our focus turned to the baggage claim area. We all rushed there. We waited and waited at the baggage claim carousel. Soon, there were just a few bags left on the belt, but we did not see ours. The wheelchair attendant asked for a description of our baggage. We described our bags. He quickly moved to the access-controlled door, went through, and within about a minute, he emerged with our bags.
An oddity of the Auckland International Airport is that the international terminal and the domestic terminal are not connected. There are two ways to get from one to the other; a free bus or a 10 to 15-minute walk, following a green line painted on the ground. The bus runs approximately every 15 minutes. We were lucky when we emerged from the international terminal; we could see the bus arriving. We boarded the bus with our luggage.The bus has to travel on public streets to get from one terminal to the other. Of course, that means traffic and traffic lights. It seemed we would never arrive. We still had to re-check our bags and make our way to the next gate. When the bus finally arrived, we dashed inside, found an Air New Zealand employee, and told her our following flight number. She broke the news that we would not make that flight. Luckily, Air New Zealand has multiple daily flights from Auckland to Wellington. She booked us on the next flight.
We made it to our gate, waited about 30 minutes, and boarded the flight.
Our 65-minute flight to Wellington was uneventful.

We arrived, retrieved our baggage, and hopped in the Corporate Cab for our 30-minute ride home.

An outrigger canoe just before sunset.
The time for the sunset is approaching.
A billowing cloud.
Some people enjoying a sunset dip in the warm waters.
We were treated to this beauty nearly every evening.
The over-the-water huts at night.
The butcher shop at the Papeete Market.
View of the ground floor of the Papeete Market.
The sun is down for another day.
The calm, colorful colors of the water on the beach-side of the coral reef.
The long-boarder and the person behind continue south as the sun has nearly set.
Clouds over Moorea Island.
A person on a long-board with someone following behind.
The over-the-water huts.
Looking up.
An outrigger canoe.
A tall palm tree.
The 117-meter Aranui 3.
Possibly a tugboat in the port.
Containers in the Papeete Port.
The colors could change quite quickly.
A wider view showing Moorea Island.
A somewhat muted sunset.
The evening view from the beach.
The sun is barely visible behind the clouds.
Sunset from the beach. Moorea Island is in the distance.
Two of the dancers in one of the first dances.
A very intense look.
The group!
The smile shows she was having fun!
Two of the dancers.
A line of women dancers.
The grass skirts swayed and swayed.
Two of the dancers.
These were the most colorful costumes of the night.
This was another fearsome dance. One can only imagine encountering the Polynesians for the first time when Europeans were exploring the Pacific.
A moment during the first dance.
Another pair of dancers.
A moment of rest during the dance.
High motion!
This man danced through the women dancers.
The two dancers.
Two dancers.
Another group photo of the women.
Another group photo of the men.
The beads of sweat indicate just how difficult the dancers worked.
Group photo of the men.
The main dancer of this particular dance.
Group photo of the women.
The young women were stunning.  Leslie tells me the young men were too…
This was a rather fearsome looking dance.
Looking at the audience.
Members of the musical section.
Telling the story through song and gestures.
One of the opening dance moments.
Another costume another dance.
The shot may look still, but the motion is evident by the lei moving through the air.
The two main figures in the dance.
An over-the-shoulder look from one of the dancers.
The stare!
The final pose of the women.
If I dropped to my knees like these guys, I would need medical attention to get back to my feet.
The reflection in the lily pond.
Detail of men in the dance.
The red costumes were very eye-catching.
The final pose of the final dance.
One of the men in the final dance.
The heads may be still, but the hips seemed to never stop!