Tahiti - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 388 (198)
Thursday 31st March (2005)
As predicted, we missed the free breakfast this morning. The young girl that met us last night apparently works here all by herself and does so seven days a week. I did ask if it would be possible to extend the breakfast hours but she simply didn’t have the time or energy to accommodate the request. At eight o’clock this morning, when breakfast table was already being cleared, our body clocks were still thinking it was six o’clock so it was no surprise that we missed out there. We both slept relatively well – except for Sandy, who found the bed too hard and the noise of the fan rather annoying (she always does).
After re-loading the car again and bidding farewell to our overworked young hostess, we drove back into town to find the tourist information office to pick up a map of the island. Tahiti’s main island landmass is about sixty Kilometres in diameter with a smaller fifteen Kilometre diameter landmass jutting up to it. The tourist map that I was given looked very nice but turned out to be next to useless as a means of trying to navigate around. With only today to explore the place, I asked where we might go to simply relax on a beach and perhaps take in some snorkelling. Once again, communication was choppy and I was only getting very brief and flat responses so we decided to take the map and explore ourselves a bit. We were headed in the direction of a town called Punueeaa (that spelling is incorrect but it’s the closest I could come to remembering it), where we could apparently go snorkelling. There is just the one main ring road that encircles the entire island but there are more roads and road systems in each of the towns that you pass through. Before checking out the beach, we thought we’d take in the Tahiti museum, which, according to our tourist map, was just about the only thing in Punueeaa. This is where the map really started to fail us. We drove around looking for what might look like a museum but were eventually forced to stop at what turned out to be the City Hall. A really nice guy there told us that the museum was not worth the effort and suggested we go straight to the beach instead. Large hotel chains privately own many of the beaches on Tahiti. Those are the ones that you think of when you think of Tahiti. Like I said before, we won’t be seeing any of those.
The public beach that we found was exactly that – a public beach. It wasn’t particularly big and certainly wasn’t really worth the effort. It was located next to a boat dock and the water was not particularly crystal clear, although it was quite warm. Having seen so many nice beaches in so many tropical locations, we’re spoiled now to the point of really needing to see something spectacular before our blood gets pumping. The fact that this is Tahiti simply doesn’t cut the mustard with us. There is a sand bank several hundred meters from the shore end this encircles the island, creating a lagoon nearly all the way around. The interesting stuff to snorkel after was out by the barrier of this bank and thus just a bit too far for comfort, so we never went swimming or snorkelling in the end. Right next to the boat dock, however, was a diving outfit so we went over to see about perhaps going out for a dive instead for the afternoon. Indeed, after a quick chat with the guy there, it seemed like a perfectly decent way to spend the afternoon. It would be a shallow dive since I’m technically not supposed to dive and fly within the same twenty-four hour period but I was willing to be flexible on this. After all, you don’t go to Tahiti every day now do you? The cost of the single dive was going to be FCP 4,800 (€43,64) and that didn’t seem like a bad price to pay for French Polynesia so I signed up for a single, afternoon dive.
With a couple of hours to kill, we stopped in at the MacDonald’s just next to the boat dock for the most expensive fast food we’ve yet experienced. Still, it had to be much cheaper than anywhere else would have been. Just as we sat to eat, what just a couple of minutes previously was a mostly clear and blue sky had now developed into a dark cloud developing from above the island’s land mass. This dark cloud spent the next half an hour emptying itself directly on top of us and I was starting to get a bit worried for the visibility of my afternoon dive. Not only did the rain clear up but after a half an hour or more after it stopped, there was no evidence of it having even rained.
Being pregnant, Sandy, of course, had to sit out the diving and contented herself with sitting under the tropical sun with one of her books. There were about eight people on the boat altogether and it was a very nice shallow dive, with an average depth of just around ten metres. Visibility was crystal clear and the bottom composition of hard corals was interesting enough, even though there were very few fish. A couple of small turtles kept us all interested for a while but the three sleeping black-tipped shark laying on the sea bed right towards the end of the dive was a nice thrill. I took plenty of photos but never really saw anything specific to add to my all time, underwater, best of, photo album. It was an average dive and served well to kill some time this afternoon.
Things were very relaxed once the dive boat returned back to dock and we spent an hour or two just sitting in the sun trying to dry everything off. Some of the divers were doing a diving written test and we took our time to slowly re-pack our bags and tidying up. We nearly made off without paying but for one of the dive instructors running after our car to remind us. Oh well, nearly made it.
When we first arrived at the airport, the pension representative that came to give us directions tried to tell us where to go to get a bite to eat. He was very difficult to understand and we never did quite find where he was pointing us to but it had something to do with what we though was the word ‘car’ or ‘key’. He seemed to be telling us that we could get food from a car – perhaps like a food vendor serving from the side of a van or something. In the light of day today, we decided to head over to where he had directed us to see what it was all about. We found it in the end and we now think he was trying to tell us to go to the quay. Indeed, there is a dock or quay right on the waterfront near the city centre where a dozen or more travelling food stalls were in the process of setting up their mobile restaurants. Each van specialised in a different type of food and came complete with tables and chairs outside. It seems that this is a nightly occurrence here in Tahiti and there were plenty of people slowly starting to congregate for their evening meals. I was quite surprised to see that there were so many young children accompanying their parents on holiday here. It seemed like every fourth or fifth tourist was toting a small child or a pushchair. A bandstand housed a group of musicians that were playing amplified music and soft lighting completed the relaxing atmosphere. The stall that we eventually chose was roasting a small cow over an open pit barbeque. The meal was absolutely delicious and cost each of us FCP1,000 (€9,10).
It was pleasant enough sitting under the soft lighting and listing to the mostly Polynesian music but boredom finally drove us back to the airport to return the car. We just caught the Avis clerk before she was going to close the office for a couple of hours and she calculated the final tally for the one day rental to be FCP5,877 (€53,43) all inclusive. This was less than we had expected but I wasn’t complaining.
This evening’s meal meant having to break into one of the bank notes that I was holding back for my complete collection of Tahiti currency so I exchanged one of my £20 notes in order to re-stock again. We would have been well under our budget for Tahiti had I not collected one of every bank note but the FCP10,000 note alone is already worth €90,10. I’d given us a €250 budget but with the bank note collection, we ended up spending a total of €363.
We were still a couple of hours ahead of the check-in staff so we found a place to sit near an electrical outlet so that I could continue to write my logs. The boarding announcement eventually came and be walked across the tarmac to yet another plane bound to yet another new destination.