Tomatoes in Tahiti

John & Susan Simpson
Sun 11 Jun 2023 04:02
Whenever we typed ‘Tuamotus’ into our phones it would invariably autocorrect to ‘tomatoes’, which was ironic because they were impossible to find in the Tuamotus archipelago and believe me we tried!  Mind you, the only ‘fresh’ vegetables we saw for sale in the Tuamotus were some very sad and dry looking onions.  The inhabitants of the islands are subsistence gardeners who grow enough to eat and no more and who can blame them with tropical heat and poor soil to cope with, as well as infrequent visitors to cater for.  It had been a similar story in the Marquesas where fresh fruit and vegetables were a little easier to come by, though, not a tomato to be seen since leaving the Galapagos.  

We’d been told when we left Panama that Tahiti would be the next big centre of civilisation for restocking the boat and making any repairs needed.  When we left the Tuamotus for Tahiti John asked me what I was looking forward to most.  The answer was obvious …… ‘I’m looking forward to tomatoes in Tahiti’!  We arrived in Papeete in the morning and were lucky enough to secure a spot in Papeete Marina right in the centre of town.  It felt strange to be in the midst of people, cars, shops and lots of action after so long in isolated places.  We were very excited to be heading into town to find some lunch and I ordered a large salad, but what’s this lettuce, onions, pineapple, pansy petals …. But no tomatoes!!!  After that it was a mission to visit all the places where tomatoes might be lurking for sale but it proved to be futile.  All kinds of fruits and vegetables to be had, and even a bustling fresh produce market to try, but the only tomato encountered in a week in Papeete was a thin sliver inserted into a cheeseburger ordered one evening.  Where on earth did they get that?

We had a lovely week in Tahiti making the most of most of being connected to land for the first time since Panama City back in March.  We met up with friends from the World ARC Pacific rally for a birthday party for one of the skippers and swapped stories of our adventures in the Marquesas and Tuamotus.  
Chuck’s birthday party at 3 Brasseurs brewery, Papeete

It was fascinating to see that the local ladies wear on a regular basis the floral headdresses you see in all the adverts for Tahiti, they’re not just for display.  This young lady was out on a Friday night with her girlfriends enjoying some live music at the 3 Brasseurs Brewery Bar in Papeete.  It was a ukulele band of course.  The ukulele is such a common sight in French Polynesia that we bought a locally made instrument as a souvenir.
Traditional headdress, Tahiti

We also peeped in the doors of a service taking place at a Church and were enthralled to see the congregation all dressed up; the ladies in white dresses and straw hats and the men in smart suits. 
Church congregation, Papeete

We spent a lot of time in Tahiti on Casamara supervising local contractors carrying out repairs to the rig and servicing both the engine and the generator.  We had discovered some broken strands in one of the shrouds holding up the mast so we had a full rig check done in Papeete.  We were glad we had as there were also some broken strands at the top of the forestay so we had that replaced as well as the broken shroud and its matching twin on the other side of the mast.
Boris the rigger seemed very comfortable working at height!

Friends from the UK, Ian and Sue Lillington, flew into Papeete to meet us and will sail with us through the Society Islands as far as Bora Bora.  We hired a car and did a whistle stop tour of Tahiti’s sights.  The centre of the island is mountainous and only accessible by 4x4 vehicles so we took the coast road all around the island calling at an archaeological site, a surf beach, a grotto with caves and lakes, some waterfalls and a blowhole where seawater is forced through a lava tunnel in the rock.  We had a delicious French lunch at a seafront restaurant and finished the day off with sunset at Pointe Venus where Captain Cook had anchored to track the transit of Venus in 1769.  We all agreed we’d ticked all the Tahiti tourist boxes that day!
Ian enjoying the hammock on Casamara’s foredeck in Papeete Marina

John at the Arahurahu Marae, Tahiti, a restored ancient temple or meeting place.

Surf beach, Tahiti