17:45.034S 149:19.919W Two months in Paradise

Hamble Warrior
Jamie Hickman
Sun 10 Dec 2023 20:55

Quite a bit to catch up on as we have had a couple of months in Tahiti and I have fallen quite behind with my blog updates!!

So when we last left you we had just anchored off the Intercontinental hotel just below the rather stunning and picturesque "Over Water Bungalows". Despite being so close to the hotel we couldn't land our kayak or dinghy there and the beautiful public park which we were anchored abeam of closed its gates at around 6pm each evening, so it wasn't really a solution to come and go from there. We therefore took our dinghy and rowed to the marina where they very generously provided a dinghy dock which gave us good access to the large Carrefour supermarket, the buses into Papeete; and later in the week the intercontinental hotel to visit Jamie's parents.

Our first task though was to get the bus into Papeete where we had to visit the High Commission and collect the "Carte Sejours" that we had started the application process for back in Panama and arranged to collect here after visiting the authorities in Nuku Hiva some weeks back. These cards allow us one year in French Polynesia with the option to be able to extend that period of we wish. It was essential for us to get these if we want to spend the cyclone season here in French Polynesia as we are only granted a 3 month stay otherwise as British citizens.

The visit to the High Commission was very straightforward as the cards were waiting for us to collect and we were soon back out into the Tahitian sunshine and able to take a proper look around Papeete for the first time. It is a very beautiful city with rather a European feel to it in terms of architecture and layout. We had a look at some of the shops and then of course we walked right out to the big 'Ace' hardware store on the edge of town with the usual list of things to search out for the boat. We also went to collect a "Duty free fuel certificate" from the customs offices on the edge of town - we figured we will likely top up our fuel before leaving the Society Islands as we haven't put any in since Panama.

After having a good walk around we bought some baguette; ham and a couple of cold drinks and found a shady spot to sit and eat our lunch.

This was the first of several trips to Papeete and we grew quite fond of the city with it's big cruise ship dock; bustling marina and lovely shops and Restaurants. The regular arrival of large cruise ships and huge volume of wealthy visiting tourists meant that many of the Restaurants and bars were out of our cruising budget but we did find one bar ("Maeva") where we could get a chilled bottle of wine at a reasonable price and on later visits to Papeete this became our favourite little spot! This was very much in the party street and was a firm favourite amongst the local trans community. Unfortunately we were never anchored close enough to the city to be able to experience a night out there so we only ever visited during the day but I imagine it was an amazing place to be when everyone came out to party of an evening! We were always made very welcome there.

Soon it was time for the arrival of Jamie's parents and we had a very emotional reunion with them at the very swanky Intercontinental Hotel where they were booked in for the first few days of their trip.

For the next few days we would row each day to the dinghy dock at the marina and then walk up to the hotel stopping at the big Carrefour supermarket to collect bread, salad, cold meats, cheese, Poisson Cru, beer and soft drinks and then we would spend our time at the hotel; by the pool or on the balcony of the room with our buffet/ picnic style lunches and dinners. It was a lovely few days and a big luxury to have access to a nice pool but also a shower and a bath! The room had a stunning view out across the sea to the island of Moorea and the grounds were immaculately landscaped and even had a private beach and a turtle sanctuary where they rehabilitated injured sea turtles and kept babies in a "nursery" while they grew big enough to be released back into the wild. We felt thoroughly pampered in this beautiful setting and it was a lovely time catching up with Jamie's parents and hearing all the news from home as well as telling them all our salty sea tales! This was the first time we had seen family since they came to visit us in Grenada the previous year so we treasured this special time.

After a few days it was time for us to move Hamble Warrior down to the bottom of the island where Jamie's family had an Airbnb booked for the next 4 weeks in the little town of Taravao. We planned to anchor in the bay of Port Phaeton which is a large bay inside the protected waters of the reef which sits between "Tahiti Nui" and "Tahiti Iti" (or "big Tahiti" and "little Tahiti"). It took us most of a day to sail down and get set in this new spot. It was beautifully positioned with the gentle rolling peaks of the "small island" to one side of us and the dramatic towering verdant peaks of the "big" island to our backs.

Here we were able to land our kayak at the rocky shoreline and tie it to a tree and from here we were just a short walk to the large Carrefour supermarket and a comfortable 25 minute walk to the Airbnb. There was an outdoor Boules Club frequented by the locals of Taravao and a Vaa'a Club (the local outrigger canoes that are popularly raced here) both situated down at the shoreline where we landed our kayak and whenever we came ashore there would be friendly faces to say hello and welcome us.

For the following few weeks we all made Taravao our home town. The Airbnb was a stunning villa with an enclosed parking space where we could stow the hire car that Jamie's family had booked for the month; there was a private swimming pool, all the facilities we could need including a washing machine and best of all 2 beautiful cats; Fleur & Emily who completed our little family nicely. For the next few weeks we enjoyed hanging out at the villa; swimming, doing laundry ;) cooking family meals and playing cards and games by the pool. Fleur and Emily spent most of their time dozing in their favourite spots inside the villa although we were under strict instructions not to keep them in at night, so late in the evening they would be given an affectionate goodbye cuddle by each of us and placed outside.

Unfortunately shortly after arriving at the villa in the south of the island, Jamie's mother took a fall walking down the lane to the main road. Although it wasn't quite as bad as her accident in Grenada the previous year she still needed to go to the hospital to be patched up and get dressings on her face; shoulder and knee. Fortunately she didn't need any stitches this time and healed quite quickly after a week or so. We still managed to get out and about with them and see a little bit of the island although we used the car a lot for Jamie's mothers' sake.

The hospital was amazing when we took Dierdrie there after her accident. They saw us straight away and gave her a really good checking over and then cleaned and dressed her wounds. When we left I went to pay and they said the office was shut so we should come back the next day. When we finally settled the bill it was the equivalent of about £30 or €35! Pretty amazing really! It was a very similar experience to Grenada; the priority was absolutely the wellbeing of the patient and the finances could be dealt with later (I did mention to Jamie's mother that she could start a review site of hospitals around the world called "Trip-up-advisor" with her growing wealth of experience!)

The day we were planning to return to the hospital to pay our bill Jamie and I went out to make enquiries about gas bottles (we later managed to secure a 13kg "Tahiti Gas" bottle which can be easily swapped throughout French Polynesia rather than sending our smaller bottles away to be refilled) whilst we were parking up in one of the service stations a car pulled out of the neighbouring parking lot and knocked a young couple straight off their scooter. The girl was lying in the road screaming and her partner was wandering around dazzed holding his hand to his chest. Nobody seemed to know what to do so I ran over to make sure an ambulance had been called and then stayed with the girl to make sure she didn't move until the ambulance arrived. She was clearly in distress and her leg was a mess; I think the bike (now a write-off) had gone over her shin and the bone was completely exposed. It was pretty gruesome. Fortunately for her she had been wearing a crash helmet so there didn't seem to be any signs of head injury; she was trying to get up (although I wouldn't let her) which was a good sign that she hadn't suffered any spinal injury; and the damage to her leg had missed any major arteries as there wasn't much blood at all. She was just very upset and clearly in pain. Fortunately the ambulance arrived quickly as we weren't far from the hospital. It was awful to see someone so distressed and after cleaning up Jamie's mother the previous day I had seen more blood than I would have liked for one week. Several hours later we went to the hospital to settle up our bill and as I approached the building I spotted the girl sitting in a wheelchair outside the entrance. Her leg was freshly bandaged and she had her friend with her; they were laughing and joking together - I can't describe how relieved I was to see her like that. I am so grateful that fate meant we had to go to the hospital that day and that it meant I saw her and knew she was ok.

We divided our time over the following weeks between staying up at the villa and sleeping on the boat, during which days we would walk up to the villa each day and return late in the evening. On the days we stayed up at the villa, Meep would join us and usually spent most of his time sleeping in our suite until "the girls" (Fleur & Emily) had been put out for the evening when he would roam the villa looking for them and staring wistfully at them through the glass doors.

During one of our stays up at the villa we had our family Christmas. We have always enjoyed Christmas time together as a family and having not been together for the last couple of Christmas' we have adopted the tradition of celebrating it whenever we are together! This year Christmas was in August in Tahiti! I brought a few decorations from the boat and we went to the supermarket and bought lots of lovely food to make a special dinner. Of course there was Christmas songs; homemade crackers and we even had a bottle of fizz that Jamie's parents had brought with them.

The villa itself was very comfortable with three large bedrooms and two bathrooms, tucked well away from the main road right up at the top of a lane. From the deck in the back garden you could look across the swimming pool right out across the mountains of Tahiti Iti and even just about see the sea. Most days when we walked up in the morning and back at night we passed dozens of gated properties on each side of the lane ALL of which have dogs and ALL of which barked at us setting off all the other dogs! There was just ONE property that had two small cute fluffy little dogs who would just stand in the lane staring at us like they were thinking "what's the fuss all about? Should we be barking too?"!

The villa was a lovely place to be and to spend time as a family. We took many day trips out during this time and visited some stunning places in Tahiti. We found several waterfalls that were conveniently close to the road so easily accessible for the whole family and had picnics on the beach and by these beautiful falls. We took a drive down to Teahpoo and visited the "Big Wave" which is a particularly lively bit of reef where they hold surfing competitions. We were lucky to visit it during a big competition and the little village was bustling with snack bars and people. I took my binoculars and we watched the surfers out on the reef through those, declining the offer of a boat tour out to the reef. We enjoyed a delicious lunch and a stroll along the beach here with its holiday atmosphere. As we were leaving a group of local dancers were setting up ready to perform and we settled down on a wall and watched as they performed their traditional dancing. It was a treat for all of us and especially for Jamie's parents who felt they'd had a really authentic experience.

We also took a drive back up to the top of Tahiti Nui to show Jamie's parents Point Venus where we had first arrived and the monuments to Captain Cook and the other famous explorers. We had a wonderful lunch there at "Mammas Beach House" which we had eyed up when we visited first time around. On our journey home we stopped at more waterfalls and beautiful sites. With our hire car we did a couple of full circuits of the island taking in the many sites including the "blow hole" at one of the coastal spots and the falls and gardens.

We also visited Pape'ete so that Jamie's parents could wander around the city and reminisce a little from their previous visits here by cruise ship. Whilst they did this we combed the hardware stores and chandleries loading the car up with supplies that would be bulky to carry back by bus. We found a car parts store just out of town to buy new filters for the engine work Jamie was doing to try and get our motor running smoothly once again. We even stopped at the rum distillery where the owner happened to be in residence and showed us around his factory and allowed us to taste his many different products. We purchased two 10 litre barrels of rum on this occasion to stow away for our time in the other islands where rum is expensive to buy... We later went back for a third barrel having decided it was too good to risk running out of!

Whilst we were settled in Taravao and knowing we would most likely be in French Polynesia for a year we went to the local "Vini" phone shop and asked about getting a phone contract to give us a better data allowance than the top-up SIM cards we had been purchasing. We were told we would need to provide proof of residency to do this and that we should go to the town hall to obtain the "residency certificate" to prove this. We were not hopeful as transient sailors that we would be able to do this but we had our Carte Sejours for a long stay in French Polynesia and figured it was worth a try. We went the following day to the Town Hall and walked out within 5 minutes with the residency documents that we needed. It couldn't have been easier and they couldn't have been more helpful. Just like that we were residents of Taravao!! This document allowed us to register for a local phone contract and came in useful again several weeks later when we got a ferry between Mo'orea and Tahiti to go and pick up parts and qualified for a "residents fare" on the ferry!!

During the last week of Jamie's family visit we trekked our headsail and sewing machine up to the house and began the massive task of re-stitching it. We had replaced it on our furler with the original headsail so that we could do the repairs at our leisure but with it being such a huge piece of fabric (like 36 square metres huge!) We figured we could use the covered car-port at the villa to spread it out and run the repairs. We - and our machine - struggled with this task for several days. Whether it was too great a task for our sewing machine or too great a task for us was unclear as we repeatedly tinkered and tweaked at the settings of the machine and sought advice from the manufacturers. Eventually we managed to replace a piece of fabric that had torn on our pacific crossing as well as replacing the leech line that had snapped in the same incident. We also machine stitched over all the long runs of stitching on our protective UV strip as they had become sun damaged. We failed in the thick parts of the sail which we left to stitch by hand at a later date and set about the much more satisfying job of cleaning the sail. We washed and scrubbed both sides and hung it up under the protection of the car port to dry for a few days before folding it and taking it back to the boat. I think it's fair to say everyone was relieved when the sewing machine was put away again this time!

All too soon it was time to say our goodbyes and take Jamie's parents back to Pape'ete to catch their flight home. On our way to the airport we stopped off at the Marina Bar at Marina Taina on the outskirts of the city and enjoyed one last drink together. This had been a favourite spot for all of us during their stay and seemed a suitable place for Jamie's mother to enjoy her final Pina Colada before going home. We had an emotional farewell at the airport hotel where they would stay before their early morning flight back to LA and then onwards home. We feel very lucky when we have family visits and don't take them for granted; but saying goodbye is always the hardest part.

We kept the hire car on for just a few days longer after saying our goodbyes and the owners of the villa even very generously allowed us to stay on at the villa for an extra couple of nights. This coincided with our 15 year anniversary of when we first met; always the anniversary we celebrate as more significant than our wedding anniversary. So despite running around using the car to do jobs; pick up supplies for the boat; sheets of plywood from the warehouse in Pape'ete, filling drinking water cans from the public water station in Taravao and taking all of our goods and chattles from the villa down to the dinghy to get them all back aboard... we also enjoyed a day out to celebrate. We took another drive up the south side of the island and stopped at a few sites we hadn't already visited. We stopped at a stunning water garden and spent a couple of hours walking around the beautifully laid out lakes and waterfalls and lawns. We also stopped at some impressive cave sites. We bought ourselves some hot lunch at the market and took it down to eat on the waters edge before continuing our site seeing. In the afternoon we stopped off at the site of an ancient "Marae" these were the earliest examples of meeting places that served as a place of worship; a town hall and court all in one. This example of a Marae was beautifully maintained, set amongst blossoming trees of Frangipan and Tiare flowers and surrounded by Tiki statues. Despite being set back only a hundred metres or so from the road it was such a quiet place and seemed to have a kind of tranquility about it that reached out to you from a bygone time; it was so peaceful and so stunning.

The islands roads are all coastal with very little of the inland parts of Tahiti being at all penetrable by road. So all of the town's and settlements are along these coast roads. Each village or town is signaled by usually at least 2 churches and these are some of the most beautiful buildings in this part of the world. As we drove around the island I would regularly ask Jamie to pull over so that we could stop and look at churches; markets or waterfalls - all of which there were many!

Our very last night at the villa was marked by an unusual event that we were to experience several more times before leaving the Society Islands although; fortunately, not whilst Jamie's parents were with us. Day was turning to dusk and we had just enjoyed our last swim and probably our last hot shower for many months to come. We were settled in the kitchen planning dinner with the doors out to the garden open. Suddenly we became aware of a lot of winged insects buzzing about. We looked out to the garden where the pool and veranda were well lit and noticed they were swarming... literally swarming with these winged insects. We quickly closed up the doors and then peered out to the car port which was also well lit and also swarming with these curious little insects. We shut off all of the lights; closed all the doors and rolled up floor mats to jamb in the gaps under the external doors... We were under siege!!!!

The siege lasted about an hour. Once it was properly dark these curious little insects seemed to shed their wings and then crawl off and die. This left us with a swimming pool floating in dead bodies and wings, piles of these little insects surrounding the house; on the patio, in the doorframes. It was so strange. We were extremely grateful that they hadn't made a point of visiting whilst we had our guests with us as I'm not sure Jamie's mother would have enjoyed the siege! We have since experienced them arriving in great numbers on the boat; where we have had to deploy our flyscreens and shut hatches; and we have also seen them on occasion at the Boules Club in Mo'orea and at the Marina Bar in Pape'ete. Despite being a nuisance none of these occasions was as sizeable gathering of these little creatures as that first time at the villa but they made sufficient enough mess of wings and bodies on-board to need a good sweeping up!

After we had returned the car and left the villa it was time to try and adjust to our "normal life" again. Just the three of us aboard and without the luxuries of free running hot water and washing machines and freezers full of ice!

We started to get a few jobs done on the boat and started trying to prepare for onwards travels. At weekends in the evenings we took to visiting the Boules Club ashore and would sit and drink with our new friends there and Jamie would play Boules. We made several very good friends here and everyone made us very welcome.

We were invited by several of our new friends to join them at their homes for lunch over the weekend. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to meet the family and to experience the wonderful hospitality of our island friends.

Our first such experience was when we visited our friend "Tiff" who grew flowers and vegetables commercially that he sold to the local markets and supermarkets. Tiff and his family lived off one of the roads that ran parallel to the villa but his plot was elevated a little higher and although the villa had beautiful views out over Tahiti Iti, Tiff's view was really something else. From the balcony where his family gathered for lunch we enjoyed a 
180 degree view out over his land to the rolling countryside of Tahiti Iti and then right out to sea. It was probably one of the most spectacular views I have ever witnessed. We were made welcome by Tiff and his lovely wife Marilyn and then introduced to his son and daughter-in-law and his granddaughter Evangelina. We were treated to an amazing lunch which included huge servings of chowmein from his brother's Restaurant as well as home made Poisson Cru and a delicious dish of prawns in Roquefort sauce. It was absolutely delicious and absolutely enormous. Evangelina was quite shy at first but after lunch we went to take some photos of us all together with the flowers in Tiff's garden and after introducing me to her dog, Evangelina seemed to relax around us a bit more. Eventually she appeared with her big bag of dressing up accessories and we were soon all bedecked in wigs and hats with axes coming out of our heads and fairy wings on our backs. It was hilarious and a good time was had by all. When we said our goodbyes Marilyn handed us a huge box of leftovers and we had lunch and dinner for the next couple of days!! It was such a special day and we loved meeting everyone and felt so lucky and welcome.

The next day we were due for Sunday lunch with our friend Arii and his family. He came and picked us up and drove us out to his village. He first took us to a lookout up in the mountains where we could get a good view of the bay below. Then he took us to his family home where we were introduced to this Mum, Dad, Wife, Daughter and various other family and several friends. Soon the grill was fired up and Arii and his friends were basting bits of meat and turning them on the huge kettle drum grill. I thought it was chicken at first but his friend Kenny told me it was veal... or possibly deer if my translation wasn't quite right!

Whilst the men stood around the BBQ drinking beers I chatted with Arii's Mum who was clipping together packs of bingo cards for her big bingo event the following weekend. Soon I was assembling bingo cards (10 per pack) stamping them up and stapling them together whilst we chatted about everything and nothing. After this I sat with Arii's daughter and helped her with her English homework. Most of Arii's friends and family spoke very little English and we relied heavily on my French to communicate. By now my French had improved greatly since arriving in French Polynesia and Jamie's understanding of French had also come on considerably. We truly valued this ability to communicate and make friends.

After a while, more friends arrived including Arii's best friend's wife who was a police officer and whom I had met by coincidence when we visited Teahpoo with Jamie's parents. I recognised her at once and she remembered talking to me. There were lots of jokes about her being a policewoman which was clearly not stopping anyone from having a good time. Soon the homemade board; teacup, saucer and dice came out and we started gambling. It was a pretty straight forward game where you placed money on whatever numbers you thought would come up, Once all bets were placed the die were rolled under the teacup. Arii's Dad was egging me on to play and put some coins in my hand. As you might expect I won about 
2000 francs and then lost about 2000 francs and finished the night where I started!

It was a great evening and before we left we promised Arii's family that we would return the next day and Jamie would try and fix their car which hadn't worked since they took the starter motor out of it some months back. It seems a number of well meaning friends and mechanics had looked at it but none could get it working. We returned the next day and Jamie spent many hours working on it but sadly had to conclude at the end of it that the starter motor they had bought for it was the wrong one; or was faulty. Unfortunately the original part which would have confirmed this for us was long gone and they had bought and paid for the new one several months ago now. Arii's mum shrugged her shoulders; nevermind, thanks for trying, are you staying for dinner? We told her we had to get back and gave her a big hug goodbye. Arii's family made us so welcome; we loved the time we spent with them. Before we left Arii showed me his cock. It was beautiful. He was so proud of it. As he drove us home he stopped to talk to a friend of his that was standing in the street holding his cock and stroking it fondly. Later that week we bumped into our other friend - Sebastian - from the Boules Club outside the supermarket; he offered us a lift home and stopped at his house to show us his cock on the way. Cock fighting is obviously a huge thing in Taravao. Everyone wants to show you their cock!!!

September was a very wet month; we had rain nearly every day which was unprecedented as it was technically still the dry season. We found plenty to keep us busy; not least collecting huge amounts of rainwater which we treated and stowed for future use. As well as all the usual boat jobs, we learned how to make yoghurt using milk powder and the new thermos flask that we'd had brought from the UK for the purpose. This was a huge success and after using just a little yoghurt from a pot we purchased, we were able to make all future batches using just a little held back from the previous batch; meaning we would always have the means to make a new batch. We also learned to use the thermos to cook other things including rice which is a handy way to conserve on gas and produces a really good consistency of grain. This was especially useful when combined with our new love of Poisson Cru which Jamie had by now perfected and could turn out in about 30 minutes. It became my job to remember to put the rice on before we went out and if I did we could have Poisson Cru when we returned! This became a firm favourite of ours.

Whilst browsing the local cruisers buy/sell/swap pages we came across someone selling a pair of folding bikes in Pape'ete. We had been missing having bikes these last few months as French Polynesia has a lot of places to cycle. So we decided to check them out and took a bus back to Pape'ete to take a look. We have a strict rule to try and prevent the boat from becoming too cluttered and that is that if we buy any large items we need to get rid of something too. So we sold our old Cobb grill that we hadn't used for years and by lucky coincidence it was bought by someone at the same marina that we bought our bikes. So that day we took our old BBQ on the bus to Pape'ete and returned that evening with two new folding bicycles which somehow we managed to squeeze in the kayak with us and get back to the boat. I have no idea HOW we squeezed both of us and both bikes into the kayak that night as we have subsequently always used the dinghy to take them ashore; and even that gets crowded - but we did and they are a fantastic addition to our fleet!

We received one more invite to join friends for dinner before we left but sadly our time was nearly up in Taravao and if we wanted to see any more of the Society islands we would need to get moving. This is what the people of Taravao were like though, so welcoming and so friendly. We visited an engineering company on a trading estate at the edge of Taravao to ask about getting some holes drilled in some stainless steel plates (our old chain plates; to use for setting up our sea anchor at some stage). The guys in the workshop told us their boss would be around the following week so we returned then and explained what we needed. He spoke to one of his engineers and they spent 20 minutes drilling two large 19mm holes through these thick stainless plates. We asked the boss how much and he waved us away. We tried to give the engineer something and he waved us away. This is the kindness we saw so much of; from our friends at the Boules Club to the fruit and veg sellers, everyone was kind and generous, everyone made us feel welcome.

Just before we left Taravao we went wandering on a Sunday afternoon; we'd gone out to buy a few bits for dinner before the supermarkets closed. Afterwards we went for a walk and came across a bar-restaurant we hadn't noticed previously. These kind of places serving alcohol are very unusual here so we went in and sat at the bar and ordered a beer and a rum. Tottenham had played early that morning and they had highlights on the TV in the bar which again was a rare treat. We stayed for a second drink by which time the lunchtime food service was nearly over and the diners were clearing out. There was a local band sitting in the outer seating area and the sound of the ukes and singing was drifting in. We recognised our friend Sebastian's son (Lil' Sebastian) who beckoned us over to join them. What followed was one of the messiest and most fun Sunday afternoon's we could have possibly asked for to end our time in Taravao. Singing and laughing with our new friends and drinking quite a lot… We skipped home sometime many many hours after the bar had officially shut. I think we finally ate the lunch we had gone shopping to buy sometime after midnight!

It was the perfect end to our time in Taravao.

As we waited for a good weather window to leave we had strong winds blowing through our bay and for the first time since dropping anchor some 8 weeks previous we saw Hamble Warrrior with a taught anchor chain; still when we lifted the anchor a few days later it was well set and deeply buried; testament to what a bullet-prof little spot Port Phaeton is. No wonder it is a popular place to leave boats during cyclone season.