World ARC Day 108 - 122 April 25th to May 10th Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia
17:29S 149:34WWorld ARC Day 108 - 122 April 25th to May 10th Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia
We left Taou, the lovely island in the Tuomoto group, on the last hour of the outgoing tide, 11.00 a.m. The 3 to 4 knots of tidal flow out of the narrow entrance had slowed to just 1 knot, still enough for large stopper waves and the arriving Pacific Ocean swell to cause some excitement and much studying of the entrance, but not enough to give Nina problems, and we then turned West and headed up the wide channel which is Fakarava pass, into the Pacific current, in time to greet Belefonte, Barbara Jean, and Two Fish, three ARC boats leaving Fakarava and also heading for the meet at Tahiti.The wind at 6 to 12 knots, meant that we all were motor sailing in loose convoy for the next two days, finally meeting up with Do Over, another ARC boat, just as we reached the corner of the island. Tahiti, like the other islands in the group, is surrounded by reef, and the rolling swell was crashing off our port side as we passed down the North side of the Island, past the Houses, anchored boats, and 300 year old tower of the Cook Observatory, you pass the port, fishing boats and ferries, until you arrive at the entrance of the Port itself, where the reef entrance is wide for commercial shipping.Permission has to be granted to enter the pass which is at one end of the runway of the island's international airport.We were greeted and shown to our berth in Papeete Marina, and we were finally tied up in the posh new Marina, right in the middle of the main city of French Polynesia, Papeete, with all the rest of the ARC fleet once more.Greetings, Salutations, tales and reminisces followed the next couple of days (and nights) from other boats.
TahitiTahiti is basically two volcanic lumps, joined in the middle with a flat causeway, Tahiti Nui is the bigger one, and Tahiti Iti, to the windward side, is the quieter, more agricultural smaller sister.
Papeete (pronounced Pappay ettay) is the capital of French Polynesia. To us, it was like visiting an exotic, expensive, tropical provincial city in southern France. A dual carriageway right behind the marina, cruise ships at the entrance, malls, banks, restaurants, bars, cafés, lorries, buses, traffic jams, horns, people bustling around, noisy, car fumes, the airport.
We were greeted for the next week with on-and-off torrential rain.
We had two free nights in the marina, courtesy of World Arc, so we made the most of them, visiting the town, shops and bars. The central market was fascinating, complete with three guys playing Polynesian music on their little guitars and singing.They have a micro Brewery close to the marina, which Steve remembers entering for happy hour at the start of the evening, but has difficulty remembering leaving much later. We did venture to the roach coaches (roulottes) for an evening repas Steve ate moules et frittes, Lynda a yellow curry and Peter and Karen frites, interesting.
Tahiti is a fascinating place, the people are a great mixture of French and Polynesian. It is quite bizarre to be greeted in fluent French by the garage attendant, tattooed from the very top of his shaved head to include all his body and the backs of his hands with beautiful swirls and patterns, or ladies, wearing beautiful rings of tropical flowers, leis, serving you in the bank at walking down the street, quite normal and everyday here. The language around you is a great mixture of Polynesian and French, mixed and intertwined between words and sentences. “Bonjour or Ioarana, Merci or Mauruuru”
The skippers briefing was great fun, with dancing and welcomes from the local people, explanations and briefings of the things to expect around the group of islands, and the prize giving, where Nina won the prize for estimating the total width of the 32 boats of the ARC fleet placed side-by-side. A bottle of Tahitian rum and a pot of exotic jam, yum yum.
After our two nights in Papeete marina, we made our way some 7 miles around the inside of the reef, past the Airport (asking permission to pass either end on ch12, to the other main marina of Taina.
We stayed in Taina marina for a further 12 days. This marina is right alongside a large Carrefour supermarket. Luxury! Stocking up and provisioning on lots of French goodies was a great treat and a huge culture shock after months of small island supermarkets.
The Marina also had a couple of great bars and a restaurant, The Pink Coconut, with live music.
Taina Marina is excellent, with some 150 berths inside, and an equal number of mooring buoys outside, between the marina and the reef, together with space for anchoring, totally sheltered. Paw Paw was on a bouy, and Do Over anchored, with Aint Fancy, Toujour Belle, and Waterman inside the marina with us. Waterman had been struck by lightening at the island of Huahine, some 120 miles to the North West, and limped back for repairs and replacement of all her electronics.
Nina had never been in a marina with tropical fish swimming round the boats and coral reef growing everywhere, including on the mooring ropes that had been left for some time without being moved. Moreover we could walk to Carrefour. We decided to try the Sunday brunch recommended by the marina at the Pink Coconut. Superb. Elaine & Roy from Paw Paw joined us to munch our Sunday morning away on crepes, omelettes, fruit, tuna cerviche, sausage, bacon, fish and pastries. What more could we ask for? A glass of wine and a beer to finish with.We hired a car for a couple of days. There is basically just one main road around the island, with various small roads that shoot up towards the enormous volcanic sides of the mountain, only to end in gravel and unpaved road, surrounded by forest and waterfalls. Many of these were forbidden in our hire car and we saw why on our 2nd day excursion up to Belverdere. Our car hire lead us 2,000 ft up the small single track, and sometimes very exciting road to the look out and restaurant, the Belvedere where we met Paula and Dan en famille and enjoyed a refreshing beverage and then using the facilities, found them to be the best loos with panoramic windows giving views over the valley.
After finding the Cook observatory, where James came to measure transit of Venus in 1776 which was to help with longitudinal navigation we then found the blow hole located further down the coast.
We found a fantastic French Restaurant, Joules & Remy, quite by chance, for the most superb lunch located between Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti. Steaks and raw fish, deserts and coffee. Fit only for driving the remainder of the island we continued our circumnavigation of Tahiti.
The Tahitian Museum was fascinating, full of artefacts and information, including the formation, populating and history of the Pacific islands to present day.
The Botanical Gardens were slightly disappointing, being largely closed. Perhaps it was a bit out of season, as the Gauguin museum next door was closed for renovation.
After two weeks in Tahiti, we decided we had had enough of the hustle and bustle of the capital. We checked out of the Marina, thanking the superb friendly marina staff, and checking on weather and current, we made our way around the inside of the reef though the Faaa pass, to the Western reef entrance. Much smaller, and shallower, and impassible during any wind or swell, we made our way though the poles which mark the entrance of the reef, through the surfers making use of the huge waves from either side of the entrance, and out into the blue ocean North towards the neighbouring island of Moorea, some 20 miles to the North.
We had a fantastic visit to Tahiti, and loved it. A great Island.