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Tahiti: not quite paradise when poor

6th June

The long flight to from Easter Island to Tahiti leaves both Conor and me quite groggy. To make matters worse we are couch surfing and therefore have to try and contact the lady we are staying with to get the directions to her house, the only problem being that payphones only take prepaid card here and there in nowhere open to get one! Thankfully a helpful tourist rep called Areti on her mobile phone and Areti even came to pick us up from the airport. While we were waiting we were treated to another Polynesian show, performed by the troop we’d already seen in Rapa Nui: they shared our flight for their own tour of  Tahiti. Once Areti arrived we took the short ride back to her house, and got straight into bed. Although it is only just after midnight here, our bodies are screaming that its almost 3am. It is the late night times when you really notice the change in time. I just hope we don’t wake up at like 5am tomorrow.
7th June
I have no idea how or why but we woke late this morning. Both of us slept surprisingly well despite the constant crow from the cockerels. We decided to leave it as late as possible before emerging from the room, partly because we wanted to sort ourselves out, and partly because we were nervous about meeting the family. In fact we left it so late that the family had all left.  Areti was kind enough to leave us a note…. and she suggested that we go into the city first and visit the tourist information. We knew we only had two days on the island so we wanted to make sure that we seen the cheapest, but best highlights.
We caught the bus to Papeete and got off at the tourist information as recommended. The lady was really helpful and suggested some really good activities. But Tahiti, and all of the Society Islands are notoriously expensive. People come here with a lot of money to have luxury holidays and honeymoons so everything was out of our budget. I know we cannot always stick stringently to our budget but none of the activities were right to help us pass the two days. The best suggestion she made was to visit the small island called Moorea, which is actually quite backpacker and budget friendly. The main problem is getting there. A ferry runs a couple of times a day to draw you up onto the white sandy beaches but the day would have been working out over 100 quid, not including food! (and when McDonalds Big Mac cost £8 you have to really take the cost into consideration!)
In the end we decided to go and walk around the city, we had both started to get hungry for a lunch and that seemed the best place to look for food. We faffed around the city for most of the day, stopping in sit in the marina and watch the luxury yachts pull in from their sailing expeditions, or leaving with a deck full of excited tourists. We sat in the shade of a palm tree and read some more of our books (I have finished so many books in the last two weeks) and sat on an outdoor table of a restaurant with a pitcher of beer, watching the locals going about their daily business. I think this is really what travelling is all about. Not always doing activities, or moving from place to place, or staying in a hostel. But relaxing with a drink and watching the world go by, carelessly chatting about nothing in particular and yet discussing everything. However Tahiti, we found out, is only a transition island for tourists and so nothing is based here. All the action is located on the other island, especially world famous Bora Bora, that we couldn’t afford to get to.
We went back to Areti’s in time for dinner, because she had invited us to join her and her family. They made us a simple dinner of burgers and spaghetti. I was a little disappointed that they did not make us something traditional like she said she would. But at the end of the evening when I offered to cook tomorrow she said that, if we bought the tuna she would make us the traditional Polynesian dish of raw fish in coconut milk (Conor´s dream meal – not). In fact we are both equally nervous about it because Conor is not a fan of fish and I am not a fan of coconut milk…. probably not the best start!
After dinner we played with her family a little, she has two girls, a nine year old and a 14 month old. The baby is delightful and her sister takes excellent care of her. I’m not sure what they’ll grow up to find. We did notice that Tahiti seems to have a bit of a drug problem, we have seen more than our fair share of drug takers and dealers than ever before. Even standing at the bus stop, young boys opening smoke what appears to be crack and no one seems to expect anything different. We chatted with Areti after dinner and enjoyed her company, she is the only one in the family who speaks English (her husband makes a good attempt at the basics and Areti is encouraging her daughter to try and learn also). We ended up going to bed quite early tonight, at around 9pm. As soon as my head hit the pillow I was out for the count.
8th June
We had been well warned that the beaches in Tahiti were the least spectacular of all the islands, but we still expected sand, sun and the Pacific. However, when we got off the bus we were in for a huge disappointment. The public beach, although reasonably clean, was all pebbles and the stretch before the sea was covered by the shade from massive trees. Cranfield would have been nicer! Anyway, we decided to cut our losses for we were here now and we might as well make the best of it. We read our book leaning against the tree, and munched on the picnic we had brought along. When we had had enough of that, and to be honest it was cold in the shade I took a wonder further along the beach. When I rounded a corner a secluded little sandy beach opened up. I ran back to get Conor and we moved to that spot. I think most likely that it was a private section of beach, but no one said anything, there was no one there to say anything. I went swimming and enjoyed the heat of the water, and dried under the sun. I did get a little burnt but it’s only a little red and not sore. Conor sat out, alternating from the sun to the shade of the coconut trees and when we both had enough sun, we headed back to Papeete to pick up the tuna and head back to our home for the night.
Areti’s tuna dish was really good, I loved it, and even Conor happily ate it too. Some of Areti and her husband’s friends came around to party and shared their beers with us, so we sat outside, chatting when we could and learning some Polynesian pub tricks. The evening was really merry and a lot of fun, but we had to keep in mind our 4am departure tomorrow for New Zealand. In the end we both retired after getting well beaten at chess a few times! It was a shame to leave but neither of us wanted to sit up drinking on a night before a six hour flight.
9th June
We had packed and set everything outside ready for a swift and (hopefully) quiet departure in the early hours of the morning. Because the taxis here are so extortionate we decided to walk the 3km or so to the airport. It is mostly downhill, in a residential neighborhood so we hoped it would be okay (and Areti gave us her blessing!).
The flight to New Zealand was with Air Tahiti and I slept for much of the journey. Damn, I could have stayed up drinking after all!
More by this author on her blog.
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