Faaa from home but back on familiar ground
Not for the first time, we found ourselves emerging from a plane to the strumming of a ukelele trio - the unique sound of Faa'a Airport, Tahiti. No sooner were we eunited with our luggage than we were off into the night aboard a minibus driven by an increasingly lead-footed local. Familiar sight flashed past as we flew along the main road south towards Fare Nana'o the beautifully surreal haven where we'd be staying for a few days beore travelling on to New eland.
Situated just south of the village of Taravao on the isthmus between Tahiti and Tahiti Iti, Fare Nana'o is a collection of individual nd unique bungalows grouped together on the edge (and in some cases over) shallow water submerging fringing reef. Each bungalow was constructed, it seemed, entirely from wood which had been designed to retain as much of its natural shape as possible. Wood was everywhere, from the bed to the window frames to the palm frons which made up the roof. There was no glass in the windows, two huge sils of cloth billowed in our room when the wind blew off the sea. Our bungalow was built upon a jumble of coral and we could feed the Picasso fish by dropping bread outside our window! Our location also made it easy for the local fauna to investigate us, the crab we found crawling over the bed was a bit much though and we hastily errected our mossie net to keep out inquisitive crustaceans and winged beasties in the night.
I made a solo journey on the bus back to the airport to pick oup a car (cheaper to pick up and drop off at the same location) and, after returning to pick up Alex, we did some exploring around Tahiti Iti, Teahupoo in particuar. We followed a track which the guidebook said would take us around the coast to some caves but the track's gradual disappearance and the presence of several viscious looking dogs put paid to that and we beat a hasty retreat.
The Fare Nana'o's location meant that the surrounings were peaceful and quiet - ideal for relaxation but not so good hen it came to fillling our stomachs, particularly when we set out in search of an evening meal. We had to brave an unlit road containing several blind bends to get to the start of Taravo. Not a buzing location during the day, it was positively comatose at night and we made do with a very expensive pizza from a roulotte one night. The rest of the time, the local cafe tayed open late and the food was was taty and reasonably priced. Unortunately, some of the clientele put a bit of a strain on the evening on one night in particular. An old lay who smelled of pee, seemed drunk and possesed no teeth, raised her bottle of Hinano towards us, grunted and probably literlly pissed herself laughing, accompanied all the while by the dreadloked, Tahitian Billy Connolly look-alike who was also inebriated and seemed to find a weekday night at an almost empty cafe in downtown Taravao hillarious, bless 'em! For Alex the evening went from bad to worse as 'Billy' tried to attract her attention by calling 'Monsiuer' and to cap it all, her tuna dish ordered from the enitrely French menu arrived raw and looking like it had been thoroughly chewed by someone in the kitchen!
A couple of days later we ventured all the way back to Papeete because I had an appointment to keep at the market. Situated upstairs and tucked away almost out of sight of the souvenir shoppers was the studio of one of Tahiti's most highly regarded tattoo artists - Efraima Huuti.
Way back in Peru when we were staying in Puno I'd begun to design a tattoo which would be a permanent reminder of our year long adventure - a visible mark of life's journey (copyright, T's Tatts, Avaroa, Cook Islands!). I'd come up with a double lizard motif, to represent the two of us of course, the tils of which would entwine and circle my leg to represent us travelling round the world. The design was developed during our travels and recent refinements saw the bodies of the lizards patterned with the design on our wedding rings - probably the 30th version I'd done!
Due to my new found interest in Polynesian tattoos and the sake of authenticity, I decided that the best place to have the design inked was in Tahiti. Tihoti, the artist we'd met on our trip to Huahine reccommended Efraima and that's how I came to be reclined on a couch having my leg shaved by a bloke in a little room above a fish market in Papeete!
It took Efraima a couple of hours to complete the design which came at a cost that wasn't just financial - particularly round my shin and achilles tendon but the result was excellent. My lower leg wrapped in clingfilm and seeping a little blood, I thanked him profusely for scarring me for life and rushed out to find Alex and show her my Tahitian artwork.
We'd timed my tattoo session to coincide with our final day on Tahiti as New Zealand was our next destination and there wouldn't be much of a problem keeping it covered until it was healed. The plan was to drive up the east coast to find some good beaches to lie about on before sorting our bags and heading for the airport.
All didn't go to plan however when, after our first stop to watch some surfers riding clean waves which were crashing onto a black sand beach, the car refused to start. We enlisted the help of some passing kids who promptly kicked off their sandals, got behind the car and enthusiastically shoved us about half a mile down the road. But they couldn't bump it back to life and so I resorted to contacting the rental firm. After proglonged and theatrical miming, I managed to tell the guy who's house we'd stopped infront of that we desperately needed to use his phone.
Today was sunday and the hire firm told us to sit tight until they could locate someone to come out. We had visions of being sat in the car as our flight to NZ trundled down the runway later that night. One last turn of the key, more out of hope than expectation and -vrooooom! - we were out of there. I first told the guy that if the rental company got back to tell them that we were okay and we raced back to the Fare Nana'o to sort our gear and cross our fingers that the car would start when it was time to leave...