25 02 2011
After the anxieties and tragedy of Christchurch no where could have been more relaxing and restorative than Tahiti. Following a long and exhausting journey we arrived in a hot dark tropical night and promptly fell asleep for a very long time. We woke to a brilliant blue sky fringed with palm leaves and took a swim in the warm aquamarine pool before breakfasting on exotic fruit. Then we took the bus to Papeete and learnt a bit about the history. Lots of people have been here, most famous are Captain Cook and then Captain Bligh with HMS Bounty just before the mutiny, but also Bourgonville and Robert Louis Stevenson and of course Gaugin
The Tahitians are lovely friendly people, immediately recognisable as the people Gauguin painted by their flat faces, thick lips and soulful eyes. One of Cook’s sailors reported that one of the young girls negligently let drop her grass skirt as she boarded the ship, you can only imagine what sort of an effect that had on the sex starved crew! Indeed a local French restaurateur says that as a young man the Tahitian girls were always asking him to “Make a white baby “ for them,( white skin and blue eyes are highly prized) He says his record was nine wives in one night but perhaps he was boasting. Nevertheless it seems morals did and may still differ over here and the missionaries found the locals rather reluctant to embrace Christianity.
We spent our first day wandering round the town. There is not a lot to see, but it is good to be able to speak some French. The local speciality is the black pearl and there are numerous jewellery shops and a pearl museum. We thought they looked rather like ball bearings so the bank balance was quite safe.
Tahitian cuisine is great. That night we ate delicious prawns in gooey banana and coconut sauce and mia mia fish with lime.
The island is surrounded by a reef and the lagoon inside is the most beautiful mixture of turquoise, jade, blue and violet edged by the white surf breaking over the reef. The middle of the island is full of craggy mountains and dense tropical woodland. The following day we hired a car and drove round the Island to get a better view and it was stunning. We loved the waterfalls, caves, and bays. The fish are as colourful as the water. Some of them were green and mauve. Next we visited Gauguin’s museum where we recognised many of the pictures but enjoyed them all the more for being in the place he painted them. The highlight for Phil was a visit to Point Venus where Cook set up an observatory to observe the transit of Venus across the sun’s disc in 1769 and where later a lighthouse designed by Robert Louis Stevenson’s father was built. Here Phil realised a life long ambition and took a dip in the South Pacific. ( Roz was a bit concerned to see two plump pubescent Tahitian girls follow him in!)
That night back at the hotel there was a gala dinner with Tahitian dancing. I will leave Phil to describe the women, the young men were very handsome too!
Today we have taken a ferry over to the neighbouring island of Moorea, which if possible is even more beautiful than Tahiti, and went all round the island on a local bus. We joined a beach BBQ and watched a canoe race. There were six men in each boat and they can paddle very fast. It was rather like the boat race. Tonight we are having a quiet night at home in the hotel room as we cannot face any more rich food. We shall have baguette, pate, and cheese, washed down with a bottle of wine!
Roz is right, Tahiti is the nearest place to Paradise that we have visited so far. Besides the beautiful scenery the weather is tropical, hot, but with a cooling breeze, bright sun and occasional heavy but refreshing showers of rain which is why the vegetation is so verdant. The women are lovely, the young ones are very beautiful, but even the older ones, getting rather stout, have flashing smiles and wobble their bottoms nicely. They no longer go bare breasted but do put flowers in their jet black hair. Some of the men do reveal quite a lot of their handsome torsos.
This part of Polynesia is lucky to be a French Protectorate; so far they have resisted Americanisation, there is only one MacDonald’s in Papeete, none on Moorea and no KFCs. We have enjoyed speaking franglais and made ourselves understood very well. Of course it is quite touristy but the big hotels are quite discreetly disguised and we are after all ourselves tourists. Phil had read boy’s adventure stories about Coral Islands as a child, accounts of Cook and Bligh’s voyages and Somerset Maugham’s stories. Not all of the characters who came here and fell in love with the place came to a happy end. Perhaps like Paradise itself it would become boring in the end and so we move on tomorrow (to Santiago in Chile via another day in Aukland NZ) but we are delighted to have been here.