Thursday 8th March
It rained today – all day! We felt sorry for a couple who arrived for their wedding shortly after the worst of the downpour but with it still raining.
We left in the evening to catch the 10.20 p.m. flight to Papeete where we arrived shortly after midnight and took a taxi to the Radisson Plaza Resort that we had booked via Wotif.
Friday 9th March
We spent the morning by the pool and then took the hotel shuttle to Papeete to try and arrange a trip to Easter Island. As it transpired that school holidays commenced this weekend, what flights there were were incredibly expensive and there was little or no accommodation to be had on the island.
Our visit was rather disappointing as we had hoped to buy some food and drink to avoid paying hotel prices. At a café in Papeete we paid about £13.00 for two fruit juices. There seemed a total absence of any food selling shops. To judge by the prices, presumably the place is reasonably prosperous but it had a slight tired air and also lacked a real sense of history.
Our hotel lies about 5 miles out from the town centre and there are no shops anywhere near so we had a simple supper at the hotel.
Saturday 10th March
We had an extremely disturbed night with people in the room next to ours “partying” until 7.00 or 8.00 in the morning. We mentioned to Reception that we were far from happy about this and they offered to give us yesterday’s continental breakfast free of charge as well as offering free day use of our room on the day we check out.
We had decided that we wanted to go to L.A. earlier than the 16th for which we were booked since we could not now go to Easter Island. Reception let us use their telephone to ring Air New Zealand and we were able to change our flights to 14th – giving us two extra much needed days in L.A.
We took a bus tour around the island and this gave us a totally different perspective on Tahiti. Like Rarotonga, it appears to have all of its development around the perimeter which is served by a single road. Unlike Rarotonga, the mountains seem higher and even more dramatic. The housing is less continuous. We were very much struck by the beauty of the wonderfully shaped volcanic mountains clad in luxurious vegetation and coming down to an extremely narrow coastal plain.
We visited a look out point, a water fall and a blow hole before having a good lunch at the Paul Gaugin Museum Restaurant. We did not pay the admission for the museum itself as there are no original works and most of the labelling is in French.
Our driver, Angele, offered us a visit to Moorea and a reduced rate on the airport shuttle which we decided to accept. She needed cash for these but the ATM refused to give us any! We had to change up the odd currency we had and our travellers cheques at the hotel.
To save money we did not eat in the evening.
Sunday 11th March
The day started with a ceremonial gathering and dance, the purpose of which was not very clear to us but it was colourful and at times sounded very exotic.
We spent the rest of the day in the hotel, having neither breakfast or tea but a superb buffet lunch.
The hotel has a freshwater lagoon just a few yards from the black sand beach and is attractively set facing the sea and lined with palm trees. The resort’s only drawback is its isolation from facilities other than those which itself provides.
Monday 12th March
We set off just before 6.30 a.m. and caught the ferry to Moorea on a package provided by the same company that arranged our previous tour.
We were getting used to the pattern for these islands of precipitous volcanic mountains, heavily clad in a variety of tropical vegetation, with a narrow coastal plain and a single road around the perimeter. Each is surrounded by a lagoon created by a coral reef that protects the island from the main force of the waves. One day the volcanic remains will eventually be eroded away, leaving just the lagoon and the reef (an atoll).
Moorea must rank as the most beautiful of the three that we have seen.
We were met by a four wheel drive vehicle that took us to Cook’s Bay where at least three U.S. blockbusters were filmed. It was in fact not the bay into which Captain Cook sailed although named after him.
After that we drove up the steep slopes to the Belvedere look out point from which we were able to see the bay again and also the other, to the right, where Cook actually landed. As we looked down at the small ships within that bay, it was very easy to identify with the contemporary line drawings that we had seen of ships anchored in such a bay during their voyages of discovery.
On the way down from the look out, we stopped at a Polynesian temple still highly revered today and into which local people will not venture. This was used for human sacrifice prior to battles.
We then visited a small outdoor shop selling jams, ices, local juices and coffee. We bought some of the latter for Roger and Lesli. Then we went off road into the plantations of the School of Agriculture and saw such fruits as pineapples, mangoes and papaya. These grew in the particularly fertile land of the crater itself.
Following our walk around the plantations, we reboarded our jeep to visit a distillery shop that also sold such items as suntan oil, perfume and Nono tablets; we bought some of each.
It was interesting to see the Sheraton and Sofitel with their thatched “hut” accommodation – in the latter case built out over the sea.
We were taken to the Intercontinental where we had a leisurely lunch and then sat on the beach until we were collected at 3.30 p.m. for our return catamaran ride to Papeete.
Tuesday 13th March
We remained at the hotel all day reading and Jill sunbathing on our balcony before catching the 2.20 a.m. flight to Los Angeles.
General Impressions of the Pacific Islands:
Although the three islands we visited differ from each other, they share certain similarities. The geography has already been mentioned. The culture and language are similar throughout the Pacific Islands. Apparently all of the islanders and the Maori of New Zealand have such similarities of language that they can understand each other. This includes Hawaii in the north. There are apparently about 2000 Pacific Islands and so far we have seen just a little of the Cook Islands and French Polynesia.
The people are reasonably friendly but we did not feel overwhelmed by the general attitude of those involved in tourism. It seemed to vary according to personalities just as it does in many other parts of the world.
The Cook Islands are less developed and seem poorer than Tahiti. This is borne out by their continuing de-population. Tahiti itself is a beautiful island but we were not much taken with Papeete.
The clothing worn is almost invariably very attractive and brightly coloured. As in all the best travel brochures, the wearing of flowers in the hair is widespread. A single flower, worn behind the right ear denotes that the girl is unmarried whilst those with them behind the left ear are no longer single.