On a map, Tahiti looks like two circles smashed together, a big one on top of a little one. Papeete, the city, is on the north coast, and we stayed in the suburb Faaa. The island doesn’t have the stretching white sand beaches of its neighbors, so many tourists quickly move on to neighboring islands. However, it does have a lot to see including arguably the most famous surf break in the world, Teahupoo. Teahupoo is also the name of the village nearest the break, at the end of the road on the Southern circle. A visit there completed our tour of the island.
Once past the more populated areas, the road to Teahupoo hugs the ocean and the views are incredible. We made the drive on a sunny afternoon. Palm trees leaned out over the water and little areas of sand and shade dotted the road, perfect resting areas. These spots were like private miniature beaches, little gems along the water. Stopping at one, we climbed over some rocks out to an old cement boat tie up surrounded by coral. We watched the fish going by and admired the coral which had some pretty purple spots.
The village of Teahupoo has a food truck, a small beach, and a river mouth that leads into the ocean. It is tiny and quaint. We poked around the river and saw lots of large fish swimming. They looked like prehistoric eels and we watched them slink around the brown shallows for a bit. Eventually, we began the drive back, but not before pledging to return and witness the famous wave before we leave the islands.
I was a very lucky lady to turn 30 on the island. Zack presented me with an espresso and a sketched card as soon as I woke. After our morning workout, we went for a run in the neighborhood. We ran down to one of the ridge edges and looked out to the sea as a rainstorm made fast progress across the island. Soon, it was upon us and it wasn’t long until we were soaked. The weather had been extremely hot and humid and the cool rain pelted us.
Running in the rain always feels a bit exciting. Once you are drenched the rain doesn’t matter and it feels so exhilarating to feel the water running down your face. I always feel myself smiling on a rainy run. After we tired ourselves out in the hills, Zack made me my favorite breakfast. Later in the day, we enjoyed a bottle of rose and a dance party as the rain continued.
Luckily, the weather cleared before we went to our outdoor dinner. We dined at a restaurant called the Blue Banana, where we were seated over the water. I had a drink called Chi Chi (basically Tahiti’s Pina Colada) and lots of ahi tuna with French gratin potatoes on the side, the best of both tropical and French worlds!
Tahiti is an expensive place, so finding a free attraction felt like a coup. We visited the Water Garden one afternoon for a walk around and were pleasantly surprised at its scope and quality. Many different tropical flowers, vines, and other plants are visible on a walking trail through natural streams and ancient manmade ponds. The gardens even feature a tall waterfall that feeds a pool once considered sacred water. In fact, the gardens were once used in Tahitian traditions upon a person’s death, and the various stages of the traditions are annotated around the gardens. The cultural element added an unexpected and welcome layer to the visit. After our very sunny walk through the gardens, we crossed the street to enjoy some shade by the turquoise water. We sat under some trees in pleasant silence taking in the view across the water as a man napped nearby and some teenagers chatted in the distance.
While at the water gardens we noticed a sign denoting the beginning of a hiking loop. We didn’t do the hike that day because I noticed many people had muddy feet and I didn’t want to do the hike in flip flops; we would return with sneakers. So, we went back a few days later, but somehow I had left my sneakers by the door and forgot to put them in the car as we packed for the day! We started in flip flops and went barefoot when it began to rain and became extremely muddy. The trail was an easy loop with a few peak through views along the path and some lovely picnic tables at the top with ocean vistas. It was cool to see the pines that grow higher up on the hill and enjoy the quiet.
At one stop, while filming a bit with our new GoPro I felt something on my foot and looked down. A six-inch centipede was crawling over my outer toes. It moved fast, but I jumped, yelped, and shivered. I told Zack, and he looked down at the offending creature, “That crawled over your foot?” He too shivered in disgust. Centipedes are, in our opinion, revolting. We don’t trust things with that many legs, and the big ones are downright scary looking. We moved on and finished the hike keeping an eye out all the way down. I won’t forget my shoes again! Luckily the water gardens have some very nice public bathrooms and an outdoor shower/foot rinse so our mud-caked feet didn’t last long.
After our hike, we stopped by a beach park next to a black sand beach. We stopped there frequently to complete our exercises on the bars. Somehow, we usually ended up there in the afternoon and it quickly felt routine. Locals played bocci ball, body boarders headed to or from the waves, parents chatted on benches as children played on the monkey bars. Runners or cyclists shared the bars with us, completing their own workout before heading home. We saw very few people there who weren’t Tahitian. People would casually watch us do our exercises with curious faces.
We drove by a sign for a grotto several times before finally stopping to check it out. Once we did, we were again impressed. There were three caves, set far enough back from the road to be covered by the dense tropical foliage, which is to say, not far at all. The first was enormous with chalky teal water inside and massive green ferns hanging down its upper ledge. After walking through a tunnel of jungle plants we found the second, smaller, but still deeply cut into the cliff. Finally, we walked through some gardens and along the road to the third cave again framed with bright green flora hanging down. You never know what you will find when you just take a minute to stop at those roadside tourist signs!
A few forays into the city during the workday for various errands revealed that although small, Papeete is a bustling place. Driving in it isn’t fun, but the city is compact and easy to walk around. There is a large covered, open air market right in the center of town. Although it is busiest on Sundays, it is open every day and we walked through it a few different times. The market sells fish, pastries, produce, pearls, souvenirs, sarongs, handwoven bags, hats, and boxes. Along one side food vendors and small restaurants cater to a lunch crowd with sugary pastries and fast food.
Papeete’s waterfront is a beautiful spot for a walk and we enjoyed looking at all the boats moored in the marina. A wide path runs along the water next to grassy parks with more exercise bars and open areas under the shade of many mature trees.
On this particular day, we happened upon a pop-up market featuring all locally made goods. We made our way through the crowds browsing through clothes, paddle-boards, homewares, and local snacks. Plenty of things looked lovely, but our only purchase was a delicious ice-cold carrot/orange juice from the local juice stand. As we made our way to Les Roulottes, a gathering of food trucks by the piers, we passed an open-air movie night, and groups practicing slack-lining in the trees.
Les Roulottes are one of the cheapest places to eat on the island, but definitely not the healthiest. Online, the reviews were fantastic, so we had high hopes. The trucks are divided between mainly Chinese food, local fish and Polynesian food, and crepes. Most trucks serve similar menus, with a little bit of the aforementioned cuisines. There was one pizza truck and one truck that advertised what we were in search of, cheeseburgers. We settled on the burger truck splitting a burger and fries and then another burger. They were a delicious treat! To try something new I ordered a Singapore red soda. Bright red, it tasted like a red Jolly Rancher candy in cold liquid form.
A large cruise ship was in port and we gazed up at it while we ate, wondering what it was like onboard. Most passengers seemed to be Australian, and many were frequenting the trucks. We eavesdropped a bit, the familiar English words standing out among the usual French. We returned the next day for another burger and a coconut pineapple crepe with ice cream.
On our last full day in Tahiti, we had some errands to accomplish in the city. We split up with a plan to meet and got a happy surprise. Once we did meet back up, both of us shared success on our first attempts. That hardly ever happens! Buoyed by our good fortune we decided to ditch our afternoon plans and have a drink at one of the open-air restaurants we had walked by so frequently. Perhaps it was the sticky heat, our success, or the extremely chilled glasses, but I can’t remember the last time a glass of white wine tasted so delicious. Judging by the smile on Zack’s face his draft beer was equally satisfying.
Our stay in Tahiti was made by our home for two weeks, the studio we rented. After adventures in South America, it was a delight to have a place with modern conveniences and a pool! A consistent, strong internet connection allowed us to catch up with friends and family and get a lot of work done online. Some days we didn’t leave the poolside, enjoying the chance to cook at home and hang out with excellent views. Meeting and talking with our hosts was something we had hoped to do, so when they invited us to join them for dinner we happily accepted. Dining on local tuna specialties, noodles, and some homemade fish dip and toast we got to know one another a bit more.
When it came time to leave, the graciousness continued. Our hosts agreed to hold our big backpacking packs until we depart the islands in June! On the morning of our departure, we packed our small packs and left our little studio not without a little nostalgia. We did a few more things in the city and arrived at the terminal very early to catch our ferry to Moorea. With so much time we planned to read or write, but we just chatted and watched the port from the terminal restaurant’s porch. If islands are famous for slowing down, I think we are acclimatizing very well. Manuia!
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© Cheers Life Partners 2017