Ia Orana - TAHITI
03 October 2005 | 17 35.00/149 35.00
There she was - rising out of the sea, three days sailing from the Tuamotos Archipelago and to say that we did not experience a great thrill on seeing the island would be the lie of the century! Tahiti has always been the great getaway place in the Pacific, the middle point of the vast sea area of the Southern Pacific. the Isle of love, the earthly paradise. Writers, poets, songwriters have written about her and we now find ourselves here and I find it very difficult to add to the writings of people such as Captain Cook, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Mitchener.. maybe I can just add - it is all true and we have found ourselves in paradise these last few weeks.
We first headed towards Port Phaeton, an anchorage on the southwestern side of the island, in the isthmus between the two islands that make up Tahiti - Tahiti Nui (big) and Tahiti Iti(small). Tahiti is surrounded by a coral reef and various passes allow vessels entry into the lagoon between the reef and the land. We chose passť Tapuareha, not just because it is a wide pass, beaconed and so on, but because our friend Luc from the Tuamotos, an avid surfer, has marked all the surfing spots in French Polynesia for Claude. you guessed it - the passť is a well known surfing spot! And the surf was cooking!
We entered the passť with waves on both sides of us, tubing and breaking over the reef in all colours of translucent blues. It was an easy passť to enter, made very difficult by the surfers having a good time and us having to concentrate on keeping a straight line through the pass, but once we were through, we hovered and watched and Claude was drooling at the sight of the surfing! The girls were standing on each bow, eyes big with amazement and wonder as it was the first time for the girls and I, being from up-country, to see a reef break. and up close as well.
Reluctantly we left the passť and motored slowly along the lagoon to the anchorage. With the land on the one side and the reef and breaking waves on the other side, the water inside the lagoon was calm, the reefs and dangers are well buoyed and we thoroughly enjoyed our first up-close view of Tahiti.
Port Phaeton is well protected, inside a deep bay and a hurricane hole. There is a marina - Nautisport Centre - with haul-out facilities , chandlery and a sail maker.
We woke up the first morning to the calmest of calm days, not a ripple on the water. I took photos of the beautiful sunrise, the tranquil scene of yachts anchored on smooth water reflecting the colours of the rising sun and sky. I had trouble when I developed the photos to actually distinguish top and bottom - see the photos for yourself!
We spent the next 3 weeks exploring this side of Tahiti which is not often visited by cruising yachts.
Claude surfed the various reefs and the girls and I were totally caught up in the air of excitement that surrounds all the surfers and on-lookers. I made picnic lunches and we dinghied to the surf spots, tying up on mooring buoys or the numerous other vessels also tied on. There were aluminium skiffs, kayaks, motor boats all filled with surfers and spectators. At some of the surf spots there are even aluminium stands erected on the reef, overlooking the surfers!
While Claude surfed, we snorkeled the clear water in the passť and of course munching our picnic and watching the surfers. There were surfers from all over the world, the Polynesian surfers clearly visible by their tattooed bodies and in some cases body scars - evidence of close escapes from the reefs!
Taravoa is the nearby town within walking distance from the marina and everything you need is there, food stores, hardware stores, pharmacies, banks, post office, etc.
Papeete, the capital, is a cosmopolitan, busy town. We, not being in a city for months, found the noisy cars, buses, motorcycles and mopeds that clog the town, overwhelming. We visited some of our friends on their yachts tied up along the waterfront boulevard, Mediteranean style(anchor out and stern lines ashore). Although for some yachties it is a "must" to be tied up along Tahiti's waterfront, we found the noise, the fumes and the lack of privacy not worth it.
We wandered around town, exploring the Vaima shopping center, the colourful market with Tahitian food, shell necklaces, fruit, fish and vegetables, the various Chinese stores, pearl jewellers, Notre Dame Catholic Cathedral and we then had a well deserved picnic under the trees in a park when the town came to a standstill - lunch.
We watched the high speed ferries leaving for the island of Moorea and I was totally contented and happy, the four of us sitting under the frangipani trees, enjoying our baguettes with cheese. After lunch, we officially cleared in to Tahiti - the gendarme and customs are right next to the waterfront boulevard.
The bus trip back to Taravoa took just over an hour and it was interesting to see how the landscape changed from slightly more drier (Tahiti) to the lush tropical side (Taravoa). The bus took us past the marina Taina and the port of Papeete anchorage where most of the yachts anchor whilst in Papeete. The anchorage seemed calm and reasonably protected, with shops close by and we decided to try the anchorage if we have the time.
We have been waiting for a parcel to arrive from South Africa and I realise now that 5 days actually means 5 weeks in most of the countries where we have waited for the delivery of a parcel. So, when friends of ours left for Moorea, which is an island "just" 12 miles from Tahiti, we decided to visit the island as well, reasoning that we could just as well wait for the parcel to arrive, over there. This however, is another story and I will tell you about it in another update!