21 June 2009
We are in Tahiti, anchored outside Marina Taina at Maeva Beach (S 17 34 831, W 149 37 192). This is about 6 miles from the Papeete waterfront, but a much quieter place to stay. The marina is packed full (many super yachts) and there are about 80 boats outside on moorings and at anchor. There is a dingy dock for our use and it is about a 20 minute bus ride to downtown Papeete. Downtown is busy and noisy and as modern as any city in the world. One unique thing, is that after dark, the roulettes (literally 'caravans' in French) set up in a square downtown. We ate at these mobile diners last week and had a good meal reasonable (reasonable for French Polynesia) and there were lots of choices of cuisine including hamburgers, Chinese food, pizza and French food. An aside, we do have a McDonalds about 300 meters outside the marina, but haven't eaten there.
Zephyra participated in the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, sponsored partly by Latitude 38 magazine and in part by the Port Authority in Tahiti. This was a 3 day event with included entertainment, booths and a cocktail party in Papeete on Friday. Then on Saturday, all the boats raced to Moorea, the neighboring island. They kept saying it wasn't a race, but there was a start and a finish and many boats. Of course, the wind was light and they had to shorten course (story of our life). We did have an interesting guest whose wife was on the committee boat and needed a ride with his daughter to Moorea. He is French and has been living in the islands for 12 years with his family and is a physical education teacher at a high school in Tahiti. He was full of information about Tahiti, Moorea and the Polynesian culture. Saturday night there was a dinner at the Hilton Hotel on Moorea (not worth the money) and Sunday was a day full of traditional Polynesian games which included outrigger paddling, fruit running, coconut husking and rock lifting. Lunch was served on the beach consisting of traditional Polynesian dishes which even with them being labeled, we could not figure out what we were eating. It was served buffet style and you ate with your hands in the traditional way. We took a snorkeling tour to see some of the underwater wonders on the reef off the beach. Then there was Polynesian music and dancing. Great fun. About 60 boats participated. Look for the article in July Latitude and someone save us a copy, Please!!
For our cruising friends who are behind us, by registering for this event by a certain date (you don't actually have to attend) we were able to receive a bond exemption for French Polynesia. This was a great savings in time and money, because without the exemption you have to buy an airline ticket, post a bond or hire an agent for the exemption. We were able to get duty free fuel after we completed the formalities in Papeete.
After the rally, we stayed in Moorea for a few days. They say Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world, but I don't know how it could top Moorea in natural beauty. I guess I should reserve my opinion until we see Bora Bora. We rented a car with 2 other people and drove around the island (37 miles) to see the sights. The Society Islands are atolls with fringing reefs and large surf breaks. Tahiti and Moorea were formed by volcanoes and have high peaks which are often cloud covered. The next day we snorkeled with the stingrays by one of the island hotels. They (the stingrays) are so used to people (a hotel employee comes out and feeds them every morning) and come right up to you and let you touch them. Russ also saw a black-tipped reef shark on this snorkeling trip. The reefs are home to large numbers of tropical fish and snorkeling on them is like swimming in an aquarium.
We plan to stay in Tahiti for a short while to get a few things done on the boat and re-provision since the mountains of food we bought in Panama are down to small hills. So far, French Polynesia is very beautiful, but way too expensive for our budget. The only saving grace is that we have been able to anchor and not pay marina fees. Food and just about everything else is 2 times California prices and at least 3 times Mexico/Latin America prices. There doesn't seem to be any poverty on the islands, as they are highly subsidized by the French government. They drive nice cars and trucks and have a high standard of living. Unlike the Latin countries, the cruisers are the poor people here.
Happy solstice (it was the winter solstice here) and please write and let us know how everyone is and what's going on.