Tahiti... isn’t that a dream! Voluptuous green mountains, traditional villages and stunning black beaches. Black? Yup, that was quite a shocker. Maybe we didn’t prepare well enough but we did not see it coming.
Tahiti has no white beaches... none, no kidding. From grey flints of stone to brown powdery sand beaches. They’re not white but they are gorgeous!
Tahiti and its small appendix Tahiti Nui have about 170.000 inhabitants equally divided in French, native Polynésian and Chinese. A traditional Chinese temple next to a authentic French Protestant church in Papeete.
We haven’t made any arrangements for a pick up and we can’t find any WiFi when we enter the arrivals hall, so we ask a guy in a airport shop where the busses stop. Go outside, cross the parking area, get up to the road via the two stairs and cross the road if you want to go to Papeete. The public bus from the airport to town costs 200 franc each. Right! Easy peacy... I love people who just say what you want to hear!
€1.60 for the bus or €17 for a taxi... after twenty minutes we need to exit the bus and walk to our guesthouse. It’s about two kilometres and it’s raining like... the tropics, but we’ll survive, we don’t care, WE.ARE.IN.TAHITI!!
We booked a nice room by the pool at Fare Rea Rea just fifteen minutes from the centre by foot. At this moment we think this budget accommodation immediately sets the standard for the rest of our
journey (little did we know then) we pay €50 for a double room by the pool, with shared facilities.
There are a lot of supermarkets all round the town and even the large French Carrefour. We get some groceries for diner and we cook a great healthy veggie meal for two days. The rain doesn’t seem to stop today but in the open communal kitchen we are dry and we enjoy the company of our fellow travelers. One of them has just recovered from Dengue, he has been quite ill for two weeks. The disease is transferred by mosquitoes and the only thing you can do is spray. So that we do. A LOT.
After a great and peaceful night we enjoy our luxurious brekkie and explore the city. There is not much interesting to see or do but there aren’t a lot of tourists either, which is good. The locals are friendly and luckily do speak some English here and there.
Now that we are in Tahiti we want to see how much it would cost to fly to another island too, but the website of Air Tahiti doesn’t show the option to view the site in English anymore. It knows we are in FP and everything is in French. Et notre Francais is not what it once never was... so... with Google Translate we try to make the most of it, but we decide to go to the Air Tahiti office in town to ask some more questions.
The helpful fellow at the office tries to puzzle a new itinerary together to fit in Rangiroa but we can only get there if we fit in Bora Bora too. Now you might think BORA BORA?! SAY YES! But as the guy immediately says, it’s overpriced and heavily overrated. Hmm... we have to think about this. A separate return flight is a bit more expensive than changing the air pass but then we have to go to spend money on Bora Bora too.
The problem is solved quickly when his colleague says we cannot change the air pass because we are already in the country. Huh?! Online there appear to be special tariffs and so and so... uhuh. They’ll probably fix it for us, but first we need to think about what we want. We let fate decide and leave it the way it is. (We later found out, having been in contact with the company that the pass cán be changed)
In town we walk passed a large fresh market with fruit, vegetables and fish. The market opens at 4:30 am and the best fish is sold out by 7am. Think we’re too late... there are some chucks of tuna left but, nobody buys them so why should we.
The next morning we leave at 11:30, our plane leaves at 2 pm but we are not sure about the bus so we leave early. Our host Alan gives us directions where to go for the bus stop. The taxi to the airport costs €17, we do not want to spend that on a 8 km ride. So we walk. After 1.5 kilometre we finally see the bus stop and wait there. After half an hour a girl appears and waits there too. You see, we are totally in the right place.
Just to make sure we ask her it this is the right stop, nope. She only speaks French but we think we know what she means with the former directions in the back of our head. We walk... and walk...
To make a long story short, we walked too far. Eventually after walking for an hour we find the right bus stop in front of the Vodafone store where we were the day before. Pfff...
We’re just in time for the bus and finally we are on our way to the airport. It’s only 5 kilometers from here to the airport but we only have an hour left. 1, 2, 3, 4... zen... we’ll be fine.
At half past one we arrive at the airport and check in our luggage. Pfew, we are here!
Going to the gate we need to throw away our bottle of water. We fly from island to island, domestic flight, and still we need to throw our water away. Idiots, as if that really makes a difference. Behind the x-ray we can buy a new exactly the same bottle for 450 Franc.
Ok ZEN 2.0, we made it!
A supershort flight of only 5 minutes brings us to the other side. With Mo’orea in one window and Tahiti in the other we enjoy this weird but short experience.
There is a ferry between Tahiti and Mo’orea and it takes just a bit longer, but this flight was already in our air pass and the ferry costs about €25 per person. With the ferry you will arrive in Papeete so that is an advantage, but well... this winner amongst short flights is a unique experience.
We have booked three nights at the Airbnb of Beatrice and Michel in Papeete. They pick us up from the airport for free and take us to a fresh market for some groceries because we have a whole kitchen to ourselves. Actually we have a whole apartment, it is huge! We pay €60 per night for an apartment with a communal swimming pool. Tahiti is so much cheaper than the other islands.
Tahiti has a lot of neglected and abandoned resorts that where build in assignment of the former president of French Polynesia. He wanted to focus solely on the rich tourists and wanted Tahiti to have only luxurious resorts. Unfortunately this did not bring the tourists back, on the contrary... Most tourists only stay one or two nights on this island before they move on to Mo’orea or Bora Bora. Tahiti doesn’t have the white beaches and they know it.
Luckily the current president understands what has to be done and has made the country more excessable to budget travelers and backpackers again. By allowing Airbnb and supporting small guesthouses, Tahiti is on its way back on the right track.
From our apartment we can see exactly what this island has to offer because we can’t stop looking at it... a view to die for!
Michel says, electricity is very expensive in French Polynesia, so people do the weirdest things to save on power. Michel brings an electrician to build in a timer for the hot water boiler, the boiler won’t work at night and early in the morning we’ll have hot water again. Right, no problem!
Unfortunately the electrician forgets rule number one: check if it works!
So as soon as he’s gone we discover it doesn’t work and we have no hot water. We’ve have had cold showers many times, we won’t die. Grr...
Today we are diving Scubatek, they have a small office at the harbour on the north of Papeete. Jerome will guide us but there is barely any communication or briefing. This is really weird. His English isn’t that good, but to say he wouldn’t know how to explain where were going... no.
Maybe we are impatient, maybe he’ll brief us when we get there.
From the boat we can see dolphins so we cannot wait to get into the water! So cool!!
There are two other divers that speak French but they don’t talk to us either so we can’t find out if they do know where we are going.
The dive site is very impressive. The dolphins are nowhere to be found, but we see so much we don’t miss them. There are huge canyons under water that disappear into the abyss. The colours of the corals are amazing and there are some mysterious caves and cracks.
Jerome does not shine in guiding, and during the dive he appeared to be giving a course to the other two divers. The situation is a bit weird and when he acts like he can’t breathe under water as a test to the other we are confused...
After a while it gets through to us that he’s giving a course and we decide to do our own thing and enjoy the best we can.
After the dive we tell Jerome that this is absolutely unacceptable, he is not really impressed by our speech but then again he probably understood only half.
We decide to give him the benefit of the doubt. The reef looks healthy and incredibly interesting so we go for another dive the next morning, no course Jerome says... right...
Unfortunately yesterday repeats itself. Jerome’s quality in guiding and again we end up in the middle of a course. We’ve noticed Jerome flippers touch the coral every few minutes and when I try to point him at it he pulls up his shoulders like he doesn’t understand what I’m talking about. Sigh... these people should not dive! Let alone teach!
Asshole! (pardon my French)
Beatrice and Michel rent us their car for only 3500 Franc per day. This is at least 2000 Franc cheaper than any other company so we go for it and arrange that we have the car the next day.
Michel brings us the car early in the morning and an hour later it’s raining again. Shit more rain, I don’t want ANY MORE RAIN! Nobody listens and the thick drops keep falling from the sky.
We make an attempt to drive around the island with Beatrice’s car but the weather gets worse and worse. After seeing what lush green mountains Tahiti has to offer we are determined to try again tomorrow.
We use our rainy day to plan our next destination and book some tickets. A two day transfer in Auckland, six days in Shanghai for fun and then JAPAN! Wooh! We are so excited!
If it would only stop raining we could see some more of Tahiti, that would really make our day...
The forecast for the next day doesn’t look very good and we make the decision not to rent the car for another day. Too bad about Tahiti but, road tripping in the rain is no fun and we have a budget to consider. We’ve already spend too much in these last 25 days... ugh... but boy was it worth it!
On the day of our departure the sun is shining and the sky is clear. Michel will pick us up to take us to the airport. He arrives early and gives us an extra city tour. Now that it’s sunny we can finally enjoy all the great spots in Papeete we’ve missed.
Papeete turns out to be an interesting city when you know where to look. Between the beautiful old French buildings and even a large Chinese temple there are many different colourful Graffiti walls, that are part of a yearly contest.
This has been such an interesting experience for us. We absolutely did not get what we expected... actually we got so much more!