We spent the first and last night of the trip in Tahiti. Dana had a bunch of Radisson loyalty points to use up, so Radisson Plaza it was. We got upgraded to a two-level suite.
I feel sorry for the person who made this little laminated apology card necessary...
The Air Tahiti network, cleverly superimposed on a map of Europe so that western visitors would have some idea how far the various islands are. Papeete is placed where Paris would have been, naturally. There is a single international flight available, to Rarotonga (labelled "Iles Cook"), roughly where Madrid would be. Our journey took us as far as Maupiti, standing in for Guernsey in the Channel Islands.
Toatea lookout and the overwater bungalows at the Sofitel Mo'orea. This is where Ron realized he had lost the camera's polarizer filter. There are no camera accessories for sale on Mo'orea, as it turns out.
The first of many magical sunsets. Regardless of what the weather was like during the day, by sunset the skies would largely clear, the wind would die down, the heat subside, and half the population of the island would be drifting about on the beach in a mellow dreamlike state.
Look what I found in the pack :-) This is about as far as Bamba can go, short of launching it into orbit. The antipodal location to its origin in Israel falls in the Austral archipelago of French Polynesia.
Mark's Place Mo'orea, run by an American who settled here 35 years ago. We ran into Mark near our hotel on the other side of the island, and he invited us to drop by. Maybe he meant it, maybe not, but drop by we did, and left with some great tips for stuff to do (he is very passionate, as well as knowledgeable, about Mo'orea).
Mark makes things out of wood for a living. He made these bungalows and everything in them. Each room is different, and all are pretty.
First taste of Tahiti's celebrated Hinano lager. It had an overpowering sulphur smell. Fortunately it turned out to be a bug rather than a feature. Brewed correctly, the beer is certainly drinkable, if not terribly exciting.
Modern vanilla cultivation. The stalks need something to climb - in the traditional technique they were planted in the forest and wrapped around trees. Nowadays they are planted in hothouses and made to wrap around these tombstone-looking fixtures.
Hotel Hibiscus, our digs on Mo'orea. It was the kind of place we like - quiet with just a handful of bungalows and rooms, a small beach, a small pool, a decent restaurant, and easy access to services. The beach out front is not great for swimming, but spectacular for sunsets.
The program at Tiki Village includes a briefing on Tahitian craft and culture - plants and their uses, fare (dwelling) construction, social norms etc. We know enough about these topics by now to tell if the guide is knowledgeable, and this one was very knowledgeable (can't recall his name unfortunately - it was long and complicated!) He later turned out to be one of the best dancers in the troupe as well.
At Tipaniers beach you can rent a kayak for 1000 XPF ($12) and paddle a short distance to swim with sharks and stingrays. Easily the best deal on the island (except maybe swimming to the same spot, which is totally doable)
The ubiquitous roadside grocery. We were excited to find Tip Top ice cream, and hunted around the island for Hokey Pokey. But the flavour was only available in 2-litre tubs at the Champion, that was frankly too much Hokey Pokey.
Temae beach and the Sofitel. Although the entire coastline is public and free to access, Mo'orea has only two "real" public beaches - Temae and Ta'ahiamanu. They are both stunning, and you are guaranteed to meet mostly local people there.
We liked paddling to the rays and sharks so much that we decided to go again the next day. But the weather had turned windy with strong currents, the kayak filled up with water to a dangerous level, and the lagoon was too messy to see very much anyway. So we turned around and paddled to a nearby motu. If Dana is smiling here, it is mostly because she is relieved to be out of the sinking kayak and back on solid ground.
Ron wanted to catch the sunset from the Belvedere. Upon arriving I realized the error - the view west is blocked by a chain of mountains at a very high aspect (duh). We raced back to the Hotel Hibiscus, and arrived just in time to catch the nicest light show of the week.