|We awoke the next morning to bright sunshine and decided that it would be good to head to downtown Papeete to do some of that last minute souvenir shopping that is obligatory on every vacation. We decided to be adventurous and take the "Le Truck" bus downtown. We had noticed a bus stop immediately in front of the hotel, just a hundred yards or so away. We managed to make it downtown easily enough, although it wasn't the coolest method of transportation available.
Arriving downtown we began to explore the alleys and streets of Papeete in search of just the right gifts to bring home to family, friends and, of course, the grandchildren. For a couple of hours we proceeded from one street to another, from one shop to another. The streets and shops were
|busy with shoppers, tourists and locals. We loaded up on t-shirts, pareos for the girls, shell necklace for Mother, and, of course, toys for the grandchildren, that is, toys and some island wear.|
|While roaming of the side streets we were treated to the traditional blessing of the local merchants that occurs with the Chinese New Year. This one Dragon (right) would visit from store to store doing its traditional head-shaking dance. Firecrackers where going off everywhere including inside the stores where the dragon was. I know those within the walls of that store suffered some form of hearing loss from the noise that ensued.
After a few hours of shopping it came time to enjoy some refreshments and we headed off to one of the local open air restaurant/bars that were abundant on the main street. On the way we felt the drops of rain begin and, by the time we were seated and enjoying our refreshments, it was pouring down rain. That was, in fact, the beginning of the end. From that point on for the two days that remained it poured continually. There would be periods of downpours where the water was just gushing across the roads toward the sea followed by periods of light showers. The rains came and they were relentless.
After a couple of hours we were thirsty and began to seek out some refreshments. On our way to the main street we felt a few drops of rain and noticed the threatening skies. On our flight from Bora Bora we skirted a few thunderstorms. Little did we know what that would mean to the remaining two days of our trip. By the time we made our way to a covered sidewalk restaurant, the skies opened up, and the rain fell in buckets. We sat there watching the rain fall and the rush of water on the streets make its way to the sea not far from us. We wondered how we would make it back to the hotel without getting drenched. just a few hours.
When time came to make our way back to the bus stop the rain had slackened a bit. We proceeded down the street taking refuge in shops when the rain once again became heavy. Still in need of some gifts we made our way back to this large semi-open air market. There you could find just about anything you needed at reasonable prices (for Tahiti that is). The most reasonable priced items were the beautiful tropical flower arrangements. For $20 you could buy large arrangements that, at home, would cost at least a $100. The ground floor was mostly food and baskets and is where the locals came to do their daily shopping for dinner. There were table after table of fresh fish and it was very discouraging to us divers. Not only did we find the expected tuna and other game fish, but we also found the beautiful tropical fish that Anne and I so often feed. Fish that saltwater aquarium hobbyist would pay $40 to $80 apiece for were laying there dead for just a few dollars.
With our shopping finished and the rain slackened, we headed over to the bus stop While waiting for the bus we went into a small souvenir shop who, as soon as we arrived, closed. The storm has caused a power failure and they were closing for the day. I did manage to buy those last few postcards. Catching the bus back to the hotel we enjoyed the ride in the cool breezes often found with tropical downpours, but we wondered how we'd make it from the bus stop into the hotel. We were lucky. The rain slackened long enough to let us make it into the hotel without getting drenched.
|Arriving back at the hotel the rains continued with no letup in sight. That night, over dinner as we watched the torrential downpour, Anne and I decided (or was it Anne who decided?) we'd rent a car and take a drive around the island of Tahiti. Tahiti is a large island and is referred to as "Tahiti Nui." To its north lies a large peninsula called "Tahiti Iti." Our drive would take us around the entire island of Tahiti Nui and to the end points of the road on Tahiti Iti. Even in the driving rain it was still beautiful when you got away from the city.
Leaving Papeete we were immediately impressed with the shoreline. Unlike the other islands this side of Tahiti was not protected by the offshore coral reef and the waves pounded against the beach. That, however, did not stop the local teens from enjoying surfing. They were out in full force riding the waves. Tahiti's, also unlike most of the other islands, are black sand and not the pristine white sand beaches we were accustomed to.
|Following our little map, under the capable direction of Anne, the map reader and unofficial guide, we found this beautiful waterfall located not far off the main road. Parking the car and walking just a short distance into the woods we were taken by its shear beauty. It dropped a few hundred feet into a beautiful pool at its base where some children were swimming.
|Continuing our drive we arrived at the peninsula of Tahiti Iti and proceeded to the end of the road. The clouds had moved in, the rain fell intermittently and the wind blew. Stopping at this beach I stepped out of the car to take a photo (right) and the sand being carried by the wind felt like sand paper rubbing at my legs. I took refuge behind a palm tree long enough to get the shot and headed straight back to the protection of the car. The low clouds clinging to the tops of the mountains, the white caps and blowing trees were a beautiful site.|
|Driving along the roads of Tahiti Anne and I had the opportunity to observe how the locals lived and played. Everywhere we went the children seemed to be out in full force, even when the rain was falling down. I guess when you're out enjoying the ocean it doesn't make much difference if the rain is falling, so long as the lightning is not striking it is fine. Another thing we noticed was that in most of the towns we passed there was a relatively large roofed structure with a concrete floor and no walls. While there were none in use when we drove by, it seemed that these were good places for the children to gather and play basketball and other games out of the hot Sun and rain. There always seemed to be someone walking up and down the roads, going from one place to another, or riding bicycles. Life appeared to be relatively simple and straight forward for the children of Tahiti, much as it was for me growing up in a small town in Virginia.|
|While driving around Tahiti Iti's shore Anne noticed a lookout point in the center of the island that supposedly offered a beautiful view of the island of Tahiti Nui and the isthmus that connected Tahiti Nui with Tahiti Iti. Following the directions on the map we spent the next hour looking for the access road to this lookout point. We traveled up and down the highway to no avail. What appeared to be good directions on the map were not very good at all, or so we thought. Unexpectedly we finally found the right road which led up this very narrow and winding road to the lookout. The road wasn't wide enough for two cars to pass without one pulling off the highway. We drove several miles through farm and pasture land before arriving at the lookout. As you can tell by the pictures (above) the clouds and rain had moved in, but the trip was still worth it. One could only imagine how beautiful it might have been had it been bright and sunny, but, in its own way, it was still a very beautiful location.
Having covered the peninsula of Tahiti Iti thoroughly it came time to start heading back to the hotel. It took us about an hour to return to the hotel and then drop the car off. Much to soon our last night in French Polynesia had arrived and, with the morning, it would be our turn to board the "great silver bird" and fly home. A moment I know that Anne and I would not look forward to fondly.
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