We arrived late last night from the Easter Island and were happy to arrive at Fare Suisse, the Tahitian equivalent of "budget" accommodations. Perched up on a hill, it was quiet, beautiful and felt more like arriving at a friend's home than a guesthouse. But somehow at $12US per night, we knew we were in trouble.
This morning, knowing we would need to make a plan for the next 6 days that fit more into our $100US a day budget, we first set out to find a breakfast source and the french supermarche at the bottom of the hill was the perfect answer.
“Deux pain au chocolate, por favor.” Yes, the linguistic schizophrenia of this trip has just set in. For months, my ears and tongue were getting accustomed to the sounds and taste of Spanish and here, in these islands, my brain had to do a switch. I suppose my French teachers would be proud to know that I pulled out a few words and phrases from the archives of my mind, though they were a bit dusty and full of cobwebs.
The lady at the supermarche was a bit perplexed with my wish for two chocolate croissants, but as soon as I corrected myself, it went quite easily. This french owned supermarket was quite a treat after months in South America. Our eyes indulged in jars of Nutella, cornichons, french mustard, Orangina, fresh baguettes and a deli full of cheeses. Since we were staying in a “pension” with kitchen, we filled the shopping cart with these new delights.
After a thouroughly delightful breakfast on the veranda and the realization that we had indeed arrived in a place with warm, tropical weather, we set out to explore this capital of the island of Tahiti.
After a disturbing bill at the local internet shop - $12US for an hour, we realized we really needed a plan. In Papeete, the tourist industry has overwhelmed the local flavor, with expensive restaurants and bars serving mediocre food. Frustrated, hungry, tired and hot (this was not the mild climate of Easter Island), we caved and gave into urges for a McDonalds burger. But $20US later made us realized that we really needed to find a better option.
It turns out he most exciting part of the rest of the afternoon was actually visiting the Chilean training vessel that was anchored in the harbor. Dressed in their finest whites, the young Chilean navy officers welcomed vistitors aboard in the afternoon. It was a beautifil ship - even I could appreciate it. In pristine condition and meticously taken care of, the brass sparkled, the mahogany decks glistened and the sails and ropes were a bright white.
Still flabbergasted by our lunch choice, we were eager to hear that there were local food vendors who set up shop past the harbor every evening. For a small cost you get a piping hot plate of veggies and noodles and you sit at make-shift tables with locals. This sounded more like it. We started the walk in that direction, with two others from the pension, but were stopped in our tracks by a rain storm, that only worsened as we walked. Be sat it out for a while, but as our hunger grew and the rain seemed to worsen, we made the choice to run back towards the pension and make use of the kitchen.
Drenched and exhilerated from the run home, we sadly made frankfurters, sauerkraut and toast, which somehow did not turn out quite right. Patrick, feeling not so well, stumbled into bed and we laughed off this rather strange day.
We had learned that the accommodations and food were more budget friendly on the island of Moorea, a short ferry from Papeete. In addition, the flavor of the island was supposed to be more relaxed and less touristy. The day was beautiful and provided exceptional vistas of the islands, making it quite clear why Gauguin may have been so in love with these islands. When you closed your eyes, you could almost see the islands and the people portrayed in his paintings.
We arrived at the harbor and were told for $20US we could catch a taxi to our hotel, a short 15 min ride away. The price seemed ridiculous but so did the other option which was waiting 1.5 hours for the local bus to leave. You see, it was waiting for the other ferry to arrive. Curious, we walked to the road and tried for 20 minutes to hitch a ride, but not one car took pity on us. We caved and waited for the bus...
31. October - 2. November
Sick in Paradise
Our days on Moorea were spent lounging at the Pension Motuitti, a family run pension right on the water. Our first night was in the communal dorm and the rest of the time we spent a private bungalow. Patrick's feelings of illness ranged from high fever to insomnia to low energy, though he was able to rally enough to rent a scooter and putter around the island. I too had surges of ill feeling, that had started on the ferry ride over. Attributing it to sea sickness and a reaction to an abrupt change in temperature, I too rested and took it easy.
Though tired and sick we managed to check out the beautiful bays of Moorea. The beautiful Cook's Bay, named so for Captain Cook who sailed here and found an island without overwater bungalows and tourist ferries...
Between the waves of feeling well and feeling rotten, we ate at the pension's restaurant, watched the sunset, kayaked in crystal clear waters, read books and tried not to feel too sorry for ourselves. Before returning the scooter, on an afternoon while I was again feeling worse and Patrick better, he scootered up into the hills and was rewarded with spectacular views of the bays below.
Lesson learned - unless you choose the over-water bungalows at the Sofitel for $700US per night and indulge in their pools, luxury spa and crystal clear waters, and eat at their restaurant, venturing out only to explore the bays of Moorea, there is no need to go to Tahiti.
Realizing we were only feeling worse and not really getting much out of being on Moorea, we caught the morning ferry back to Papeete and checked into the new Tahiti Airport Hotel, directly opposite the airport, with AC and televsion, something our battered bodies needed. It was brand new and offering special rates, so all in all, it was the best decision. We ordered pizza delivery for dinner and tried not to think about the reality that this was no longer the flu but something worse.
The next morning, after a miserable night of night sweats, insomnia and a tearful wish for my mommy, we thought for a moment about visiting the Gauguin museum before our afternoon flight to Auckland. But, the energy was simply not there. We extended check-out by an hour and then found a bench in the airport on which we would stay until we were allowed to check in. I spent our last money on a thermometer from the pharmacy across the street and some coconut soap at the airport shop. And so would end our trip to paradise.