Here is the final installment of our trip to Tahiti….
On our second to last day in Tahiti, we flew back to Papeete where we rented a car and drove south on Tahiti Nui. Tahiti is beautiful and surprisingly undeveloped, this is especially true when you compare it to the tourist infrastructure that exists on Oahu.
We visited Point Venus where Captain Bligh, Fletcher Christian, and The Bounty first visited this idyllic land. Driving further south we were surprised by the lack of signage for what in Hawai’i would have been major tourist stops.
As a result, we missed the leper colony and decided we would rather continue driving than stop at the Nordhoff and Hall museum. We stopped and made sandwiches while watching local kids catch waves and then continued South to Teaheapoo, Tahiti’s most famous surf town. We thought we had lucked out when we found a small cottage for rent next to a scenic pier. We went to get groceries and when we returned found that the manager had made a mistake and already rented it to someone else before we had arrived. He arranged for us to stay at Punatea Village on the East shore of Tahiti Iti. The smaller islet connected to Tahiti Nui by a narrow isthmus of land. We arrived a Punatea shortly before sunset and enjoyed an ice cold Hinano on the porch of a modest bungalow room. For the first time since we had arrived, it rained. It had, we later found out, been raining in Hawai’i the entire time we had been gone.
After a restful nights sleep, we ate a decent breakfast and decided to continue our circuit of Tahiti. The rain of the night before had created incredible waterfalls that seemed to fall into the midst of simple villages. The rainbows that burst from the sides of steep pali seemed to clothe crumbling huts in vivid pastel colors. Needless to say, we were entranced. I think we both felt that we had never been anywhere quite so beautiful as Tahiti Iti after a night of pouring rain.
The rest of our circuit was a mad dash to see what little roadside attractions exist in Tahiti. The Gauguin Museum was difficult to find as graffiti had completely obfuscated the sign pointing to it. No one had bothered to repair it. The dismal Lagoonarium connected to Captain Bligh’s restaurant smelled of stale urine and was made of hopeful 1970’s plaster of paris ferro concrete and dirty sand. It was a bit like visiting one of those horrible zoos that you find in third world countries. Tahiti’s best value, or maybe not.
The Museum of Tahiti and her Islands had also seemingly been constructed in a wave of tourist optimism combined with French nuclear guilt in the 1970’s and then abandoned. The strangest part of all these ‘tourist attractions’ was that we seemed to be the only tourists to visit them. They were more vacant than the eyes of a junkie. Keep in mind, while these were somewhat dismal attractions, they were the ONLY attractions, per se. So it was quite a surprise to find no one but us willing to visit them.
Along the road we stopped for Chaud Mace (boiled chestnuts), rambutans, and pickled mango (we think). We opted to not buy any of the tons of fish which vendors lazily hawked to passersby. Our trip ended with a lovely dinner at the International Resort and some surreptitious views of the Captain Bligh Musical Review that was being performed there. We were fortunate enough to be able to catch the accidental sinking of the canoes that came out to welcome The Bounty. I’m guessing the ancient Tahitians were better seamen.