French Polynesia- Tahiti & Mo’orea

We have been looking forward to this part of the trip for awhile! We flew from Auckland to Tahiti which took 4h30. We crossed the international date line on this flight so between that and the 2 hour time difference: we left NZ on the morning of the 9th and landed in Tahiti on the afternoon of the 8th. So my journal has 2 entries for both July 8 and 9:)

Tahiti has quite a reputation but as it’s also the most touristy, our expectations were low for the town itself. However, we enjoyed ourselves on our 2 day “layover”. We stayed at a great family pension on the west coast which provided a comfortable and quiet place to call home to 2 days. Relais Fenua is run by Annabelle who is really friendly- her daughter, Nau (sp?), is about 4 years old and the first morning we were there, she saw with us at breakfast and we played together for about 3 hours. She only spoke french so it was a good opportunity to practice!

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Our time in Tahiti was spent walking the beach across from the pension (the first night we stared at the gorgeous stars for half hour), eating at the roulotte down the road the first night and the pizza the second. Roulottes are pretty common and provide great food for a reasonable price- it’s full of locals, not a tourist in sight!

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The next day we snagged the local bus to the airport ($2.50 vs the $35 hotel transfer) which got us there a bit early. We queued in a non-moving line for about 20 minutes before learning the staff was on strike so the flight may or may not take off… the flight between Tahiti and Mo’orea is 7 minutes. We chatted with other travellers – nearly all of whom were on their honeymoon and eventually, boarded our flight. The strike will actually take place tomorrow so we count ourselves lucky?

Landing in Mo’orea, you know straight away this is not a place for the “backpacker” type. Everyone is wearing fancy dress, heels, and carrying nice luggage and is on their honeymoon. Fair enough but what it also means is that hotel and transport operators aren’t expecting people outside the inclusive packages travelling on “vouchers”. We didnt have transportation from the airport pre-arranged and there wasn’t a taxi in sight so we were lucky to find an operator who let us tag along and he dropped us at our motel (“Motel Albert”) in Cook’s Bay.

Our place here is a spacious flat with a kitchen, across from the Bay and walking distance from a small market. It was impressive at first but after spending some time here- I can confidently tell you it’s no treat. There are about 1000 bugs – ants mostly and cockroaches in a kitchen which hasn’t been cleaned since 1982. Everything is old and has been housing spiders for a long time. The bed is lumpy and thin and the pillow have such a strong stench of must, we had to cover them with a towel and our silk liners. And don’t get me started on the *&^%ing roosters that start crowing (or whatever they do) and bloody 3am! This for $65 per night was one of the cheapest places we could find to stay on the island – and whilst it’s not quite roughing it like some places we have done (Thailand, Nepal etc) it isn’t exactly great value for money when compared with anywhere else we’ve visited in the world (paying this much in Australia or New Zealand – at least we got something clean and bug free).

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The weather is warm but cloudy the first day so we explore the bay, walking 3 miles in either direction of our place to see what is around. John snorkels and I swim. Eating in every night is fun – and cheap.

Our flat after light rain – Motel Albert

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Today the weather was much better, clear in the morning so we decided to rent a car – $70 for the day. The island is 60km around. We stopped at Belvedere Lookout – which has the best view on the island. We wanted to get there before it clouded over – you can see both bays from up there and there are some archeological points of interest as well- mostly evidence from tribes that lived there 600 years ago before everyone moved closer to the coast when the Europeans came.

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Us from Belvedere Viewpoint – with Opunohu Bay on the left and Cook’s Bay on right:

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Driving around the island provided many spectacular views such as this:

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One of two public beached on Mo’orea. We stopped here in the morning to snorkel for an hour, then again on the way back:)

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So the second full day was spent exploring the island by car – with many stops and swims in between. It was good to get out because seeing other parts really influenced our opinion – as did the weather I’m sure. The snorkeling was OK – the coral wasn’t great but what made it good was seeing 2 spotted eagle rays at the reef dropoff just off one of the main public beaches. All in all, Mo’orea is a beautiful island full of lovely people. But it’s very developed and touristy and if you’re not staying at the Hilton or Sofitel, it’s hard to access the best. These developments – and many people’s private homes – have blocked the entire coastline and fenced it so people even 20m away cannot see it! There are a few places along the road where the coastline is too thin to support a house – this is where we often stopped for a rest and photo opp – however, the rest is really off limits.

Tahiti in the distance – notice the outer reef which causes the waves to break – this occurs around the whole island and results in a protected, shallow lagoon hugging the coastline. PS – this is the Sofitel property:

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So we are off to Huahine tomorrow in hope of even fewer tourists:)

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