We packed up a months supply of outfits, her food, allergy meds and some favorite toys.
She will be just fine but even now I keep expecting to see her in her little donut bed next to my computer. I'm sure we will keep looking for her "purse" under the table when we go out for dinner or for her "blankie" at the foot of the bed when we retire for the night.
She would not have enjoyed this 8.5 hour flight in what has to be the most incredibly uncomfortable seats in airline history. Jon just doesn't fit in the seat. The problem is there are only three airlines flying into Papeete: Air France (not direct from LA), Hawaiaan (originated in Honolulu) and Air Tahiti Nui.
On the positive side, we did enjoy a couple of free meals and each seat was equipped with the latest in entertainment diversions including videos from TV, movies and documentaries about French Polynesia.
Upon landing we learned first hand about the difference between US and Polynesian concepts of time as we progressed at a snail's pace through customs and baggage claim. In addition to the leisurely pace of the staff, there was only a skeleton crew available.
We finally found a cab driver willing to take us the four miles and charged us $35. We didn't even complain about the taco bed at the Tiare Tahiti Hotel---just fell into the middle and fell asleep.
Enjoyed a petite dejeuner that reminded us of our little pension in the French Quarter of Paris.
The waitress was very friendly and helped me practice my French. Since our flight to Easter Island wasn't scheduled until !:00AM the next day, We decided to expore Papeete with the trusty maperoo (Jon's cartographic term) we picked up at the airport. It showed a comprehensive walking tour of the city (population: 2,681)
We started it with Gauguin's Banyon Tree which is between 300 and 400 years old.
Apparently the famous painter used to climb the indigenous tree (where he had built a platform in the branches) on a daily basis to sit and enjoy absinthe.
He lived on Tahiti off and on from 1891, painted many of his famous Tahitian masterpieces there as well as a book about Tahiti called Noa Noa. No original Gauguin paintings remain in French Polynesia.
A rather rundown Gauguin Museum near Papeete, but it contains only reproductions of his work and was closed when we tried to visit.
Next stop was the bust of Pouvanaa a Oopa who was the first French Polynesian separatist politician to speak against the French colonial abuses. He was jailed and exiled as a punishment for his speeches. He died a few months before he got to see his dream of independence come true (1977).
We then strolled through the beautiful Assembly Garden which was created out of a mosquito ridden swamp in 1858 for Queen Pomare IV at the mouth of the Papeete River.
The fruit trees planted for the Queen in secret included breadfruit (Uru) mago, avacado, and soursop and many of the flowers are the same as those in Southern California (hibiscus, oleander, lantana, giner, jasmine, coleus, bougainvilla).
The biggest surprise was the Queen's Pond which was also created by the Papeete River. Not only did we find masses of pink and white water lilies but learned that Tahitians used to come here to fill their canteen with the very pure water.
Queen Pomar, who only drank coconut milk and water from this pond, also bathed here every morning, Her servants poured monoi oil (which we picked up for gifts) into her bath during a social ceremony that lasted until lunch.
General De Gailled Monument was a surprisingly modern looking monolith. We would have never guessed that the monument depicts two canoe-bows that form the cross of Lorraine (symbol of Free France) at the center. It was during a speech by de Gaulle in London on June 18, 1940 lthat TAhiti becme the first French colony to join the Free French Forces and distinquished themselves at the battle of Bir-Hakeim in Africa during WWII.
As we strolled down Rue du Commandant Destremea we found a tree-lined street named after the Pouvnaa a Oopa and an carved Tahitian god statue in front of a bank.
We thought it might have been named for the flowering shrub so ubiquitous to California but discovered that the shrub and the park were named for the famous Parisian circumnavigator who, accompanied by botanists, draftsmen and astronomers landed in Tahiti with his ship La Boudeuse in 1768.
It was shady and cool and boasts a bust of Louis Antoine de Bougainville as well as two cannon: one from la French gunboat called Zelee and the other from the German commerce raider the Seedler.
The Papeete River, which flows through the park, is filled with tilipia--a fish that is very popular in Southern California restuarants these days.We decided to walk back the other way from our hotel which is right next to the Stuart Hotel and the AMerican Consulate
We decided to walk back the other way from our hotel which is located right next to the Stuart Hotel. We were excited to learn that the much celebrated French painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954) arrived in Tahiti when he was 61 years old in 1930. He was much influenced by the work of Gauguin.
Apparently when he got off his ship he took a room at the closest hotel which was owned by a Scot name William Stuart and his wife. His room was on the third floor just like ours at the Tiare Tahiti and he had a great view of the waterfront (we could see the SS Paul Gauguin which is the ship on which my sister and her husband cruised the islands. It was at the Stuart that Matisse painted a popular view of Papeete Harbor.
We were able to take a photo of a sunset after a rainstorm from our hotel deck that would have thrilled Matisse.
We felt like it would be a good idea to spend some time at the Papeete Cathedral (also known as Notre Dame.) The church is Gothic style of architecture was more like a humble chapel than a pretentious cathedral with its rough hewn pews and white washed walls.
The date over the door is 1845,
As you sit you immediately notice the stained glass above the altar, the stations of the cross paintings done in a rather primitive style, and the leis hanging from the lectern.
The cathedral has managed to endure the bombing of the Papeete by German destroyers in 1914, cyclones in 1983 and riots in 1987.
To the right of the altar was a smaller altar decorated in birds of paradise and dedicated to St. Therese, the patron of sailors. Every single votive candle was lit. Both Jon and I felt an incredible sense of peace pass over us as we gave thanks for a safe journey. I, for one, had felt abandoned in the wake of the most corrupt political campaign in my experience.
At any rate, we walked out feeling like even though Measure M lost its proponents did so with honor.
Okay, we get it.
All events are unfolding exactly as they should.
Of course we remember the English ship the Bounty which was commanded by Capain Bligh and which arrived on the island of Tahiti on a breadfruit expediditon. His mission was to gather seedlings from Tahiti to plant in the British colonies to provide an inexpensive food source for slaves.
We tried a Tahitian slurpy called granitas and dined at L'Oasis, an open air restaurant and French bakery. We decided to try the house specialty which was a raw tuna marinated in coconut milk and served up as a salad. It wa really delicious and made us think about our friends Ray and Ruta who had introduced us to sushi. BTW Port Hueneme boasts one of the best old school sushi restaurants in Southern California. it's the kind of place where you just ask the chef to choose for you and you are never disappointed.
The folks at our hotel generously allowed us to check out at 9:00PM without charge so we would not have to sit for hours at the airport.
Again we were reminded about Polynesian time. There was a full plane going to Easter Island and only one computer that was working.
Jon found the seats less uncomfortable than Air Tahiti Nui but didn't sleep a wink during the five hour trip. I was exhausted so getting a few hours of zzzzs was no problem. We touched down at 10AM but it took 90 minutes to get through all the Chilean officials.
Touching down at Mataveri International Airport in a wide-body jet was not even possible until 1987, when NASA lengthened the runway to 10,885 feet. The spur, however, was not to boost tourism but rather the need for an emergency-landing site for the Space Shuttle.
My first impression of Easter Island? Tiny, barren and uber-remote. It's at least a five-hour plane ride from either the west or the east. With square mileage comparable to Thousand Oaks, Rapa Nui's population of 6,000 annually plays host to 80,000 tourists and their sizable (80 percent) contribution to the economy.
The beautiful Rapa Nui daughter of our hotelier greeted us with leis and took us on a tour of Hanga Roa which looks like it will be quite walkable. After unpacking in our very charming room, we decied to try out the empanadas handmade by Tia Berta everybody raves about at Ariki O Te Pana. It was right across the street and we made the mistake of ordering two apiece. They were each the size of a plate and chockful of fresh caught tuna, onions and cheese.
Both of us agreed that a reposo was in order after that huge meal.
The Internet was very slow and kept dropping but as Jon pointed out, "You are at one of the most remote inhabited places on earth---it's a wonder that it works at all." Besides, it was free (which we didn't appreciate until we paid 50 cents an hour on the ship) and we found that we had better luck with a stable connection in the breakfast room or the reception area.
We had dinner at Hetua where we enjoyed a 10% discount and the convenience of being right next door to the hotel. It was quite a surprise to find a gourmet restaurant on Rapa Nui. We ordered the lasagna with home made pasta and layered with a tasty cheese fresh basil leaves, artichokes and other unidentifiable veggies but which proved delicious.
The meal was topped off with chocolate crepes. We dined al fresco and were entertained by passersby, the antics of local dogs, and wondered how the bananas growing in front would taste in the morning. We would find out since there was a big bunch of small, very sweet bananas in the courtyard of our hotel.
We scheduled a full day tour of the island so we hoped after french bread and jelly, a delicious omlette, fresh papaya juice, and fresh fruit and very strong coffee, we would be up to all the hiking to the different Moai sites. Our guide was very good looking (for fortyish) although he had unfortunately broken off his front teeth (there must be a story there but I was too polite to ask). We shared the guide who shall remain nameless with a couple from Brazil who arrived at the hotel with us.
I am so glad that I researched the history, religion, culture and statues beforehand. Just standing in front of monuments that are 10 feet tall can be overwhelming. I would suppose that everybody wonders why they were constructed, how they were transported from the quarry, why they were abandoned and'/or overturned.
We all had to march into the National Park Office and pay $60 for our daily entry fee which goes to Chile not into the roads, restroom facilities or upkeep of the signage that was so old and faded that they were unreadable. These Chilean government officials are quite the surly lot. The guy at the desk refused one of Jon's $20 bills because it had creases OUr guide told us they won't accept anything but perfect bills---no rips, dogeared corners, etc.
The first stop was Vaihu with its eight overturned Moai. Terry told us about several competing theories explaining why the statues were overturned: an earthquake and/or a sunnami, civil war among the villages or a loss of faith re: ancestor worship.
At Ahu Hanga Te'e, Terry pointed out a stone circle in front of the ahu or platform which is called a Paina,
A special ceremony took place inside the circle (also called a Paina) in which a son, wanting to honor his mother or father or other ancestor, would arrange for a large human figure to be made from wooden poles and bark cloth, placed in the circle in front of the family ahu.
The son would actually climb inside the figure and recount notable events of the ancestor's life like a eulogy. A oven-cooked feast would follow. The Rapanui would heat up volcanic rocks in an umu (usually located in a cave) and wrap the food in banana leaves.
At Akahanga we found the foundations of several "boat houses" (Hare Paenga) which are constructed to look like an overturned canoe and covered with thatching via long curved poles.
The front yards were filled with smooth rocks in an intricate patterns.
n addition to 12 moai and their topnots (pukao), this site was supposedly the final resting place of Hotu Matuaa. One word here about the topnots.
They were especially designed to fit in a groove on the top of a Moai head and were supposed to depict the chignon-like hairstyle in which males wore their shoulder-length hair.
A competing theory says these huge scoria (red volcanic rock) were some kind of hat but there's no evidence that Rapa Nui ever wore hats.
Another interesting aspect of Rapanui life were the chicken houses (Hare Moa). The Polynesian settlers brought chickens with them and like all of their livestock, the Rapanui allowed them to forage for themselves---free to roam the countryside to find food. However, chickens had a habit of disappearing so at night so their owners would shut them up in Hare Moa where a very small cylindrical shaped space existed uner all the rocks. There are hundreds of chicken houses all over the island.
Tangariki----where 15 reconstructed Moai stand (there is a 16th figure still overturned), is the most photogrphed site on Easter Island. Still no photograph can possibly instill the wonder you feel when you see these giant statues for yourself.
Also located at Tangariki are two petroglyphs surrounded by circle of rocks. Both are sea turtles---a very important symbol to the Rapa Nui. When I purchased my pareo from Easter Island I especially wanted something with a sea turtle. A sea turtle in the Gallapagos gave me a very special ride. You are not allowed to touch the fauna or flora there but this big green guy "volunteered." He came up underneath me while I was snorkeling, turned around and looked me in the eye and then took off. It was a dream come true.
The next stop was the quarry where all of the Moai were carved from the tuff at Rano Rarku. Some 400 Moai were abandoned at the quarry or broke on the way to their destination ahu. Nobody really knows why they were abandoned all at the same time. OUr guide speculated that the workers (who were probably slaves of the artisans) got tired of doing all the heavy labor while the artisans got the big bucks and went on strike. It could also be that supply outpaced demand and if the people started to lose faith in the ancestor worship religion then production would have slowed and eventually ceased.
So how were the statues moved? There could be several methods, depending on the size and shape of the statues. At first the monuments were very small. As they got bigger they wouldn't fit on sleds or even rollers. Supposedly the statues, which were rounded on the bottom so they would rock, could be "walked" by using ropes and pulling one side and then the other.
It was also here that I met the daughter of Maria Chavez, the very first female park ranger in all of Chile. Both she and her mother live at Rano Rokaru. She explained that two different civilizations lived on Rapa Nui. Replacing monarchical rule (by descendants of Hotu Matua'a) and worship of the mysterious monoliths was a meritocracy-based government and cult that celebrated a yearly Birdman Competition.
In order to stabilize the culture after statue production ceased and monuments were toppled, the warrior class (as opposed to the priests and king) came up with a belief system based on an ancient god called Make Make (see below).
A yearly competition would determine which chief (of one of the 12 villages) would rule all of Rapa Nui for the next 12 months. The Hupu Manu (athletic competitors) representing each village were required to descend a thousand-foot cliff at Orongo, swim through shark-infested waters to the farthest islet (Motu Nui) and capture the first egg laid by a Manutara (Sooty Tern).
At that point, the winner signaled his chief that he would be the new ruler---provided his egg remained intact. The victorious chief was required to do two things I think all future US presidents should consider: to shave their heads and eyebrows in an act of humility and to live alone for the first five months of their tenure.
Of course this 150-year-old tradition was terminated by missionaries once they arrived circa 1860.
The Rapanui owners don't feed them nor is there a vet on the island. The attitude is that if Providence wants them to live, she will provide.
Many are very sick, starving and the owners refuse to take responsibility.
They are even destroying the Moai with their hooves and by scratching their backs on the iconic faces.
We also returned to Tangariki on Nov. 14 where we saw a horse actually get through a turnstyle that was supposed to keep animals out of the site. In fact there were about six horses there so they had gotten quite proficient. The horses, of course, were introduced by the Catholicc missionaries during the late 1800s
That's Jon's humble opinion.
Not only does it have a pristine pink coral beach but also a number of Moai there to protect you as you sun, snorkel or surf.
Anakena was the landing place for Hotu Matua'a as well as Thor Heyerdahl in 1955.
Heyerdahl and the professional archaeologists who traveled with him spent several months on Rapa Nui investigating several important archaeological sites.
Highlights of the project include experiments in the carving, transport and erection of the notable moai as well as excavations at such prominent sites as Orongo and Poike.
The expedition published two large volumes of scientific reports (Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island and the East Pacific) and Heyerdahl later added a third (The Art of Easter Island).
Heyerdahl's book on Easter Island, Aku-Aku became an international best-seller. The calabash, sweet potato and chicken were, according to Heyerdahl, evidence of Polynesians coming from South America.
Our guide (who will remain nameless) wasn't all that knowlegable even though he claims to be a direct descendent of Hotu Matua'a. We would have been better off just driving ourselves and consulting our Companion to Easter Island on my Kindle.
He wasn't very happy with his life. His passion for playing music had been replaced by a need to make a living by cobbling together a bunch of part-time jobs. Early on he had come to New York City with a band. It was there he met his ex-wife but she wasn't happy on Rapa Nui so after four kids, they divorced and she moved back home.
She also insisted on schooling the kids in America after elementary school. He had to agree that the schools, although free, were not very good. All the students are taught Rapa Nui, English and Spanish (Chilean citizens) before high school but it is up to the family to teach Rapanui culture and history.
Instead of typical travel guide stuff, our guy preferred to talk about smoking cannibis and drinking angel trumpet tea. I think the flower is a source of datura so that might explain the deaths due to the hallucigenic drink.
He was also a big fan of conspiracy theories--maintaining that 9/11 was an inside job and Kennedy was killed by the CIA so we had to take his claims about cannibalismand starvation etc with a grain of salt.
I couldn't put a finger on his politics--he seemed to be a populist who leaned heavily toward libertarianism---definitely against Rapa Nui indepenedence from Chile.
Actually, he didn't hold science, government, Chileans, priests (which he called preachers) and government in any kind of esteem. He was amusing but we really didn't learn much of anything from him.
Even though the island had been denuded of palm trees by Polynesian rats and from 1903 to 1953, the introduction of 70,000 sheep by the Scottish firm of Williamson, Balfour & Co. wiped out the rest of the vegetation, I did notice a number of Eucalyptus, Coral (Flame) trees, Bananas and Coconut palms.
I also saw lots of frigates, tropic birds, sparrow and sooty terns.
Impressive breakfast this morning---fruit filled crepes. We got smart and saved our second piece of French bread for lunch.
Decided to rent a car for three days and sight see on our own. It was only $72 a day at Oceanic for a Suzuki Jimny. The salesman even let us take the car to our hotel to get our passport and swim/snorkle gear. The plan was to visit Orongo which is at the top of a volcano named Raro Kau. The caldera is presently being used to grow wetland plants and trees. It seemed to be a very spiritual place.---it was the site of the Bird Man Competition and the houses where the atheletes rested--much like an Olympic Village.
Next stop was the CONAF garden at Mataveri. The so-called endangered plants in their manavai (rock enclosed gardens, some subterranean) weren't thriving although other manavai we had seen seemed to be effective at protecting seedlings elsewhere on the island.
When then headed for Fisherman's Wharf in Hangaroa for a late lunch at Te Moana. Another 10% discount place that didn't disappoint. It's difficult to believe that there are such great places for foodies in such an isolated locale. We both ordered fish dishes and shared. Mine was served with an dijon mustard sauce abd loads of veggies. Jon was prepared with coconut milk and pineapple and served over mashed potato/taro. We shared a scoop of ice cream more than faintly reminscent of an orange dreamcycle. It was topped with strawberries, banana and a grape-like fruit that held a pit like a cherry.
Two outsiders managed to earn the trust and appreciation of the Rapanui. They were Father Sebastian Englert, who managed to trace the Rapanui lineage back more than 50 generations, and Katherine Routledge, whose interviews of the remaining elders provided information about the Birdman Competition.
There are actually thousands of artifacts that belong to the museum but only a hundred or so were on the dispay.
Those that we saw were definitely Rapanui treasures including: early wood carvings, thre copies of the Rongo Rongo boards (all the rest are in museums or in private collections), petroglyphs, a female Moai, early carving tools (there was no metals---bronze, iron, etc---used by any of the Polynesians yet they were able to sculpt the huge Moai with obsidian), a water container made out of a scoria topknot and lots and lots of facts writ large on the walls of the alls.
Admission was a paltry $1 (for Seniors)
Stopped at the Super Mercado for some tomatoes, salami and cheese for a sandwich supper on our private patio after a mytery tour where we pounded over some camino en mal estado that was not my concept of fun.
Quite the blow-up at breakfast. The twenty-something physician (Im calling her "Dr. Entltled") and her sister were moved by the hotelier to our table even though one table (that was being saved for a family with children) and another that hadn't been cleaared up yet. "Dr. Entltled" had made quite a scene the previous morning when the omlette didn't include all the ingredients she order. We had already learned that you got what you got butit was always great tasting, well presented well, and served up hot. "Dr. Entltled" started harranging about her room, the food and the service and was surprised that I wouldn't commiserate with her. I advised her to think of herself as a guest in this hotelier's home. She decided she would rather be unhappy. She kept on about rudeness, how much she had paid, lack of respect , etc. Some people actually live to be offended. While it was perfectly true that ourhost was a control freak, she had a good heart. She reminded us of the Soup Nazi (Seinfeld)---if you wanted really good soup, you had to take what you got. Besides we knew we would hmake a great story---the Polynesian equivalent of the Soup Nazi. At any rate, "Dr. Entltled" wasn't having it---she exploded and left the table (and her embarassed sister) in a huff. We noticed the next day that "Dr. Entltled" and her sister were gone and the hotelier had undergone a personality translplant, complimenting everybody and offering to personally grind pepper over the eggs---something she had never done before. You still didn't get the eggs cooked to order, but what the heck. The rest of the guests had something to talk about for the next couple of days.
The Ahu Tahire site was difficult to find---hidden behind the fuel storage depot. Ahu Tahire boasted six overturned moai and several topknots. One had been recycled as a shelter for a shepherd---another indication that respect for ancestors had come to an end.
At Ahu Vinapu,we found five overturned Moai, a female statue that held up a funeral platform and an upsidedown pukao (topknoat) recycled as a taheta (collector for rainwater).
Ahu Akivi is the site for seven restored (William Mulloy and Gonzalo Figuroa) Moai. These statues appear to be looking out to the sea but there was an actual village in front of them. They are supposed to be representative of the first scouts who traveled with Hotu Matua'a and are allighned with the sun at the winter and summer solstice. When you walk behind them you can see the cement work that is holding the heads and bodies together where they cracked after being overturned for whatever reason.
Only 100 topknots exist compared to almost 1000 Moai.
Once the round pieces of red tuff (high iron content) were carved out of the crater, they were rolled (could weigh as much as 12 tons) to the platform and affixed to the top of the Moai head via a tongue and groove system.
One of the things we had to learn the hard way is that all livestock has the right of way. These cows weren't paying any attention to the folks on motorcycles so they waved us through. Bossy and her friends were apparently intimidated by the sound of a Suzuki Jimny horn.
At Te PIto Kuna we discovered a stone that is known as the Naval of the World. It is also the site of the last overthrown Maoi and the only Moai that bears a name. Paro was the husband of a rich widown. The statue was ten meters tall and weighed 79 tons. His topknot alone wighed 10 tone. the statue of Paro was last seen upright in 1838.
Jon said he felt that this site was exceptionally spiritual.
This site had dozens of petroglyyphs including tuna, shark, octopoous, turtles, fish hooks and a 12 meter canoe.
We also found Pu a Hiro which is a trumpet like instrument made from a rock by an ancient rain god.
The Rapa Nui used it to call the fish toward shore.
The place was packed and while we waited for a table we met Erick. He helped out for drinks after he got off of work. He had been to America a number of times and had kids who actually lived there. He kept wanting to "buy" us drinks (which he got for free).
Lots of laughs, lots of great food. Our waiter was all excited about an upcoming surfing contest. Apparently he had placed 5th nationally. We wished him luck.
Before parting, Erick (real name Tepihi) asked me to send him an American flag---a big American flag that he could fly intstead of the Chilean flag.
He said he loved America. I told him I would . I thought it would be easy with amazon.com but they refused to ship to Easter Island so we used the USPS. No problem but the postage as almost twice as much as the cost of the flag.
Ana Kai Tangata translates as cave/eat/man.
You can see anthropologists using this place name to evidence cannibalism.
Howeve, Kai in ancient Rapa Nui also means gathering place.
The ceilings and walls were once covered with bird paintings created fron vegetable dyes and animal fat.
They have faded considerably over the years and many were lost as the shale on which they were painted fell off in large sheets.
When Katherine Routledge visited in 1914, she saw, in addition to numerous depictions of the sooty tern, a European sailing ship as well.
We felt emotionally moved in the cave as we looked out to sea as it pounded the rocks in front of the opening.
There was a sign warning about falling rocks but we escaped unscathed.
Jon seemed very impressed that I managed the steep stairs down to the cave. Of course I had him to lean on if I felt unsteady. People must think we are terribly in love because he's always holding my hand. Let them think what they will.
Holy Cross is known for combining both Rapa Nui and Roman Catholic symbols so we were anxious to see it.
In fact, in the back of the church we found a Bird Man wooden statue as well as a likeness of St. Michael the Archangel.
Usually we feel the spirit in any church but here we felt nothing.
We wonder if it had anything to do with the new Chilean pastor who insists on rennovating the hunded year old church.
We had heard that the residents didn't like the way he called it "his church."
In the graveyard on the left side of the church is a small graveyard which contains the remains of Father Sebastian Englert nd Maria Angata, who was a Rapanui priestess who supposedly could make the Moai statues "walk."
The Artisan Mercado was not yet open but we watched a man carving a miniature Moai out of mahogany.
We later found kava kava statues that ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
His son supposedly saw special spirits in their natural form.
He had promised to forget what they looked like but then went home and carved the likeness.
These are the wooden statues of men with bulging eyes, ribs exposed and huge penises that some anthropologists insist is evidence of starvation.
Since we really couldn't afford these carvings, we opted for a photograph.
We had been told to look for green sea turtles swimming in the shallow water and what do you know, we got to see one for ourselves. Such friendly creatures!
Since we had enjoyed outselves so much at Hakahonu, we decided to return for burgers at lunchtimes. Everybody who had competed in the Surfing Contest was there celebrating. Our waiter came in 9th but he was still happy. He told us he hails from Venezuela (Carracas).
We also stopped at the Super Mercado to stock up on yogurt, peaches, and peanut butter. We were exhausted so we watched the sunset and retired early to the throbbing drumbeat of the Tare'ai Traditional Show.
The centerpiece at the graveyard is the cross carved from a Moai topknot.
We also noticed a very old grave covered in recycled scoria.
The typical final resting place was headed by a cross and the shape was outlined by smooth rocks but many were personalized.
For example a young child's grave was arrayed with stuffed animals while a 38-year old musician had requested his guitar as his headstone. T
here were many Rapa Nui symbols including turtles, fish and favorite foods.
One handcarved wooden rooster indicated a favorite pet.
In between the graves there were riots of yhellow flowers and one plot had tomotoes ripening over the foot of the grave.
It was a beautiful spot with the ocean crashing against black rocks in the background.
One word here about Eco Village and Spa. Located far from Hangaroa to the west, you will find an ultra modern group of buildings covering several acres and surrounded by an iron spiked fence which just doesn't fit the vernacular of the local architecture. It's obviously high end and exclusive but doesn't acknowledge the real reasons tourists come to Easter Island---to see the Moai and to try to figure out the mysteries for themselves. We weren't surprised to see that it remained, for the most part, empty.
We also watched surfers catching waves off of Pea Beach, met a friendly dog, at an empanada at Tia Berta's yogurt pie and coffee at Tromiro's and then back to the hotel to chat with the only remaining guests.
She was a retired nurse and a Chihuly enthusiast.
We can't believe that tomorrow is out last day on Easter Island. The time went by so fast and we had intially wondered what we would do for an entire week.
But as we say goodbye to Rapa Nui we will be embarking on an new adventure aboard a cruiseship. Still it will be sad to leave a place of such incredible beauty, friendly people, temperate climate and fascinating culture.
One last word about the importance for journalists of doing independent research. I would have been completely wrong about the Rapanui people had I merely read the recent news in the international press. I would have thought that the Rapanui wanted and deserved their independence from Chile. The truth is that most of the Rapanui want the status quo. There is a handful of activists who are trying to drag Chile into the Hague but they, while media savvy, do not have the people's support. You see going back to the map that Hotu Matuaadrew for the 12 villages would be giving up two big advantages the Rapanui currently enjoy: only they can own land and they enjoy all the services (fire, police, hostpitals and schools) without having to pay income tax for it.
That would all change with independence. They would have to pay for everything. Now I'm not saying there is any love lost by the Rapanui on the Chileans who move to Easter Island. That's not going to change any time soon. T'was ever thus.
Our mission was to make sure our grandsons could say, "My grandparents went to Easter Island and all I got was this lousy tee shirt."
It was, however, no small feat to find a siz 2T and an XL.
We hope we managed to find something tasteful yet keeping within typical sourvenir teeshirt parameters.
Also we wanted to get a small purse or something that would remind us of our experiences on Easter Island. We had been impressed with the hoatel's use of a colorful flower pareo to cover the foot of our bed but it was going to be a challenge to find something that wouldn't clash with our already busy-patterned comforter but we were successful.
The next project for the day was the dreaded packing chore. We had already washed most of our dirty clothes in the sink with special no-rinse soap and dried them in front of the open windows of our room. We not only wouldn't have a stinky suitcase but figured sour remianing wardrobe would be able to last the entire cruise.
We decided our last supper would be at Hetu'a and would involve something with their homemade pasta.
Jon enjoyed a Pescado Hetu'a (their signature dish with scallops, lobster and a special fish known as kana kana over a bed of mashed potato and taro.
I dug into Lomo Fetuccini which was a delightful combination of all the veggies we had seen at the produce market including green beans, tomoatoes, squash, beets and beef.
Before we knew it (Jon took a little siesta and I listened to an Audible book), it was time for the hotelier's husband to transport us to the airport.
Another uncomfortable five hours flight and few ZZZZs and we were in Papeete but we weren't prepared for the 90% humidity and 90 degree temperature in the middle of the night.
Ventura County Star columns on Easter Island:
An expensive taxi ride after making it through customs and baggage claim and we were delighted to get a room without a taco bed. We finally fell asleep around 1:30 AM on November 18.
When we awoke we parted the drapes and were greeted by the sight of the Pacific Princess from our balcony. Although it held twice the passengers of the Paul Gauguin it didn't seem twice as big. After a slightly downsized petite dejeuner (the Japanese tourists must have wiped out the eggs) we walked down to the drug store (La Pharmacie) so Jon could pick up a few items. I sat under a banyon tree and did some serious people-watching.
I couldn't figure out why I felt so agitated.
Then I realized it was the noise---a construction worker was grinding away on a railing overhed. Add to that the high-pitched revving of motor scooters, the staccato clip of French speakers and the clicking of heels on the pavement.
We had gotten used to the relative silence of Easter Island where people eschewed automobiles and even the birds (except for the Polynesian rooster) only broke into song with the rising sun. The rhythm of our days had slowed down to synch with the Rapa Nui pace of living. Meals there could take 2-3 hours.
The smells of Papeete were also a malodorous mix of swage and sweat while the air on Rapa Nui was fragrant with flowers or the tang of salt. I wanted to go back.
We decided to return to the air conditioned comfort of our room to read and write before it was time to board the ship.
We said goodbye to our bags (which we wouldn't see again for three more hours but we were invited to a lunch buffet and then given time to explore the ship and our new home away from home.
Jon had done some research reading reviews online so he chose a stern balcony for our free upgrade.
What a judicious choice.
The cabins are more like suites and we loved the ritual of arriving/leaving port from this viewpoint.
Since dinner was open seating, we met a dozen new people (most for either Canada or California) and traded travel stories. Food was good--Jon tried the Kalua pork and I had prime rib. Of course we didn't resist when the waiter passed around the dessert menus. We share dmango cheescake and Papaya souflee. I can feel the five lbs I lost on Easter Island finding their way back to me even as I took the first bite.
We were copelled to visit the Internet Guru aboard the ship in his native habitat when I couldn't exit. Twenty minutes had ticked away (at 50 cents a minute) but no refund would be forthcoming he was sad to say. He did install on and off apps on my iPhone so I didn't have to wait for the exit banner that may or may not arrive. Jon also ended up not being able to get off when he logged in with his android (no on and off apps available) so I banned him from using my account. Decided to post photo collages on FB which take up fewer megabites than individual photos and limit myself to only once a day to make the minutes I had left last. And talk about slow---the service on Easter Island was not only faster but it didn't cost us a cent.
We are not big fans of the live shows---being early risers and preferring the comfort/privacy of our room to watch videos of Douglas Pearson, the French Polynesian expert on board or such movies as the "Fastest Indian" (the after dinner flick for the first night).
We also discovered that the live shows were taped but the effect was not nearly the same since it lacked the company of 100 couples and the services of the trusty bartender.
We enjoyed our own light show out on the balcony where we watched the sky behind the mountains on Tahiti light up, courtesy of an electric storm. Thank you Mother Nature.
November 19, 2014
The rosy fingers of dawn traced the sky over Tahiti. It was a beautiful sight.
At breakfast we met a mother and daughter who told us about a shop which sold hand painted pareos (Fleur de Vanille. Jon and I walked over to check it out and found a perfect flowered pareo for the foot of our bed. We decided we would use the turtle pareo from Easter Island on our well worn sofa. We also signed up for a circle tour of Tahiti that was only $45---a bargain compared to the ship's tour. I was really happpy that I hadn't signed up for more than two snorkeling trips (which proved to be well worth the extra expense).
Our first stop was the famous Intercontinental Hotel where the expected passengers never materialized but we enjoyed viewing the 32 acres of lush tropical garden alongside an idyllic lagoon and glimpsing the sumptuous furnishings through floor to ceiling windows. The rate for a double next to the lagoon was a mere $319.40 a day.
Douglas Pearson had told us that protestant missionaries had destroyed all the marae on the island. Marae were open-air altars, burial ground and a ceremonial location used in religious ceremonties for hundreds of years.
Next was Point Venus, where an old picturesque lighthouse begged for a Kodak Moment. We also waatched three dogs "crabbing" in the shallow water.
The Arahoo Blowhold did not disappoint.
When we reached Maraa Grotto, we were reminded of the famous fern grotto on Kauai where we were married, only the cave was much bigger on Tahiti.
I was really looking forward to the Mataiea Botanical Garden. A sudden shower kept some of the passengers on the bus but we, who stupidly left our umbrellas back at the cabin, decided to brave the elements anyway.
The reward was a wonderful collection of botanical delights including Elephant Ear ferns, Pagoda plants, and what was called the "Tarzan tree" with lots of vines conveniently hanging down.
We got soaked but then counted ourselves fortunate that we were in a tropical climate where we would dry out fairly quickly.
We also enjoyed the black sand beaches, the Papenuo Surfing spots and the Faarumai Valley with its most photographed Faarumai Waterfall.
November 20, 2014
We breakfasted on Eggs Florentine and a beautiful tropical fruit plate. Sitting next to us was a two year old girl Aylah who, of course reminded us of little Elliott although he would have been much more social than she was. The thing she missed most on the ship was her Frozen songs. I told her father about the Disney Karaoke app ( a gift from son Trevor) that I never did get to download (on my phone).
We decided to go ashore and stroll around.
The shuttle into town cost only $16 round trip but we had no idea it would be such a teeth-clenching ride through a wicked rainstorm and over the bridge between Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti.
Another little girl (3.5 years) named Lizzie agreed to pose with Aylah so we could have a photo of future dating prospects (must be rich if they could start cruising at such a tender age) for Elliott.
The town of Faaa was a big surprise in that there was one of the biggest supermarkets we had ever seen filled with produced, grocery items, household wares and even clothing. I took a photo of the french bread on display because it looked so delicious.
Since this is the Garden Island and especially known for its vanilla plantations, we made it a point to purchase some vanilla pods.
Very expensive---something like $3.50 each, but we were told we didn't need to use very much to flavor any dish.
In addition we were advised to "store" the pods (which were hermetically sealed to pass customs) in rum.
Sounds like a plan. Vanilla comes from a beautiful white orchid plant.
Had we gone on one of the ship's excursions, we would also have seen the sacred maeva marae, a pearl farm, the 400 year old stone Polynesian fish traps and a vanilla plantation but we learned all about them from Douglas Pearson's photos although I did wonder what it would have been like to get a blue-eyed eel in my camera lens.
Some dancers called the Mamas of Hueneme entertained aboard the ship. They also offered many of their floral headpieces, jewelry and other carved wooden items for sale.
It was an excellent show and we thoroughly enjoyed it from the cool waters of the swimming pool.
November 21 was an at sea day. We breakfasted with a delightful couple from San Diego we would keep bumping into during the course of the trip. He told us about growing up in Santiago Chile and refusing to return until late in life. He said his childrhood friends all came out to party with him---some four decades later and they hadn't changed a bit.
When at sea, the dining room is also open for lunch. These were the best meals--the chef got really creative and used lots of local produce and fish. We decided to have a Bloody Mary while waiting for a table and who should be sitting next to us but Douglas Pearson, the Polynesian expert onboard. I only recognized him by his voice. At the time I didn't have any questions for him but I could see he really wanted to disentangle himself from a rabid fan. The price of being on TV. We sat with an interesting couple from Arizona as we chowed down on Tortilla Soup and Greek Salad. Their son is stationed at Vandenberg and gave us their card to give to Nathan who will be stationed there after the first of the year. Jon was ready for a siesta after lunch while I watched Pearson's Mutinty on the Bounty lecture.
We were not looking forward to dinner since it would be formal and we would be seated with just the couple from Canada. Martha was confined to her room with a (still undiagnosed fever) and Janet would be taking care of her. The other couple from Arizona were going to try out the Italian restaurant since they hadn't packed formal clothes.
Amir told us how he became rich. No, we hadn't asked.
Apparently a professor at Harvard, where he studied economics, lectured about investing but only investing OPM (other people's money).
We would soon discover that Amir, who kept referring to Jon as "your worship," once he found out Jon was the current mayor of Port Hueneme, always returned to economics no matter what topic had been introduced.
Jasneen, who of course shared her husband's values, proudly told a story about her six-year-old grandson wanting to know who got the house when she died.
She said she had already promised the house to the grownup grandson.
The little guy demanded that he get the first two floors while the other grandson could have the basement.
We laughed but hoped that the other two couples would return to our dinner table soon.
Rangiroa or Te Kokōta, is the largest atoll in the Tuamotus, and one of the largest in the world.
We breakfasted with the Marilyn and Cindy (who had led us to the hand-painted pareo store in Papeete) and then were off to the tender for a full day of activities.
We went via boat to "The Aquarium," the lagoon (so vast that it could fit the entire island of Tahiti inside of it) that wraps around a motu (islet completely made of coral) and the water is crystal clear
We donned our snorkel gear and jumped in.
Jon figured out a way to adjust his mask so it wouldn't leak and enjoyed the experience as much as I did.
Well not quite as much since tsnorkeling is an obsession of mine.
Spotted a number of varities of tropical fish (including grouper, butterfly fish, and parrot fish) as well as colorful coral and giant clams opening and closing in the coral.
On the way back we circled the other side of the island.
The pearl farm was a 20-minute bus drive away. On the trip around the island we saw a number of modest houses, thousands of coconut palms, the Rangiroa Airport and the Mobil Oil facility
Our lecturer was quite knowledgeable about the pearl seeding process, which originated in Japan.
A mother-of-pearl bead is inserted in the three-year-old oyster together with a piece of tissue (mantle) taken from another pearl oyster.
Seeds used by this farm were tken from Mississippi River oysters.
The piece of tissue, as a graft tissue, develops quickly. The oyster forms a skin around the bead and then deposits mother of pearl on the surface of the bead. Bead rejection affects about 30% of the seeded shells, mainly because the graft tissue is not enough close to the bead.
Even with perfectly round beads, only 20% of the pearls will be perfectly round at the harvest, about 2 years after the seeding. Holes are drilled in the shells and the oysters are hung on a rope which is lowered into the ocean. They remain there from 18 to 24 months. We watched as a worker opened four oysters. Three of them contained huge black pearls with secondary colors ranging from pink to green. The lecturer estimated the value at 300-400 Euros. We found the shop prices were pretty steep and had already been advised that Papeete, which supplied certificates of authenticity, had the best values on black pearls.
We went out on our balcony and gazed at the planets and stars (Orion, Aquarius and Southern Cross).
November 23 Sea Day
Jon surprised me with a champagne breakfast out on the balcony.
Our actual anniversary is the day we leave the ship so he decided to celebrate today (at dinner as well).
I could get used to living like this.
Worked on my column and saved the last flute of champagne for when I finished.
It was quite a challenge typing on my iPhone.
I did have a stylus with me to avoid the chubby finger mistakes so except for having to deal with Autocorrect, I managed to finish in just few hours.
Here's hoping the email actually gets to the Ventura County Star. I am going to wait until a major port to send it.
Turned out he was a shrink. He seemed surprised that I knew about Jung.
When he discovered I had authored three books about politics and cinema, he wouldn't shut up. Just wanted to rip-roaringly debate everything I said about "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
It was like having a really bright student in class and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. So did he.
Wanted to lend me a book he had just finished about Sidney Lumet. I tried to summon up Lumet's filmology and except for "Dog Day Afternoon," was stumped. Really missed not having IMBD so I could refresh my aging memory.
Watched Person's presentation on Raiatea after lunch. Doesn't look like snorkeling will be on the schedule for tomorrow.
Dinner was fun. Sat next to Janet and we traded stories about our lives. She's from Tennessee, retired and divorced and really loves to travel. She gave me a fun fact I'll try to slip into a column someday.
It seems that the Jack Daniels distillery is located in a dry county so when you tour their facility, all you get is a glass of lemonade.
We also talked about the reasons collecting jewelry has become unimportant to both of us.
She and I both had owned expensive and irreplaceable items that were stolen from our homes and had to cope with the loss. Black pearls were not on either of our must-have lists.
There was too much cloud cover for stargazing tonight. I am looking forward to watching the sun rise over Raitea "Bright Sky."
Five AM and the sunrise was spectacular---morphing from bright pink to deep red reflecting off of the nimbus clouds. This was supposedly the birthplace or Hawaiki of the Polynesian people. The island is 12 million years old years old. Some 12,800 people live on Raitea. Captain Cook visited there in 1769.
At breakfast we met a nice couple who own homes in both Toronto and Blythe CA.
They were very interested in our trip to Easter Island.
We were able to stroll around Uturoa---all three blocks of it.
We stumbled on a little market where we found women making the flower headpieces for just a few dollars.
They had also set up a table with samples of all the tropical fruits from the island. The mango was sort of spicy and the taste exploded in my mouth. The pineapple was completely edible including the core which was not tough like Hawaiian pineapples since only very small eyes grew on the outside.
We also learned the legend of the Tiara Apetali, which only grows on Raiatea's Mt. Toomaru.
Once upon a time, Vahine Moea, a young girl of an incomparable beauty lived in the valley of Araau in Raiatea. She met a fisherman called Ariifaite – from Taha’a. They got married and had a girl called Tiaitau.
One day Ariifaite returned home with the news that a missionary was teaching reading and writing. and if they moved to Opoa, he would teach their beautiful young girl. When she was older, she met King Tamatoa and became his lover.
When King Tamatoa left Raiatea to join King Pomare of Tahiti in the battle of Fei Pi, he asked Tiaitau to wait for him at home. However, she feared she would never see him again.
King Tamatoa tried to reassure her by saying that he was surrounded by his best warriors.
She took a coconut and told him she would put it in the hole of Apo’o hihi ura. The coconut will travel underground and will emerge close to the sea at the Piha ura source.
From there, the coconut will float from one island to another and will follow you. If you are thirsty, take the coconut, make a hole and drink its water by bringing your mouth to it in the same way that you would do to kiss me.”
From the top of the mountain, she saw the outrigger canoe of her beloved and said: “Oh! My heart hurts; it hurts very badly, my love! I will plant my arm in the ground of my mountain; then it will flower and its flower will have the visual aspect of my open hand. It will be this hand, which is a flower now, which will give you a sign of my love."
Instead of touring the sister island of Tahaa, we decided to sign up for the Faaroa River Cruise. The owner of the boat likes to let out the throttle and go full bore which requires passengers to hang on with both hands. We traveled halfway around the island before reaching the river, a muddy brown with lots of palm trees and wild hibiscus growing on the shore.
He told us that the yellow flowers only last a day and turn pink as they drop into the water.
We spied some Polynesian women fishing. Turned out that on the way back, they became coconut saleswomen. We got to drink coconut milk just like King Tamatoa. We wouldn't be getting off at the motu where the other people went snorkeling (we only had to pay half price because we hadn't brought our gear).
For Italian Night, the chef prepared the most amazing garlic marinara sauce which you could get with penne pasta as either an appetizer or main course.
I sampled the Veal Scallopini---it was so tender you could cut it with a fork.
We spent our post dinner time out on the balcony. Even though rain clouds covered the stars, we could still spy big fish jumping out of the water.
Bora Bora, the eldest of the Society Islands, is a staggering 7 million years old. It is halfway between morphing from an island to an atoll. The island contains the remnants of an extinct volcano rising to two peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu (2,385 feet). Bora Bora's major products are seafood and copra. According to a 2008 census, Bora Bora has a permanent population of 8,880. Captain Cook visited the island in 1769,
Since we scheduled snorkeling for tomorrow, we headed ashore after breakfast to find a circle tour of the island.
We were directed to Brunella Phillippe's 4 X 4.
What a propitious moment that was. She and I hit it off immediately and she invited me to ride up front with her while the other seven people sat on benches in the back.
Jon said he heard some discouraging words.
She told me all about herself, her family and former clients.
She soon figured out that I love flowers and helped me to identify the ones that aren't in Southern California as well as the trees I didn't know.
When I confessed that I hadn't tasted breadfruit she said she would stop at a roadside stand she knew and get me some.
It was really doughy and she said she loves it with corned beef hash (of all things).
You can tell where the stand is by the pareos fluttering in the breeze on the opposite side of the road.
Around every corner was a picture perfect view of the most beautiful coastline.
The sea is an incredible shade of azure blue (because of the coral sand that extends out for thousands of yards).
All of the remaining sections of the crater were shrouded in fog and seemed so mysterious and ethereal---reminding us of Delphi.
All of the really expensive hotels and the airport were located out on the reef that surrounded the rest of the sinking island where the blue collar people live.
Brunella decided to take us to her own home.
Her husband owns a cucumber and banana plantation up in the hills. She calls Mt. Otemanu (2,380 feet) "my husband's mountain." One member of our party raises cucumbers in South America so he took lots of photos of the cukes which averaged 18 inches long.
The property was covered with Tiare Tahiti bushes but no breadfruit trees.
Brunells sells hundreds of the tiare buds to the hotels. Her grandson was working in her husband's garage---they co-own a car repair business and there's no lack of business on Bora Bora.
The property also has a grotto as well as a marae.
The flat rocks forming the backdrop to the marae came from the ocean 300 years before.
Brunella also gave us some bananas from the plantation to eat---small but very sweet. The grounds also included a couple of Noni trees.
The famous prickly fruit which is white when ripe is used by the Polynesian to cure everything from headaches to erctile dysfuntion. She told me she gives it to her dogs and cats (her 'babies") since there is no veterinarian on the island.
Our last stop was Blood Mary's, a famous bar on Bora Bora with its thatched roof, open sides, white sand floor, wooden slab tables and stools made of coconut stumps. Famous artists playing there include Jimmy Buffet, Julio Iglesias, Commander Cody Ron Wood (Rolling Stones) as well as such celebrities as Pierce Brosnan Buzz Aldrin, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers. Jon agreed to pretend to hold up the roof as thousands of photo subjects before him have done.
We hugged goodbye--like lifelong friends. I still think of Brunella fondly.
Dinner was lively. Martha had finally been released from quarantine and Janet is always great fun. Everybody loved the twice baked cheese souffle and orange roughy. We had the Chocolate Lover's Delight for dessert.
Came back to the room and feel asleep after "Despicable Me II." So shoot me. I love this kind of animation.
Breakfast with a couple from LA who had racked up 20 cruises already and then back to the room to get ready.
Learned several interesting factoid from Douglas Pearson about the movie "Mutiny on the Bounty."
Brando's first wife, Movita, had starred in the 1935 version of Mutiny, and was not too happy when her husband fell in love with Tarita Teripaia, his co-star in the 1962 version.
Brando was so enamoured of the island lifestyle he actually purchased the island of Tetiaroa.
We boarded the boat and then set off for the first stop where Sting Rays and Reef sharks would be swimming WITH us.
The captain gave us a special spray for our masks that was made from yellow hibiscus.
The sharks kept circling (there was a pair) and I swam over to get a closer shot with my underwater camera.
One shark turned when he saw me, I clicked the shutter and then swam backwards.
One of the deckhands was in the water with us and he coudn't wait to see my photos.
Next stop was the Coral Garden where there were hundreds of tropical fish, colorful coral and giant clams.
I just kept snapping away until I ran out of memory.
Then I just paddled away, enjoying the serenity of the sea and lost all track of time.
When I finally looked up, I saw I had moved pretty far away from the boat but I quickly swam back (not the last one).
The captain told me I moved just like a fish. I have to admit that I can float pretty well and am very relaxed in the water. Jon said he really enjoyed himself too. I am so glad I declined wearing fins. There were times when you had to stand up between coral beds or rocks and flippers would have made that very difficult.
Identified many varieties of tropical fish including: clownfish, puffer, hawkfish rainbow chubb and tang The colors were amazing and patterns ranged from stripes, polka dots and rainbows.
I spent about an hour messing around with my photos and then it was time to dress (formal) for dinner.
There was no lobster at the last formal dinner so Jasneen called over the Maitre d' and complained. She said if she had to dress up, the least the chef could do is serve lobster.
Well we were offered as much lobster as we could eat this time. Selected escargot for an appetizer (my first time). We also had a great time sharing photos of Bora Bora.
After dinner we watched the 1935 version of "Mutiny on the Bounty" with Charles Laughton, Franchot Tone and Clark Gable.
November 27 Thanksgiving and Moorea
Most people (not just Americans) just shook their heads when they saw it but everybody took a picture with their phones and posted it to FB.
My guess is that the staff was most grateful we would all be leaving the next day.
We found a circle tour of Moorea that also went up to two spectacular lookouts (Kia Ora and Le Belevedere).
We drove by the remnants of a marae (destroyed by missionaries) but didn't stop.
Everybody enjoyed the Moorea Fruit Juice Factory, where we got to sample four different liquors made from (respectively) star fruit, papaya, ginger and vanilla. I liked the star fruit liquor the best. Tasted like a Mai Tai but with a bigger kick.
He claimed to have six wives---one for every day of the week but Sunday when he needed to rest. His told us that polygymy wasn't a Polynesian custom---just his.
He was impressively multilingual--fluent in Tahitian, French, Spanish and English.
Unfortunately for a couple from Moscow who pouted like little children, he wasn't fluent in Russian.
We were also agast when one of the women, who didn't leave the van when we stopped, had the nerve to complain that she had missed his lecture.
Whose fault was that?
He promptly repeated everything he had told us about the origins of the Moorea National Park and showed us pictures of the land's original owner (Kruger) who sold the property to the people of Moorea for $1. The voters subsequently refused to sell to a developer and hence the lush wilderness we were enjoying is now available to everybody.
The view (and photos) we got from the two lookouts (Kia Oro and Bellevedere) were well worth the climb up the crater.
Our guide was quite knowledgeable about the flora (avocado , breadfruit, acacia and wild hibiscus which was used to coat snorkel masks, for toilet paper and as a cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering tea), and fauna (Polynesian chickens).
Instead of the inside of hibiscus branches, the Mooreans used leaves from the fara tree to thatch their roofs. Our guide was not in favor of plastic thatching even though the material seemed realistic and lasted twice as long. He said that replacing roofs with plastic had become a cottage industry on the island and provided new jobs but jobs that didn't last. The 4- and 5-star hotels still used the original fara thatching.
We went by the local shrimp farm which is only used domestically--no exporting. We also saw the tupu crab holes nearby. We had been told by Douglas Pearson that the tupu crabs are never eaten but our guide maintain that if you fed them coconut skins before you ate them, it would clean out all the stuff that made them inedible.
At Belvedere, he told us that he had a private party of scholars for three days. He said he didn't know what they had been smoking but they claimed if you drew a line from the sacred mountain (Bali Hai used in "South Pacific" ) through the center of the earth, you would wind up at the Great Pyramid in Egypt.
I really don't know how these guys make much money since gas in $9 a gallon but we were grateful for the experience.
At the dock we looked over all of the stands. I had no intention of getting a black pearl.
Circa late 70s, I had purchased a black pearl ring from one of those pick your oyster places in San Diego but eventually it disappeared from the setting when the glue gave way.
One very modest black pearl (pink highlights) pendant caught my eye. The black pearl was not the focal point but rather the oyster shell from which it came had been carved into an intricate pattern that I had seen on a number of tatoos. Jon could see that I was quite taken with it and when the artist insisted I try it on, well, it did look great and was very special. It cost much more than Jon's carved necklace but we both went home happy with our souvenirs that day.
You were supposed to wave your napkins around to cheer on the waiters who are carting flaming desserts, but, get real, this is a ship where open flames are verboten. The flames were really lightbulbs.
November 28 Happy 16th Anniversary
Since we were supposed to have our bags packed by 6PM the night before, we completed the "idiot check" of the cabin and threw last night's wardrobe and our toiletries in our backpacks.
We were shocked to see that most people did not follow the rules as to packing or even vacating their rooms by 8AM.
I guess we have a lot to learn about cruising. At any rate we breakfasted at the Buffet instead of the dining room (where I always got my daily chocolate croissant.) I am pleased to report that I did enjoy "the breakfast of champions" (chocolate croissant) as well as scrambled eggs.
I used up the last of my internet minutes as we retired to the Library. I was in search of a tropical fish reference book but alas, no luck.
There were huundreds of books but mostly fiction and not shelved in any sort of order. Other folks joined us to work on their journals, read recreational material, or to finish their daily Sodoku. The room was quite formally British but comfortable with overstuffed chairs and tables for writing and, of course, a non-functional fireplace.
When I glanced at an atlas, it occured to us that we had "done" the entire Polynesian Triangle---starting 16 years ago today with our wedding on the island of Kauai.
A few years later, we added New Zealand where the Maori settled.
This year we added Easter Island and Tahiti.
The similarities among Polynesian settlements is quite striking. We noted that one of the lookouts on Moorea was Kia Ora which is aalso a Maori greeting.
The green stone (jade) carvings we bought and gave each other in New Zealand (a double symbol for infinity to be given to one's true love not purchased) was not unlike the carving of a different medium, (but still precious), namely the black pearl oyster shell we found on Moorea.
Polynesian chieckens, yams, bananas, mango and breadfruit can be found everywhere in the Polynesian Triangle. It is no accident that Polynesians became great navigators---learning to read the waves and the stars from childhood---and gained great status in Polynesian settlements far from home.
We hadn't run into Douglas Pearson again but (except for the tupu crabs) he seemed to know his stuff. My favoarite part of each lecture was when he would say "blah blah blah," because that indicated that while he knew that most members of his audience really didn't want to know everything he had to share, he couldn't help himself like any true scholar.
We really appreciated the way he pointed out connections, eg there is breadfruit in the Caribbean because of Captain Bligh's second voyage from Tahitit. I wanted to visit him during his "comfy chair" hours but we never had enough time before dinner.
You see. we were regular customers of the "Drink of the Day" and that was much more important to me than the burning question I finally had for Pearson.
I wanted to know where to buy hibiscus tea. While you could find fruit (papaya, mango, coconut) teas, nobody had bothered to produce hibiscus tea even though it grows wild on every island we visited.
Our guides (athough all were natives of the particular island) varied in attitude from seeing the job this as but another way to make a living to viewing it as a calling.
The Rapanui guide on Easter Island and the South African who took us up the river on Raiatea were all about how much everything cost while the big-hearted woman on Bora Bora and the quick-witted guide on Moorea gave us more than our money's worth---they not only educated themselves through books (the nearest high school is on Tahiti and the college is in France ) but they also gave of themselves.
TIn addition the latter were Polynesians who took it as a personal failing when one of their clients expressed being "unhappy" in any way. They wanted everybody to be happy---whatever that means.
French Polynesia is made up of 110 islands but only 80 of them are inhabited. There was so much to learn about the Polynesian culture, flora, fauna, geology, relition and even their attitudes toward the U.S. I have to say Easter Islanders loved America primarily because of NASA's lengthening of the airport runway which had the unintended consequence of allowing more tourists to visit. Society Islanders love America because our troops protected the islands during WWII. The fortifications are a still a sight-seeing highlight on Bora Bora. Everybody spoke English. The only thing that seems to be slowing the tourist trade to the Society Islands is the limited number of airlines that are allowed to serve Papeete. Without competition, the cost of flying is astronomical. In fact the cruise line was actually subsidizing its passengers. Still we saw many hotels underbooked and we were shocked to see the ruins of Club Med on Moorea where there were just not enough customers. The owners of Club Med walked away when their lease on the property got too expensive to pay.
Prettiest scenary Moorea
Most cosmopolitan Tahiti
Best river cruise Raitea
Most romantic (wedding destination) Bora Bora
Most tropical fish (snorkeling) Rangiroa
Most interesting history Rapa Nui
Most colorful coral Bora Bora
Best people watching Tahiti
Best place to mix with natives Tahiti
Best Bloody Mary Pacific Princess
After some serious people-watching, we returned to the Papeete Cathedral to give thanks for a safe and wonderful trip and enjoyed the same sense of serenity.
This time we noticed the stained glass panels on the sides of the interior. Each of them were Polynesian interpretations of a specific Bible verses.
We also had time to visit the Papeete Marketplace. So much to see what with all the fresh produce, stalls of relatively inexpensive souvenirs and bundles of fresh flowers for arrangements, leis or headpieces.
We noticed that most of the women who worked with tourists wore the high-necked muu muu and headpieces made from silk flowers. I was tempted to get a henna tatoo but we seem to be out of francs.
The first thing we did when we got our room was take a shower.
Humidity was over 90%. it's best just to drip dry and let evaporation do the work of a swamp cooler.
Jon took a nap and I listened to a book on Audible.
Jon wanted to visit the food trucks for dinner but since it was our anniversary, I insisted on a white tablecloth and comfortable seating.
Le Retro was just a few blocks away and except for the pounding techno music, an acceptable choice. We took advantage of Happy Hour by ordering two Mai Tais upfront. we went went the waiters recommendations and we weren't disappointed with the Seared Tuna or the poisson trois (mahi mahi, swordfish and shrimp) For dessert we shared Moelleux au Chocolate (souffle).
After a petitie dejeuner that included a chocolate croissant, coffee and juice we headed out. We wouldn't be checking out until 9:00 PM for a midnight flight home.
Jon wanted to check out the Alternative Tahiti Festival. Eco-propaganda but a great place to see Tahitian families--especially the beautiful children, many of whom had one non-native parent.
Apparently the residents of Papeete absolutely adore MacDonald's and we saw them queued up with lines starting outside the doors to get $10 burgers.
Jon loved a tee shirt he saw that inverted the M (McDonalds) so it read "W for worst food in the world."
We strolled down the Rue du Commandant Destremeau to visit the Pearl Musium which proved very informative. We saw a bra completely made of black perarls, a tableau depicting pearl seeding, another tableau depicting pearl diving which is still the only source of non-cultivated pearls, island beauties wearing pearls or offering them up to the gods.
We also wanted to visit the Paofai Church but the protestants not only locked the doors but the gates as well.
A couple of painted murals (whales and Tahitian girl) begged for their closeups.
We decided to break for lunch at Chez Jimmy which served up some very potent curried chow mein.
The open air restaurant also povided some interesting people-watching as well.
It looked like rain so we decided to head back to the hotel.
We went out later after the rain stopped to catch the bands that were now playing at the Festival and Jon picked up a cheese crepe at the good trucks. By the time we checked out, it was a veritable monsoon.
We got drenched getting into the cab but made it to the airport in plenty of time.
Jon bought me a purse at the airport. It was green with a black word cloud that included all of the islands we had visited (so I wouldn't forget). He's so thoughtful.
Slept on the plane, made it through customs in record time but met with the big bottleneck when trying to exit the door at LAX. It seems that there was a plumbing problem so all of the other exits were closed. Our towncar driver was waiting and she made it back through the rain we had brought with us from Tahiti. We were so happy to see our condo and Chloe waiting for us. Travel is great but Jon's Mom may be right---home is the best.
Ventura County Star columns on French Polynesia trip