One night Carl was drunk.
We were at Taronga Zoo’s annual fundraising event sitting at a table of 10 and while I was admiring the Dinosaur Designs beautifully boxed gifts we received, Carl was wandering around the room knocking back a few reds.
Just before Guy Sebastian came on to sing it was announced that the Silent Auction was now closed and the auctioneer read out the names of the successful bidders. As I hadn’t placed any bids I was pretty stunned when I heard my name called as having successfully bid on a trip to Tahiti. That was when Carl returned to the table and let me know that in between drinks he had written my name down on just about every bidding sheet. Fortunately there were many other drunks furiously scribbling down their wives names so we were out-bid on every other item.
A few weeks later Carl and I were on a flight to Tahiti. We arrived at Papeete at around midnight on a Saturday night. As we walked across the tarmac Tahitian singers welcomed us with beautiful traditional songs. We were staying on the main island so it was only a short drive from the airport to the Sofitel Hotel. The Sofitel was built in the 1960′s which is a decade not known for any outstanding architectural achievements so the rooms are boxy but they have been recently renovated.
We woke to a beautiful sunny day and went down to breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. There were some tables overlooking the stunning beach but we couldn’t sit there because there were reserved for smokers. Tahiti is an Island that needs to get its smoking under control. People smoke anywhere and everywhere including in the airports, the hotels, the shops, the elevators, the restaurants and on public transport. It is quite a shock coming from a country where smoking is banned just about everywhere.
After breakfast we reclined around the pool but it was taken over by masses of Tahitian children all running around and dive-bombing and yelling and screaming. We moved away and I lay on a hammock underneath two palm trees which was actually rather perfect. At the end of the day, all the children suddenly disappeared and the pool area was now peaceful and calm. We almost had it to ourselves. And the next day was the same. And the next. I wondered what had happened to all the children and someone told me the children in the pool that Sunday were the children of the staff at the hotel. The hotel workers had brought their children to work with them and let them make good use of the hotel’s facilities until it was ‘knock-off’ time. No one seemed to care and no one took notice of the ‘Guests Only’ rule.
The weather is so warm that we would find ourselves still out by the pool at around 8pm at night. I was so relaxed I couldn’t be bothered moving. We’d stay down by the water to watch the most beautiful sunsets. It was wonderful to be somewhere where you could experience amazing sunsets because living on the East coast of Australia we can see beautiful sunrises (if you can rise that early) but never sunsets.
One day we caught a ferry over to the island of Moorea which is a short commute from Papeete. Many locals live on Moorea and commute to work each day on the main island. We hired a car and drove around the Pineapple Road that takes you along the edge of the Island. We stopped at some of the most amazing beaches I have ever seen, all deserted, with incredibly warm turquoise water and fine, white velvety sand. It is hard to imagine a more beautiful place.
The downside of Tahiti is that everything is so expensive. Apparently Tahiti is bankrupt and is propped up financially by France. Just about everything has to be imported and the Island doesn’t export much except for what’s made in the pineapple factory on Moorea and the best vanilla beans you have ever seen or tasted – the ones here in the supermarkets, all skinny, tough and dried, are a disgrace by comparison. They do make and export their own beer, Hinano, with the iconic Tahitian girl on the bottle. Beer wasn’t too expensive.
I didn’t pack shampoo or conditioner because you usually find these things in your hotel room but only shampoo was provided. I went into a hairdressing salon (couldn’t find a supermarket) and bought a tiny bottle of conditioner for $40.00.
Carl didn’t get drunk in Tahiti, he couldn’t afford to. All wines are imported and while Australia and New Zealand are both geographically close and have great wines to export, almost all wines are imported from that nation on the other side of the world, France. With all that travel involved it is probably no wonder a glass of wine costs $25.00. Carl certainly wasn’t knocking back the reds in French Polynesia. I switched from wine to gin and tonic because they cost $15.00, a bargain by comparison.
We did head into the town of Papeete to do some shopping but Papeete is probably best avoided. It’s dirty, it smells, it’s hot and often the shops aren’t air-conditioned so with poor ventilation they smell as well. There are some incredible shops selling the latest French fashion collections but these shops are in amongst the local islander shops and difficult to find.
But you don’t go to Tahiti to shop or get inebriated, you go to experience the French Polynesian people and their culture and to admire the beauty of their land. I would love to go back but next time I’ll take my wine and conditioner with me.
And ‘Maeva’ means ‘Welcome’ in Tahitian.
And…I’ve been nominated in the Sydney Writer’s Group award, Best Blog 2012. There is also a People’s Choice Award. If you could take the time to vote for me I’ll be your best friend!
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