Category Archives: beaches

A Trek Around ‘One Of The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches’

Referred to as ‘one of the top 10 favourite beaches in the world’ and ‘one of Tasmania’s most celebrated locations’, the lesser-known fact about this place is that it is also home to some near extinct plantlife.

Up to the Wineglass Bay lookout

Pathway up to the Wineglass Bay lookout at Freycinet National Park

Pathway up to the Wineglass Bay lookout at Freycinet National Park

I prefer my hikes a little rugged so the first kilometre of this hike was disappointing, an easy walk along a perfectly pummeled pathway, constant width, winding gently up the mountain.

And there were quite a few people. Well, lots. So I followed others, all sorts and every sort of others, and felt a little as though I was climbing up to the top of a family flume ride at Disneyland.

View from lookout down onto bright blue sea of Wineglass Bay

View from lookout down onto bright blue sea of Wineglass Bay

Once at the lookout it all made sense. There we all stood, shoulder to shoulder, admiring the view and the crescent curve of Wineglass Bay. Graced with a clear sky day where the sun illuminated the turquoise of a sea that kissed the edge of a fine, sandy beach, high above the shoreline people posed and cameras clicked away.

It was (and is) the stuff of postcards.

Down from the lookout to Wineglass Bay beach

The crowds thinned on the next stretch, many people deciding not to trek the next section and feel the fine sand in between their toes. Maybe it was wise: the difficulty of the walk tripled with a descent of rocky steps that put plenty of pressure on the knees.

After steep rocky steps and a short stint of a woodland pathway we pushed through an opening in the trees to arrive at a white sand beach, sun bringing out the strongest blues and turquoises of a clean, clear ocean. Knee high waves crashed onto a beach dotted with groups of people, tiny in the distance, who had made the trek down to the shore.

View of beach and ocean edge at Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park

Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park in Tasmania, Australia

Crystal clear waters at Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park

Crystal clear waters at Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park

There was a moment of travel spoilt realisation: although this is an undoubtedly a beautiful beach, so are so many of Australia’s beaches.

I wasn’t as blown away by it as I maybe could or should have been.

Cutting across to Hazards Beach

D-man and I continued on through woodland and ferny passages, alongside white flower scrub and tarns holding puddles of aqua blue. We walked on stretches of newly built boardwalk designed to protect the natural environment. Tasmanians, I realised, get hiking. Maybe even sanitised it, in parts, but I wasn’t complaining.

Wineglass Bay to Hazards Beach Circuit Walk

Wineglass Bay to Hazards Beach Circuit Walk

A bird of prey hovered, silhouetted against a bright sky interrupted only by a few puffs of leftover cloud. We restocked the suncream and cut across the peninsula to picnic at Hazards Beach, but with a buffeting westerly breeze I realised that lunch would have to wait.

As we walked along Hazards beach I ran some of the sand through my hands. It was grittier, thicker than that of Wineglass Bay. But the beach itself? Equally as – if not even more – beautiful than Wineglass Bay.

End of Hazards Beach in Freycinet National Park, Tasmania

Possibly the best lunch spot… ever

We finally settled on a snack spot in a protected little cove at the far north end of the beach where the waters were still. Sitting on rocks smoothed from years of waters rolling over them, we ate warm, squashed sandwiches and chatted to the pademelon who hung around.

Other than the pademelon, we had this place to ourselves. This spot was the perfect spot, the best spot of the trek. I could have frozen this moment and lived in it forever.

Granite and grass trees

And then the last section of the hike, which was a mixture of cutting across rocky hillsides and through grassy patches and sparse woodland until we all but bumped into the nearly-last-standing grass tree.

This tree sprouted a head full of green and brown spikes and trimmed facial hair around a smiling mouth. The things that a tired mind can conjure up.

Grass tree in Freycinet National Park

Spot the features

Plaque in Freycinet National Park displaying info on grass tree rot

More info on the rotting disease

I read the info plaque, stared at this grass tree and was suddenly overwhelmed by the fragility of our environment, human responsibility and everything inbetween. How long before phytophthora root rot would take to claim this victim, a tree who grew only 1mm a year? How long before this landscape became unrecognisably changed, forever?

It was impossible to be optimistic.

The sky greyed and appropriately, it started to rain. Time to wrap this up. We made the descent down through the forest and back to the car park, now nearly empty at the end of the day. No signs of pademelons either.

Reflection

Despite visiting, observing and walking one of the world’s best beaches, it wasn’t the sparkling sea or the postcard view that stuck in my mind.

No, it was that fuzzy looking tree creature waiting to die, the reminder that beyond all the gloss of travel and tourism is the harsh reality that the pursuit of new sights, experiences and places has it’s impact, in this case the accentuated spread of disease.

Time to clean my shoes.

Advertisements

11 Comments

Filed under australia, beaches

Wordless Wednesday #8: A peaceful beach moment in Devon

The quiet beach of Instow near Bideford in North Devon. Flat sand and a little sailing boat to the right. No people to be seen.

Leave a comment

Filed under beaches, europe, nature, uk

Top 5: Natural Queensland, Australia

www.travelola.org5. Camp outs within the National Parks and State Forests, such as Brooyar State Forest and Cape Hillsborough National Park offered peaceful, beautiful stop offs that were affordable (starting at $6). Granted, there was a lack of facilities (and people) but what more do you need beyond fire pits and  ‘pit dunnies’?!

www.travelola.org4. For a Brit like me, Aussie beaches and rainforests are full of exotic appeal. Digging my toes into the sands at Smalleys’ Beach in Cape Hillsborough National Park was a great, calming way to end a day of driving whilst a hasty dip in the river at Mossman Gorge  whetted my appetite for future wanderings through strangler figs and soul-stirring greens.

Queensland Low Isles Great Barrier Reef3. Although I may have been somewhat spoilt by documentaries and coffee table books full of intensely coloured imagery, the Great Barrier Reef was still, undeniably, stunning. With only a half day to spare, I took the shorter trip out to the Low Isles where I snorkelled and splashed about, circumnavigated the island on foot (okay, it took all of fifteen minutes) and feasted on a smorgasbord of seafood delights. Literally.

Queensland desolate landscapes2. My first taste of desolate landscapes was on the drive out of Cairns towards the Eclipse 2012 festival in Far North Queensland. It intrigued me that anyone would live up tracks that disappeared away from dusty roadsides, further into environments where only the odd spindly bush and termite mounds survived.

www.travelola.org1. After days of driving through inland Queensland, particularly around Charters Towersbig skies have to come top of the crop. I felt fully surrounded, 360° around me, 180° over me – by a spread of resplendent blue skies, of fluffy, bouncy clouds, of stars piercing a blanket of blackness. I felt  my place in the universe: alive and conscious enough to observe it but little, tiny, insignificant overall.

To read my Queensland road trip in its entirety, join the journey here.

To readers who’ve joined me from Cruising Helmsman (and anyone else interested in reading my sailing adventures), click here to rewind to my time in the Galapagos islands and the beginning of a South Pacific adventure.

2 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, beaches, camping, culture, forests, national parks, nature, oceania, sea, snorkelling, tours, travel, wildlife

A great day at the Barrier Reef

www.travelola.org

Back on the ocean!

It was never going to be a big day in terms of covering any great distance, but in others ways it was a big day. How could I go all the way to Far North Queensland without at least glimpsing the Great Barrier Reef, the ‘world’s largest coral reef system’, so big and impressive it can be seen from space? People travel to Australia especially to visit this Unesco Heritage Site, to snorkel and dive in tropical waters, to observe the corals and sealife, to drink in postcard appropriate scenery. Tropical, beaches, warmth? Try stopping me.

After a too-short sleep and a wake-up coffee with the stranger, L-man, D-man and me stuffed bags into the car, said goodbye to temporary housemates, and drove away from the farm to meet back up with other friends and seek out a Great Barrier Reef daytrip deal in Port Douglas.

The realistic option in terms of time and cost was a tour on the Wavedancer, a ‘luxury sailing catamaran’ which would take us out to the Low Isles for AU$161.

www.travelola.org

Approaching the Low Isles

Within an hour of north east sailing we were mooring up in calm waters next to a teeny slither of palm trees and golden sand. It was the stereotype. Would the ocean deliver the same or had it already been too damaged? (Was I, I suddenly wondered, in fact contributing to further damage?)

The next few hours passed in a stinger suited blur of guided snorkelling and solo floating about. Occasionally I lifted my head to check I hadn’t drifted miles out to sea, never to be found again, but mostly I just bobbed around and explored and marvelled at underwater spaghetti.

www.travelola.org

Round the island walk (all of maybe, oh, fifteen minutes)

It was pretty, undeniably, but like so often can happen, documentaries and coffee table books show it better, at its best. The colours weren’t quite as vivid as anticipated, the fish not quite as abundant. And, I can’t help but feel that the Low Isles experience was far less impressive than that of the Outer Isles.

But I’m not complaining. It was beautiful, the whole experience was beautiful, particularly when I imagined it was just me and a companion or two hanging out on this 4 acre coral cay. Whilst others might tell you that the onboard lunchtime smorgasboard was a highlight of the day, I’d probably say a giant clam did it for me.

www.travelola.org

Free beach time massage for a buddy. Paradise, for sure.

www.travelola.org

Kitted out, ready for action

Later that evening, camped up a little further down the coast near Palm Cove and sitting on fold-up chairs in a circle around a stove, I looked over at my friends and thought, ‘yeah, I love hanging out with you guys. What a day. Last minute decisions, sunshine, laughter, underwater play and explore, new sights, new sounds, boat time nodding off, after cruise oysters. The Great Barrier Reef. Yeah. And now chats about childhood and life and all that stuff. Good times. Great times’.

I’ll lift a plastic beaker with some left over wine to that.

www.travelola.org

Queensland Roadtrip Day 7: Port Douglas – Palm Cove (43km)

4 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, beaches, diving, natural wonders, nature, oceania, sailing, snorkelling

Can’t I just get drunk and dance (or should I really find out what Australia Day is actually about)?

Flag of Australia

Flag of Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it’s my second Australia Day in… erm… Australia. And guess what? It’s raining and blowing the start of a storm. Again. Mid-summer? Pah! ‘So what exactly are you celebrating on Australia Day?’ I asked a friend. ‘Er… something to do with our independence’. ‘You don’t even know what you’re celebrating?!’ ‘Yeah, yeah I do…’

And so I became determined to find out what Australia Day was really about. If I’m going to pause my travels for a little while to be here, to explore this place, I definitely want to have some idea of what’s going on (and why).

Dubbed by some as Invasion Day, Wikipedia gives a bit more insight into the event: Celebrated annually on 26 January, the date commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, New South Wales in 1788 and the proclamation at that time of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia.

But what about the impact of the British arrival on indigenous communities? Surely Australia Day is far from a day of celebration for communities who were robbed of their land and rights? As one website states, ‘To many Aboriginal people there is little to celebrate and it is a commemoration of a deep loss. Loss of their sovereign rights to their land, loss of family, loss of the right to practice their culture.’

There are efforts being made to be more inclusive and redress the situation (as much as is possible), for example The Australia Day National Network states that On Australia Day we recognise the unique status of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The National Australia Day Council (NADC) is committed to playing a part in the journey of Reconciliation by helping all Australians to move forward with a better understanding of our shared past, and importantly how this affects the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today and how we might build a better future together’.

I later read a little more into modern views of Australia Day and came across a good few grumbles about the Australian flag that with prominent inclusion of the Union Jack is not deemed to be sufficiently Australian. It made me think: is the wish to have a separated, unique identity so unreasonable?

Further discussions on news sites focused on nationalistic behaviour and accusations of  ‘the “boganisation” of Australia Day”. Is Australia Day really ‘all out bogan day, get drunk, wear a flag cape, cause some violence, be racist, get arrested and vomit’? It makes me think of football finals in the UK, cars covered in scarves and banners, houses draped in giant St. George flags, bloody faces on sore losers. Just a matter of patriotism? Hmmm…

On the alcohol side of things, there definitely is some truth.  ‘It’s about barbecuing with friends, and drinking until you can’t stand up’, said Sam, a Melbourne based guy in his mid-thirties. ‘We usually go for a surf, then head back for a barbie and beers’, said another friend up in North New South Wales.

It would seem that for many Australians, the way to celebrate this day is by spending time with friends and family, barbecuing, beaching and drinking. It is, after all, suggested as being the ‘largest annual public event in the nation’, so why not get together?

It also seems that for many, many people, Australia Day is about Hottest 100 parties, The Sydney Morning Herald claiming that the countdown event ran by Triple J (a popular ad-free and government-owned station)  ‘brings us together’ whilst Triple J themselves talked up the day weeks in advance, generating hype and giving shout outs to registered parties around the country.

On my way back from a trip out into Byron Bay I stopped at the off-license (or bottle-O, if we want to keep things Australian), expecting to find myself in amongst a last-minute booze scramble. But the only hint at Australia Day was the seller’s insistence that I buy the organic Australian vodka over an imported brand, and maybe the guy who was slurring and paying up wearing only a pair of tightie boxer shorts was my second sign? My first bogan sighting? Quite possibly.

And then I drove on through oncoming storms, home to a veranda of bodies huddled out of the reach of driving rains, to a barbecue sheltered by parasols, to music blasting from the radio, to eskies crammed with ice and beers, to over 30cm of rain in one hour (noted when we were still level-headed enough to check).

The beach party, I guessed, wouldn’t be happening. Maybe next year.

So what are we celebrating again? Oh yeah. Independence. No, invasion. No, the British landings. Ah, it’s getting a bit fuzzy. Now, where is my drink?

3 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, beaches, culture, festivals, food & drink, history, nature, oceania, surf

Budgeting Tahiti

Be prepared: paradise costs a small fortune. Luckily, I was somewhat prepared for the pain. Over ten years ago some friends of mine were on a round the world ticket when they flew into Tahiti to surf, realised the cost of accommodation and living, and nearly hotfooted it straight out of the place. Beach sleeps led to police warnings but kind local bailouts meant that they ended up staying a while: surfing, fishing, catching wild pigs; all the idylls of island life.

But for most of us, accessing this reality of island life is a little more tough, and a more modern climate means accepting that everything here is a little on the pricy side.

Frustratingly, many of the trails and activities around the island have also been made into paid experiences that require a guide or a group excursion, and even a couple of the free ones require permits (see the tourist information centre for lots of information on island hikes and other activities).

In short, people have moved into Tahiti and the surrounding Society Islands and atolls and have commercialised the experience of paradise (in some places to a point that it pretty much stops being paradise, to me in any case). You can’t blame them for capitalising in on an exotic experience; it is after all, what our current world tells us to do.

Walk down the main streets of Papeete and you’ll pass by many designer shops and jewellers. Who comes here to go shopping? All the people moored up in fancy yachts, maybe, or the people who’ve jetted in on business class, or honeymooners on a romantic escape. Or regular, middle class folk who have scrimped and saved for a once in a lifetime taste of paradise. (Whether it’s actually paradise or not is a different matter). Or me and my crew. Hmmm… less likely.

I was lucky to be able to stay on board the boat for a few days because when I checked with the tourism agency about budget accommodation options, they came back to me with a guest house costing 7,200 CFP. That’s £49.07, or US$78.87. Not really budget, in my opinion, but maybe budget for the people who are more likely to frequent the Society Islands. I did some online searches, having paid a minimum of 3euros per hour for internet (no free WiFi available at all, and charged in Euros because of links with France), and I did eventually find a few backpacker friendly paces.

One little food fact that helped to keep costs down (alongside The Trucks experience) was the discovery that there is a policy on keeping the price of baguettes below 85 CFP (£0.58 / US$0.93)  so that every member of the society there has the opportunity to buy bread. Stock up on the carbs, then, and free, fallen coconuts. Maybe not the healthiest, but it’s a diet that will keep you alive. For a little while, in any case. Or go catch a fish (just be careful with those coral fish).

Here’s an idea of some costs:

Cour   de Franc Pacifique British Pound US Dollar
Cheapest hostel bed 2,000 CFP pppn £13.63 $21.90
Budget hotel bed 8,000p CFP ppn £54.52 $87.62
Taxi 1,000 CFP per km £6.82 $10.95
Sandwich 450 CFP £3.07 $4.93
Cheap roadside meal 1,200 CFP £8.18 $13.14
Water (1.5 litres) 104 CFP £0.71 $1.14
Coca-cola can 200 CFP £1.36 $2.19
Beer (50Cl) from supermarket 300 CFP £2.04 $3.29
Icecream in a cone 300 CFP £2.04 $3.29
Loaf of bread 450 CFP £3.07 $4.93
Chocolate bar 350 CFP £2.39 $3.83

Realistically, though, Tahiti and the surrounding French Polynesian islands are not the smartest place to visit if you’re travelling tight, and budget backpackers may well want to avoid the place.

Money matters momentarily put aside, solo travellers – and especially single travellers – may also want to avoid this honeymoon area. Even if you can afford it, having constant reminders of stereotyped romance mixed in with pitying looks will ultimately grate on even the most established solo adventurer and happy singleton.

Or you can just enjoy it for what it is, accept that everything is expensive and that you’ll blow your budget, and indulge in being surrounded by snippets of paradise and luxury and love.

It’s really pretty damn special.

But it’s time for me to leave. I’m all spent.

Related articles

4 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, beaches, costs/money, food & drink, hikes, moorea, pacific, places to stay, solo travel, tahiti

A Polynesian education: hanging out with Heirami

I was wondering how you meet people whilst you’re travelling’, said my friend Alan. He’d been having a coffee in Papeete by himself and got thinking about solo travel, about how conversations start, about how the hell I end up having such random meetings and funny moments with total strangers. The truth is, I’m not totally sure how it works, but it just does. Meeting Heirami was no exception.

I’d hitched a catamaran ride over to Moorea, an island 17km west of Tahiti and done some basic exploration of the island before saying goodbye to my captain and crew. After such a special adventure, we’d grown close and it had reminded me of the solidarity and support of longer standing friendships and family life. It was pushing on towards the one year mark since I’d set off on my solo adventure and I realised that I craved some familiarity and comfort.

Because I was unwell. Again. Nasty tropical sores had given me a fever and sent infection down the length of my left leg. I couldn’t put any weight on it so planned bike rides and on foot exploration were a no go.

Instead I reluctantly tucked into another round of antibiotics and set up base in the simple yet affordable shacks of Camping Nelson, each day hobbling my way across a small patch of grass to the honeymoon sands of a picture perfect beach.

My room. My shack (mostly). My temporary home.

My room. My shack (mostly). My temporary home.

...and the other direction

Down by the waterside

Which is where I met Heirami.

It was difficult not to notice Heirama, a smooth skinned, tribally tattooed guy with upright posture and a firm, naked bootie. A dancer at a nearby hotel, he walked confidently up and down the main stretch of the beach, stopping to splash around with families in the shallows, or to pick up a coconut, crack it open and offer it up to whoever was close-by and wanted to drink its water.

Which was me, on this occasion. And actually, after a few days of hermitting, I was craving some company.

Heirami and his beach

Heirami and his beach

Crack the coconut... here you are... now get in a tourist pose... ready?

Crack the coconut… here you are… now get in a tourist pose… ready?

Book, sunglasses, blanket... and coconut. What else is needed?

Book, sunglasses, blanket… and food. What else is needed? Basic needs met.

So I nibbled at the coconut flesh and listened to his lemon juice advice for my tropical sores. We sat in the bubbles of the ‘jacuzzi’ – a pooled area where the water rushes in and gurgles around – and he taught me Polynesian words and songs through call and response. I learnt about the different career choices of his siblings and about his journey from the Tuamotu islands to Moorea.

Showing me his tattoos up close (silhouetting doesn't help!)

Showing me his tattoos up close (silhouetting doesn’t help!)

The sun started to set. ‘Pahari’ I said as I got up to leave that pretty little beach and Heirami, who was taking one last moment and still standing proud in his nakedness. ‘Pahari’, he said, sticking up his hand for some goodbye contact.

I left him there, silhouetted against a streaked peach sky.

Leave a comment

Filed under activity & sport, beaches, culture, dancing, nature, pacific, tahiti

Not getting barrelled at Teahupo’o

Teahupo’o. Having shared a big chunk of my life with someone who breathed, dreamed and lived surfing, I was somewhat educated on the waves of the world. And Teahupoo? I could fairly easily recognise the wave in a picture, that crazy, powerful reef break that has surfers around the world dreaming of making a trip to French Polynesia.

I’m a rubbish surfer. It used to wind up my ex. How can you surf for six years and barely progress? He wanted to be able to ride a two foot wave with me; actually, just riding a wave together – any wave – would probably have sufficed.

If I actually made it out the back, I stalled myself out of waves, freaking that they were too big for me. Often I was happiest on the smaller, reformed waves closer to the shore, or riding the white water when I got bored of waiting for a ‘proper’ set to push through (although when I started to finally take the little drops and get on the faces of waves, the white water lost a bit of its appeal).

Realistically, one to two foot on a sunny day in the UK suited me perfectly. I don’t like rips, I’m a bit over mid-winter surfs, and the necessary evils of stiff 5/4mm wetsuits and a full booty-glove-hood get-up makes me tired just thinking about it. I have, I suppose, given in to the fact that I am never going to be one of those girls that rip, and that maybe I am indeed a fair-weather surfer (yet, actually, if the waves are right on a British December day then I’ll definitely get in the water for a splash around, just don’t give me a biting wind and a troubled sky).

Not much happening wavewise back in Devon in the winter of 2007... but its sunny and I'm smiling. Enough.

Not much happening wavewise back in Devon in the winter of 2007… but it’s sunny and I’m smiling.

There was no way, then, that my trip to Tahiti would include me undertaking the giant paddle out to the Teahupo’o showpiece and scuffling for a place in the line-up.

But I wanted to see the magic first hand. I felt that this wave was part of my history, a wave that had been part of conversations and memories and dreams. So I wanted to see the wave and its birthplace, I wanted to experience the magic of bobbing about in a little boat close to the crashing power, and I wanted to watch surfers get barrelled, get air and then bail off the back before the wave closed out and slammed them onto the jagged reef.

Watching the action up close (*not my picture).

From photos and calendars and videos, I knew what it should look like. So why the disenchantment?

Together with my Pacific crossing crew mates, I arrived into the village of Teahupo’o and to a little beach at a river mouth. The only people around were a few kids riding the beach break, twisting and turning on boogie boards, a couple more on stand-ups. The café was closed, the houses empty, the narrow, stony beach deserted.

By the river mouth at Teahupo'o, Tahiti

By the river mouth at Teahupo’o, Tahiti

A couple of boats were moored up by a house but captains were absent and a ride out to the mighty wave began to seem unlikely. I looked out to sea, out past the flatter near-water to a section of crashing waves that occasionally delivered a peel and spit but more typically smashed down on to the reef without any form. Closing out. Surely no one would be out there today trying to surf? I squinted but it was no good. I saw no one.

Shall we just borrow it?

Shall we just borrow it?

Kinda doing... not much

Kinda doing… not much

After a wander through the ghost village and along a rocky, coral beach, we weren’t any closer to the wave or to scoring a boat ride. I wondered if some of these houses were even occupied by locals and just how different this sleepy place was when the annual Billabong Pro surf comp came to town.

A hint of what Teahupo'o has become?

A hint of what Teahupo’o has become?

I gave up on getting out there to see it up close, and retreated back to the hire car. The only friends we made were some stray dogs. Oh, and one of the teens who gave us a wave as we left.

No barrels for me, or anyone else it would seem. Maybe I should have done some research before I left? Sometimes things just work out. This time it didn’t. Back to the perfect waves of picture books, then.

2 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, beaches, nature, pacific, sea, surf, tahiti

Day trippin’ Tahiti

Having picked up some maps at the tourist information by the docks, planned a few desired stop-offs and hired a car for the day, we were ready to drive the coast road that wraps around Tahiti Nui and smaller Tahiti to the south-east. The constructed concrete and development of Papeete slowly faded into the background as we sped south down the smooth roads of the west side of the island into a scene framed by thick, dark green trees and mountains that raised up from the roadside.

Enter the lushness

Enter the lushness

Our first stop was at Grotte de Maraa caves barely 30km south of Papeete, a public garden bursting with every tone of lush green imaginable, despite being but a machete strike away from the main road. The detail of fanned leaves, the variation in plant patterns and the odd splash of water and other colour created a world in which I wanted nothing more than to walk alone and once again get lost in the thicket of nature whilst Joel and Matt headed up into the jungle, following an overgrown path.

Plants and water and happiness

Plants and water and happiness

...and more...

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful, right?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yep.

The caves themselves gave cover to pools of water on which lilies clustered, some white petals on display. To the side of the main cave was a sign hidden behind foliage that stated No lifeguard on duty, surely a joke of sorts. Matt went for a paddle and the water barely reached his knees (although apparently further into the belly of the cave it drops away).

Really?

Lost girl? Nah, not really.

Lost girl? Nah, not really.

Back behind the wheel and we drove on down to Teahupo’o on Tahiti Iti, Tahit Nui’s little sister joined to the main bulk of the island by a slim stretch of land over which passed two roads. A few young teens body boarded on little waves on the edge of the village whilst the infamous Teahupo’o break smashed about a couple of kilometres out to sea. We walked by empty houses and quiet air, accompanied by a stray dog.

Arriving to the village of Teahupo'o

Arriving to the village of Teahupo’o

Hanging out on the wire looking out towards the famous break

Hanging out on the wire looking out towards the famous break

Shall we just borrow it?

Shall we just borrow it?

On the way back up north we decided to head to the Taravao Plateau, stopping first at a little spot off the beaten track by a river where we dunked in cool waters and got nibbled by creatures in a murky river bed. At least I did. Joel and Matt, my crew mates from the Pacific crossing, swam against the river flow, then let themselves get carried for a little while. I guess it had been a long time at sea without exercise.

Taking a river rest

Taking a river rest

Capturing the creature who had a good nibble on my toes

Capturing the creature who had a good nibble on my toes

The boys think about stretching their legs again

The boys think about stretching their legs again

The viewpoint of Taravao Plateau itself took us out of the jungly lowlands, high enough to get a wide look over both parts of the island. A little hut shaded us and the gentle yet constant trickle of tourists who pulled in for a quick glance. Beer tops, a few empty bottles and a smattering of graffiti hinted at a place that went beyond that of a lookout. This place saw it all. Or some variation, at least.

Views one way... down to Tahiti Nui

Views one way… down to Tahiti Nui

Views from the same spot

Views from the same spot

Our last stop-off was driven by the need to get to the water’s edge once again. Whilst the west coast beaches seemed unreachable and – where visible – chunked up with rocky entries, the east coast offered up a good dose of sandy beaches. Finding an unmarked place to pull in, the boys were quick to the water whilst I lay down, full stretch, and the warmth of the sand against the length of my body made me sleepy.

Getting drowsy

Getting drowsy

I dozed through all the fun – the body surfing, the local kids playing up to the Go-Pro camera, the refreshing splashing around – and roused only for the homeward stretch, a half hour drive with a red dusk sky backdrop

Nearly there

Nearly there

And we were back. In Papeete, at the pontoon, within the rock of the boat. Home.

1 Comment

Filed under activity & sport, beaches, mountains, nature, pacific, sea, surf, tahiti, tours

Sail me to the coconuts

www.travelola.org

The time arrived. I was really going to do this: sail across the Pacific Ocean from Galapagos, Ecuador to Tahiti in the Society Islands of French Polynesia with a crew I’d barely met and a captain who sounded experienced and sensible on paper but where I had no real certainty of the weighting of his reputation.

Trust your gut instinct’, a friend told me, ‘if it doesn’t feel right, don’t get on the boat’.

Another friend told me a horrific story about a guy who had spent a two week ocean crossing being raped by the skipper so as not to be thrown overboard. It seemed like the worst scaremongering story out there, surely something so sick couldn’t be true?

Rather than making me fearful of life, travelling has taught me that with a bit of savvy and a good dose of openness and interest in the world, the chances are that good people will enter your life. Call me naïve, if you like, but the people whom I’ve met and the experiences that I’ve had have helped me to re-trust life. At some point you have to trust, I think.

So here I was, keen for a sailing adventure, excited to be doing something so spontaneous and random. Of course, if it felt even a bit dodgy, I wouldn’t step on board.

Once again though, life threw me a trump card. The captain and crew, on early impressions, seemed pretty sound. All men, I had to feel okay about spending at least three weeks non-stop with this little clan who had already established themselves on the sail over from Panama.

I decided to go with it.

Although I was only guaranteed a ride to Tahiti (mainly because there were no stops between Galapagos and Tahiti), I was hopeful that if I pulled my weight they’d keep me on as crew for the next leg to Tonga and then Coff’s Harbour, Australia.

But no plans. Go with the randomness and see where I end up.

So, sail me – no, sail with me – to the coconuts, to the exotic paradise of Tahiti where the beautiful, world-class surfing wave of Teahupoo peels a couple of kilometres out to sea, where the award winning tribal tattoo artist Mana Farrons makes his home in Papeete, where wild pigs roam the forests and where palm trees fringe beaches of white sands and fallen husks.

And where my fantasies of tropical life will meet with their reality. How can I be disappointed?

9 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, beaches, ecuador, nature, oceania, pacific, sailing, sea, south america, tahiti, travel