Category Archives: moorea

And then it was over

australian-flag-mapAs I sat on the flat, spongy mattress of a cobbled together dorm room near the airport on the island of Tahiti listening to the woes of an eighteen year old French lad who’d had his money and laptop stolen whilst on a cruise out to the Tuamotus and now didn’t have any other option but to wait for a flight home, I realised that this too was the end of my journey.

Well, not really. If Stage 1 had been my initial South American adventures within Ecuador and Peru, and Stage 2 my previous time in Australia and New Zealand, then this travel through Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador followed by a delivery sail from the Galapagos Islands to Tahiti could be deemed Stage 3.

So Stage 3 was drawing to a close. There would still be more adventures up ahead, surely?

One of my favourite modern-day philosophers, Alain de Botton, says: ‘We’re getting better at learning how to structure journeys so that they can assuage what we’re lacking within us.’ And when I looked inside myself and questioned what was lacking (and causing a bit of concern), it was simple: health, familiarity, money. And a big, fat cuddle.

The biggest issue was my health, and my body was begging me to settle for a while. In the last few months, Bolivia had physically punished me and although I’d felt fairly healthy – inactive but healthy – during the Pacific crossing, now Tahiti had delivered up a fever thanks to some tropical sores, sores that stretched the skin on my left leg so tight that touch shot sharp tingles right down to my foot and up to my thigh. My immune system was shot. (I think if you’d told me then that I’d still have another two loads of antibiotics coming up once I was back in Australia, I would have cried. Seven lots of antibiotics within six months? Sorry body. Some people deal better with South America.)

I booked the cheapest flight back to Australia that I could find. But where to? Melbourne had been my original choice destination, a cultural city with opportunities for work and an agreeable cost of living, but Sydney was starting to appeal to me with its sailing scene. So why was I descending into a peachy, sunset Brisbane in mid-June?

I thought back to my French friend and hoped that his misfortunes hadn’t overly soured his impressions of paradise or deterred him from the wonders of travel. Life without travel, without adventure? Unimaginable.

I got off the plane, cursed the fact I’d worn flip-flops and a vest top as I shivered into an Aussie winter, and paused for a moment before I stepped through the Arrivals doors. My heart beating faster and a smile twitching on my lips, I pushed my airport trolley into a politely crowded Arrivals lounge. Still far from my UK home, Australia would be home for now.

Stage 4 starts. An empty page. Some good ideas, hopes and needs, but no plans or expectations. But definitely adventures. Always.

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Filed under australia, bolivia, brazil, ecuador, moorea, new zealand, oceania, pacific, peru, solo travel, south america, tahiti, travel

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.

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

Even sharks can’t spoil my bliss

Watching the sun set... just before...

Watching the sun set… just before…

On my last night on the island of Moorea I sat on the beach barely 30 metres from my shack, dug my toes into fine sand and watched the sun set the sky alight.

I sat for a while and thought about all sorts, and I felt calm and content. The power of nature.

The globe disappeared and I got up to leave, but something stopped me, maybe a greedy goblin who wanted more of that blissed out contentment. So I took another seat on a bench – a higher viewing platform – and gazed out at the horizon flooded with pink, yellow and red.

And then I spotted them: two fins close in the shallows, separated from the shore only by a little strip of water and a slither of rocks. I looked around me. Two English girls sat chatting at the picnic table a few metres away whilst a Swiss mum showered sand off her two-year old son. No one said a thing. Had I imagined it?

I kept watching and sure enough, they surfaced again. ‘Sharks? Are they sharks?’ I asked no-one and everyone. The girls ran down to the water edge, fancy cameras to the ready. The Swiss woman shouted for her husband.

Well spotted’, said one of the girls as they bounced back up to the campsite. I was glad I’d said something, but, if I dare admit, the selfish part of me was secretly smug for having had a few uninterrupted moments to just take it in.

A little sharky send-off.

Moorea, je t’aime. Sharks ‘n’ all.

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Filed under activity & sport, moorea, nature, pacific, sea, snorkelling, wildlife

That’s Moorea like it

Moorea, as seen from Papeete in Tahiti

Moorea, as seen from Papeete in Tahiti, French Polynesia

Above deck, Matt and Joel look on to the next stage of the adventure

Above deck, Matt and Joel look on to the next stage of the adventure

Below deck I check the route and computers as we set off for Moorea

Below deck I check the route and computers as we set off for Moorea

Moorea looks full of promise

Moorea looks full of promise

Approaching paradise?

Approaching paradise?

All action on board as we get closer to Cook's Bay

All action on board as we get closer to Cook’s Bay

Sailing into Cook's Bay

Sailing into Cook’s Bay

Cook's Bay surroundings, as seen through the window in my onboard bathroom

Cook’s Bay surroundings, as seen through the window in my porthole

Readyto leave the boat that's been my home for a month. How is there now so much stuff? Didn't I downsize?!

Ready to leave the boat that’s been my home for a month. How is there now so much stuff? Didn’t I downsize not that long ago?! Blame the South American markets, I reckon. Nothing to do with me.

The car hire place with plenty of flexibility

The car hire place with one car  and plenty of flexibility on timings

A Polynesian experience would be incomplete without sighting the hibiscus (or the frangipani)

A Polynesian experience would be incomplete without sighting the hibiscus (or the frangipani)

This one road goes right around the island of Moorea

This one road goes right around the island of Moorea

Camping Nelson. Home for a few days.

Camping Nelson, Papetoai (ish). Home for a few days.

Finally! White sand beaches. That's Moorea like it.

Finally! White sand beaches. That’s Moorea like it.

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Filed under activity & sport, moorea, mountains, nature, pacific, sailing, sea