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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...

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Beautiful, right?

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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.

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

First impressions of Lima

It’s 7:00AM in Lima, Peru and the city is getting ready for the We Run Lima 10km run sponsored by Nike. Stands are being set up and areas of the street cordoned off and sound systems tested.

At 9:00AM the horns blow and the music starts. A group of young guys are ready with their ‘junk’ band – metal bins and brooms – along Malécon de Reserva on the bridge by Parque del Amor. Onlookers join in, clapping, and the occasional runner breaks from treading tarmac to shake their hips to the beat.

I’m walking into the flow of runners (no, not being totally annoying, I’m out of their way). The sea of red t-shirts bobbing up and down makes one dizzy. There’s a real mix of age groups taking part although I can’t help but notice that the majority of runners are male. What’s that all about?

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I duck out and sit in Parque del Amor. The huge stone statue of lovers entwined serves as a backdrop for couples photographs and the colourful mosaic seating outlining the park acts as a rest point for couples emulating the statue. The mosaic spells out messages of love, declarations of affection and positive messages: Viva la vida, Angela’ says one. Live the life.

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Looking out to sea, the surf is coming in in perfect lines and peeling steadily to allow the clusters of surfers to catch rides. Most surfers stick to the Redondo breaks left of the pier, away from the beginners learning to surf at Makaha Surf Beach. They catch long left handers. The better, bigger waves are farther out; even the ones being surfed are a considerable paddle out, although it’s fairly relaxed, not too heavy on the inside.

Little parks and pedestianised walkways are dotted along the road that runs the stretch of the sea front. People of all ages rollerblade, skate or longboard along the pavements, peddle their bikes, wander along hand in hand or walk their dogs. It’s a lazy Sunday morning but these guys are in full swing despite the grey start. The sun tries to push through; it’s warming up.

The walk back into Miraflores up Malecon 28 de Julio takes you by the pristine tennis courts of Club Tennis Las Terrezas Miraflores, a place that smells of affluence. From the courts there are far reaching views out over the sea and for a moment I try to imagine myself living that life: weekend tennis with my friends followed by a coffee or cocktail (or is that too unhealthy for this place?). I shake the thought pretty quickly.

By the time I make it back to the central park of Miraflores, the early morning stillness has been replaced by the sound of vehicles and chatter, and the streets and the parks are heaving with people of all nationalities.

The Miraflores district of Lima feels wealthy and westernised, full of comfortable, homogenised places to eat, drink and shop. It feels nothing like the other parts of Peru that I have visited. On the one hand it is pleasant and familiar; on the other hand it’s horribly boring. I realise that this can’t be the full picture.

Show me more of yourself, Lima.

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Filed under cities, culture, peru, south america, surf