In my last post, W1801 – It’s nice to be appreciated, which was my 150th post on this blog, I acknowledged the recognition I have been fortunate to receive during this cruise for my blog; and also documented a ‘Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook’ show put on to entertain us on one of the many sea days as we sailed towards our next port of call, Papeete in Tahiti.
As we sailed on towards Tahiti the Captain during his noon reports warned us that there was rough weather and seas ahead, and also talked about Cyclone Gita, which they were having to keep a close watch on. For those of you thousands of miles away from us, who may not have heard about Cyclone Gita on the news, this is a category 4 cyclone that has caused lots of damage in Samoa and Tonga, which are not that far from our intended course.
Our planned itinerary was to spend a day in Tahiti, the next day (Valentine’s Day) in the idyllic Bora Bora, and two days later a day in Rarotonga which is one of the Cook Islands. In view of the expected rough conditions ahead, the Captain decided to ‘put his foot down’, so that we arrived into Tahiti on the evening before the planned day, so that we got an extra period of shelter from the rough weather and seas.
We visited the same three South Sea Islands on our world cruise last year – or rather we were supposed to, but just as had apparently happened the year before that, the visit to Rarotonga was cancelled due to rough weather and seas. Actually, as documented in my post W1702 – South Sea bubble burst, I missed out on seeing any of the islands, as I was unwell and unable to leave my cabin in Tahiti, and leave the ship in Bora Bora.
For almost all our world cruise last year, Carol and I were blessed with fine weather and calm seas almost all the way around, with only half a dozen or so rough days during the entire voyage. This time around it seems like the pendulum has swung completely the other way, and this time we only seem to be getting the odd calm day. Given this, and that based on last year’s experiences I seem to be jinxed in this part of the world, I could not help feeling pessimistic about what lay ahead.
Tahiti is the largest and most populous island in French Polynesia. The island was formed from volcanic activity and is high and mountainous with surrounding coral reefs. Tahiti is divided into two parts – the bigger part in the northwest is called Tahiti Nui, and the smaller part in the southeast is called Tahiti Iti.
Carol and I went up on deck to watch us sail into Papeete. It was dark and wet, so I didn’t even bother to try taking any photographs. At least that night we could sleep peacefully, spared the rocking and rolling of the ship that we had been used to the previous nights.
The following morning Carol and I were up bright and early as we had booked a ship’s tour – a coach tour around some of the scenic places on the island. When we got to the show lounge to check in for our tour, the tours manager was busy informing other passengers that two of the planned tours were cancelled due to the weather – a catamaran tour and a tour by jeep up into the mountains. It was clear the weather was affecting us on land as well as at sea.
As we left our ship to walk to our coach, we were greeted by some suitably dressed locals who offered us flowers, while nearby a group of musicians were playing:
When we boarded our coach our local guide informed us that we would not be able to visit a couple of places that we were supposed to visit on our tour – some historic caves and a viewpoint on the coast – as they were flooded following very heavy rain. We soon understood why, for as we crossed some bridges over raging rivers, our local guide told us that they are usually dry at this time of year, and for one of them he said that he had never seen the river so high. It was a very dark and wet morning, and the rain was really heavy at times, but we were fortunate in that when we were out of the coach it had almost stopped. As we drove along I was struck by how built up it was, and how generally scruffy and tired it looked – the guide told us that the residents don’t exactly rush to repair their houses – and how there seemed to be graffiti on almost every available wall and some abandoned and rusting cars around:
We had quite a long drive along a coastal road to reach our first stop, the Spring Garden of Vaipahi. We walked on ahead of the main group so that I could get some photographs of the lovely gardens without other people in the way:
It was only a short drive further along the coast to our next stop, a restaurant where we stopped for a refreshing fruit drink and a piece of cake. The restaurant was located right on the coast, and immediately outside it there was a boardwalk running out over a pool containing lots of fish. Unfortunately the water was quite murky, and it was quite difficult to see, never mind photograph, the fish – I’m sure some sunlight would have helped!
Leaving the restaurant we then started driving back towards Papeete on the same road. Eventually we came to our final stop on the tour, Ārahurahu Marae. A marae is a communal or sacred place that serves religious and social purposes in Polynesian societies, consisting of an area of cleared land roughly rectangular (the marae itself), bordered with stones or wooden posts, often with terraces traditionally used for ceremonial purposes. Most marae were destroyed by the missionaries when Tahiti was converted to Christianity in the 19th century, and this one had been rebuilt since using the same discarded rocks and stones. Our guide pointed out a large stone which he told us had a gruesome use in the past – if a mother could not confirm the lineage of a newborn baby, it was brought to this stone to be killed, for it was important to know which families a person was descended from to avoid inbreeding.
We then returned to our waiting ship in time for a late lunch. Although Carol had seen some of Tahiti last year, I hadn’t and was glad to see it for myself. Like Carol I was disappointed – it all didn’t live up to the paradise south sea island that most people would picture when they hear the name Tahiti.
Carol and I were sat in the restaurant having our lunch when the Captain came on the tannoy to announce changes to our itinerary. He said the seas would be too rough and the winds too strong to go to Bora Bora or Rarotonga (both are tender ports). Instead we would spend a second day in Tahiti, then sail directly to Auckland in New Zealand. We were both heartbroken to have missed out going to Bora Bora on Valentine’s Day, as it is so beautiful and idyllic there, and my jinx when it comes to south sea islands continues.
That afternoon Carol and I went for a short walk into the town to look around the local market there:
That evening the show was put on by local musicians and dancers, and I can’t deny enjoying watching the girls dancing the hula-hula in their grass skirts so close in front of me. There were also muscular young men dancing which brought a smile to Carol and her friend’s faces!! Before the show the Captain gave a short but excellent and very informative talk about the weather and why we are having to miss the other two islands. He said the cyclone is predicted to track back towards New Zealand, but they hope it will have passed by there before we get there.
On our second and unplanned morning in Papeete we went for a longer walk around the port. Walking through a park on the shore we came across some pens holding tropical fish, and then a moving memorial to those affected by the French nuclear testing in the area:
Walking on we found a small but very peaceful garden, and then walked on the cathedral which was very small but had some interesting stained glass windows:
We also came across quite a few examples of street art:
Although it did not rain while we were out walking, it was very hot and the humidity was really high, making it feel unpleasant. Carol in particular was quite affected by the conditions and only just made it back to our ship without fainting, so we just rested in the cool of the ship during the afternoon.
While Carol continued to rest, I went up on deck to watch and take photographs as we set sail. The mist and rain had really set in again over the mountains, and as we eased our way through the narrow gap in the coral reef the seas instantly became much more rough. I noticed that the crew were busy stowing the mooring ropes down below rather than on deck, and were making other items on deck even more secure – which I thought might be a bad sign as to what lay ahead.
We think it will be six days at sea before we reach our next port, Auckland in New Zealand, not including a day that we won’t have when we cross the International Date Line. Of course cyclones are unpredictable things, so exactly where and when we next make landfall is still very much subject to change, so what and when will be the subject of my next post – who knows?!