So it begins...

Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
Trip End Nov 2004

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Flag of French Polynesia  ,
Wednesday, October 8, 2003

The adventure began at midnight on Oct 1, 2003 - at a boy bar (natch') in NY for a last hurrah with Tom and Ben (thanks, guys)! Was in bed finally around 3, I think, after far too many drinks, and I still somehow woke up at 7 without a hangover. Took the A train to JFK (way easier than I'd been led to believe... try it!), and eventually took off for Phoenix. The next 24-odd hours went something like this: 5 hours to Phoenix, 1 hour layover, 1 hour to LA, 3 hour layover, 8 hours to Papeete, Tahiti, 4 hour layover, 1 hour to Bora Bora, 1 hour ferry from the airport (on a "motu" - reef island) to the main island, and finally a 1 hour walk to Village Pauline (my dorm) at 7am local time Thursday. Whew! Thank you Nytol! The trip was mostly uneventful, although I was subjected to "Hollywood Homicide," "Charlie's Angels 2," and "Bruce Almighty" en route - 3 movies I studiously avoided all summer. Must be karmic movie payback for dragging unsuspecting friends (hi Matty and Chris!) to see "Wrong Turn" and "Cabin Fever."

Bora Bora is every bit as beautiful (all blue & green) as the postcards and websites would have you believe. It's also every bit as expensive as you might have heard... $25/hour for internet access! It is, however, possible to do it on a budget. Comparatively, at least. My bed was $32/night, but the hotel up the road was $600. Actually, the difference between the resorts and the local houses (tin-roofed shacks, largely) was striking. I guess only those with deep pockets can afford to spend any time there in relative luxury. The restaurant down the road from me had a big list out front of celebrities who had stopped in for a drink. Keana Reves [sic] and Jared Leto caught my eye, of course, but sadly they weren't still hanging around.

Spent day one walking around, lounging on the sand, and coming to grips with the fact that I was indeed in French Polynesia. My ATM card failed me (surprise), but my VISA worked for a cash advance. "Everywhere I want to be." Apparently. One of the first things I noticed is that there are dogs everywhere! Very pathetic and mangy-looking dogs (one had no skin or fur on its tail) that are too lazy to bark, much less get up. Not sure if they were strays or not, but it meant I had to keep one eye on the scenery and one eye on where I was stepping. There are many roosters as well, but they are only noticeable at 4am. I statred wearing earplugs to bed religiously after the first night. Speaking of local animals, while sitting in my bed on the first evening, I felt some rain splash on my head. Odd... there were no clouds, and I was under a thatched roof. I looked up, and a fat gecko was waddling along on the beam above me. Nothing says "Welcome to Bora Bora" like a gecko peeing on your head!

Joking aside, I quite enjoyed my stay on the island. On day two I rented a bike. It was a girl's bike, had a sorry smashed-up metal basket on the front, pedal brakes, one speed (sloooow), half-flat tires, and was named "Super Rider!" I imagine some very tall Polynesian girl was extremely excited when she received it as a Christmas gift back in 1965. Super Rider and I got along very well, despite the odds, and I had a great ride around the 36km of road circling the island. Always had the blue lagoon on the left, and mysterious Mt. Otemanu on the right. That afternoon I went snorkelling and practiced photographing reef fish. It was beautiful beyond words. Made one mental note to myself: a summer of lolling around in Providence shirtless and without sunscreen did NOT give me license to take on the South Pacific sun without sunscreen. I burnt a little, though thankfully it wasn't bad and now I'm sporting a sweet tan!

Saturday it was cloudy so I decided to climb towering Mt. Pahia, which looms behind the main town of Vaitape. The LP said the hike was "very difficult," which I of course misread as "perfect for someone whose only 'hike' in the past few years entailed a leisurely stroll through the woods around Wachusett" (hi, Jonny)! Finding the trail was a trial of its own... very little English is spoken on Bora Bora outside the resorts, so with a combination of mangled French and hand movements I spent an hour wandering in and out of backyards, asking the locals if they knew where it was. They looked at me like I had two heads, unsurprisingly, and kept pointing me in the direction of someone else. Finally a photo shop guy knew where it started, but told me it was "far too dangerous - you can not go!" Ha. I was off at last! By "trail" the guide book meant "parts of the mountain which are only 90% covered in jungly vegetation and spiderwebs," and they weren't kidding about the difficulty! After two and a half hours of hauling myself up an 80 slope (seemed that steep, at least!) by roots, tree limbs, rocks, dirt, and the occasional rope, I'd made it maybe 7/8ths of the way up. There were some great views between the trees, so I took some snaps and then had some food. It looked like rain, so I decided not to press my luck, and returned down in half the time - miraculously with both ankles intact. I was just proud that I hadn't gotten lost! Was so tired that I went to bed around 8, which is just as well... everyone is asleep at 9 and up at 6, so I'm adapting.

The next day I took off for Mo'orea, but this fantastic island is a story for next time! By the way, I have taken many photos, but uploading them will have to wait until I find a computer newer than a Pentium II, which may be in New Zealand! Otherwise things are great so far! I'm adjusting well to life on the road... dorms, cold showers, bugs, hand-washing, and all. Meeting some very friendly people, and eating well (a combo of dining out and grocery shopping). I miss everyone back home, so thank you for the many e-mails (if you just stumbled on this randomly, say "hi" - it's Until next time...

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