Finding Nemo (and sharks) in Paradise

Trip Start Jan 28, 2005
Trip End Aug 2005

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Flag of French Polynesia  ,
Monday, April 18, 2005

According to Lonely Planet Mo'orea is the island paradise that you've been daydreaming about all winter. And they add you will be kicking and screaming when you have to leave (my personal variety this afternoon was sitting down at the dock gazing at the ferry with all my backpacks and bags on, contemplating whether to actually get on the departing boat or wave it goodbye and head back to the lagoon.) So, you've guessed it - if I haven't already sounded like a badly written Thomas Cook holiday brochure, this is when I'll start gushing like one.(That comment will so come back and bite me in the ar*e if I ever apply for a job as a travel brochure writer for Thomas Cook..)

Alright, let the gushing commence:

I'm off to Easter Island in a few hours, after an absolutely magical time on the beautiful island of Mo'orea, a skip and a hop from Tahiti, but a world away from the hustle and bustle of Pape'ete. True to recent form, I extended my ticket and stayed a bit longer than planned. (though I can 'blame' it on getting a cold.. Great excuse!) The magic started in the most unlikely place this time - on the plane from Auckland to Tahiti. The young lad I was meant to sit next to asked if I would be kind to swap seats (ops, I keeps forgetting to put my deodorant on) with his brother so they could sit next to each other? Being a brownie point collector, of course I said yes. That was a smart move. I ended up sitting next to a lovely Swedish girl (bet you never thought I'd utter 'lovely' and 'Swedish' in the same sentence unless I was talking about meatballs) who is also flying around the world solo. She'd already run into a Swiss girl in the departure lounge who she's met earlier in New Zealand. We instantly clicked and decided to stay at the same place for the night in Tahiti before moving on the next day. Arriving at Pape'ete airport we were greeted with song and a tiare (that'll be the flower you tuck behind your ear) and the dishiest passport control boys I've seen since Brisbane. I'd say we were off to a good start!

I don't think it was staying at Grumpy German Man's Place (we renamed it) in Pape'ete that made us bond so quickly, but bond quickly we did. So the next day, after a minor incident with refused bank cards, the three of us, Swiss Denise, Swedish Karin and Norwegian me, decided to head off to Mo'orea. I'd been warmly recommended Fare Oa Oa where Liz and Chris stayed last year, and would you believe that both Denise and Karin had thought of staying there too.. I shall use the word 'coincidence' a bit more sparingly from now on.

What a heavenly oasis Fare Oa Oa turned out to be! I am eternally grateful to Liz for recommending it. The lovely Herve and his charismatic cat, Hippolite Le Fort, own and run the place. Herve has got the magic touch some aspiring interior decorators train for years to achieve. Fare Oa Oa is jammed with wonderful pieces of art, bottles his guest have drunk that he's displayed in ways that play with the bright Polynesian light (we may have added the odd bottle or so to the collection), the most gorgeous outdoor shower (having a shower under the stars after busy day at the beach beats a soak in a London bathtub I tell you), old record covers, wonderful books scattered around, fresh flowers and enough details to keep you busy for weeks. This morning I saw something I hadn't noticed before, and that was after wandering around Oa Oa observantly for 10 days. It was the perfect place to stay. Karin and me shared the mezzanine over the kitchen (which is where I think Liz and Chris also stayed?) and Denise had the 'dorm' bed downstairs. The two other guests there when we arrived was an Englishman who soaked up the Polynesian culture in the bar down the road during the day and the tres formidable Richard from Tolouse. It was perfect. Until I get my pictures up on this log (I'm being wise with my money, I tell you Polynesia ain't cheap for internet, photo uploads can wait!!) have a look at for pictures.

Mo'orea is an extinct volcano with amazingly green and lush peaks. Think 'Mutiny on the Bounty', think Marlon Brando in tight trousers (erm, you get my drift) You feel you've walked into a Paul Gauguin painting. I have not seen so many beautiful people in such a contained little space. (Speaking of Monsieur Gauguin, here's a quiz for y'all. Do you know what his wife's name was? A Hinano beer for the first right answer.) We spent our days on the beach, swimming, sunnying ourselves, snorkeling in God's own aquarium, talking, talking and talking. Denise, Karin and me had such a fab time, we learnt so much from each other and has so many great laughs. Karin is staying in Polynesia for a bit longer, Denise is being an LA babe now and I'm off to South America, but I reckon this little witches coven will meet again very very soon and we will be friends for a very, very, very long time. Meeting new people you click with is always great but this was magic.

As you all know I've been wanting to and dreaming of (and yes, I know,talking about) travelling the world for a long long time, and HORRAY now I am finally doing it. Another big dream has been to get my diving license. Now, where better than in Paradise to get it? I was recommended a place called TopDive. So I decided to try it. First was the introductory dive for me to get a feel of the whole thing, the instructor holds your hand and guides you through the dive. Although I had slight problems with my popping ears, hook, line and sinker, they had me before the introductory dive was over. The water is a colour blue I have never seen before. You really do feel as if you are swimming in an aquarium (a well kept one), the fish are beautiful and surpass the kinds you thought only existed in the heads of Pixar animators and the feeling of floating around amongst the curious fish was just wonderful.. It blew my budget, but the diving license had to be done.

Even without my glasses it didn't take me long to notice that all the diving instructors were good looking. I had a feeling I'd like diving. My assigned diving instructor was Thomas, the poor soul did not know what he'd let himself in for when he took me on. I suspect there were plenty a times that he was more than tempted to let me just float up to the surface and drift away with the current. All the theory he'd spent time giving me during the pre-dive briefing went in one popping ear and out the other as soon as we got in the water. In my defense there is a lot to think about down there you know - there's the breathing, inflate or deflate the BCD (that'll be dive talk for Bouyance Control Device good people) and the fish to look at and then there's the mask to be cleared every time you laugh and smile so much the mask slides up and you get water up your nose. (I proudly say though that I have now mastered the art of burping underwater, I reckon there's no better way to clear your throat of salty water. Perhaps travelling alone is not good for your social etiquette?)

Having not been a student for a wee bit now I somehow miraculously got through the theory part of the course. But on my second to last dive of the course I did absolutely EVERYTHING wrong, I was sure the good looking boys at Top Dive were going to sit me down and tell me I was the most unsuited person to diving - ever. Whether it was the stern talk Thomas gave me after the dive or his threat that I had to buy him a beer for every mistake I made - something paid off and the last dive went much better. So - guess what? Yours truly is now the proud holder of a diving license! And I tell you what, I am going to use it often, the underwater world that I've caught a glimpse of was just - may I say magical one more time in this pod?

On the last two dives, outside the reef in Mo'orea, we went down to 18 meters. The water was 29 degrees. Yellow fish, blue fish, long and thin fish, short and round fish.. Just incredible. These amazing fish were swimming straight up to me and looking me in the eye before swimming off and getting on with their day. At one point I looked up towards the surface and saw a blacktip shark hovering above me with the sun giving it backlight. As I turned around there were two more blacktips following me, not menacingly as I have always thought they were, but curious, utterly beautiful and graceful. I had to pinch myself. When Thomas pointed towards a turtle I could no longer contain my excitement, but somehow I managed to laugh and smile (and shriek) without getting water in my mask or swallowing water. As my instructor signaled that the dive was over, I shook my head back (I invented a new dive sign), I didn't want to get out. I wanted more, much more. To round off a perfect day a group of dolphins swam along side the boat on the way back to shore, playfully jumping out of the water.

It was magic.
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