Day T-1, Saturday, Jan 29, Papeete

Trip Start Jan 26, 2011
Trip End Feb 13, 2011

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Day T-1, Saturday, Jan 29, Papeete

Flag of French Polynesia  , Society Islands,
Saturday, January 29, 2011

Despite retiring early Friday, I slept until 6.  I spoke with the Crystal rep and the tour desk at the hotel and booked a transfer to the ship and a morning tour around the Island for this morning.  After a large breakfast at the hotel Angele picked us up at 9:30. Unfortunately, in my rush to be on time to the tour, I left my room with everything except my camera bag.
Tahiti Nui is the newest island in French Polynesia, a volcanic island where the volcanic activity ceased about 5000 years ago.  The island is a circle 20 miles in diameter with a mountainous center.  There is one road around the island, about 80 miles long.  We passed through Papeete without stopping, not much of a loss since most of the shops close early on Saturdays. 

Our first stop was at a lighthouse, dating from about the time of the US Civil War, and still active.  There was a little uncertainty about it's heritage with signs indication construction began in 1868 but 1867 was printed on the cornerstone.  Unlike most of the islands there are few if any reefs around Tahiti.  The ocean floor drops quite quickly off the fresh volcanic island, and coral will grow in 30 feet or less of water.  This leaves easy water access to the island but little shelter.  The water is clear and beautiful, but most of the sand is black.

We stopped at a blow hole along the highway.  It was originally a lava tube with the opening right next to the highway and the tube running underneath.  It was relatively tame when we stopped but can cause some impressive blows on the inland side of the highway under the right conditions.

A short time later we detoured a mile or so inland to a beautiful waterfall.  We hiked about 5 minutes up a scenic valley and the waterfall came down a sheer cliff from a height of about 200 feet.

The isthmus connecting Tahiti Iti with Tahiti Nui is directly on the opposite end of the island from Papeete.  There are roads on Tahiti Iti running about 20 km in each direction from the isthmus but do not circle the island, which has a population of just under 20,000, compared to about 300,000 on Tahiti Nui.  We stopped at a store on the isthmus and bought some groceries which served as our lunch.

Our final stop on the tour was the Paul Gaugin museum.  Most of us did not go inside as the museum is under renovation and there were no originals present, but those not visiting the museum paid a welcome visit to an ice cream shop.  We returned to the hotel about 2:30pm.  I spent the afternoon catching up on writing and email and repacking to embark on the ship.

My parting shot today will be a few impressions of Tahiti.  It is a beautiful island, but with it's isolated location quite expensive.  I had mixed reactions as a walker.  I was very pleased at the respect shown by most drivers for crosswalks, but also found difficulty walking since parking on the sidewalks is rampant, and the walks seemed to end frequently and abruptly.  Surprisingly, there were much better provisions out near the hotel and the airport than in the center of Papeete.


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