We landed mid-afternoon at the Fa'a'a airport in Papeete, the capital of Tahiti and French Polynesia.
Awaiting us is Carole Folliard, a Frenchwoman who had had enough of the standardized life of the metropolis. After taking a year off to travel around Africa and South America, he found a job. As soon as he could, he moved to the Gallic Ultramar.
He welcomes us with open arms. First, in his little Fiat Panda where we could barely see our way, such was the amount of Polynesian necklaces with shells and flowers hanging from the rearview mirror.
Then, in the villa located in PK (Point Kilometer) 15 from Puna'auia that I rented to share with two colleagues, both at that time on vacation, further north, in Hawaii.
Carole sets us up, gives us a myriad of logistical directions, and returns to her professional duties on the outskirts of town.
We didn't take long to leave too. We walk to the main road – the only one that goes around the entire island. We hope you will pass the most traditional and cheapest transport in Tahiti.
In line, it doesn't take long until they approach us. "What part of the metropolis are from?" asks us a puzzled lady. “Oh, they're not French… So even more welcome.” Shortly thereafter, the conversation turns to the very late the truck and the lady vents: “they are planning to replace them with modern buses.
In a while there won't be anything typical from here. It seems that everything has to be the same as in European France.” he adds ironically.
Not even on purpose, the truck decorated with Polynesian motifs and landscapes appears.
On the way to Papeete, the Disjointed and Expensive Capital of Tahiti
We climb aboard its airy wooden box. We enjoyed the views in the almost 10 km that separated us from the center of Papeete.
The image of Tahiti's pristine paradise is shattered to shreds in this wet, abrasive capital. Here, the most patient and curious resist and investigate their chaotic soul. Those who have less time or less open-mindedness go in search of much more enchanting natural surroundings.
We started by taking a look at Praça Vaiete, which still had some street entertainment. We took another look at the marina and Bougainville Park, a kind of verdant oasis in the concrete jungle. We pass in front of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and walk along Rua General de Gaulle.
However, night fell. When we returned to Vaiete, the square had changed. It had been invaded by the terraces of a series of snack caravans. Tired from so much walking, we sat down to taste raw fish with coconut sauce and white rice.
The small street delicacy served on a plastic tray had a French Polynesian price that only a few days later we stopped being scandalized: 2000 Pacific francs, 18 euros.
The Social Importance of Heiva Dances in the Society of Tahiti
Ten o'clock is approaching. We're going to meet Carole at a place where she had regular heiva dance rehearsals for an upcoming annual contest.
When we arrived, more than a hundred Polynesian natives and a few meters (French from the metropolis) were still shaking their hips and their skirts hula, in the case of our hostess and other Europeans, part of her group's choreography.
And of an ongoing process of integration in distant and exotic Tahiti that, despite being administered and financed by France, at a popular level, has always resisted its polished and refined ways.
The European Arrival in Polynesia that remains to be confirmed
European explorations ventured into these places only from the second half of the XNUMXth century onwards. Historians are divided as to who was the first navigator to anchor off the island.
Among the most probable hypotheses and at different periods are the French Lieutenant Samuel Walis who circumnavigated the world.
Also the Spanish explorer Juan Fernández and, before heading to the Melanesian archipelago of Vanuatu, the Portuguese pilot Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, at the service of Don Alvaro de Mendaña and the Spanish Crown, who had the common primary objective of the maritime powers of the time to map the Terra Australis Incognita.
What the navigators then found will not have differed much from what we committed to explore on the following day of circum-driving the island, already with a rented car the day before.
Discovering Tahiti Nui, the Big Island of Tahiti
We woke up early and turned onto the ring road in Puna'auai.
Tahiti splits in two. The largest island, Tahiti Nui, is home to the majestic Mount Orohena (2241m) and a series of other soaring peaks, sharp and verdant to the maximum, two of them, with more than two thousand meters.
To the southeast, the Presque' Ile (almost island) of Tahiti Iti, a tiny, wild version of Tahiti Nui.
Both are the result of strong volcanism, of the erosion that followed and continues to be seen.
We toured Nui counterclockwise with strategic stops on beaches and long waterfalls, where the deepest cuts of the dramatic and lush relief allowed us to enter whatever was inland.
When we reached Phaeton Bay, we took advantage of the paved road to proceed to about the southern half of Tahiti Iti.
The end of the asphalt corresponds to Teahupoo. By itself, this name says little to the common visitor, but any surfer or surfer will rave just to hear it say it.
Teahupoo, Site of one of the Most Reputable Waves in the World
There, a few hundred meters from the reef that gives rise to the heaviest wave (despite reaching only 3 to 7 meters in height) and one of the most respected and respected on the face of the Earth, we also feel privileged.
Even knowing that only the professionals or the really capable ones dare to surf it.
The force of the semi-circular breakers and the shallow depth of the shore bed can result in serious injury and even death. Dozens of surfers have already perished victims of its power.
On the coast in front, come to us à mind images of its large and bulky tubes.
And, in the extension of the imaginary, the handwriting of "tahitian moon" Both of you Porn for Pyros, in which New York vocalist Perry farrel who moved to Los Angeles, in the 80s, to make a living from surfing, sings of a maritime misadventure that happened to him in these parts:
"I don't know if I'll make it home tonight, but I Know I can swim under the Tahitian Moon”.
Today, a universal sport, surfing was, like tattoos and for centuries, a central element of Polynesian culture. Like the discovery of Tahiti, the first European to enjoy surfing is also a matter of debate.
The Troubled Passage of the "Bounty" through Tahiti
This inaugural and eccentric vision will also have been verified in this island that the world soon associated with paradise due to successive written testimonies of the tropical beauty of the scenery and the affability of the welcome of the natives, propagated as never before in "Revolt in the Bounty".
In the feature, while waiting for a better time to pick the breadfruit that the British planned to more economically feed West Indian slaves, sailors under the command of ruthless Captain William Bligh, including 1st Lieutenant Fletcher Christian (Marlon Brando) strayed for six months in the pleasant life and free love of the natives.
Christian himself falls in love with Maimiti, the king's daughter. Sixteen men exchange the penalty of continuing aboard the "Bounty" for Tahitian glee.
In this same tour of the Society Islands, we explored five other islands in the archipelago including Bora Bora e Mauritius.
We confirmed that, even though protected by a barrier reef that gives it a turquoise halo, much higher Tahiti was not an atoll.
For this reason, whether by plane or from the top of the elevations in the center of these geological formations, we were also able to conclude that most of the neighbors turned out to be, in visual terms, much more attractive.
And yet, Tahiti has always been the great leader and has always had the greatest reputation as a paradise in the Terra.
We return to the base of Puna'auai.
Carole has to take care of other dress details for the competition. heive.
We insist with Papeete.
Polynesian Life that Dazzled and Inspired Paul Gauguin
At the Maputu a Paraita municipal market, we are rewarded with many of the characters and the experience that will have enchanted the sailors of the “Bounty”, made Paul Gauguin settle camps on the island and paint like never before.
Filled with fruit and vegetables of every color and immaculately arranged on stalls, the market is bustling with vendors in traditional Polynesian dresses in bold hues, adorned with ruffles, garlands, necklaces and who knows what else. There is a local competition for misses.
An effeminate master of ceremonies surrounded by natives and several others mahus (men-women from French Polynesia) presents candidates in catadupa to the rhythm of drums played by men only bare-chested, muscular and covered in Tahitian-style tattoos.
Unfolded in careful rites, the party entered the afternoon. During this time, Papeete also fulfilled his most executive functions.
Dozens of ferries sailed to other islands in French Polynesia,
There arrived and departed countless tourists eager to explore the surrounding aphrodisiac archipelago and numerous deals were made with the metropolis and other cities in the world.