Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 2: The Arrival

2 hours prior to landing the lights came on and everyone started to rise from their slumber. Breakfast was served and the cabin began to buzz with anticipation of our arrival. We touched the ground as the sun came up at 5:00am…….about 30 minutes earlier than scheduled.

Adam had pre-booked all transportation from and back to the airport, so we just needed to find our names and begin the adventure. Unfortunately the ferry we booked to take us to the island of Moorea (our final destination) was not scheduled to leave until 7:30am. So we had to wait a good hour before our ride to the ferry dock was due to leave. Once arriving at the ferry dock we had to wait another long and painful hour before the ferry would actually depart. Ugh! So we stood around and the ferry dock realizing the increase in the morning heat as the time ticked ever so slowly by.

A couple of notations that I made right away were that Tahiti reminds me of Hawaii and Cambodia all rolled into one. It is obviously very tropical, and you get that view immediately upon exiting the airport terminal, looking in to the lush green scenery on the mountains in front of you. And the fact that it is French Polynesia you notice certain architecture as you spy the buildings along the way that immediately brought me back to Phnom Penh.

Once we finally got on the ferry and scooted out over the water, we took our seats on the top deck of the boat in order to get a really good look at the surroundings. We even saw our plane lift off the oceanside runway on its next leg to Auckland, New Zealand. Upon our docking at the ferry terminal in Moorea you cannot help but inhale the scenery of luscious green everywhere you look…….except the water. The water in the little harbor was so amazingly crystal clear and turquoise in the sunlight……….like nothing I have ever seen before. What an amazing sensory overload to start with.
The ferry dock was on the complete opposite side of the island from our reserved bungalow, and there were 3 other couples in our van to be dropped off along the way. Because of that our driver took the north route over the island (the super long way), which afforded us the opportunity to take in more lush green to the left and turquoise to the right. Amazing! Some of the couples were dropped at resort places that had the overwater bungalows, which were quite a sight to see in person. And knowing we were doing something different than most (nothing unusual for us on an excursion) we felt no disappointment at all. In fact, I think it made us all that more excited to get to Te Nunoa……..our little bungalow in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Finally, we arrived at Te Nunoa, a piece of private land owned by a couple named Laurel and James along with their two kids, Fiona and Dushon. Laurel is American, owns and operates a Tahitian travel company along with Te Nunoa (our private bungalow on their property), and James is a tattoo artists………one of 3 left in the Tahitian islands that specializes in traditional Tahitian style tattoos. He uses a stick with a sharpened bone which he rapidly taps across the skin to apply the ink. Pretty amazing, actually, and Adam is scheduled to get one towards the end of our trip!

As we pulled up Laurel met us with much enthusiasm. Adam and Laurel had begun an email friendship over the last 6 months, so we were all excited to finally meet. Unfortunately there has been a major outbreak of conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) on the island, which is apparently a somewhat common occurrence, and Laurel and the kids had been suffering with it for a few days, so our greetings were at a distance with no hugs. All the same we were still thrilled to finally meet in person. She gave us the full tour of our home for the next 10 days………a big, thatch-roof structure surrounded by a tall bamboo fence and amazing landscaping with ample fruit trees (coconut, passion fruit, banana, and papaya) and a rainbow of colorful flowers every direction you looked. Yes, there is even a hammock tied between to palms in the corner of the property! Everything you would imagine.

Inside we found a small kitchen, a huge platform king sized bed with mosquito netting, a day bed and a large bathroom with a slate floor and shower the size of a small walk-in closet. Laurel had even taken the time to cut some fresh flowers and put them in a vase on the coffee table and scatter additional petals on the bed. Oh! She even had a bounty of fresh croissants, pain au chocolate, and a large French baguette (so much it lasted us almost 3 days!) on the counter just calling our names, accompanied by a big wedge of brie and pineapple juice in the fridge.
We got ourselves unpacked and settled, showered, and then stood in amazement of our surroundings for a few. With so little available for sustenance we ventured down to the “market” a short 5 minute walk down the way. It is just a very tiny grocery store with a very small selection of necessities from which to choose. Not quite knowing what we were going to need or prepare for ourselves, we wandered around trying to figure out what to do…….and how affordably to do it. Food is really bloody expensive here. Yikes! Adam, more than anything, just looked around like he was on Mars (not unlike he does when in the grocery store back home) while I pondered what might be good for us to have initially until we got the feel for life in Tahiti. We could always come back for more. It didn’t help that we were both truly exhausted and couldn’t really think straight at that point. But we managed with some crackers, fruit, eggs, salami, cheese, a bell pepper, peanuts and of course BEER! Hinano is the national beer of Tahitian, so of course we snagged a six pack of that to imbibe. Back to the bungalow!

By this time, it was lunch. Some brie and crackers and nibblies later and both of us could not keep our eyes open, even with the beach calling us just a short walk away. We both sacked out for a much needed 2 hours. Time for the beach!

Laurel had taken the time to walk us down the street to show us our beach access during our introduction. In Tahiti the beach is public, but the access is private as you have to enter through someone’s property, so you can’t simply walk through uninvited. The beaches in Hawaii are also public, and you do have to cross private property to get to them, but most places grant access without requiring permission. So we slathered on the sunscreen and got ourselves settled on the white sandy beach.
The beach in Tahiti is not like in Hawaii. It is very, very coarse being made up of a combination of sand and coral. In Hawaii the sand is much finer and feels good under foot. It is taking us a little getting used to walking on such coarse sand and making sure to avoid the frequent coral, shells and rocks along the way. But, Hawaii ain’t got nothin’ on Tahiti when it comes to the clarity and color of the water. Oh my! Even when you stir up the bottom the water stays perfectly clear. It is unreal.
We could not resist getting in the water almost immediately and just soaking up the warmth. The water is warmer than in Hawaii as well. We bought ourselves some snorkel equipment, and we both could not wait to put it on and try it out. With some adjustments we got the hang of it and were able to scoot around the coral labyrinth with all the colorful fish and some amazing aquatic oddities……….like sea slugs literally as big around as my calf and as long as my arm. Just enormous!

Adam, being more of the sunbather than I, headed back to his beach towel to soak up some rays while I kept on soaking up the underwater landscape. I must have been out there an hour at least! On my way back to shore, as I came around a big bank of coral, 3 huge sting rays floated about 10 feet ahead of me! Each was grey in color and probably a good 4 to 5 feet across. Cooooooooooooool!!!!! I kicked my little flippers to get on track with them but stay back far enough to avoid freaking them out. It was amazing swimming along with them just a few feet away. Suddenly a fourth one appeared, at least as big but black instead of grey! He came from a different direction and was heading directly towards me. We both paused………he looked at me, and I looked at him (from about 10 feet away), and he decided that I was not nearly as attractive as he, so he turned tail to catch up with his friends. I proceeded to follow behind at a distance until I was swimming along the shallows in front of Adam. I had to announce my excitement to him, of course. So I ended the chase and made my declaration from the water, which the two big Tahitian women floating in the distance thought was humorous. They kept looking at us and giggling to themselves most of the time we were on the beach. But we didn’t care because we are in Tahiti and the relaxation has begun!

More to come!

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