Heaven or Hell?

February 22, 2020, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia 

As a kid the legend was that Tahiti was supposed to be paradise on earth, it was sung about, movies were made about it and lots of ‘50s doo wop era motels on the Jersey shore were named Tahiti (Bora Bora coming in a close second) complete with plastic palm trees.  But the thing is — it’s hot – very hot — and humid.  At least it is in February.  We’ve enjoyed Moorea and Bora Bora, on the water, in the water, with a snorkel and a drink, but Papeete is a big city, at least is by Polynesian standards, and it is hot.   Just before 8 AM the cruise director told us it was 86 degrees.  It got hotter.

Our greeting was warm too.  Getting off the ship, right at the pier, a ukulele band entertained us as a woman presented Suzi and me with a flower each, that I wore behind my ear all day.  At the end of the dock, by the crafts’ market, drummers and dancers were more energetic than I could have believed in the heat. The palm trees wore grass skirts and some of the dumpsters were gaily painted in Polynesian motif. 

Suzi and I had thought of going to Point Venus where Captain Cook recorded the transit of Venus for the Royal Society.  I wanted to mix history with a bit of swimming on the black volcanic sand beach, but fortunately before taking the $35 cab ride we stopped at the tourist information office to find that Point Venus is closed until at least April for renovations.  We also found that a waterfront park we had liked in the past was closed because someone is putting a restaurant there.  So, we took advantage of the fact that Papeete is a city, stopping at a couple of pharmacies, a camera store to get a lens cap and new filter and a shirt store.  Last time I was here an on-ship presenter told me I would never find a Polynesian shirt my size anywhere but Hawaii.  I found Te Mana then and got two shirts that I particularly like.  This trip I got two more and directed a couple of other men who had despaired of ever getting such a shirt there.

We enjoyed a walk that took in the past ladies making and selling flower leis on the street, past City Hall, the Cathedral with its Polynesian themed stained glass and its saints around the pulpit, all wearing shell leis and the municipal market that has stalls and sections for fresh fish, fresh fruit, handicrafts, jewelry. Ukuleles (several 8 stringed, several with native Polynesian motifs and some designed to look like a tiny Fender Stratocaster) and, for us at least, very cold local beer.  The market was supposed to have free wi-fi but it didn’t work so well, a cruise ship was in town.  (Sound familiar Sitkans?)  While in the market we had rainstorm that cooled things off for our walk back to the ship before it humidified the air even more.

After cooling off on the airconditioned ship we walked the harbor looking at boats, including the largest Tupperware (plastic hulled) yacht I have ever seen.  There was also a smaller yacht called “Southern Aurora” from Guernsey, of all places, but the most interesting ship was one we saw at sail in.  It’s a combination cruise ship/container ship.  Forward it had a crane so it could self-load shipping containers.  Just aft of midships the superstructure was lined with balconies for cabins.  Aft were the pool, lido and solarium.  I suspect that it takes freight and people to some of the more remote islands in French Polynesia.

It was a lazy shore day, a little wandering, a little shopping, a little sightseeing on foot, and a little sitting on benches either in the parks and cathedral, which had a lovely breeze blowing through it.  A good spot for meditation.

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