Day 123: That’s More Like It

Fri. 14th December 2012

Sunshine at lastSunshine! Even the patch of sea visible from our cabin looks bluer as we peer past the curtains. Stepping outside, we can feel that it is much warmer too. This is all just as well as we have some washing to get dry – once again we are lowering the tone of the neighbourhood by fixing up our (brilliant) travel washing line on the balcony and putting up a load of underwear.

We are moving on to (the atoll of) Rangiroa today but our flight isn’t until late afternoon. That gives us a final morning in Moorea before we catch the ferry back to Tahiti. There are always some chores to do and one of them is to buy a few things that we want to pick up when we arrive in Sydney (only a couple of weeks away now). The combination of a UK credit card and an Australian delivery address proves to be a difficult hurdle to overcome when it comes to the security checks. So much for globalisation!

Whilst we do have the bikes available to us this morning, I just can’t face battling with the handlebars and the gears again. Besides we have been turned both right and left on the road, so there is nowhere new (that is realistic) for us to cycle. It is also too hot for cycling and we realise how lucky we were yesterday to have the overcast skies but no rain.

Club house at the golf courseInstead, we head out on foot and find ourselves by the golf course again and decide to follow the cart paths for a few holes. Like everywhere else, the course looks much nicer and more appealing in the sunshine. We even see 3 people playing – making a grand total of 3 during our stay here! It is tempting to play. If we had more time here (yes, that old chestnut again) I might have gone in to haggle over the cost of a round – but we don’t have time and it would be seriously tiring in the heat. Ah well – soon! Janet says there is a course in New Caledonia, so perhaps a Christmas treat.

Quiet beach with surf breaking on the reef off the coastPart of the golf course backs on to the coral beach and so we stop and have a paddle. Whilst the water is warm enough, swimming will have to wait until we get to Rangiroa. This much more like what we were expecting from an island in the South Pacific – warm water, blue sky and white coral sand beaches fringed with palm trees. For some reason, the mountains are the surprising part of the package. We hadn’t expected to see them so tall and so rugged.

Whilst check-out is nominally at 11am, the hotel isn’t busy and so we are allowed to stay until 1pm when it is time to head to the port. It is easier riding in a car along the bumpy track to the main road than it was on a bike with wobbly handlebars! According to the car, the temperature is 34C in the shade and so we have even more reason to be glad we’re not cycling.

Tahiti from ferryCatching the ferry is simple and uneventful and we are back in Papeete before we know it. This is our last chance to look around Papeete as we will be staying on a different part of the island when we return. We manage to find the cathedral and the market where the focus seems to be on flowers and garlands as well as tat souvenirs for tourists. We settle for a painted shell fridge magnet to add to our collection. After the market we strike out (with backpacks on) to look for ‘Le Truck’ which we have read provides a bus service round the island including to the airport. Unfortunately, we have seen two different accounts as to where to catch it from and there is no sign of it at either. Tiring under our loads, we take the easy option and grab a taxi to the airport.

Papeete CathedralWe’ve seen the Air Tahiti planes at Moorea and we know that a) they are faster than Janet on a bicycle, and b) they aren’t very big. So we were expecting check-in at the airport to be a sedate affair. No chance, there is a big scrum of locals all trying to check-in. What Air Tahiti lacks in size of plane, they seem to make up for in the number of flights (to different islands) all leaving at round about the same time. Still, the locals add colour to the queue and everyone seems to be in good humour so we are checked in quickly enough – and with enough time to spare to use up my remaining minutes on the WiFi (paying for WiFi seems to be the norm here).

After take-off, the plane flies up the coast past Papeete giving us a good view of the town and the harbour. The prettier sight is the ring of surf breaking on the reef just off the coast of the island. This whole area must have been a nightmare for the first sailors to find these islands. Good news, there is land in the middle of this huge ocean – bad news, there are reefs everywhere!

Tahiti and Moorea are two of the Windward Islands, which together with the Leeward Islands make up the archipelago of the Society Islands. Rangiroa, some 300km away from Papeete is part of the Tuamotu archipelago comprising of some 80-odd islands and atolls. We know really very little about it other than it is supposed to have some of the best diving in the world. We’ve also read that from December to February is Hammerhead shark breeding time – oh, I do hope to get to swim with Hammerheads.

As we are met at the airport, driven to the hotel and shown to our little thatched cabin we start to make comparisons with the Maldives. Close but not quite up to those standards is our first impression – but even to be able to make the comparison is a pretty good indicator that we are going to be looked after and are likely to have a relaxing few days here. I’m sure that we deserve it!

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