Day 127: Cyclone Evan

Tue. 18th December 2012

All aboard the Skylark!It really doesn’t feel like there is just a week now until Christmas. The hotel does its best with some tinsel decorating the desk at reception and a Santa on display in the restaurant but it doesn’t seem the same. Today we fly back to the island of Tahiti for a couple of days before moving on to New Caledonia. We’re going to be staying in Punaauai, a little south of Papeete as we want to see a little more of the island. First, though we have our final morning here in Rangiroa.

We’re very glad that we came to Rangiroa. Much more than either on Tahiti or Moorea we feel that we have had the Pacific island experience that we were expecting. We’ve had some good sunshine, seen the white coral beaches and deserted atolls and been looked after in a good hotel. The only downside has been the Internet performance which has varied between dire and completely broken. When you consider how isolated these islands are, this is understandable (even astonishing that there is Internet here at all). On the other hand, we’ve been charged a lot for the Internet and the hotel aspires to be a luxury hotel, so I have complained (and then complained again about the complaints procedure).

Terminal at Rangiroa AirportDespite the Internet frustrations, we enjoy having a lazy morning and decide against joining Scott & Raquel as they go snorkelling off the hotel’s jetty. After checking out of the hotel it is only a short transfer to the airport. Indeed, we have done longer walks carrying our backpacks. Rangiroa airport is also in the lead in our ‘smallest airport visited’ competition. The security is not quite non-existent – after all, there is a sign on the gate on the track that leads to the runway to say ‘secure area’ its just that the gate is wide open.

The Blue Lagoon from the airRyanair could learn something from the way Air Tahiti runs its planes. There is barely 15 minutes between our incoming plane touching down and disgorging its passengers before we are loaded up and heading off back to Tahiti. We get one final view of the atoll and are able to pick out the Blue Lagoon before it all disappears behind us. As the plane gets closer to Tahiti, the clouds thicken. We are only a few hundred feet above the ground before we see through the clouds and confirm that it is raining here. If fact, it is torrential. There is no jetway when we disembark – instead we get loaned an umbrella in  order to make the 100 yard dash across to the terminal building.

At baggage reclaim, we say goodbye to Scott & Raquel. Yet more proof that one of the joys of travelling is in the people that you meet en route. We wish them well and we are only a little jealous of their hotel budget! We hope they enjoy Easter Island as much as we did.

Disembarking - umbrellas instead of a jetwayPunaauai is about 11km south of the airport so we treat ourselves to a hire car – only the second time we have hired a car just for ourselves. Treat is a bit of a stretch as we end being ‘upgraded’ to a Hyundai Getz. Rule 1 (Don’t hit anything) is strictly front of mind as we head out of the airport with the rain still pouring down. We only have a rudimentary map of the island – but then again, the road system is rudimentary and so it pretty much all cancels out. We soon get the hang that addresses are given in km from the centre of Papeete. Our hotel is at PK11.4 (11.4km anticlockwise) and so it is relatively straightforward once we have worked that out.

We're currently in the middle of the pink blobs on the right and soon we go to the dark green blob east of AustraliaOur hotel is much more typical of our accommodation on our trip. The only similarity with the over-water villas in Rangiroa is if you look out of the window at the large puddles forming at the bottom of the steps up to our room. (It is a lot pricier than similar rooms in Cuba or Bolivia though). The hotel proprietor tells us that the rain is the tail end of a typhoon that has been threatening Fiji. Looking on the Internet, we find out that a) the typhoon is Cyclone Evan; b) Whilst Fiji is close(ish) to New Caledonia, Evan has turned south so we should hopefully be OK; and c) the name Typhoon comes from Dai Fun (the Chinese for ‘strong wind’).

Atoll formationGiven that the rain looks set in, we head off for that perennial rainy day activity – the museum visit. Nearby is the Tahiti museum which has exhibits on the formation, biology, and history of the islands. There are a few signs in English which, along with our rusty French, means that we learn quite a bit from our trip. For example, the atolls, like the islands, are formed from volcanoes but in the case of the atolls, the cone of the volcano has collapsed back under the sea leaving just the coral reef that grew around the original volcano. Or that the ‘smears’ of islands are caused by successive volcanoes forming over a single ‘hot spot’ in the Earth’s mantle which then move with the tectonic plate off the hot spot only for a new volcano to form. (Hot spots stay still, the volcanoes move).

Cook's EndeavourThe museum also has an exhibition on James Cook, his voyages, the islands he visited (northern as well as southern hemisphere). Each of the exhibit sections is marked by the latitude and longitude of the island in question, so we have some fun trying to guess the island from the co-ordinates. Ah, the fun we have! As they say, it is an ill wind…

It would be good if it stopped raining though!


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One Response to Day 127: Cyclone Evan

  1. Nick Jepson says:

    Hi Dave & Janet,
    It’s really hard keeping up with you two!!
    I come back every week or so and it takes me ages to read your blogs, look at where you are on Google maps and by the time I have finished I’m way behind all the other things I should have done.
    Anyway, as it’s almost Christmas and we’re about to head off ‘up North’ I thought I’d better say hi and ‘Happy Christmas’.
    It’s good to see you are safe, enjoying the trip and keeping well, apart from sore throats and colds.
    Anyway, keep up the blogs they are very entertaining.

    I’ll check in again when we get back (seems pathetic compared to your distances) to see where you are over Christmas itself and where you’ll be for New Year.

    All good here – very busy juggling 2 Chair roles, my teacher training course, actually doing some teaching each week and a bit of business here and there (next one at RM – bid writing workshop!).
    Sue as busy as ever but now broken up.
    Biggest news is that Ben proposed to his girfriend Tash (Natashsa) a few weeks ago so there are now engaged. Wedding still a long way off (finances).

    Love to you both.
    Will you get Turkey and Christmas pud?

    Nick & Sue xxxxxx

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