Day 128: We Should Have Opted For Golf

Wed. 19th December 2012

Olivier Breaud International golf courseThe main road goes around the Island and is about 120km. We are staying at around km15 in the anticlockwise direction and decide to head away from town to the Gauguin Museum at km 50ish stopping at various sights on the way. Dave spots that the route takes us past the one and only golf club on the island. If this was holiday and not travelling we may well have opted for a game! By the the time we had finished our afternoon walk we did think golf would have been the easier option.

Marae ArahurahuThe first stop gave us an insight into some of the history of the place as it was the remains of a marae called Arahurahu. A marae is an ancient Ma’ohi religious site and this has been partly restored. There was a local  scratching his head and trying to repairing the wall, not an easy task as the stones are laid in neat rows with no mortar keeping them together. It still surprises me that sites like this are free to visit and very well maintained.

Grotte de MaraaFurther along the open fields by the roadside are replaced by the sheer rocks of the mountains and there are three natural grottos cut in the rock. Water has infiltrated the caves forming crystal clear lakes. The recent rains mean there is still water pouring off the mountainside in front of the caves. Alongside the grottos are pretty gardens which have been planted with brightly coloured flowering plants as well as water lilies.

Gauguin Museum - not the originalThe further we drive from Papeete the fewer shops and restaurants there are and we reach the Gauguin museum at close to lunchtime and debate whether we have time to visit the museum before the rumbling of our stomachs is too much. We decide an hour tops for the museum so head inside (we are out in 30 mins). The displays are in French, English and Polynesian so easy to follow. It turns out Gauguin initially spent two years in Tahiti on a mission to study and ultimately paint this countries customs and landscape, before returning to France penniless. He also decided to write a book Noa Noa (meaning perfume) which was actually published in at least two formats as two different manuscripts were found. Gauguin did return again to Papeete but found it too French and moved on to the Marquesas Islands where he died. The museum has copies of all his known works showing which museum has the original but by far the majority of his paintings are owned by private collectors. as far as we could see there were no originals paintings here.

Fishes at the restaurantThe only restaurant around was the Restaurant du Gauguin a kilometre down the road with pleasant views out over the lagoon to the reef and the sea beyond. A coach was leaving as we arrived which made me think the food could be mass produced. There was a buffet for the gringos but I opted for salad off the menu which was huge with a fried egg on top! Outside in the lagoon were a few enclosures netted off full of large and colourful fish.

One of the many pretty flowersWe decide not to keep going around the island but to retrace our steps to a water garden at Vaipahi with walking trails by the River Vaihiria that we had passed on the way. The gardens were again well maintained and free to walk around. There are also information boards setting out the nine stages after a warriors death on how the body is left to dry out and his spirit is reborn, or something like that, I got bored of reading after about the first few boards as it was so far fetched!

Blue walk trickyA map showed three walks, a blue marked trail along the river, an orange easier circular trail parallel to the river, meeting the blue trail at the top before descending on the other side of the river and a green trail which followed the orange and more. We thought the blue one looked interesting even if the picture was of a man climbing a slope – how hard could it be?

Well good old health and safety in the UK would have been dubious over the orange path and horrified at the blue. So, in blissful ignorance we set of along a narrow trail by the river, with occasional helpful ropes along the side of the inclines. The first fifteen minutes were very pretty, under the shade of the trees and next to the river, an occasional muddy patch which was not surprising given the rain Tahiti had had.

Wading across the river - too late to turn back nowIt gradually became more muddy and steeper climbs but no worries it was fun. Eventually it dawns on me that I have passed the point of no return, to scramble down even using the ropes will be more difficult than continuing. What the original sign did not say was that the path involved wading across the river about half a dozen times. Apart from the wading it was more like rock climbing at times and the rope helpfully tied to the trees was invaluable so we could pull ourselves up!

View from the top almost made it all worthwhileNo way was I returning the same way, so we came back on the orange trail which started as a gentle stroll through the trees on a bed of pine needles. As we had climbed a fair way above sea level even this path turned into a scramble to get back to the car park. You would never get away with marked trails like this in the UK with no guard rail to stop you slipping down the slope!

We were glad to get back to the car and head for home ready to repack again. It is a while since we have had a ridiculously early start and I am not looking forward to the 4am alarm tomorrow for our flight to New Caledonia. It is also time to cross the date line so we lose a day we discussed if will one of us would get a day off blog writing – I doubt it, but I calculate Christmas day and New Years Eve will be Dave’s days.

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