February 16, 2012 – Papeete, Tahiti
As we pulled in to the harbor and docked at dawn, the sun hit the hillside highlighting the vivid colors of the water, the whites and pastels of the homes, and the lush vegetation – reminding me of the reason that Gauguin and other impressionists chose this locale for much of their work. The light really is quite special. Canoes lined the harbor, as outrigger canoeing is the national sport of French Polynesia, of which Papeete, Tahiti is the capital. Also, I could not help but think that we are in the exact same place that the Bounty was anchored – where all of the history between Bligh and Christian took place.
Unlike Easter Island and previous stops since Rio, this is a very commercial port. It is definitely a tourist destination but it is a busy city with all of the amenities of a metropolis – I wouldn’t be surprised to find a Wal-Mart here, although it is a French possession, so maybe not. We are actually ready for something more commercial, as we need to stock up on Dove soap, toothpaste, etc. Also, despite my planning and lists, I forgot one item: that USB cable that goes from the PC to the printer – the one with the square plug on the end, and since my little printer has no Bluetooth, the only way I have found to print was to “hack” into the network printer in the library. Now I am going to try to learn to say USB printer cable in French. Do you suppose they have a Frys in Papeete?
Upon arrival, we took off on a snorkel tour. Since we were docked right downtown we simply got off the ship, walked about 100 yards and climbed aboard our snorkel boat. The tour was labeled as a lagoon tour and snorkel trip, so we cruised slowly out of the harbor, past the airport to a reef between Tahiti and its near neighbor, Moorea.
The water was fabulous and the fish were plentiful, but the current wore us out quickly. No worries – we swam for a while and enjoyed the scenery from the boat, as we cruised slowly along the coast and back to the docks and our ship. The water here is an unreal shade of blue turquoise.
After lunch on board, Sally napped and I went into town to get the shopping done. Since this is a French possession, French and Polynesian are the spoken languages and English is rarely spoken. Our snorkel guide had been quite fluent in English, but she proved to be the exception. The task of finding stores that I needed proved to be a bigger challenge than I thought it would be, and Papeete, at least the part I could reach on foot was not as commercial (meaning non-tourist stuff) as I thought. I spotted a store which had several signs for familiar computer brands in the window, and inside I discovered a young French speaking clerk. Fortunately I had made a sketch of my needed printer cable and she was able to find what I needed. The next task was communicating and paying the price. The marked price was 325 Francs, which I knew to be slightly over $3, but she was unwilling to take my word that my proffered $5 bill was adequate. At an exchange rate of 100 to 1, I was actually over paying. A phone call to her boss confirmed it, I gladly let her keep the over payment, since I have been looking for this cable in every port and would have paid whatever was asked.
Next was my shopping list. Toothpaste, bath soap, Q tips, and deodorant, should be easy, right? No supermarkets in sight but I spotted a Farmacie. I found the soap and toothpaste on my own and with an interesting pantomime discussion with the pharmacist he directed me to the Q tips and deodorant. They accepted my $100 bill in payment and I headed back with a pocketful of French francs in change. After delivering my goods, I headed back into town to look around and was trapped in a grass hut in a shopping center for a couple of hours while a massive cloudburst cleared the streets. For my friends in Texas a cloudburst is when prodigious amounts of water fall from the sky.