Monday, June 27, 2011

Two Weeks in Tahiti

I can't believe that we spent two weeks in Tahiti and I never got a chance to post an update. We've been busy busy busy with all the things you do in a new port... customs/immigration, provisioning, repairs, sightseeing, meeting new people--both cruisers and locals, and getting ready for the next port.

We went in with our friends on Infini and rented a car for 3 days. They needed to get their son Matt (and all his stuff) to the airport, and taxis are ridiculously expensive, and so they decided to just rent a car to get him there. At the time of committing to rent with them for 3 days, we thought the rental price was a great deal at $35/day. Well, when we got to the airport to pick up the car, we found that too-incredible-to-be-true price WAS too incredible. The real price ended up about $120/day!! That booking price was only for the car--and included no mileage and no extra insurance for an international rental.

The mileage cost was going to be 54 CFP per kilometer. When you do the calculations for the exchange rate and mileage, the cost ended up near 70 cents a mile!!! (without considering refilling the gas tank at $7/gallon). So we ended up switching to an unlimited mileage rate, which was quite a bit more expensive, but worked out better for us in the end.

We did, however, get to see every major road on the island...we drove all the way around Tahiti Nui (the big half of Tahiti), and all the way down both sides of Tahiti Iti. We also attempted to, but did not succeed, in driving over the top of Tahiti Nui. This is a route that a friend of ours told us about, as a 'not to miss' experience. The Lonely Planet said that the road was closed, but a couple of locals we consulted said it was open. So we attempted it. A very bad road--gravel--full of potholes and lake-like mudpuddles--and 2 river crossings... in our tiny Peugot rental car. It took us 2 1/2 hours to go the 20K (12 miles) to the top of the mountain. Then it started raining. And the small hotel at the top of the mountain told us the road down on the other side was blocked. So we turned around and went back the way we came. But it was a spectacular drive up through a gorge in the mountains of Tahiti. We did get a chance to hike for an hour up into the rain forest during part of our drive, and also see the Paul Gaugain Museum and the famous surfing spot on the SW corner of Tahiti.

Next was provisioning--checking out the grocery stores and markets, and trying to figure out what we need to restock with and can afford. Fortunately there is a huge Carrefour--the French version of a Super Walmart--2 blocks from the Yacht Club. So this made everything easy. And the end of the bus ride into town is at the big downtown fresh-air market.

The only thing that took a little extra effort was taking advantage of the opportunity to buy duty free liquor... we had to get paperwork from our agent and make several trips to the duty free liquor place. But we'll have some $5/bottle wine, rum, and liqueur delivered to Tahiti Yacht Club this morning. Unfortunately, beer, even duty free, is not a bargain here. The cheapest deal was Hinano, the local beer, by the case, on sale at Carrafour, at 3500 CFP/case in cans. Ouch! At the current exchange rate, that is about $43, or about $1.75/can. A few boats still have beer from Mexico or Panama, but everyone else has cut way down on their beer consumption!

We also did a little gift shopping in downtown Papeete. Nearly every store is selling black pearls of every shape and color. Since we had already bought plenty of pearls last year, we were not really buying much. But did get a few gifts. The least expensive deal--a non-perfect pearl of moderate size on a string--runs about 1500 CFP (about $19), and the prices go up rapidly from there, according to the quanitity and quality of the pearl(s) and the necklace and finishing. There was one shop where you could buy very blemished pearls by the gram. And another where you could pick your pearl (for varying prices) and pick your setting, and they would set it for you 'while you wait' (in a few hours). There are also loads of beautiful wood carvings, etc. All expensive, though. But it was fun looking and touching.

Finally, we just enjoyed hanging out at Tahiti Yacht Club. It reminded us somewhat of our own Melbourne Yacht Club--lots of sailing going on, and children in prams taking classes, etc. After a few days, we found that the bar which advertised a daily special lunch at $16-17, also had a hidden 'snack' menu, where you could get a cheeseburger and fries for about $10 (a pretty good deal in French Poly). Also, this was the first place (except Hawaii) in about 4 years where we could actually do our own laundry in a machine--wash and dry a moderate load for $8 total. Another bargain.

We were also able to top off our fuel at duty free prices, with the 'Yacht in Transit' paperwork from our agent. Instead of paying about $6/gallon for diesel, like the locals do, we only paid about $4/gallon. Nice.

We have been trying ever since we left Florida to get Dave's Naval Academy roommate to come visit us. He was signed on to do the Panama Canal trip with us, but a medical issue forced him to cancel. So finally he has realized that we are getting farther away and more expensive to visit by the week, and he decided to come meet us while we were still in the Tahiti area. He told us 2 days in advance that he was coming (with our approval, of course). So in what was supposed to be the lull between arrival and departure from Tahiti--we were getting ready for a visitor.

Jim arrived without problem--in spite of the fact that, because he was arriving at 5:30am, and taxis are so expensive, Dave declined to go meet him at the airport. He made Jim take the bus. But Jim managed just fine. Tahiti is a pretty friendly place and everyone was helpful to him. And we had given him good instruction--"Write the name of your destination on a piece of paper, and show it to everyone you see." That worked well.

So, on Friday, we officieally joined the Tahiti Moorea Rendezvous, sponsored by Lattitude 38 Magazine and the Tahiti Tourism Board. That kicked off with a nice informational briefing and a welcoming reception by the mayor of Tahiti. 42 boats officially joined the Rendezvous. In previous years, this was free, but this year there is a $25pp entry fee--times are tough here in Tahiti as well, and they couldn't muster enough sponsorship to make it free this year. The event includes a 'rally' to Moorea, 15 miles away, and a day of fun and games on the beach in Opunohu Bay.
In French Polynesia til August, then west toward Tonga
At 6/26/2011 12:56 AM (utc) our position was 17°29.30'S 149°51.05'W

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