Punaauia, French Polynesia

  • Date
  • 22 June 2001

22 June 2001 – Crossing the dateline allowed us to celebrate today twice, but Tahiti, not living up to expectations, isn’t the place I’d like to repeat a day. Jim and I are both disappointed with Papeete, which feels like so many left-over French towns we visited in Africa. It’s often dirty with litter spread on the green grass and sidewalks, and packed with tourist-inspired shops selling rayon floral Polynesian skirts and shirts, many of which are made far from here. And there are more black pearl shops – ranging from deceptively cheap to ridiculously expensive – than you could find time or inclination to visit.

In the afternoon, we stopped at an outdoor café in the dead center of town to refuel with a couple of salads and soda water, which set us back more than US$20. Tahiti is an expensive stop for food, drink and souvenirs, but taxis are the most absurdly priced luxury on the island. The meter, if there’s one to be found that works, begins at US$10. Instead, we did as the locals and boarded Le Truck, which costs 120 CFA (about US$1) for a one-way ride. Scores of these large, colorful wooden framed vehicles canvas the small island and if you wave, they’ll stop.

Yes, there are positives. Jim and I adore French-linked countries, since they consistently offer fantastic patisseries with croissants, pain au chocolat and strong, delicious coffee. And, the sunsets here are more marvelous than any photograph or painting could reveal. The fluffy clouds give way to flames at times and then, in another moment, the clouds disappear allowing a tropical pink color to dominate the entire sky.