Papeete Again

July 3, 2003, 6:30 p.m.

At anchor, Punaauia (near Papeete) Tahiti, French Polynesia


Dear Friends and Family:

We've been to Moorea, and now we're back in Punaauia, a suburb of Papeete.  We have sort of a love/hate relationship with this place -- home to so many French bureaucrats.  This time we're back because Mark had an appointment to keep at the EFREMI oceanographic institute, located in Tahiti Iti.  We had planned to sail down there, but as we left Moorea, the winds kicked up, right in our face, and it looked like a trip that would be much longer and more uncomfortable than we had planned on.  So we changed plans mid-channel, and returned to Punaauia.  We knew that Mark could catch a bus, right to EFREMI, a few hundred meters from the dinghy dock here.

Moorea was quite beautiful, with high, cloud-shrouded pinnacles, and park-like shores.  We anchored first in Cook's Bay, which is quite protected, and has lots of commercial development.  In fact, we were altogether too close to an amusement park which appeared to have been set up especially for the Heiva festival. 


View of the amusement park, from the water.

 There were at least two sources of music (Tahitian, Hawaiian, American rock, what-have-you) coming from the amusement park, until the wee hours of the morning, both Saturday night and Sunday night.  There were two competing announcers, and I'm sure they could both be heard for miles.
We went ashore during the day, and walked along the road, and ate lunch at the "Club Bali Hai."  Evidently Moorea is the location that was said to be Bali Hai in the movie, South Pacific, so there are a number of establishments wanting to cash in on the name.  Club Bali Hai is right at the edge of the water, on a concrete pad, and there were swimmers in the water, so it's almost like being at the edge of a swimming pool.

Many of the patrons were American, but there was a big group of Tahitian motorcyclists, who all wore "Yamaha" shirts, and took up nearly half the restaurant.

After two days we decided we'd had enough of the nocturnal amusement park, so we moved over to Opunohu Bay.  There, we found many of the boats we've been with since the Marquesas: Golden Sovereign, Deja Vu, Jabulani, Jaldenamar, Jane G.
We took a dinghy around the bay, which is much less civilized than Cook's Bay.  It truly looks like a botanical garden, with lawns and palm trees coming down to the water, jacaranda trees and palm trees progressing up the slopes, and mist-shrouded peaks in the distance. The water at the anchorage was quite clear and we snorkeled to reefs in both directions.  There are always new fish to see, but no sharks this time.  Much of the coral was dead, so it was not as pretty as in Tahanea, where all the coral was alive.

We took a dinghy trip over to "sting ray world," an area which is right by the Beachcomber Hotel, on the far side of Opunohu Bay.  The divemaster at the Beachcomber evidently feeds the sting rays, so they flock to any boat that enters the area.  Within a few seconds of the time we arrived, there were probably 15 sting rays heading for the dinghy (no doubt hoping to be fed).  We put on our masks and fins, and snorkeled among them.  Mark touched them; Craig and I were content to look.  Each of them is probably a yard across.  Sometimes they settle down on the sand, and it's quite interesting to look at their eyes (looking at me), and at their gills (behind their eyes), processing a lot of water.  We spent quite a lot of time there, and then picked our way back to Sequoia through the coral.  A dinghy pass has been marked, but if you stray more than 20 feet away from the markers, you'll hit coral (and we did).

That evening the Tahiti Princess -- a cruise ship that must carry 1000 or more tourists -- came into Opunohu Bay.  Mark went over to look at the sting rays the next morning, but the place was swamped with tourists -- no sting rays to be seen.  We threw up a cheer as the Tahiti Princess left the bay.  (Today, in downtown Papeete, we saw the ship again, and watched them pull away from the dock at 5:00 p.m. to go on to some other island).

My cousin, Nancy Cooper, wrote me about the dogs in Tahiti.  We had written them that we saw a dog that looked just like their very unusual dog, Jake.  Her comment was that a "Tahiti dog" is one that doesn't bark, it just lies there.  (They were here 20 years ago).  The description of the dogs is still true.  We rarely hear a barking dog, and mostly they are just lying in the road, sleeping.  The female half of the population is either pregnant or nursing.  Obviously, no one has done anything here about spaying and neutering. I think that many of the dogs don't belong to anyone, but everyone feeds them.  Some of the dogs look pretty moth-eaten, so perhaps population control is achieved by other, less savory means. 

Tomorrow or the next day we'll make the trip to Tahiti Iti -- a less "civilized" part of Tahiti.  When we drove down there in a rental car last week, we noticed there were very few sailboats, and lots of interesting looking anchorages.  That will be better than crowded Punaauia.

Best wishes to all!

Craig and Barbara Johnston

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