Tahiti 2011:
Day 12 - Tahiti


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Tahiti 2011: [Day 1 - Moorea] [Day 2 - Tahiti] [Day 3 - Tahiti ] [Day 4 - Huahine] [Day 5 - At Sea] [Day 6 - Rangiroa] [Day 7 - At Sea] [Day 8 - Raiatea] [Day 9 - Bora Bora] [Day 10 - Bora Bora] [Day 11 - Moorea] [Day 12 - Tahiti] [Day 13 - Tahiti] [Day 14 - Coming Home]

Thursday, March 3: The last morning of our cruise, we were allowed to leave the ship at any time between 8:00 AM and 3:30 PM since we had independent travel arrangements.
Our waiter was one of the farewell staff out on the dock, so we asked him to get a photo of us with our new Ivar backpacks as we left. If you don't have one of these backpacks, get one. They are amazing. We've had an older one for several years and just upgraded.
We had a rental car waiting for us in Papeete, so we dragged our luggage three blocks up Rue Gauguin to the Avis rental center. Each piece of our luggage has four wheels and rolls extremely well so it was easy enough to do this, even over some uneven sidewalks. We passed the beautiful Papeete Town Hall on our walk.
We were second in line at the Avis counter when we arrived at 9:00 AM and it took 20 minutes before we were on our way, but there were six groups in line behind us, so get there early if you decide to do the same thing. That's the Avis banner behind this McDonald's ad.
We headed out of town toward Papenoo and passed the same McDonald's we had seen the previous week. We weren't hungry and we had places to go, so we didn't stop.
We're driving ...
... and we're stopping.
There were some surfers at this beach, and you can see why -- great surf and no pesky kids in the water anywhere.
We stopped at One Tree Hill ...
... famous for its view of Matavai Bai where the Bounty arrived in Tahiti, and where the Clark Gable and Marlon Brando versions of "Mutiny on the Bounty" were filmed.
Here is the beautiful view in the other direction.
We had passed this little island with two trees the previous week ...
... on our shore excursion to Papenoo Valley, which we passed this time.
We encountered construction in a couple of places where the road was being widened.
We stopped at Trou du Souffleur (French for "blow hole" according to Google Translate), with a tiny parking lot ...
... and a beautiful view.
After our visit, we learned that there are blowholes across the road caused by the rushing water going under the road, but there weren't any signs to explain this and Debbie hadn't learned about this spot prior to our trip. So, we just enjoyed the tiny fish in the tidepools and went on our way.
Next stop: Les Troi Cascades. We don't need Google Translate to tell us that this means The Three Waterfalls. No, Debbie's one semester of college French helped us figure this one out.
The parking area is surrounded by huge bamboo trees. With only one other car in the lot, we had the place to ourselves.
We took the very short hike through the woods ...
... and past the many tropical plants ...
... to the largest of the three waterfalls.
It was very pretty, but we were unprepared for mosquitoes so we took our photos ...
... and bolted out.
Our next excitement was being stopped at a police checkpoint. After having this experience in Switzerland and Poland the summer before, we now had a full collection of three. They looked at our registration and let us go.
So, we're driving ...
... and we're stopping at this public beach with lovely facilities. They were locked even though the park grounds were open. Yay. We never did see an open public rest room during our entire drive.
We approached the part of the island where Tahiti Nui ("Big Tahiti") meets Tahiti Iti ("Small Tahiti").
We opted to just look at Tahiti Iti rather than visit it, because there isn't a road that circles the entire thing.
This is the view from the same vantage point as above, but looking to the left where we came from.
So, we're driving past scenery ...
... and through Taravao...
... and through Papeari (where they don't want a prison built, apparently) ...
... and past small towns ...
... and by kilometer markers ...
... and by lush landscapes ...
... and long stretches of waterfront.
About 2 1/2 hours after we left Papeete, we arrived at Le Méridien in Punaauia.
It was about noon so we knew we were too early to check in ...
... but we dropped off our luggage and headed back out.
We were looking for Captain Bligh's Restaurant and expected it to be on the main road. Eventually, we had gone way too far, so we headed back in the direction of the hotel where we were treated to this view of Moorea from the highway.
We passed the only other McDonald's we had seen on the island. The drive-through and the parking lot were both packed.
On a hunch, we veered off the main highway to the right to follow the oceanfront and the hunch paid off when we saw the sign for Captain Bligh's Restaurant ahead.
We parked in the impossibly tiny parking lot ...
... and went inside.
From our table, we had a nice view of Moorea in the distance and the Lagoonarium at the very end of the pier.
We ordered poisson cru as an appetizer and it was absolutely delicious. We liked it better than the version we had eaten on Moorea.
Tom had huge beef kabob with fries ...
... and Debbie had some form of grilled fish -- tilapia, perhaps?
When we were done, our waitress tossed the leftover bits of food out the window for the fish below. Wish we had thought of that!
After lunch, Debbie finally got her long-awaited break in the beautifully decorated restroom at Captain Bligh's.
Next, we went up to the cashier at Captain Bligh's and paid our admission fee to the adjacent Lagoonarium.
The Lagoonarium consists of several fenced-in underwater areas ...
... with different types of fish in each.
There are two giant shark mouth entrances. Let's go in.
Oh my! We are inside a giant shark!
Here is le estomac filled with typical things sharks eat ... or not.
And of course, le orifice cloacal. This photo is for Tom D. and Pete H. You're welcome.
Under the water, there are lots of observation windows to see the fish.
The underwater creatures are slowly taking over the outside of the observation area.
The walls are covered with pictures and information about the underwater world, ...
and decorated with shells and plexiglass-covered displays.
We had the place all to ourselves, but we could tell that this would be the ultimate place for little kids to visit.
Now, let's check out the fish. Here's a banded sergeant ...
... and a bluefin jack (or perhaps a giant jack) ...
... and an ornate butterflyfish ...
... and an orbicular batfish (say what?) ...
... and a black-tipped reef shark. Note: you must always pronounce that with an Australian accent. It's the rule.
After enjoying the underwater entertainment, we came back up. This is the view looking back toward Captain Bligh's.
We looked into each of the different areas from above ...
... and spotted this beautiful green turtle ...
... and this handsome ray.
We hopped back into the car ...
... and returned to Le Meridian with its bizarre wooden naked guy statues.
The resort is quite beautiful, ...
... starting with the reception area.
We were given fruit juice and chilled wet washclothes upon check in.
Then we hopped onto an electric cart and were driven through the grounds past the main building ...
... and the sandy pool area.
Here comes the best part of the check in process: making the transition from the regular sidewalk ...
... to the boardwalk ...
... leading to the awesome overwater bungalows. Ahhh, that's nice.
But it got even better. We learned that we had gotten the best bungalow of them all: ...
... bungalow 806!
You might wonder why it is so awesome. Behold its location at the very end of the boardwalk. It was very private and we couldn't have been happier.
Let's have a look around. Here's the main room ...
... with a bouquet of tropical flowers, a complimentary bottle of red wine, and a bag of cookies.
Here's the bed and desk ...
... and the huge walk-in closet just the right size for two open suitcases and all the rest of our stuff.
Here are the shower and toilet ...
... and the tub ...
... and the magnificent bathroom. It had a fantastic view of Moorea and with the slats open, the cool breeze felt amazing. We were making excuses to brush our teeth and wash our hands just to spend time in this little corridor.
The orchids were a nice touch.
Here was our deck. There was no one in the bungalow next to us for our first night, so we had complete privacy.
Moorea was visible to the right.
We even had a tiny gecko visitor on the outside of the bungalow.
The doors to the balcony could be opened and folded back so that it was completely open.
We went back out to explore our surroundings a little more. Here is the view back to the island ...
... and here is the view out to the end of the boardwalk and our bungalow.
Unlike the Sofitel on Moorea (and the Intercontinental on Tahiti -- the only other resort on the island with overwater bungalows), our bungalow did not have balcony access to the water. Instead, there were two different platforms for water access. However -- and here is where Le Méridien got it wrong -- there is no ladder from the platform to the water. One by one, other guests figured it out too, and everyone was baffled as to why there wasn't a ladder. We couldn't find any evidence that a ladder had ever existed.
So, in order to get in to see the pretty fishes, you had to jump in to five-feet-deep water and then snorkel out to shore. The first time we did this, we ended up with feet covered in sand, so we walked across the spiky lawn to the pool area to rinse off our feet. The second time we did this, we carried our flip flops with us in our mesh snorkel bag so we could put them on when we walked out of the water.
So, in we jumped, doing our best to not hit bottom as we did so.
We saw pennant bannerfish for the first time ever. They look like moorish idols who have had a big bite taken out of their top fin.
Speaking of moorish idols, here is one. No doubt, his mate was nearby.
Debbie's beloved whitebanded triggerfish was there, as always.
We saw dozens of these fish ranging in color from light gray to black. They were difficult to identify because they were always facing us with this exact look on their face as we snorkeled by, but we are pretty sure that they are dusky damselfish.
Here's a pair of lemon butterflyfish ...
... and here is a pair of vagabond butterflyfish.
Another clam photographed. Have we gotten them all yet?
After our snorkel (and barefoot journey back from the beach and the pool area), the late afternoon sun was reflecting off of the water, through the slats in the bathroom, and through the opaque glass separating the bathroom from the sitting area in the main room.
We showered and went outside to enjoy the view from our balcony.
Overcast skies had changed to clear by the end of our snorkel ...
... and the visibility of the water beneath our feet was amazing.
How about that fantastic view?
A while later, Debbie stepped out on the balcony to get a shot of the sun on the horizon, then she looked down into the water again. She noticed some fish gathering around a particular bit of coral and realized that she was looking at an octopus!
That's right, folks, a real life octopus with a funny shaped head and eight gooey tentacles.
We had never seen one before in the wild, and we watched in awe as it moved across the coral, ...
... changing its colors and markings constantly.
Just watch and enjoy as he changes from brown and orange ...
... to black, ...
... to light brown and white, ...
... and to dark brown with tiny white spots.
Occasionally, he'd swim to a new bunch of coral, with his fish friends hot on his tail(s).
After a while, we declared him gone. We had both been watching him and somehow he just disappeared.
No, it turns out that he was there all along, but just extremely well camoflaged. Clever octopus.
Finally, we turned our attention to the glorious sunset, ...
... then headed toward the resort.
At the end of the boardwalk, we got this cool shot of the bungalows in silhouette.
The solar powered lights along the boardwalk were starting to come on.
The main building of the resort contained an open air restaurant, bar, ...
... and lobby, beautifully lit with electric votives and striking spotlights.
We hopped in our car and headed out in search of a roadside stand selling crepes.
We found one that we weren't too timid to approach, but didn't get a good photo of it.
It was run by a very nice older couple who spoke almost no English, and even though we spoke almost no French, we managed to get out a couple of words in each other's languages and got two Nutella banana crepes and a carton of Rotui pineapple juice to go, along with several mosquito bites.
Then we stopped at a gas station to stock up on some Coca-Cola Light for the next day. The prices were much more reasonable than the 600 francs per can (about $7) being charged by our mini-bar.
We had another clear night and enjoyed the skyline from our bungalow.
Pointing the camera straight up, we got a nice picture of the constellation of Orion.
It turns out that paradise for us is also paradise for large bugs, and we found a cockroach that Tom valiantly killed. After living in Hawaii and Texas, Debbie understands how impossible it is to eradicate them, so we felt fortunate to have only seen one on our trip.
"Seriously? You're taking a picture of me in the tub?"
Outside, it started to rain for a little while. It was very cool listening to the raindrops on the roof and the water with all of the windows open.

It also made for a spooky but beautiful picture of the resort.

Day 13 >


Tahiti 2011: [Day 1 - Moorea] [Day 2 - Tahiti] [Day 3 - Tahiti ] [Day 4 - Huahine] [Day 5 - At Sea] [Day 6 - Rangiroa] [Day 7 - At Sea] [Day 8 - Raiatea] [Day 9 - Bora Bora] [Day 10 - Bora Bora] [Day 11 - Moorea] [Day 12 - Tahiti] [Day 13 - Tahiti] [Day 14 - Coming Home]

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