Day 1 - Moorea
|Sunday, February 20: It took three flights to get from Indianapolis to Tahiti, including the first leg to Minneapolis/St. Paul. During the landing, we passed Highland Park, where Debbie grew up. Look closely to find her house three blocks away from the snowy golf course.
|After a particularly brutal winter, the Metrodome in Minneapolis had collapsed and was still not repaired two months later.
|We flew to Los Angeles and left there late on Saturday night, arriving in Papeete around 5:30 AM. Our first gorgeous view of neighboring island Moorea was in the early sunrise hours.
|A small musical group serenaded us and a Tahitian woman gave each of us a small tiare blossom.
|It made Tom feel pretty during the 30 minute wait to get through immigration.
|It took no time at all to get our luggage, get through customs, and exchange money. Important note: the exchange rate in Tahiti was much, much better than the rate offered at LAX. We're glad we waited.
|We took a cab to the ferry terminal and ...
|... got our first Maersk sighting of the trip with beautiful Moorea in the background.
|Behind us was the busy city of Papeete.
|After carefully researching and recording the ferry schedules, we found that they didn't match what we found online, but no problem -- the next ferry would be leaving in a half hour.
|All luggage went into a big metal cart. There were no claim tags, no security, no way of knowing if our luggage would be safe. This leap of faith was a little easier on the way back the next day, but at this point, it was a little terrifying.
|We were on the Aremiti Ferry, a spacious, comfortable ferry with a snack bar where Tom procured a Coca-Cola Light and a donut. We wolfed them down, then went up on the open-air deck.
|We said farewell to the big island of Tahiti.
|We saw lots of outrigger canoes throughout our vacation.
|It was windy and fun and beautiful up on deck.
|It was about a 45-minute trip to Moorea.
|We spotted the overwater bungalows at Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort where we'd be staying.
|Here's the ferry terminal at Vaiare.
|We claimed our luggage with no problem and dragged it along the road a short distance to the Avis rental office, where we picked up the tiniest, most expensive little rental car we've ever had. We splurged on a model with air conditioning, but automatic transmissions weren't offered. Debbie got her first mosquito bites of the trip here while waiting for the car. Yay.
|We headed toward the Sofitel next, where we left our luggage at reception.
|Back on the road, our first stop was the overlook just up the hill with the big island of Tahiti visible in the distance.
|This is a pretty classic photograph taken on Moorea, with the Sofitel's overwater bungalows fanning out over the beautiful lagoon.
|We zoomed in for a better shot of our bungalow -- the sixth or seventh from the beach on the far right, but at this point, we only knew that we'd be in the larger, luxury bungalows on the right.
|We drove counter-clockwise around the island, arriving at Cook's Bay first. This one is the more populated of Moorea's two large bays.
|At the foot of Cook's Bay, we turned left to head to Belvedere Lookout. There were no signs on the road indicating that we were headed in the right direction, and when the road turned to dirt, we were even less confident. But Moorea is an island of few roads, so we figured we had to be at the right place.
|Eventually, the dirt road intersected with a paved road that headed to Belvedere toward the left, and Opunohu Bay toward the right.
|It was an easy, winding drive to Belvedere Lookout, and this concrete road marker told us we were in the right place, ...
|... as did this magnificent view of Opunohu Bay on the left and Cook's Bay on the right. Our photos turned out slightly blurry, but we got a photo of Orchy there anyway.
Our panorama shot turned out well.
|Get ready for lots of photos of flowers in exquisite settings. Here's one.
|Here's another, complemented nicely by the Hinano beer bottle cap.
|Heading back down the hill, we stopped at Titiroa marae, a sacred place for the Polynesians prior to the introduction of Christianity.
|Wild chickens call this location home.
|We stopped at Lycée Agricole d'Opunohu (Opunohu Agricultural School), which is known for its ice cream, but it appeared to be closed on Sunday.
|Heading back to the coast, we took the paved road leading to Opunohu Bay this time.
|At the foot of Opunohu Bay, there is room along the water to park and enjoy the view.
|We could see Princess Cruiseline's Royal Princess moored at the mouth of the bay, ...
|... where she would be again with us onboard 10 days later.
|Tom got a panorama shot using Debbie's phone.
It turned out pretty nice.
|To our left, three people were pulling a fishing net into their boat.
|It's a gorgeous bay, and it was used as one of the filming locations for one of our favorite movies, "The Bounty." There will be more on that later in our story.
|We decided to drive around the island clockwise, driving back around Cook's Bay. Moorea is a fairly quiet island already, but since it was Sunday, many places were closed. However, churches like this one on Cook's Bay were packed with people.
|Back at the foot of Cook's Bay, we got a photo of the sign that points toward Belvedere Lookout.
|Also at the foot of the bay is Snack Rotui, a fantastic little food stand featuring cakes, breads, sandwiches, chicken, and all sorts of treats and beverages.
|The prices are reasonable, the staff speaks English, and the views from the tables are fantastic. We got two casse-croûtes (French sandwiches on a baguette) -- one with ham and cheese and one with egg (called omelette). They were so delicious!
|With our hunger satisfied and a big bottle of water for the road, we continued on our clockwise circle island tour.
|Moorea is beautiful everywhere you look.
|The entire drive took about an hour on well-paved roads.
|The scenery was varied but always lush and pretty.
|After an unsuccessful attempt to find Restaurant Irene, a place we had read about online that has no address but allegedly exists in Hauru, we ended up at L'Anana Bleu (Blue Pineapple) at the Club Bali Ha'i.
|This looks like it will be Polynesian enough for our first full meal in Tahiti.
|The restaurant is right on Cook's Bay under a huge thatched roof.
|Like everyone else, we opted for eating in the shade.
|They were out of the famed Tahitian dish poisson cru, so Debbie opted for chicken and shrimp in coconut curry and Tom had a Polynesian burger with teriyaki and pineapple slices.
|Debbie is pleased.
|We arrived at the Sofitel shortly after 2:00. The lovely-but-unphotographed Nadine asked us to have a seat in the reception area ...
|... and brought us flower leis and pineapple juice while she checked us in.
|We and our luggage were loaded into an electric cart and driven through the resort, ...
|... and onto the boardwalk leading to the overwater bungalows. We won't lie -- it was quite an adrenaline rush when the cart started to head out over the water.
|Here we are! Bungalow 114 would belong to us for the next 21 glorious hours.
|Let's look around. Looking toward the back of the bungalow, here is the bed. The bathroom is behind it with a large closet to the right and a sitting area next to it.
|The view toward the front of the bungalow was exactly as we had hoped.
|The view straight down through the glass floor was pretty amazing too. There were always fish to be seen down there.
|Another view of the front of the bungalow showing the small desk area.
|We finally got a photo of our leis. We saw other guests receiving shell leis on check in, so the flower leis might be reserved for overwater bungalow guests, but we don't really know.
|Here's the back of the wall behind the bed.
|The bathroom was gigantic, with double sinks on one side, and a separate toilet room on the other.
|The crown jewel was the huge shower. It was open to the rest of the bathroom with plenty of room for two to share.
|Glass doors opened onto a private deck with views of the water below. When left open along with the patio doors, it created a wind tunnel that kept the bungalow well-ventilated, although there was an air conditioner for those who need it.
|Here's the real reason we're here -- to have a deck over the clear lagoon.
|We immediately got out our snorkeling equipment, took the steps down to our overwater platform, and then used the ladder to get into the water.
|We were stunned to find colorful clams in the reef right next to our deck, but we were using our old waterproof camera, so we didn't get great photos of them until the next morning.
|Moorish Idols are everywhere in French Polynesia.
|We couldn't identify these white and yellow fish.
|This might be a hexagon grouper.
|Large fields of staghorn coral made us think twice when determining where to head next.
|We saw several large sea cucumbers. Although disgusting, at this point they were still a novelty.
|The sea will turn anything into a home for sealife.
|This banded sergeant isn't nearly as colorful as the purple coral next to it.
|These convict surgeonfish love to swim in very large schools.
|Debbie was quite taken with the white-banded triggerfish. We've never seen them before, but we saw them every time we were underwater, and sometimes above!
|The clams come in a large range of colors and can be found wedged into coral or sitting on top of some.
|After a snorkel and a shower, we were ready to explore the resort.
|Walking along the boardwalk provides many opportunities to stop and look at all the fish in the amazingly clear water. The baby fish tend to stay in the very shallow water near shore.
|From here, we can just see the pool to the left and the restaurant and bar area.
|Debbie had to stop and look at these flowers, ...
|... and these (and the koi sharing the pond with them), ...
|... and these.
|We passed the pool on our way to ...
|... the bar. A tropical island requires a foofy drink, so we ordered the world's most expensive piña coladas. At 1500 XPF (French Polynesia Francs) each, these set us back about $35 total.
|But with views like this, who cares?
|Tom contemplates nothing in particular while waiting for our dinner to arrive.
|Finally, we got to try poisson cru (top center), along with rice, bread, and a huge platter of tropical fruit, including Debbie's favorite, passion fruit. Poisson cru consists of raw tuna marinated in lime juice and coconut milk. It's quite tasty.
|As if the evening wasn't perfect enough, a rainbow settled over the island of Tahiti for our entire dinner.
|We dangled our feet on the edge of our swimming platform and watched the fish below us.
|Sunset came, ...
|... and the lights came on underneath the bungalow so we could watch the fish after dark.
|The bungalow looked fantastic lit up for bedtime.
|We ended up putting the mosquito netting to one side so we could feel the breezes coming through the slatted windows, but never had any problems with bugs.
We took one last peek out the shower doors and spotted the Royal Princess returning to Papeete.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy