Back to Tahiti

Back to Tahiti:
We said our final good-byes to Franck and Loretta and Alexandre and then headed to town to catch the ferry back to Tahiti. Now, a lot of Polynesia may be paradisiacal, but my experiences on the ferries were anything but.

First of all, no one seemed to know when the ferries operated. We would ask five people, and we would get five different responses. The ticketing offices opened only one hour before departure, and so you would just have to show up and hope that there was room on the ferry. Or that the ferry wasn’t on strike. Or that it wasn’t yet another national French holiday, during which all ferry service was suspended and you had to wait until the next ferry several days later. And then, when you were told that you didn’t need to reserve a ticket, you show up to board the boat and find out that you did, indeed, need to reserve!

And then I had to hope that I didn’t get seasick. I was usually already nauseous with my migraines before we boarded the ferry, and once onboard, it only worsened. Being seasick onboard a boat is one of life’s worst experiences. It was perhaps the worst onboard the “Maupiti Express,” nicknamed the “Vomiti Express” for all its passengers that got sick. The ride was pure hell and wasn’t over soon enough, and when we finally got off the ferry, I was still turning in circles and barely seeing. Add to that a bike ride from port to our final destination on a bike with too much luggage, riding (sometimes uphill) in the heat and humidity, trying desperately not to think about the biting mosquitoes and the scary, barking dogs.

We had this problem when we first arrived at the port in Huahine. The ferry was running several hours late, and after sleeping for several hours in front of the ticket office, we were told we couldn’t board the first ferry. The next one arrived two hours later and we were told the same thing. Because of a national holiday, the next ferry was 5 days later! I persisted, and finally the captain was called and we lucked out in that one of the passengers at Bora Bora hadn’t boarded, and so there was room for us.

So we climbed aboard the ferry in the wee hours of the morning and watched from the upper deck as Huahine faded into the distance. We watched the darkened storefronts and colored Christmas lights grow smaller and we watched as the Huahine “pregnant woman” shape became distorted and deformed as the boat made its way around the curve of the island and out past the reef and into the open sea.

We soon found ourselves back at Isa and Johnny’s place in Tahiti, where we considered staying on and working for a few months. We went as far as getting official letters of residence, applying at the employment agency, and looking for jobs and interviews. But after debating back and forth over the pros and cons, we eventually decided against it. For one, the minimum-wage salary I was looking at would not go far in Polynesia, where the cost of living is extremely high. Secondly, Stephane didn’t get the type of nursing job he was hoping for. And thirdly, we were ready to move on. Our 2 ½ year odyssey was rapidly turning into 4 years and more likely 5 by the time we were finished crossing the United States. I was more than ready to keep moving, and Stephane was starting to feel the same way himself. And so the decision was made.

Once we made up our minds, we stayed on for one more week in order to get the most out of Tahiti before we left. It was, after all, on the other side of the world, and who knows if we’ll ever make it back here one day. We did two hikes into the mountains and we visited the black sand beach and the “three waterfalls” with Isabelle and Johnny. We swam with Dan and Isa to the barrier reef in the lagoon, where we saw colorful coral and fish and even sharks. We visited the Marquises Exhibition, which featured art and sculptors by Marquisian artists. We saw an exhibit on the art of Polynesian cloth-making, and we visited the covered market in downtown Papeete. We also visited our last island, Moorea, which is only one hour from Tahiti by ferry. We toured the island by bike, admired the two bays bordered by palms and dotted with anchored sailboats, and marveled at the fact that every house has a fabulous view, be it of the blue sea or the pretty mountains that take center stage at the island’s interior.

Our stay in Polynesia was magical. Of course, the water was always sparkling and warm and the trees always blooming with flowers. But what really made it special was the time we spent with friends. Our stay with Franck and Loretta in Huahine was unforgettable and we were treated like king and queen by Franck’s wonderful, beautiful sister Isabelle and her outgoing boyfriend Johnny in Tahiti. And we can’t forget friendly and talkative Dan, who was so full of life and was always good for a hearty laugh.