(posted by Laura)
After wonderful family time in Bora Bora, we had to say goodbye to Charlie. He came back to Tucson to stay with our other fuzzy family members so I could spend some more time with Jim in Tahiti for the big 30 year anniversary. (I changed my return flight to get two more weeks on Akela.) So, a huge thank you to Charlie for making this entry possible.
It is no wonder that Jim and Max have spent extra time in Tahiti. It is a beautiful and comfortable place to be. The people, beaches, waterfalls, morning market, beautiful body art, Heiva and, one of Laura’s favorites — street murals. There are too many to write about but here goes.
A block away from the harbor we found the street art museum, Ono’U. We paid our entry, which goes toward next year’s graffiti festival. After touring the museum we took our street map and went on our way. Max was drawn to a mural that up close was actually chipped away stucco and not paint. Jim liked the one with the classic Tahiti flower print and girl. This one was made into a stamp for the country. Laura’s favorite was a realistic painting of an older woman with flowers in her hair and many wonderful wrinkles. Hmm? One of the biggest surprises was turning a corner to see a wonderful tall masked woman mural by the artist of Laura’s favorite mural back home in Tucson. What a fun day of seek and find.
A lucky treat for Max and me was watching World Cup soccer. Being in French Polynesia and watching France play futbol at the only micro-brewery of the country – fun! Also, the bar was one of the few places with good WiFi. After I left, Jim and Max watched the finals on a giant screen in a Papeete park that was packed with people at 5:00 am! And the town exploded into a day long party after France won.
We sailed along the North coast of Tahiti and anchored for a few days off Venus Point. Ashore, we played on a black sand beach. We swam off the boat with mask and snorkel and saw zillions of bright fish and we even swam with sea turtles! While we were there, a local sailing canoe race went right around us. These were traditional boats with outriggers, sails, and big Tahitian guys rowing them. They went right past us and went offshore around the point. An hour later they returned for the photo finish right near our anchored boat.
July was the yearly time for Heiva, the time for showing pride of their local culture through drumming, singing and dancing. Yes, I said drumming. Max and Jim were in their heaven. We went to opening ceremonies, which had much we didn’t understand because it was in Tahitian, but then the drumming and dancing started. Who doesn’t understand the international language of music and dance? The strength of the male dancing and the story telling and grace of the women’s, all backed by the drums that we could feel through our chairs was amazing. Oh, and the costumes were of local plants and let the beautiful Polynesian bodies and body art shine through.
This local tattoo culture is amazing. Life and family history and stories goes into them. Different symbols have different meanings and different island groups have different techniques. They are an amazing art form and Laura took a piece of this culture home in the form of a beautiful new tattoo.
A great locals activity was the busy Sunday morning market in downtown Papeete, 4 blocks from the harbor. This is bustling with vendors of fish and vegetables of all colors, local trinkets and flowers. A family was smashing sugar canes right there and making a delicious sweet and refreshing drink to sell. These island flower necklaces hold their smell for a long time and made the boat wonderful. Max made a grand find from the local carvings that celebrate the importance of virility and beer………..? Yes, a nicely carved phallic bottle opener.
There were many different times when we missed having Charlie with us. One was when we took a day to drive around the island to check out the cool beaches and waterfalls of the inner island. Coming from Tucson, the green lushness of the tropical jungle was overwhelming. And the grandeur of these falls couldn’t be replicated in our pictures. Charlie would have loved them.
Now I’m back home in Tucson, and the adventure continues for Jim and Max. They plan to stay in Polynesia for a few more months and then sail to Hawaii later this year where I’ll join them again. I can’t wait!!!