Tahiti - the path less traveled

Caroline in Papeete, French Polynesia, at sunset.  The island of Moorea is on the horizon.
Tahiti!  This island in French Polynesia is the epicenter of many South Sea fantasies.  We docked in the captial city of Papeete, and decided to try for a different adventure.  We thought we were going to hike to the Fautaua Waterfall, supposedly the 28th highest waterfall in the world.

We never got there.  Or, if we did, we walked right past it without noticing.

First things first.  We read that hikers needed to obtain a permit to travel to the waterfall.  Okay, our first adventure was locating city hall, which wasn't too difficult.  Finding the proper office to get a permit was a bit trickier, in that we spoke and read no French.  Caroline ducked inside an office labeled something like "Bureau des élections" which we knew wasn't the right office, but we were hoping we would get pointed in the right direction.  A kind man took pity on us and walked us to the other side of the building, where we found ourselves trying to make our needs for a permit known.  It worked!  Six dollars per person got us a permit to the falls, and advice to take a left, another left, and then show our permit to the driver on Bus 27.

The left, and left again worked to get us to a bus stop but, alas, no bus number 27 was listed on the terminal sign.  Another kind stranger was watching our confusion, and since she spoke to us in French, all we could do was show her a copy of our hiking permit.  She looked it over, gave us a definite "1" sign with her finger, and pointed out the route for Bus 1.  Three busses later, the right bus showed up, and we boarded.  The fare was 200 French Pacific francs each way, or $2 USD. I couldn't swear to it, but it sure looked like US dollars went into the drivers' pockets both ways.  Local customs!  However, our driver was the closest I've ever come to having Otto (the bus driver in The Simpsons) giving us a ride.  There wasn't any crazy driving... it was more of the laid back attitude, long hair, and the Tahitian music!  The ride was about 20 minutes, with only 3 stops, and soon we found ourselves on the grounds of the local water department.

Otto Dude... look at that photo of our bus driver above again!  Even the clothes match!

Note the third sign down... the way to Fautaua.
It looked like this watershed was a major drinking source for the town, so the initial hike was following a well-maintained gravel road up the valley.

The boulder-strewn Fautaua River flowed alongside the trail, with many 1-2 feet waterfalls along the way.  The scenery was gorgeous.

After a bit more than 3 miles, the road petered out.  In hindsight, I think we were supposed to cross a bridge that looked washed out, but since the road kept going for a short distance, we went straight.

We posed on this bridge, but we failed to hike the trail at the other end.  In my defense, it is hard to see a trail on the other end.  I think this trail leads to the falls.

 Well, we never made it to the Fautaua Waterfall, although I think I saw it in the distance.  Instead, our road turned into a trail, then a ledge above a stream, then... walking through the stream itself, going uphill.  At this time, with the darker clouds hinting at rain (it started raining about 20 minutes later), we decided to turn around and head back. 

This is as far as we got!
Then it was retracing our steps down the hillside, and just enjoying the sounds of the rushing water and the rainfall on the leaves.  We got another bus back to town (the driver, definitely NOT Otto--esque, never shifted out of first gear for some reason... more like the Comic Book Guy).

We walked through the Papeete market, then back to the ship for dry clothes and lunch.  After that respite, we set off with Carla Pew for adventure number 2!  This was going to be a walk along the ocean.  Near the harbor (there was no tendering in Papeete), the waterfront walkways were well maintained, with parks, art, rental bikes, and even a sand-filled arena for playing soccer (seems like there is much more passing, since the ball just dies when rolling on the sand).  After about a mile, the maintained parkway disappeared, and we found ourselves walking along a busy street, with the smell of exhaust, the sounds of motor scooters, and a look at Papeete as lived by its residents.  We couldn't find a street that would take us back to the ocean, and as we approached the airport (it was a long walk), we noticed a lane that seemed to head in that direction. If this didn't take us to the ocean, we were turning around.  We didn't fail to notice the 3 young Polynesian men standing near the corner drinking beer.  When they started waving their arms, vigorously, that this was not the way to go, Caroline tried to convey that we wanted to go to the waterfront.  Suddenly, the largest dude (and he certainly had a buzz on), started walking away from us down the street, waving us to follow him.

We did.

In about 5 minutes, he had taken us through 1 house into the backyard, which provided us with a view of Moorea, the airport, the harbor, 2 guys repairing a kayak, and a friendly dog.  Then he walked us to another house which contained - I kid you not - more than a thousand potted plants of many kinds, from orchids to hanging mosses to who knows what types of flowers.  I couldn't tell whether this collection was for sell or just a hobby.  And there was another great view of Moorea.

Carla in the plant nursery.
Another view of the plant nursery.
The woman who owns the nursery offered us 2 fruits to take.  Alas, we weren't sure what they were, or whether we could take them on the ship, so we politely refused.  In hindsight, we should have asked whether we could have tasted them then and there.  I don't have a clue what this fruit is.

Not bad for a side street! 


Parrotfish for sale in market.

Large spider in restroom.  Loiter at your own peril!

Dead rat seen along waterfront walk.

One of 3 cats seen along waterfront.  I didn't notice any rat bait stations.  Perhaps the locals depend on cats for rodent control.

A fenced arena for soccer.  Is playing soccer on sand a new thing?

Caroline and Carla, on the Papeete waterfront.

Even in Papeete, Coke claims to make life fun!


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