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Pictures of our French Polynesia trip
(Island of Tahiti - Society Islands: part 2)
 
Part 1: Island of  Tahiti
Part 3: Island of  Moorea
25th Anniversary of "being on the road" in Tahiti
 
 
 
 
 
     

  French Polynesia Map           Tahiti Map         

 
 
                  
 
         
                             Map of
                           the Pacific
 
 
 
 
latest picture taken: October 23, 2009
  • click a picture to see details

 
 
 
 
 
 
55  At the South coast of Tahiti Iti,
at Pointe Riti, a peninsula provides
shelter from the open sea –
ideal for children to take a bath
 56  Small jetty at the end of Tahiti
Iti’s South coast road at Teahupoo
57  People enjoying Sunday
afternoon at Taiharuru Beach
at the North coast road of Tahiti Iti
 
Immediately after our arrival in Tahiti, we start to work on the car permit for our next destination, the Kingdom of Tonga, because a tourist is entitled to stay in French Polynesia for three months maximum, unless having applied beforehand for an extension at the French Embassy back in the home country. Apparently, it then normally will be granted for another two additional months. In a way we do not find it fair that the Tahitians having a French European Union passport are allowed to move throughout Europe including Switzerland freely and unlimited, while we have to leave Tahiti after three months without being able to appeal. By the way the same injustice applies also to New Caledonia. Well, three months turned out to be sufficient.
 
 
 
 
 
 
58  Evangelical Church of Pueu
at the North coast of Tahiti Iti
 59  Tautira, where the North coast
road of Tahiti Iti meets the Vaitepiha
Valley, is one of ourfavorite places,
42 miles from Papeete
60  Tautira’s “end of the village sign”
marks not only the end of the hamlet,
but also the end of the North coast
road of the peninsula of Tahiti Iti
 
When the skies are blue, we pack our lunchbox – usually salami and liver pÔtÚ, different cheeses like Emmental, Raclette and Brie and for the thirst local Hinano Tahiti beer – into our “Engel”-12-volt-fridge, which we then enjoy out in the nature wherever we like it the best. A crispy fresh baguette is always easy to get on the way. We are most attracted to the still largely untouched Tahiti Iti peninsula, especially its North coast, where at the village of Tautira the road ends abruptly at the last house. In its garden stands nostalgically and a bit lost the sign marking “end of the village”. In this remote area, Capt. James Cook anchored on August 12, 1777, with his ship Endeavour.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
61  An outrigger canoe is heading
towards the sea in Tautira, where
Capt. James Cook anchored on
August 12, 1777, with his ship Endeavour
 62  Playing ball at the black
Taiharuru sand beach on the
North coast of Tahiti Iti
63  This shot against-the-light highlights
the mountainous scenery of
Tahiti Nui’s (main island) North shore
 
Sitting at our own camping table (is it only a matter of habit? – because wooden picnic tables are provided) at Tautira’s black sandy beach with beautiful view to the mainland of Tahiti Nui, we suddenly hear a voice exclaiming in a familiar language: “This is simply incredible”. We see a lady studying the band with all the visited 165 countries at the side of our LandCruiser. “You have to see that” she calls to her husband. This is how we meet once more interesting people – due to the adventurous and special look of our car.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
64  In the Papenoo Valley, a falling
tree is blocking the road to the
Urufaau Pass (tunnel) and Vaihiria
Lake. With our machete, we
manage to cut us a passage .....
 65   ..... and continue our climb
as steep as 20% on a narrow
concrete roller-coaster track to
the pass of 2’910ft. altitude with
the 365ft. long one-lane tunnel .....
66  ..... the higher we climb, the
more spectacular the mountain
panorama gets (Mt. Mouatamaiti
(4’826ft.), looking like the
“Swiss Matterhorn” of Tahiti
 
“I was also in 140 countries related to my job with Swiss (Swissair)” tells us the husband proudly. Recently having retired at the age of 61 years, he dreams also to set off for a longer period, but has to convince his wife who is still working. The encounter with us seems to give him an additional boost, and – who knows – we might even have been able to awake also some spirit of adventure in his spouse? They have booked a cruise through the Polynesian islands with the cruise ship “Paul Gauguin” – a 100% contrasting way and price class of our travels (a 7 days cruise costs from US$4’700 per person). No, we aren’t jealous and we wouldn’t wish to swap either!
 
 
 
 
 
 
67
 68
69
In the Papenoo Valley, dozens of waterfalls are tumbling everywhere down vertical slopes
 
Instead of sailing the luxury way through Pacific waters, we are looking forward to the mountains, to the Trans-Tahiti-Crossing that brings us into a volcanic crater, which has formed Tahiti millions of years ago. After many days of bad weather, finally a clear day dawns and we set off. On the North coast at the village of Papenoo, we branch off into the interior and follow the Papenoo-Valley with Tahiti’s biggest river. There is no traffic at all. The tranquility is marvelous. No dogs barking, no roosters crowing, no traffic noise.
 
 
 
 
 
 
70  On the top of 2’910ft.
(Urufaau Pass), 12 miles from
Papenoo on the North coast
(which is about another 12 miles
from Papeete) a 356ft. long tunnel
– cut through the mountain ridge –
leads to the Southern side at
Mataiea on the South coast (another
10 miles), where no maintenance
was done anymore on the track
 71  Between the tunnel and
Mataiea, 10 miles away on the
South coast (which is about
29 miles from Papeete), lies
between steep mountainous
slopes the small Vaihiria Lake
at an altitude of 1’552ft..
Unfortunately the last 7 miles from
the lake to Mataeia are open to
the public only from time to time
72  We park our LandCruiser
at the Northern side of the
mountain tunnel on the Urufaau
Pass that leads to the Vaihiria
Lake and on to Mataeia on
the South coast
 
Everywhere mountain peaks are popping up, waterfalls are tumbling through the dense green vegetation of the vertical slopes, and everywhere we encounter nature pure with blooming wild flowers and trees. We drive past small dams that produce 30 – 40% of Tahiti’s electricity. If we thought that the water in the huge pipes was diverted to Papeete’s water supply prone to water shortages, we are completely wrong. After powering the turbines it is dumped directly into the sea. Even Alain, who is working for the electricity company, does not understand it either.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
73  Mosses and lichen
cover the tree trunks in
the clean mountain air
 74  We leave the mountain
range that separates the
North from the South
75  Tahiti’s mountain scenery: The
Papenoo Valley with its same named
river – the biggest and longest in Tahiti
 
We meet him at a fallen tree that is lying across the road and is blocking us the way. There is a kind of an emergency path that is no problem for an empty pickup to handle, but for our top heavy LandCruiser it would definitely mean turning over. But returning is neither an option. Why not try to clear a passage with our good old machete that has served us since the beginning of our journey? And indeed, after some of the major branches are cut off, we cautiously give it a try. Yes, it works! Our LandCruiser gets some minor scratches though, but nothing really to worry about.
 
 
 
 
 
 
76  Papeete, the capital of French
Polynesia, sits on a small land strip,
sandwiched between the ocean and
an impressive mountain backdrop
 77  The Chinese temple Kanti in
Mamao near Papeete with its elegant
red roofs and its water lily pond contrasts
strongly against the common architecture
78  The white tombs of the Chinese
Cemetery near Pirae/Papeete that are
perched on different levels at the slope
of a hill are visible already from far
 
The higher we climb the more spectacular it gets while driving on the narrow concrete roller-coaster track that has been completed only recently by the French army. The 4’826ft high Mt. Mouatamaiti, which – due to its shape – we baptize “Tahiti’s Matterhorn”, is particularly outstanding. Through many ascends as steep as 25%, we finally reach the Urufaau Pass at 2’910ft altitude, where a 365ft long one-lane tunnel – cut through the crest – leads us through deep water puddles to the Southern side. From there an equally steep but rougher descent continues down to Vaihiria Lake at 1’552ft altitude and further down to Mataiea on the South coast. The sector from Vaihiria Lake to Mataiea is sometimes closed.
 
 
 
 
 
 
79  Street musicians entertain the
passers-by at the Boulevard Pomare in
Papeete hoping for a small contribution
 80  Emil is getting some make up at
the TV studio of Tahiti Nui TÚlÚvision
for the talk show “Manihin” on 10/4/09
81  Robert, a retired teacher from French
Wallis & Futuna, invites us for a fabulous
couscous and all kind of other treats
 
However, the part from the crest’s tunnel to Vaihiria Lake has not been maintained for a very long time. We want to spare our LandCruiser the ordeal having to crawl through a stony, badly washed out track and therefore park it at the Southern end of the tunnel from where we continue walking. Shortly after, deep below us, we spot the small green shining ribbon of the lake meandering between high mountain slopes – a picture of total serenity. The open tourist Safari jeeps have not yet arrived. We meet them only much later on our way back, when we are picnicking peacefully at a lovely river spot down in the valley.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
82  Water lilies are always worth a
picture – at the town hall of Papeete
 83  Bougainvillea are always most
fascinating in their colors and volumes
84  Those hanging yellow clycinal
flowers are growing on a tree
 
„The French have stolen our culture!“ Not only once we hear these words. Apparently, the wish to return to “the times before the French” is currently quite widespread. Tattooing, part of the Polynesian culture, is resurging too. Surprisingly, also many women go through a lot of pain for this bodily adornment as symbols of their identity. Is it possible to turn back the clock?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
85  Liliana is standing in front of the
Haamaremare Rahi waterfall that belongs
to the three Tefaarumai waterfalls at the
North coast, 6 miles East of Papenoo
 86   The biggest of the three
Tefaarumai waterfalls, called
Vaimahuta, rushes through tropical
vegetation down to the valley
87  Side-by-side stand the two
other Tefaarumai waterfalls: The
Haamaremare Rahi (left) and
the Haamaremare Iti (right)
 
We doubt that anyone we see queuing up in the traffic jam already at 5am in Mahina to reach work in Papeete, 7 miles away, in time, would abandon their car and the many other qualities of life that are possible with the money flowing in from France (around 1╝ billion Euro yearly – we heard). In fact, Tahiti is self governed and autonomous, but not on all matters: E.g. defense, justice and foreign affairs are still a French issue. But Tahiti’s gross national product is US$22’000, while for example the island of Vanuatu, which became independent, is only US$2’442. Is the independency worth it?
 
 
 
 
 
 
88  Happy! At Point Outuaiai in Arue,
we toast on our 25th Anniversary
of "exploring the world"
 89  As prelude to our 25th Anniversary
we enjoy mother finch with its
insatiable youngsters
90  At our 25th Anniversary of "exploring
the world" we are invited by Elise and
Mathieu (left) and their friend Etienne
(beside Emil) for a fish lunch in Arue
 
The TV antenna overlooking the city of Papeete from an altitude of 1’441m is still on our wish list. But we have to wait for days to get a somewhat clear sight. It is a very steep and very winding gravel road that leads through a lovely forest with beautiful fern trees. We stop many times to look down to the sea where the blue and turquoise colors of the lagoon seems almost unreal, and Moorea, the sister island across, rises sharply out of the ocean. Slowly, but steadily our LandCruiser tackles bend after bend. When after about six miles we come around another curve, we are taken completely by surprise. A deep valley surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery lies in front of us with ghostly mists sliding along the rims.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
91  Just another of the
beautiful tropical flowers
 92   The tomb of King Pomare V,
the last ruler of the Pomare dynasty,
sits on Point Outuaiai in Arue
93  Beautiful evangelical church
of Arue on Point Outuaiai
 
Emil is happy; mountains are his favorite world! I admit that it is a spectacular sight, but I enjoy alike the red-green ferns and different wild flowers growing on the slopes at the side of the road. Shortly after, we reach the antenna. What a disappointment: Instead of marveling at the peaks of the Northern mountain range, we are looking into a white hole filled with fog. “May be an hour earlier it would still have been clear”, comments Emil. Well, at least we were able to enjoy some of the spectacular scenery earlier, because on our way back, also this panorama is now hidden under a dense cover of clouds.
 
 
 
 
 
 
94  We are climbing through the
forest path from Faaa towards the
TV Antenna on the “Massif du
Pic Vert” that is watching over
Papeete from 4’728ft. altitude
 95  New fern sprouts grow
in abundance on the higher
altitude at the TV Antenna
96  Lush vegetation with
Spanish moos and ferns cover
the slopes on 4’500ft. altitude
 
The finches are already tweeting, when we get up on Sunday, October 18th, and are greeted by a brilliant day with a cloudless deep blue sky, the best ever since our arrival. Never before have we seen the mountains and the sister island of Moorea outlined so sharply. It is a wonderful coincidence that exactly today we have the joy to celebrate a great anniversary: Our “Silver Jubilee - 25 years of exploring the world”. Our thoughts drift back to our chaotic departure in Zurich, when by a hair’s breadth we missed the jump into a new way of life: The train to Luxembourg with an Iceland Air connection to New York.
 
 
 
 
 
 
97  A fairytale forest with tree
ferns near the TV Antenna
 98  Mist patches rise from the
“Plateau Tamanu” to the
mountains at the TV Antenna
99  Our LandCruiser looks like
an ant under the gigantic trees
near the TV Antenna
 
To swap the routine life 25 years ago back in Switzerland with the adventure of the world was the best decision of our lives. We never regretted it for a single moment! At lunch time, we are celebrating the jubilee together with a lovely young couple, Elise and Mathieu, and their friend Etienne enjoying a Polynesian meal and a platter of French cheese and red wine in their garden. Elise and Mathieu plan to leave shortly for a world tour too, thus we are their big “heroes”. Our main conversation therefore is of course traveling. Back to our bungalow, we open a bottle of sparkling champagne just for the two of us and toast to this special milestone, wishing ourselves many more accident free and happy years of traveling to come.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
100  A red flower gives a colorful
dot to the forest greenery
 101  Yellow flowers are
hanging in bunches on a tree
102  Red Frangipani blossoms
rise against a deep blue sky
 
Five days later, on October 23rd, 2009, we are ready to set out to see more of the world. We store our LandCruiser in its 17th container and one day later we fly with Air New Zealand via Auckland in New Zealand to our next destination: Tonga.
Epilogue end of February 2010: Retrospectively Tahiti as country No. 165 and particularly its sister island Moorea have been a highlight of our epic journey and proved to be a worthy place to host our Silver Jubilee. Although French Polynesia has some negative sides, its nature is however simply unique. Time goes by so fast – we have the feeling it was just recently when we commemorated our 20th Jubilee on Saint Martin in the Caribbean!
 
 
 
 
 
 
103  Noor is a Polynesian
beauty already at a young age
 104  Farewell from Astrid and Marc,
our welcoming hosts from “Tahiti
Vacations” in Mahina, where
we spent two relaxed months
105  Emil is driving our LandCruiser
in its 17th container in the port of
Papeete. Thierry, the manager of the
Swire Shipping Agencies (left)
and one of his staff are watching
 
 
Other websites from Tahiti: