Having fun in Papeete, Tahiti

Sunday was boat cleaning day so we cleaned and tidied before heading out for Happy Hour.   Whilst there we caught up with a Swiss couple whom we had previously met in Hiva Oa – amazing stories from cruising Patagonia, Chile and Brazil – and they’ve only been out for three years!  We had a nice social evening.  

Monday morning we headed off to see our agent – who turned up late and had forgotten to get our inter-island clearance for us.   This is needed before we can leave to explore the other Society Islands.    Never mind – best laid plans and all that.   By this time it was late so our plans to head to the French restaurant near Carrefour for breakfast and internet had been thwarted.   So instead we headed to the municipal building armed with supplies from the supermarket along the way.  We made camp and that is pretty much where we stayed for the day.   We had a long list of documents that we needed to download so that we can fill them in and send them off in advance of our future destinations – bureaucracy gone mad!!!    Check out the size of the welcome pack from New Zealand as an example.

About four we decided we had had enough – despite not completing the list of tasks that we had set ourselves – and headed back to Morphie.   We got ourselves cleaned up and went to the Dinghy Dock for Happy Hour.    There was a large family group of locals who were singing, dancing and just generally having fun.  Their melodies were fabulous…..we thoroughly enjoyed listening to them….and they clearly enjoyed entertaining the audience. 

Tuesday we did exactly the same as Monday camping out at the municipal building.   Finally, by the end of the day, we felt like we had enough information from a variety of cruiser compendiums, additional pilot guides, online chartlets for anchorages etc as well as finding a great app specifically for Tonga with local knowledge.    Pilot guides and charts in this region are sketchy and our main book – Warwick Clay’s South Pacific Anchorages – although recommended and we have one on board we are not keen.    

On top of our continued internet frustrations our printer decided to quit as it has no ink in the yellow printer cartridge even though I only want to print in black – a safety feature apparently and despite online workarounds – including changing the driver – none of them would work for me.   Very frustrating when the black cartridge is full to the brim as I only swapped it out earlier in the season.   That means no photocopying either but, at least, we can still scan.   After another tiring day in front of our screens we took ourselves off for Happy Hour and had a good time despite being caught by Carl the constantly-drunk single-hander LOL.

Wednesday morning we picked up our inter-island clearance document and headed to Carrefour for a final shop.   We had lunch at the French restaurant first, this place does great food, and returned to Morphie with additional beer and soft drink supplies.   We put all the shopping away, did the laundry, and final preparation for the morning including engine checks – as we were finally leaving Marina Taina after almost a month!  Woo hoo – very excited….    Well, we wandered in for happy hour, had a couple and then walked back to Morphie but got enticed to the Pink Coconut by the music we could hear and it was our favourite group again doing another set.  So we settled down and enjoyed the music until they finished at ten.

Thursday morning we were up early, paid the hefty marina bill, phoned the Papeete Marina to confirm they had space for us and headed out into the channel admiring the scenery and the colours of the water as we went.   We sought Port Captain authority to pass both ends of the runway – this is very carefully controlled – and we were just through when a plane took off.   

We finally pulled into the marina having travelled a huge five miles or so LOL.   We pulled into a slip, got settled and I went and checked in.  All sorted except that, apparently, the slip we are in is ‘too big’ for us so they asked us to move.   So we moved…..and got settled again into another ‘smaller’ slip.   So much for first come first served eh?!? 

Later on in the afternoon we got ourselves cleaned up and headed towards the House of Culture where the tickets for the Heiva festival where being sold and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the boardwalk areas along the way.     

Heiva pays tribute to the Polynesian traditions; their harmony with nature; and the transmission to future generations.   It is a huge event and attracts contestants from many Polynesian islands and countries.   There are dance, chant and singing competition nights with both sports events and arts and crafts competitions going on in different districts / islands throughout the day.   We managed to get two side-view tickets in the stadium for £15 each for Friday night’s singing and dancing competition and then wandered through the artisan village admiring the local crafts – largely shell and pearl jewellery plus traditional clothes.   I loved watching the old lady making the flowered headdresses…

We then stayed in To’ata Squre as there was a dance group from Papua New Guinea starting the event.  This was a mix between melodic harmonies and fancy hand movements through to war-like chanting not dissimilar to the New Zealand Hakka especially the sinister head twerking!  The group was mixed in ages from toddlers through to middle-aged men – was an absolutely fantastic spectacle.

After the show everyone moved into the stadium for the Heiva opening ceremony and we wandered the promenade back to the marina – admired the sights particularly of the sun setting over Moorea – and then took ourselves off to the square where the Roulettes (food trucks) set up each evening.   We chose one, sat down and had a great Chinese meal sitting on the square watching the world go by….armed with a Coke and a Fanta LOL.  

We then returned to Morphie and had a couple of cold beers in the cockpit listening to the sound of some popular tunes being slaughtered by the participants in the Karaoke bar opposite our slip.

Friday morning and we headed out early – on the lookout for printer cartridges and New Zealand dollars.    We hadn’t realised that the Cook Islands – our next destination if weather permits – have, allegedly, ATM problems so we need to ensure we have some cash on our arrival, just in case.  No banks had any so we gave up and while I returned to Morphie Richard took off to revisit Home Depot and another hardware / chandlery in the industrial area.  On his travels he found a Bureau de Change – so ordered some NZ $ for later – and also found out that there is an Office World here in Papeete.  

After lunch, allowing for the shops to reopen, we headed back into town and came across the municipal market where we admired the range of fresh produce and beautiful flowers on sale.   We also checked out some jewellery shops as I’m on a mission to get a black pearl whilst here – apparently cultured pearls have been over-produced in recent years so the prices are lower than normal.    So we went into a store that was linked to a pearl farm and found out all about the shapes, the sizes and the quality.  Interestingly, the difference – despite the huge price differential – isn’t really that obvious to the inexperienced eye unless they have obvious flaws or lack lustre.

We picked up our NZ $ so felt happy about that but completely failed on the printer cartridges.  However, we did find an internet café who would be happy to print / copy for us.   So looks like I’ll be filling in forms for a few days LOL.

We came back to Morphie for an early dinner / late lunch and headed out to the stadium, admiring another beautiful sunset on the way, for the 6pm start.  

We took our seats and were surprised that the stadium was half-empty.   It started filling a bit more….but considering there were only five seats left in the whole place when we brought ours…it did seem strange.   Anyway….the first dance group arrived…hundreds of them.   And people came to watch and then left so we think most of the seats were taken up by family members just watching their own people perform – lots of shouting out of names etc.   The performance went on for about an hour and then we had two chant / choir events before the final dance performance.    The no camera / no filming rules were strictly regulated so we weren’t able to get any of our own footage but I’ve shamefully borrowed the following images of last night’s event from the official site.   The evening was amazing….truly amazing…. 

At around 10 pm the show was over and we went in search of food and drink.   We ended up having a few beers in the Bora Bora lounge and caught the last 15 minutes of the international rugby which was quite exciting and we were delighted to see the Lions get a draw against the All Blacks.    We carried on drinking……and enjoyed the karaoke for a while too.  

It was interesting that the majority of the party goers heading upstairs to the Bora Bora’s night club were Rae-Rae (pron. Wee wees).  You may be surprised to know that there are huge numbers of cross-dressers and transvestites here in French Polynesia.  Rae-rae are the contemporaries of ‘Ma-hu’, Polynesian men of yesteryear who dressed like women because of their effeminate natures.   As a respected segment of Tahitian culture – whose presence dates back hundreds of years – they often took on the roles of servants, cooks and nannies because of their convivial nature and aptitude for domesticity.   Unlike the ladyboys in Thailand Rae-rae are not involved in the sex industry but are usually found working in the service / tourist industry.   We finally tore ourselves away around 3am…had been a very long day.

This morning, Saturday, and I’m blogging in the Tourist Office – as the internet is down in the marina – and Richard is in the anchor locker constructing a barrier so that the anchor chain cannot hit the new windlass motor on its way up and down…..   Later on we are going to explore some more of Papeete’s night life.  

Bye for now