Tahiti- Papeete – December 4 & Bora Bora December 5, 2014
Pictures include: first three are Bora Bora where Alan was served his rum punch on a beautiful beach at sunset and where we climbed to see the WWII cannon that protected the island. The second three pictures are in Papeete (Tahiti) where we visited an ancient ceremonial center, then a Catholic Church and finally were treated to fireworks at night for the celebration of Advent starting the Christmas season.
Tahiti is a booming city with a big airport and about 70% (or about 200,000) of French Polynesia live there. This was changeover day for the ship where the last segment left and a new group of people boarded Orion. Alan and I took the day tour to visit several grottos, botanical gardens and a sacred burial garden with ancient pagan statues and a replica of the tribal ritual area where human, animal and plant sacrifices were made to the pagan gods. I loved the comment made by the guide when she discussed how the pagan gods respond to natural phenomena like rain, sun, good fishing, good harvest of coconuts etc. She reported that when missionaries came Polynesians were “civilized” and asked to wear clothes—as if becoming “Christian” was synonymous to wearing clothes. We also visited the home of an English man who had come to Tahiti when he was 25, 50 years ago. He now owns a beautiful home near the isthmus of Tahiti and Tahiti ita surrounded by gardens and overlooking the bay where much of “Mutiny on the Bounty” was filmed. His wife showed us the gardens and the medicinal significance of each tree or plant. He also owned the local restaurant where we had lunch and fed his hungry fish in his netted lagoon outside the restaurant—not particularly environmentally smart, but fun to watch the hungry fish fight for morsels. Polynesians brag they are the best canoe paddlers in the world—always winning international competitions. Too bad that is not part of the Olympics.
The economy here is not strong. A lot of discussions about the pros and cons of remaining part of France were made by the guides who admitted that their standards of living would be far less if they became independent. The French can over-rule the Tahitian government leaders and in fact just fired the President who was voted in by the Tahitians. Several resorts have closed due to lack of patronage and tour companies are crying for tourists. The cost of living is very high ($10 for gallon of gas) and about double of the United States for housing. Most people grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables in their gardens.
Today on Bora Bora, we visited by jeep, most of the island to catch views of the island and reefs, see some of the 20+ resorts, and even the abandoned Allied Forces defense system of gun emplacements on the tops of the volcanic mountains. The Japanese never were on this island. Allied defense was fairly weak with the use of 8 pre-World War I guns. However, we learned that Bora Bora had 6000 Allied Forces stationed here to repair ships, refuel and re-supply ships, and offer R and R. With many of the Polynesia men in Europe helping France and Allied Forces there, women were left alone on the island to propagate blue-eyed children. However, the Tahitian guide said when their Polynesian men returned, it is the Polynesian way to accept and love all children.
Tonight we snorkeled off a small motu (small island in the lagoon) with a beautiful beach. Our ship even had cocktails for us there at sunset before we headed back to the ship for dinner. Alan loved standing in the lagoon with sharks circling his feet and being served tropical punch and appetizers. Food on the ship has been superb with so many choices for each meal: lots of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as beautifully presented meals.