Sunset at our hostel
So the BBC's top list of places to see before you die. Hmmmm. Well, all I can say is that I nearly did when I started my research (36 hrs before my flight). But what exactly did I find out? Well, I'm all for sharing:
-'start planning your trip 3-6months in advance, this will allow you to scour the web for the best deals' (Lonely Planet)
-'even the cheapest meals bought off street vendors will cost you 12,000 CFP (9 pounds) (Lonely Planet)
-regarding accomodation even the worst flea pit will cost you a small fortune (Lonely Planet)
And after an emergency visit to an internet cafe with skype:
- 'I'm sorry Mr H, you cannot change you destination at such short notice as the flights elsewhere on this day are fully booked' (Qantas 24 hr Call centre)
This brick wall lead to more research then as I looked for one, just one......please God just ONE ....tiny morsel of light... Nah, no such luck, every blog and website I came across confirmed what I had read...only with different degrees of severity. I had to admit my appetite for the place was dropping.
But why was it
so expensive? Well I won't bore you with the full details but it is something to do with them not paying any income tax and it all being loaded on goods...apart from baguettes tho...which were cheap as.....so not a total disaster then...(apart for those with a wheat allergy)
So 'avoiding spending a small fortune' shot to the top of my list of priorities that afternoon then.....which began with me emailing a few people to 'couchsurf' with (this a network where people offer to let you sleep on their couch/floor for free). I also searched for hostels online and more blogs/travel websites for tips......all afternoon.
A few hours before I flew I got an acceptance from a local lady saying I could crash at hers along with directions in French to give to the taxi driver. So leaving early on the February 27th and arriving on 26th was cool as it meant crossing the dateline AND it also meant that Rob got 2 birthdays and is now a year AND a week older than me. You old f*rt ha ha. Tahiti
How expensive would things actually be in FP tho? Well at the airport a
taxi to go 2km cost 18 pounds. Ouch... My first couchsurf family was pretty cool tho, a real introduction to French Poly. I wasn't sure if the area in downtown Tahiti was the inspiration for Bono cos the street really did have no names. If it was, he didn't go into any more details so it was a surprise to find lots of locals staring at me as well as wild chickens. The chickens didn´t stare, but interestingly enough they start cock-a-doodle-doing at 11pm, which set off the dogs barking.....all night. I suspected that the BBC correspondent didn't share this experience as he/she sat in the 5 star resort agonising over what to order from room service...nor Bono.
Next day I strolled into the centre (avoiding eye contact with all cabs) to check the place out. Humid and expensive basically. For example, a Big Mac meal was 9 pounds (Taylor, they are as good as your fave drive thro in Glos tho, but of course you could buy 3 for that price. You already have but what? Ok mate, yeah I won't tell Rach). Puna-aiai
Time to move on and a place called Puna-aia or
something. As a taxi ride for the 18km journey was 45 pounds I made a key executive decision to take the bus. However the first 3 didn't stop so I was waiting by the side of the road for 2.5 hours. Still, I got to chat to some locals briefly (in French). They found my accent funny or maybe my ginger hair.
Next hostel was cheap (by local standards) and I shared a room with 5 others. Great location by the ocean with coral and snorkelling. As there was some aquatic conference in town many of the people at the hostel were attending the thing. I felt privileged then to be able to go snorkelling with a marine biologist, Sheila (USA). Moorea
Two nights then off to island of Moo-rea which is reached by ferry. It's a nice looking island very green with interesting peaks. And as the first bus was packed with ferry passengers I waited for next one. After an hour of waiting I asked when the next bus was due.. Another 3 hrs...(ie when the next ferry was due..) So I hitched and got picked up by a friendly French couple, not
like that u pervs.
Despite staying at the 'cheapest' place on the island I was chuffed with views from the jetty. Again good snorkelling and kayaking. I decided to splash out and do a dive as I heard it was supposed to be amazing. And amazing it was. I had swum with sharks before but they weren't all that close. But a different story in Moorea and no sooner had we descended than we saw a group of 5 Black Tip Sharks circling us. A few minutes later it grew to around 8. It was amazing seeing these majestic creatures ease through the water. I'd put money on the fact that the feeling wasn't mutual though..
As we swum off a few followed us and we saw a Lemon shark (bigger) and then some turtles. The DM took some tuna down with him and the smell attracted more fish including the biggest Trigger fish I've ever seen and the coolest purple box fish. The tuna was saved for feeding a viscious giant Moray Eel and then it was time to surface (us, not the Moray Eel).
That evening along with Bert (Holl) and Emile (Swe) we headed
Sunset at our hostel
to the Hilton resort for a drink and along with the rich bods and honeymooners we watched a local Polynesian dance display. The resort was pretty amazing and had huts on stilts in the sea. We then headed back to our 12 bed attic room with no fan or hooks for our mozzie nets..
On the eve of my birthday I headed back to Tahiti which started with hitching a lift to the port (this time I got picked up by the second car that went past) then killing a day in Tahiti. As the buses stopped (or got less regular) around 5pm I got the 4.30pm and was at the airport by 5pm so just the 7.5 hrs to wait for my flight but on the plus side...just the 7hrs til my birthday.
And what a birthday I had lined up this year, altho sadly no cake or fancy dress down the 'Two Pigs' (Cheltenham). I had considered dressing up as Batman like last year altho feared I could get arrested or get mistaken for someone not being given access to their kids. And anyway I doubt I ould have got my 'Bat Utility Belt' thro security.
View from our hostel
So what did have planned then?
Basically, 3 back to back flights that would take me first to Easter Island then Santiago and finally Buenos Aires. The time difference meant I wasn't too sure how long it had been since I left my hostel in Moorea but I knew it was the longest birthday ever...but leaving French Poynesia was a great present......top 50 places my *rse...
In keeping with my top 5 experiences per Continent, I give you the... Australasia (or Oceania) Top 5 (in no particular order):
- Great Barrier Reef (Diving and helicopter ride), Port Douglas, Oz
- New Year's Eve, Sydney, Oz
- Mt Taranaki (not at time tho), New Plymouth, NZ
- Milford Sound, Fiordland Nat Park, NZ
- Shark dive, Moo-rea, French Polynesia
Next up the ´White Continent´...... but would I need to grow a beard to look like an explorer to be accepted on board...?
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