French Polynesia 2001 Day 3: Circle Tahiti Tour, Blowhole, Cascades, Gauguin Museum

Tuesday June 12, 2001
Up early for the tour of the island today. Luc met us at the hotel lobby promptly at 9am. I was a bit concerned because he was hacking quite a bit in the beginning. Thankfully, he turned out to be OK for the trip. We picked up a total of 12 people from various hotels in the area and off we went. We started going through Papeete, and our guide provided some insight into the many buildings we just passed with no clue yesterday. Our first stop was an overlook of Papeete harbor and the site of an abandoned hotel – soon to be either a Hyatt or condos. Next up were Venus Point and the lighthouse. This area was the site of the first landings by the Europeans due to the natural harbor. It is called Venus Point, Luc told us, due to the fact it was one of the three stations taking readings trying to determine what the distance between the sun and the earth was. They call it Venus Point because the time they were to make the reading is when Venus eclipsed the sun. In addition to the lighthouse, there was a nice marker to honor Captain Cook.
Next stop was the famous blowhole. If you stand near this hole in the rocks as the tide comes in, you can get your hat and other loose articles blown off of you with great force. Most of the beaches on the island are black sand beaches due to the volcanic activity and the lack of big reefs. Apparently, these come as the islands ages. Bora Bora is an old island and that is why it has many white sand beaches. After the blowhole, it was off to the Faarumai Cascades, home to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Tahiti. It was only a short walk up a nice trail, and despite the warnings, I did not see too many mosquitoes. A quick photo op and a quick stop at the snack stand for some Oreo’s and some water, it was back into the minibus.
Our next stop was quite a distance away at the Gauguin museum. Along the way, we saw the recent landslides that had closed the circle road for six months. The museum was nice, but it is more of a memorial to him rather than an exhibit. Most of the original works were actually woodcarvings. His paintings are spread out all over the world. One of the nice exhibits was postcards of his works and an explanation of where each of the originals resides. Another highlight was a scale recreation of Gauguin’s home on the Marquesas Islands. I took this opportunity to get some postcards and Roger picked up a mini Tiki.
Our next stop was a Tahitian lunch buffet. It was some good food in a friendly atmosphere, though in my mind they overcharged for the sodas. They did have a nice exhibit outside the restaurant with some sharks and a wide variety of colorful fish. Luc did give us some good advice – if we are in a reef and run into one of the big fish, move around a lot. Apparently, they are used to being fed and if they see something floating, they will nibble at it. Back on the bus, we made our way over to the Mara’a Grottos. Only one grotto was open at the time due to some rock activity. However, it was a quick 5 minutes from the street, and the weather was very nice and cool. I am not sure that I would want to swim in it, but Luc insists it is OK. Apparently Gauguin swam there as well.
After a quick stop at a distillery with some very potent offerings (we declined to get any), it was off to our final stop: The museum of Tahiti and her islands. This was a first class museum and I recommend it to all that visit Tahiti. Their permanent exhibit features many details on the history of Tahiti and her people. It features exhibits on Geology, Geography, and cultural traditions. It had just the right balance of everything and wasn’t too preachy or boorish. A definite must-see if you are in the neighborhood.
It was then time to head back to the hotel and rest up for our grand tour of Bora Bora. Talking to the reception desk, they recommended that we leave at 6:45a to catch the 8:20 flight due to rush hour and the need to arrive 1 hour before departure. We went to the local store to pick up some supplies for tomorrow including some fantastic French bread and two liters of water. It was then time for a quick dip in the pool and the ocean (yeah! I made it into the South Pacific!) and then up to the room for some room service and relaxation. We discovered this cool program on TV that showcased the best of the Le Meridien Tahiti and the Le Meridien Bora Bora. We taped a bit of it to take home and show the relatives, despite the black line running through the video. It’s now time to get to bed. I am very excited about tomorrow and have no idea what to expect. Unlike today and Thursday, we are on our own and hopefully it will be smoother than Monday.