French Polynesia 2001 Day 5: Moorea, Tiki Village

Thursday June 14, 2001
Again up early, but thankfully an hour later. We were met downstairs at 7:45am by a representative of Tahiti Nui Travel who escorted us to the ferry to take us to Moorea. We got stalled at the Royal Beachcomber because someone’s watch was running behind and they were 15 minutes late. We did get to get out of the bus and explore the hotel. It was a nice hotel, but I still prefer the Le Meridien. Along for the ride from our hotel was a French couple who went along with us on the circle of Tahiti tour on Tuesday. They seemed to recognize us, but it was hard to tell because they did not speak any English. After a short wait with a throng of school kids apparently on some outing, we boarded the ferry. We chose to sit inside on the nice cushy seats rather than on the top deck on the aluminum stadium seats. The ride was uneventful – probably due to the fact that the school kids were on a different boat.
Arriving in Moorea, we looked for our bus but did not see anyone around. Finally, we realized that this guy in a traditional wrap and some cool looking head wear was holding a sign with our names on it. He was a friendly guy, though we never did catch his name. He took us on the circle tour and we visited places like Maharepa, where we bought some water and another distillery that made fruit flavored alcohol similar to the one on Tahiti. I tried the orange and the pineapple flavors and my eyes are still watering. From there it was off to the Belvedere lookout. It was a long and narrow winding road up to it, but it was worth the trip. From there, we had great views of both Opunohu and Cook Bays. As a bonus, the SS Gauguin was getting ready to come into port. As we made our way to the Tiki Village, we saw some of the original churches on the island.
We finally arrived at our host’s home of the Tiki Village. 45 people have chosen to live in the traditional ways and entertain and teach people about the traditions of the Polynesian people. As luck would have it, the hordes of kids from the dock in Papeete were there getting a show. Our guide showed us the intricate steps on how they make the famous Tahitian black pearls. I have to say they sure do push those suckers here. We were then treated to a nice lunch – a portion of which was exactly what Roger ordered at the Le Meridien on Bora Bora yesterday. We did get to see a little bit of the Tiki Show with our host joined by others including a man with tattoos everywhere on his body – including his face, who’s favorite saying was Boo-Yah. After lunch and some mingling around the village, our host returned to give us a guided tour of the village. He explained what the different craftspeople do in the village. It certainly was an interesting experience. It all seemed a bit forced and surreal at times. It ultimately worked as something to educate the children on their heritage, but it was bizarre to see these people living very simple lives right next to homes with satellite dishes. It’s too bad they can’t get rid of the neighbors, it would be much better experience.
After some quick photos, it was back in the minibus for the conclusion of our tour, I think everyone was a bit tired, no one really said much the rest of the way around the island. I think maybe the alcohol at the distillery and a few Tiki Beers, and people were mellow. We arrived back at the harbor early, so our guide offered to take us to the best beach in the area. We all agreed to go, and before long, we were there. It was a nice white coral sand beach just north of the Sofitel. We took some pictures and got our feet wet. If we had more than a few minutes, I would have changed and gone in more, but I didn’t feel like riding home all icky. Some clouds were forming and it was beginning to look like rain, so we headed back to the pier. We bit adieu to our host and waited for the boat to come.
Now, there are two ferries between Tahiti and Moorea. The one that we took was a catamaran that covers the distance in about 20 minutes. The other ferry is much larger and takes about an hour to get across the channel. I mention this because the previously mentioned French couple got on the slow ferry, which was in port about 20 minutes before the fast one showed up. By the time we loaded and got to Papeete, they were just arriving. I was worried that we were going to have to wait for them, but because of the large swells due to the changing weather, they managed to stay ahead of us. It took us almost an hour to get from the dock back to the hotel due to the traffic and the fact we had a couple people who were picked up and were taken to the airport instead of a hotel.
Upon arrival we decided to check out the restaurant next to the Le Meridien (I’m sure the room service guy was disappointed). I had a pretty good pepperoni pizza and Roger had some lasagna that looked good as well. Satisfied, we headed back to the room and went to bed. We still are not sure what we are going to do our last day here. Our plane does not leave until 10pm, so we have some time to kill after our check out time of 11:00am. We asked for a late checkout so we can have the opportunity to go swimming and then take a shower. No word yet, so I guess we will have to wait and see tomorrow. I think that if we can’t get a late checkout, we will just kill time in Papeete until its time to go to the airport.