French Polynesia 2001 Day 6: Papeete, Tahiti Faa, Los Angeles

Friday June 15, 2001
Our last day in Tahiti dawned and the early word from the front desk was that someone was going to need our room at 12pm. So we packed all our goodies up with a plan. Our entire luggage was put into the storage room at the hotel and Roger and I headed for the beach hut. We secured a kayak, life jackets, and some oars and set out for the barrier reef. It only took us about 20 minutes to paddle out there. I think that all of the outrigger paddlers have no worries about competition from us. Due to the currents, we managed our best zig-zag formation out there. Once we got close to the reef, we could see the waves breaking and the kayak started to roll through the waves. Not wanting to tempt fate, we decided after a couple of quick shots from the disposable waterproof camera to head back to the shore. It took us a bit longer, mainly due to the lack of energy (see this is what happens when you don’t eat breakfast), but eventually we made it. We initially thought we wouldn’t have time to swim in the pool, but after some quick inquiries, we found out that the bus for town left at 2:30pm instead of 12pm.
We relaxed and swam around the pool until about 1pm when we decided to use the transit suite to freshen up. The suite was a special room on the 3rd floor that had 4 separate bathrooms with showers and towels and a living room area with some couches, a desk and a TV. Roger and I both showered and got ready for our excursion to town. One of the things that we always forgot is that it takes a good 30-45 minutes to get to the center of Papeete from the Le Meridien. Once off the bus in downtown, we both decided it was high time to get something to eat. We tried to go to Lou Pescadou’s, the restaurant that the lady who helped us with arranging the tours on Monday recommended, but it was closed for the afternoon. Most restaurants in Papeete are closed from 2:30pm to around 6:00 for the Tahitian equivalent of a siesta. The owner of the restaurant did direct us to the local McDonald’s, which thankfully, did not observe the closed down period. One interesting note about the McDonald’s is that they had a display case promoting skater clothes with some fake walls with graffiti on it. I am not sure what sort of message they are trying to promote, but I didn’t think it was one that was very helpful.
After McDonald’s, we picked up some local ice cream and shopped in and around the Vaima shopping center. I picked up a nice map of the Society Islands, and a Tahiti Airlines model jet. We also managed to look around the famous market where flowers and fruits were offered. We were tempted, but didn’t want much more to carry. With about 30 minutes left before the bus went back to the hotel, we decided to pop into a local cyber café to check my e-mail to make sure Cory was set to pick us up tomorrow. Sure enough, he had responded. I had 67 e-mails not counting ones from work, which I decided not to check until I got back on Monday. On our way out of the café we picked up some water and headed out for the bus. It was a perfect end to our trip. We managed to do a lot, despite not having a hotel room as a base of operations. It also helped bookmark our trip. We started in Papeete on Sunday and Monday, lost and without any cash. We left on Friday seasoned visitors who had money for trinkets and ice cream.
Back at the hotel, we spent our remaining hours writing the last of postcards and also walking around the hotel one last time. Tonight was the Polynesian Buffet in the restaurant. My one regret is that we didn’t get to stay an extra day to see at least one of the performances at the hotel. Our feelings were mixed as Rene finally showed up to take us to the airport one last time. We both wished we could stay longer, but at the same time missed the comforts of home. Inside the airport, we did a flurry of last minute shopping to get tikis, calendars, and cookies for family members. I wish we had done it before we checked our bags, that way our backpacks wouldn’t have been so full on the plane. The trip home was pretty unremarkable, save for the intense heat on the plane when we boarded – apparently it had been all shut up for the day and they didn’t turn on the air before we left. It was a good 30 minutes of sweating before things began to cool down. The whole warm feeling contributed to the difficulty of sleeping on the flight, but once the sleeping masks were handed out and I found a good position, I was annoying half the aircraft with my snoring. Before we knew it, we were on final approach which took us from Catalina Island, over Disneyland, along I-5, and then eventually right into LAX. As a special treat, we got one of the overflow gates in the boonies and had to be bussed back to the terminal. After getting our forms stamped, we picked up our luggage and headed out to meet Cory. On the way out, the customs agents stopped Roger for a random check and had his bag searched. Roger joins a long list of people I have traveled with who have been stopped by customs, whereas in the 10 plus years of international travel I have done, I have never been stopped. I told Roger it was probably due to the fact he was using the Mondo-sized suitcase.
Cory was waiting for us and it was time to head home. Roger had finally made his first international trip, and we both agreed that our trip was great and look forward to our next adventure.