MINI GUIDE TO TAHITI DURING JUNE AND JULY
Being the first ´’bigger island’ to arrive to by sailors, Tahiti can be quite overwhelming after months of sailing around very isolated islands in the Pacific. It is the island that many sailors consider the end goal, the place where there are actual food stores, resources to fix broken parts on the boat, bars and retails. Oh, and as on of the sailors pointed out: the only island in French Polynesia with an – actual Mcdonalds.
Not to mention roads, even a highway that combines the villages. Still, it resembles the very remote islands we had just visited. The mentality is the same, the culture, the gastronomy, the atmosphere is astounding. Once again the locals are neighborly.and kind-hearted to a degree that makes me think about how the western society is sometimes very settled inhabits. Nothing wrong about being inveterate, but just walking down the streets in Papeete, will make you smile at how the pace is slower here, almost like a stress-free environment.
In comparison, to all the amazing cultural experiences and events we’ve attended on the Tuamotu and Marquesas Islands, the experiences are somehow multiplied and intensified on Tahiti. With so many events every month usually held at the harbor in the capital, Papeete, we knew this was a place to stay for longer than just a few weeks.
Where are two very luxurious harbors on Tahiti, Marina Taina, and the Marina in the capital, Papeete. If you only have a few days in Tahiti, Marina Papeete would be my choice. Centrally located with easy access to all the bubbly energetic enjoyments of the city, while still being tugged away around an open park that beautifully surrounds all the boats.
Right here so many clashes of culture can be observed. At sundown, the colorful Polynesian outriggers (vaka) compete in a fast pace, while Europeans, Australians or Americans who just arrived by boat, are jogging around in the park with fancy training clothes and big headphones.
An event not to be missed in Tahiti during the summer (well, actually the South Pacific winter) is the annual Fruit run at Papeete Marina Park. The event is part of ‘Heiva Tahiti’ which always occurs the last day of June till mid-July and continues an entire month. Here Tahitians compete in who can run the fastest with a tree pole with fruit attached to it. It might look easy, but we tried to lift one, and I promise – they are heavy! As we observed the surrounding crowd, a lot of people looked quite amused by this event, but don’t be fooled! The annual fruit run is of great importance to the Tahitians. There is a whole row full of journalist and photographers, and at this event, Miss Tahiti sits in the middle of the park surrounded by the Tahitian elite. The run itself is quite a workout, and not everybody manages to run all the laps around the park. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I guess it reminds me of the CrossFit and “running-in-mud” runs we do have in Europe, but I’ve never thought of running with fruit. It amazingly simple, and since there is so much variety of fruit around the Pacific Islands, why not?
One of the competitors
HEIVA IN TAHITI
As mentioned, the fruit run is part of Heiva, a huge dance and culture festival that has been held in Tahiti since 1881. Heiva derives from the word hei meaning to gather people together, and va meaning community places.
Heiva in Tahiti would be a whole blog post in itself. It’s a huge dance festival, but also a historical experience, that tells everything about mankind arriving in Polynesia, and how the Polynesian culture was created, and developed. It’s strictly forbidden to take any pictures or videos once the shows are on. It takes place at a massive arena in the park, and each row of a seat will have its own guard that scans the crowd every second to check that nobody is taking photos or recording. This year 2017 it will be the 130th Heiva. A truly magnificent, and a highly prominent event. In fact quite hard to explain, so a few videos do visualize how special the performances are, but it doesn’t justify the experience of being there in person. The costumes, the dances, the story – it all works together in beautiful harmony. Definitely not to miss when visiting Tahiti in June or July. (Check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWJM9WR9aes).
Miss tahiti watching the fruit run The many vakas at sunset in Marina Papeete
Having satisfied the most necessary needs, Tahiti is a lot more than the main gateway for boaters to get European, even American goods, food and resources.
Once we had our basic western society materialistic orientation fulfilled, it was natural to crave for the very core of the Pacific feeling: the laidback society, the amazing colors of the landscape, fruits and warm-hearted Tahitians.
Tahiti has all of that, but it’s also a buzzing, car-dominated city. We were therefore amazed when we discovered the twin island right next to Tahiti. Just a 30 min ferry ride away from Tahiti we find the stunning island of Moorea.
Looking in the horizon when approaching Moorea, we already sensed quietness, a peaceful feeling. When we then were descending from the ferry, I perceived from looking around, that Moorea was going to be impeccable. A little paradise like Tahiti, but with less crowded. There is more space to bike around (Tahiti is not really made for bikes, and quite dangerous, not to say the distances are long) and a scooter is easy to get around with even for beginners.
Having that said, you don’t even have to use the money on transport since it’s so easy to hitchhike everywhere.
Everybody knows each other on the island, and the local will offer to drive you around before you have even thought about asking.
We went to Moorea to celebrate the crewmember, Veronica’s, birthday. The aim was to find a donkey since in Poland Veronica have a tradition to hang around a donkey for her birthday. We straight ahead knew this would be hard to find in the South Pacific, so first thing first, we went to get a taste of what the locals were selling alongside the road.
Distillerie et Usine de Jus de Fruits
Two men were selling fresh fish just opposite the only supermarket on the island, and as we started to talk to them, they suggested themselves take us around and show us the island. See, time. Time is not an issue on Moorea, or in general on the islands. This is what I found most profound. I’m deeply amazed about how life is about how you wish to behave when people approach, and not what you’re meant to do in relation to time or whichever restriction. We always have an option to choose whatever actions we want to take outside of the routine.
On Moorea, there is no routine. Of course, the locals have work related errands like the rest of us, but you come across casual fishermen and farmers who will tell you everything about the area, they will approach you themselves, with a genuine big smile. On all the islands I’ve been to, people have never come across as indolent, they’ve just had so much empathy towards trying to make newcomers feel welcome. Even those with a 9-5 job will make time for anybody new to the island.
In our search of the Pacific donkey, our first Moorean local to drive us around gave us this answer: “I cannot show you a donkey, but I will take you to a juice factory where you can taste the local liquor and Moorean fruit juices in unlimited amounts, most of it for free”. Sure enough, the Distillerie et Usine de Jus de Fruits (distillery and fruit juice factory) had exactly that. You decide which fruit juice you want, and then the local Moorean liquor is added, all for free.
Unfortunately, I cannot prove this place by pictures, as we were quite jubilant, and had too much of a good time to be remindful of taking pictures.
Where to stay?
Extensively visited by newlyweds, couples in transit to Bora Bora or just in general people with more money than a boat-hitchhiker, it’s noticeable that Tahiti is largely depended on tourism.
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI RESORT & SPA is the only and very exclusive resort on the island. It’s tugged away from the main road, so it doesn’t seem to create such a contrast to the surrounding areas of the island.
However, seeing it from the sea, arriving by boat, it was evident for us that Tahiti is indeed the economic capital of the French Polynesian islands. For those unable to afford resort prices, I do recommend the hotels/lodges on Moorea. Tahiti (at the time of writing) only has one hostel, Mahana Lodge. On Moorea, there are a few pensions right next to the beach.
Evidently, Tahiti and its little sister, Moorea left us flabbergasted. It was our panacea, our little own paradise, where we eventually met all the people from the boats we got to know in Panama and Marquesas. It’s the main meeting point for the floating family. We stayed 4 weeks, refurbish the boat, and as always we never thought any island could be more amiable. Until we reached the next island…
More info and activities to do when visiting Moora and Tahiti:
Coconut Trail (moderate hike level): http://www.tahititravel.com.au/moorea-hiking-the-3-coconut-trail-moderate-level
Heiva in Tahiti: http://www.tahiti-tourisme.com/discover/heiva-tahiti.asp
The tiki zip line on Moorea: https://www.tahiti.com/activities/tiki-parc–zipline-and-aerial-adventure-5541