Tahiti (French Polynesia), 11.09.2013
The Air Tahiti flight from Raiatea arrived over 1,5h late in Papeete and it was already dark when I showed up at the car rental station. The plan was to drive 1h out of town and find a place for the night. The first car they gave me made it 2km from the airport until I found out it wasn’t driving well and brought it back. The second one, a crappy Peugeot, drove OK but was in pretty bad shape.Driving out of the Papeete urban area took quite a while and it was late for local standards. The first hotel I found was full, the second one closed. On the road there was little light in the villages and none outside them. I couldn’t find any hotels or pensions. The LP guide listed just a few, and the more I kept driving I realized I was already 1/3 around Tahiti when the road took off to Tahiti Nui, a peninsula attached to the south of the main island. Here the guide listed another 3 places to stay for the night. I found just one of them, off the main road up a hill. I stopped the car on the dark parking lot with no other vehicle around. The gate was open, but the reception and all huts all closed, so I left. The road on this side of Tahiti Nui ended shortly afterwards (you cannot drive all around the peninsula), and I had to turn around. Driving back the way I had come I thought about where to go. With no place to sleep on 80km of road, having circled half the island already, one possibility came to my mind: the airport motel. Reaching e outskirts of Papeete I had a steak frites at a roulotte and spent another night at this place that had become familiar by now.
Given the great user experience at this motel the next morning I hit the road at 07:45, driving across Papeete clockwise around Tahiti. The LP guide described the urban are of Papeete as “grey and seedy”, and I could only agree. At a supermarket I bought drinks and snacks for the day, not knowing what to expect from the eastern side of the island. There were some waterfalls and lava areas marked as sights in the guide that I wanted to see, but I couldn’t find any roadsigns and missed them. The beaches weren’t a big deal (after Fakarava and Ouvea I’m soooo spoilt!), mangrove or black sand and rocks and at around 11:00 I had reached the road to Tahiti Nui again. I checked out both sides of it, but found nothing attractive, no beach or restaurant or hotel to stay. Highlight of the morning was the huge A-Yacht, designed by Philippe Starck, that was anchored in a bay on the southern side.
I wanted to spend my last two days in Polynesia chilling on a beach in Tahiti, but the island was a disappointment. The lagoon wasn’t up to Fakarava or Raiatea, and I found no accommodation. At lunch I stopped at a chic restaurant with a terrace on Phaeton bay. Over a tuna tartar and a risotto I fought with myself about what to do. There was a Le Meridien resort on the island, but I didn’t want to go there since I’m not a big fan of these places. But the lack of alternatives and the threat of yet another night in the airport motel narrowed my choice really down. On the way there I stopped to watch some surfers from one of these black sand beaches, and as the day came to an end reached Le Meridien. Once inside, the place looked less scary then I had feared. There were several teams of the Beach Soccer World Cup tournament in the lobby. And as I opened the door to the room I actually appreciated the little luxury a lot, I hadn’t slept in such a comfortable bed since Mumbai. The next day I chilled in the morning and went for a swim in the pool (that has a white sand covered floor) before packing my bags and heading into Papeete for some shopping. After a steak frites and a last Hinano it was time to leave for the airport, en route to Japan.