Day 57

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
1
57
92
Trip End Dec 25, 2007


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Flag of French Polynesia  ,
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My tour didn't leave until 9:15 this morning but I got up for the sunrise anyway. It was so beautiful, rising up over the mountains of Tahiti and turning everything to silhouette. It was like someone had painted the rays on, coming out of the cloud that hid the sun from every direction and spilling out over the awakening sky. The city was already awake, cars navigating the roundabout at the pier in the dozens even thought it was only 5:30. My kind of city. I just hung out on the boat all morning, getting some writing done and relaxing. When I met for my tour I learned that there might be swimming involved, so I had to go running back up to the ship to get my suit. I was pretty excited to get to use it twice in the first two days! There were four people coming from the other cruise ship in the dock, the Tahitian Princess. They were a couple from Canada and a couple from Brazil. Arturo from Mexico, Karen from Hong Kong, and Grace from... shoot. Somewhere in southeast Asia - Cambodia? Thailand? Singapore? - were the others from TSS. Our guide was an islander, barefoot and all, and spoke great English. Pretty soon we were all piled in the back of the jeep and off into the hills.

I was excited to see the interior of the island, after all there's got to be more to Tahiti than white sand and blue water. The first place we stopped was an overlook of the harbor, where our guide said the island was first discovered by Vasco de Gama. I think that's who discovered it. After Portugal I'm over the whole discoveries thing for good. I took lots of pictures of course and I think I even remembered to have someone take my picture! I'm going to really have to start doing that more often if I ever want to remember I was actually here. My scrapbook is just going to look like a coffee table book. Then we moved on to a little store - I almost called it a tienda again but that's what it was only in French - how do you say "little dingy store" in French? Anyway we killed about half an hour there buying drinks and using the toilets in the courthouse across the street and then we were off into the mountains. Oh mountains. Yay!

It was so refreshing to feel the wind in my hair that was a product of the speed of the jeep. I hadn't been in a motor vehicle with open windows this whole trip! I miss Blaze... We took the top off the jeep at the store so now the sun was beating down but it wasn't so hot because of the breeze. Just like home. Our first two stops were both for waterfalls; apparently there are over 40 on the island that the island people have named - the others don't have names because they only flow when it has rained. I wish I could remember the names, but Tahitian is so different and I can't even remember what the names sounded like let alone how to spell them. I wished I'd had a tripod to take pictures of the waterfalls. Next we drove through the valley on a rutted-out two-track road that made me even more nostalgic for my mountains and my dirt roads. It was beautiful!

We arrived at another waterfall, this one with a pool at the bottom we could swim in. I was so thankful I'd brought my suit, and even more thankful that I'd put it on before I left because there was nowhere to change. I noticed immediately that I had way fewer qualms about being in a swimsuit in the first place, which was interesting. Rocks in Tahiti are slipperier than they are in Colorado creeks (really, I'm convinced), and it took me a lot longer than it should have to get across the little creek to the pool. The guide of the other jeep, who was shirtless, barefoot, and wearing a loincloth-style swimsuit sort of like what the Emberá were wearing, went sprinting out into the water (sprinting, honestly) to help some of the ladies on his tour that were having trouble in the stream. I envied his balance and his sure-footedness. Next thing I know he's diving into the pool, swimming across, and climbing up the waterfall on the other side before I could get in the water. After that it didn't take me very long. Partly because I slipped. Luckily it was in the direction of the pool!

The pool was at least deep enough to make me and all the others swim, so it must have been six feet deep at least. I found out not too much later that it had to be much deeper than that. Just wait. We swam for a long time, just treading water and paddling back and forth across the small pool and watching some crazy tourists follow the crazier Islander guide up the waterfall and down again - the former taking longer than the latter of course. Only a couple of the tourists from the other van followed him up about 20 feet to a little landing and jumped down after him into the pool. Needless to say it must have been deeper than 6 feet. Then the guide (I really wish I knew his name but neither of the guides introduced themselves) climbed up again and went even higher, probably about 30 feet up, and jumped again. He jumped a couple of times from there before going even higher, and I think he must have been 50 feet above the water (seriously) and he paused for a long time before actually jumping and when he finally did it was like he just stepped off and turned face-down in mid-air. It was amazing; he made a perfect dive and hardly any splash and he was under water for a really long time before he came up, shaking his hair like a dog and grinning like crazy.

I just wanted to stay in that water for hours, but I didn't have sunscreen on my shoulders and some of the people who weren't swimming were getting pretty bored so we had to get out. It was a pretty drive back around the valley, which was in the caldera of the island volcano, and I was actually kind of sleepy when we got back to the port. I got back on the ship and took a shower and got lunch and headed back out again to mail my postcards and send off one last call to Mom and Dad before the 8 more days at sea. I bought a couple more postcards and wrote them all out and even managed to find stamps - thankfully they sell them almost everywhere in Tahiti - and got everything mailed. I also found the little market everyone had been talking about, and as it turned out it wasn't so little. The ground floor was mostly food and food-related things, like honey and vanilla and fruit juices and things like that. There was a second floor too and it had some little café things and row after row of souvenir shops and craft shops and what seemed like miles of sarongs and wraps and dyed cloth everythings. Like those things Grandma and Grandpa brought home from their trip to Tahiti only in every color and combination of colors and pattern and design you could possibly ask for. I spent my last few dollars on two of them, a silky one in green with flowers on it and a stiffer cloth one dyed in shades of green. I was apparently on green kick it seems.

Then I just sort of wandered around near the port, unwilling to get back on the ship before I had to, knowing that it would be 8 days before I would get off it again. It was Halloween so there was a party, but I didn't think I would go. Fortunately Liz convinced me, but since I have 8 days with nothing to talk about, I'll save that one for another entry.
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