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Tahiti: An accepting Heaven on earth

Thu 28 Oct 2004 In: True Stories

If you're visiting French Polynesia from New Zealand chances are you will pass through Tahiti, not really a country as such, but just the largest island and home to Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia. Papeete itself should not be the focus of your trip. Although there is enough to do for a few days, with an amazing market and food fit for a queen around every corner. The city itself has a hustle and bustle that may come as a shock considering we think of Polynesian as being so quiet and laid back. There are motorways, mirror glass, super markets and even a tunnel like the one princess Di was last seen going into. A far cry from Apia or Nuku'alofa. If you're out on the town at night and looking for somewhere a little more gay than the usual bars, which actually seemed quite gay already, head for the Piano Bar, where there is an even higher number of Rae rae (Fa'afafine) per square metre than other bars in town. Both gay tourists and locals alike tend to congregate here to sip on banana daiquiris and pina coladas. Tahiti itself can make for more than just a pleasant stop over and the hotel resorts like the Sheraton, Le Meridian and The Beachcomber Intercontinental all have enough to keep you busy for days. Food at the hotels can be a little on the pricey side and you may want to check out Les Roulottes, several rows of trucks lined up on the water front dishing out mouth watering delicacies at a reasonable price. A tasty meal can be had for as little as ten New Zealand Dollars and the atmosphere is busy with plenty to look at. TURQUOISE OCEAN AND WHITE SANDY BEACHES The real Polynesia however lies in the distance across the water. Moorea, Bora Bora and beyond hold the true meaning of paradise. Moorea is just a stone's throw away and can be reached by many ferry services or an easy ten minute flight on Air Moorea. The island has some of the most majestic scenery I have ever seen. Its basically a huge mountain range crashing up out of turquoise ocean and hemmed by white sandy beaches and then again by a coral reef dotted with islands. Most of the human development is scattered around the coastline leaving inland areas covered densely with jungle broken up by huge cliffs jutting up towards the clouds. Upon arrival on Moorea you'll immediately feel more relaxed. It's a bit like arriving at Akaroa from Christchurch or on Waiheke from Auckland, only twenty degrees hotter. All the major hotels on Tahiti have sister versions on Moorea. Only on Moorea they are more like true resorts offering over-water bungalows, white sandy beaches and water sports for Africa! I stayed at the Beachcomber Intercontinental which seemed roughly the size of Waiheke and even had Dolphins and other marine exotica in its enclosed lagoon. As soon as the handsome porter had delivered my bags I was off to the nearby Tiki Village. On our way there we passed two handsome boys, (tourists) walking along the road hand in hand. No one seemed to bat an eye at such a sight. C'est la vie. THE VISA CARD VILLAGE Tiki Village itself is the Tahitian equivalent of Whakarewarewa. A supposed replica of a traditional Tahitian village where you can get a crash course in Tahitian culture, see the unearthing of an umu oven, feast on the contents, sit back and watch a cultural show. Although there is the feeling of it being a bit of a tourist trap, (this traditional village took Visa), the show was spellbinding and the dancers did seem to be enjoying it. Tahitian music and Dance is one of the highlights on any trip here and at least one show weather it be at a hotel or elsewhere is compulsory. Don't be surprised if you find yourself wiggling your hips a bit when you think no one is looking. The next stop on any itinerary should be Bora Bora. As it's a bit further away chances are you will need to fly. Thankfully Air Tahiti flies between all major Island group. This also means landing at Bora Bora Airport which is basically a part of the reef with a runway on it! All passengers are then ferried ashore where they travel on to their respective destinations. I, however, was lucky enough to be met by crew members of Bora Bora Cruises. I was then whisked out to the Tu Moana waiting in the lagoon. One of two luxury ships run by Bora Bora Cruises that cruise the lagoons of several islands. The ships are beautifully designed and decorated and the service is five star to say the least. The ships only have around 35 passenger cabins so its easy to feel like you're a movie star on your own private superyacht. Each cabin is more like a hotel room with flat screen TV's, DVD players and toiletries to die for. Unfortunately I was only on board for three nights of the usual seven. Seven weeks would have been just fine with me. Everyday there were different excursions on offer and plenty of opportunity to lounge around on powder white beaches and paddle in water so clear you can almost see for ever in it. Bora Bora really is how we imagine a pacific paradise to be, looking even bluer than the postcards. But all good things must come to an end and before I knew it I was whisked of to the Island of Huahine for a private tour of the island where my local guide informed me of many of the beautiful legends that are connected to almost every natural feature. It's easy to see the common threads that connect New Zealand and Polynesia. Many of the words and legends have similarities and I didn't feel as foreign as I thought I might. From Huahine I headed back to Tahiti for a final day of last minute shopping at the market, stocking up on amazing scented coconut oils and handy crafts for friends and rellies back home. Before I could finish my Baguette my shuttle was waiting to take me to Fa'aa Airport where my Air Tahiti Nui flight was waiting to take me to sub-arctic Auckland. Well that's what it felt like after the Tahitian sun, surf and sand. CHRISTIANITY AND HOMOSEXUALITY Worth noting is that French Polynesia is highly Christian yet no one seems to care if you're gay. The foundations of society have not come crashing down... in fact the family unit seems stronger there than here. Everyone has a place in the family and everyone is valued regardless of gender or orientation. Maybe Mr Tamaki should sell off a few of his gold chains and shout himself a trip to Tahiti, it will top up that year round tan and may just show him what Heaven on Earth is really like. Steven was a guest of Tahiti Tourisme and flew Air Tahiti Nui.     Steven Oates - 28th October 2004

Credit: Steven Oates

First published: Thursday, 28th October 2004 - 12:00pm

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