Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hawaii / Tahiti 30 Day Cruise - Day 22 Papeete, Tahiti

Saturday Day 22 – Papeete, Tahiti

This morning was a little more relaxed than some recent days because we were docked at a pier so we didn’t have to catch a tender, plus we had nothing planned except to walk around Papeete, the capitol city of Tahiti.  Tahiti is the largest of the 118 French Polynesian islands and atolls and actually consists of two islands, Tahiti-Nui (big Tahiti) and Tahiti-Iti (little Tahiti).  Tahiti, like Moorea, has a very mountainous interior, and like all the other French Polynesian islands it is very lush and green.  Tahiti has the largest population in French Polynesia, and Papeete is its largest city with a population of around 130,000.  As you can see by the pictures, Papeete has a relatively large harbor with piers and moorings for cruise ships, freighters, fishing boats and yachts.  There was a very large, interesting looking yacht docked next to us named the Dragonfly so I looked it up on the web and it turned out to be the fastest long distance motorized yacht in the world and has a cruising range of 4500 miles.  Click here for information and some pictures that show just how luxurious this yacht is.

Papeete Harbor.
The ferry leaves for Moorea.
The area where all the roulettes were last night, not so busy now.
The Dragonfly
Papeete with the lush green hills in the background.

After a quick breakfast, we were off the ship by 9:00 AM and ready to see the City.  After many days of quiet, small villages, Papeete made us feel like we were back in the big city.  Lots of traffic, crowds of people and much activity.  The ship dock is in the heart of downtown Papeete and you walk right off the dock to the intersection of Boulevard Poulmare and Rue Paul Gauguin.  We walked across the street to the Papeete Marketplace which is quite an amazing place.  It is a huge, two story open air building full of tables and shops of people selling fruits, vegetables, fish, clothing, pearls, crafts and just about anything else you can imagine.  This being Saturday, the Marketplace was full of people and activity, and it was all very colorful and interesting.

The Papeete Marketplace.

Colorful flowers everywhere.
It looks like you could find anything here.

A lady with a pretty smile making leis andflower wreaths to wear in your hair.

After wandering around the market for a while we started walking west down Boulevard Poulmare following a walking tour guide we had.  There was a lot of auto and foot traffic, but instead of being uncomfortable it added a feeling of vibrancy and excitement to the city.  One thing I have to say, the Tahitian drivers are extremely polite.  If you even look like you are stepping into the street to cross the cars stop immediately to wait for you.  We walked on down the street with the harbor on one side and shops on the other, popping into shops if they looked interesting.  We walked by several nice parks and then stopped to sit on a bench in the shade and watched the harbor activity.  The beach next to the park was dedicated to the activity of outrigger canoe racing which was interesting to watch.  We read that outrigger canoe racing is French Polynesia’s national sport.  It certainly looked that way from all the sleek and streamline canoes we saw here in Tahiti, as well as all the other islands we have visited.

The shops were broken up by small parks as you walked along the boulevard.
A beautiful day in Papeete.
Some outriggers get ready for practice.
After enjoying the shade and breeze for a while we walked back to the ship along the Quay.  As we neared the ship we saw an interesting looking boat docked along the pier with Polynesian symbols on it. It reminded us of photos of the old, large ocean-going canoes the Polynesians used to go on long sea voyages.   As we stopped to look at it someone from the boat came ashore and we asked him about the boat.  He was part of the boat’s crew and he told us the boat was a replica of the old Tahitian seagoing sail boats of pre-colonial times.  He was very interesting and we talked for quite a while.  Val had just finished reading a book about the Polynesian navigator (named Tupaia) that Captain Cook took aboard the Endeavor when he was exploring the South Pacific in the 1700’s.  We asked the fellow about Tupaia and he said, “Oh, he is a very special person to us.”  It turned out to be a very interesting conversation.  We continued walking back toward the ship, walking down some of the other streets in the area before we finally decided to head back to the ship.  There was another interesting ship docked near the Westerdam which looked like some sort of large, masted sailing ship.  It turns out they were doing some sort of ocean depth research and were in port waiting for a National Geographic filming team to show up and join them.  After checking out the dockside vendors, we got back on the ship and took some welcome showers.

The Westerdam.
The Polynesian sailing boat replica.
The scientific expedition ship waits for the National Geographic film crew to arrive.
Polynesian singers and dancers at the end of the cruise dock.

Time for us to go aboard.
After lunch we relaxed for a bit and then Val was off to her team trivia and I decided to take some time to catch up on the blog.  With all the ports these past few days I have fallen far behind.  When Val returned from team trivia (her team won today!) it was departure time so we went up on deck to watch us leave the Papeete harbor.  I have to say, I didn’t expect much from Papeete, but even though we were there for only a short time we really enjoyed our day in the City.  There was traffic and crowds, but it didn’t cause any problems, and everyone just seemed to be enjoying themselves and enjoying the weekend.

Departure time, we sail out of the harbor with the pilot boat shadowing us.  Once we clear the harbor the pilot boat comes along side to pick up the harbor pilot.
We are out of the harbor and on our way to Nuku Hiva.
Tonight Val and I had reservations for a special dinner called “An Evening at La Cirque” at the Pinnacle Grill, the high-end restaurant on the ship.  La Cirque is a famous restaurant in New York and this dinner offered selections from the menu of that restaurant.  Chefs from La Cirque had trained Holland America chefs on how to prepare the menu and it is now available on special nights on various Holland America ships.  The meal lived up to its reputation and was excellent.  We have been getting excellent dinners in the main dining room, but this was a cut above that.

After dinner it was off to the casino where Val had an exceptionally good evening while I continued to be in the gambling doldrums.  Tomorrow is a sea day so we can sleep in and take it easy.

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