I’ve mapped out a circle tour of the island and, after a quick lesson from the front desk manager on where to find the release that will allow us to shift into reverse (it’s the ring just under the knob at the top of the shift lever), we are off to explore the island.
The first stop on my itinerary is an overlook near the top of One Tree Hill that offers “one of Tahiti’s most magnificent vistas.”
The guidebook tells me the pull-out is actually the entrance to a now-closed luxury hotel. That sounds as if it could be tricky to locate (especially given last night’s experience), but I spot the hotel long before we begin we begin our ascent of the hill. I point it out to Lane who (rather nonchalantly) agrees that the view should be fabulous since it was fabulous when he stayed in that hotel when he was here 20 some years ago. Ahh. I see.
The hotel appears to be undergoing a restoration, but, unfortunately, the same is true of the road. Actually, the road appears to have been not just rebuilt, but completely relocated. If there is still access to the hotel somewhere, we can’t find it.
We cross that one off the list.
We weren’t going to stop at Point Venus, but it’s probably our last chance or a good view of Moorea and the turn-off is well-marked. So, soon enough we are standing at Tahiti’s northernmost point enjoying beautiful views over the island itself and off to Moorea in the distance.
There is a small lighthouse here, along with an art center (closed at the moment) and a monument to Captain James Cook.
However, most people come here not to tour the lighthouse or become absorbed in art or think about Captain Cook; but to picnic and fish and play on the beach. This is a community gathering place much more than a tourist stop.
My favorite thing here: The out-rigger canoes carefully stored along the shore.
The road to the falls takes us through what seems to be typical scenes of life in rural Tahiti. Below the mountains the valley contains scattered homes, a few small fields, and plenty of children.
The nearest waterfall here is reached via a short walk along the densely wooded valley.
It is a beautiful place that becomes serene and peaceful as soon as the obnoxious family that arrived just as we did moves out of earshot. At that point I can only wonder at the good fortune that allows us to have this place all to ourselves for awhile.
Back on the road, we continue through Tahiti’s lush countryside on our way to the Tahiti Iti peninsula.
We are looking for the road “by the school and stadium” that is supposed to take us to the Taravao Plateau overlook.
We can’t find it. Instead we head down the road that runs along Tahiti Iti’s south coast.
It is a world of lush beauty, small settlements, white sand beaches, and unbelievably blue water.
It is very lovely.
The road ends at a parking lot by the beach in the tiny surfing village of Teahupoo.
I’d love to keep exploring here, but it really is time to start back toward Papeete along the island’s south coast. It’s getting to be mid-afternoon and I’m getting hungry – maybe we can even find some something for lunch along the way. . .
Lunch proves a bit elusive, but we finally end up Restaurant du Musee Gauguin, which – despite its name – is NOT located at the Gauguin museum. Similarly, despite its popularity with the tour bus crowd, it turns out to be a lovely spot with great food and service.
And I do mean a lovely spot. I can barely sit still long enough to order lunch. The lagoon beckoning beyond the floor to ceiling windows is just so enticing.
And so is my lunch.
Luckily it isn’t until after I’ve eaten my delicious plate of seafood that I take a closer look at the fish ponds in the lagoon directly in front of the restaurant.
They are filled with the most beautiful fish I have ever seen.
I return to the table raving about the beautiful fish and wondering what they are.
Lane looks at me in disbelief. They are yellowfin tuna, he tells me, reminding me that I have seen tuna before and know what they look like.
I am sure they are NOT tuna. They can’t be. If they were, I might have to give up sushi.
I don’t think I could eat anything that beautiful.
Back on the road we drive through more lush scenery, stopping to take pictures a historic church, but too soon we are back in the sprawling urban mess of sterile suburbs, non-descript shopping malls, and luxury hotels that spill down along the coast from Papeete.