I might have been a little harsh with my initial judgment of Tahiti, or perhaps I was so overwhelmed with the super markets and so disgusted with the traffic that I was blind sighted. Now that I can get past the Carrefour, I have been able to explore a bit more of the island. Not only that, but now that I have surfed a reef pass I am not quite so hesitant about taking the dinghy out to a pass, anchoring, and surfing a super shallow reef break (if it's small).
My first impression of Tahiti was that it is overrun with tourists and most locals are just here to work; there is not a strong sense of culture or community. However, I have since experienced another side of Tahiti - the side that I was hoping to find all along. Of course, it always takes putting myself out there, and in all honesty it is easier (and less scary) to sit on the boat and hang out with other cruisers all the time, but A. that is boring, and B. it totally defeats the purpose of being in a foreign country.
Our first night back in Papeete I met a really cool, young Dutch couple who invited me to go to a Fete de Musique - an outdoor concert - with the headliners being "Polynesian rock bands". I was intrigued (and it was free). We hitch hiked up to the park and listened to the opening bands which were... well, the concert got better as the night progressed. And this was not because we were drinking, in fact there was no beer to be had. We asked around why there was no beer available (blasphemy!) and a lady told us that if they sold alcohol, the night would end in fighting.
The stand out band was called Toa Ura - a 10+ person band with 4 big burly men singers, a ukulele, electric guitar, percussions, drum set, bass, and traditional dancers. Really interesting music with high energy with Polynesian roots mixed with modern rock. The crowd was predominantly families, with every age from infant to ancient dancing and singing along. I was glad to experience a community event in Tahiti.
The next day Mom, Cinda and I went to the Cost and Co., not to be confused with Costco, although it carried Kirkland Signature goods. We replenished our stocks of pasta, tomato sauce, biscotti and other staples we can't live without. Also, the big score of the month: we got 2 Costco sized bottles of Cholula hot sauce! We ran out a week ago and I was seriously considering flying back to Mexico to get more. No need, now.
After our most successful trip to Cost and Co., we went back to the boat. We had not quite finished lunch when we heard deep, traditional drums start to thump. The natives were restless. Actually it was some sort of community celebration at the apartment complex a few hundred meters from the boat. I got in my kayak to get a closer look (along with most of the other people in the Tahiti Yacht Club anchorage) and we were all invited to join in the celebration. The men dancers were fierce, with thick bands of tattoos around there huge thighs, rippling stomachs, and tiny loincloths. The women were graceful and beautiful, and all of the dancers looked like they came right out of Polynesian history.
Having local knowledge is great, especially when it comes from the locals themselves. Last night a few of the boats here organized a pot luck up at the Yacht Club. There was a table of very friendly local guys who invited us to join them. After talking and drinking Hinanos for a few hours with them, through our broken attempts at the opposite language, I indicated that I very much wanted go surf with them in the morning. We made a date to meet up at 7:30 the next morning, although they were all totally wasted and I was unconvinced that they would actually show up.
Regardless, at 7:30 this morning I was up at the Yacht Club and, lo and behold, they were there! Joseph and Nepo told me they took the day off work to take me surfing. What gentlemen! And with such good priorities! The three of us squeezed into Joseph's little truck and took off through Tahiti, eating baguettes and enjoying the local foliage. We stopped at their friend's va'a (outrigger canoe) workshop to say "io rana" and then headed out to a beach break on the west side of the island, called Papara.
We pulled up to the rivermouth beach break and were greeted with 6-8 foot peeling, barreling lefts. The guys hopped out of the car and took off for the waves, but I was a bit hesitant. It was pretty crowded with very good surfers, catching pretty big waves. However, I managed to psych myself up and paddle out. I watched guys drop into nice barrels and do huge shwacks for about an hour before I caught a wave myself. When I did I felt very accomplished for about a minute, before I felt the need for another, bigger, better, longer, faster wave. So it goes.
It was a very cool experience. I love hanging out with the locals, going the places they like to go, and doing the things they like to do (like surf). However, it can be intimidating. After knowing these guys for an hour or two they were agreeing to ditch work to spend the day with me. It took a lot more energy to communicate with them, and a lot of trust (on both sides) to make it happen. But it was so worth it. That is really, in my opinion, what traveling is all about.
At 6/22/2011 6:13 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 17°31.38'S 149°32.20'W
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