Just about 25 miles west of Bora Bora is a magnificent island named Maupiti. It’s a small coral atoll with a volcanic island rising from the center of it. There’s approximately 1,200 people that live on the just over 4 square miles of land. They say entering the passage can be tricky as it’s very narrow and there’s lots of bommies on either side of the pass. Fortunately for us we found it to be a pretty easy passage into the atoll.
Once inside we were literally in awe of the beauty surrounding us. There is no doubt in our minds that this is the single most beautiful place we have visited in all of French Polynesia! We were looking forward to spending a week or so here before moving on toward the Cook Islands.
For the first few days we anchored down near the main village. It was close to shore and stores etc… Some fellow cruisers whom we had met at the Gendarmes office in Bora Bora happened to be staying here as well. Our first night in the anchorage they had us over for cocktails and dinner. Rob & Lauren of SV Southern Comfort are super people and we really enjoyed getting to know them.
Yes…That’s a small waterspout up there but nothing too concerning for us.
While staying in the “village” anchorage we went into town and rented bicycles to explored the island. We actually rode around the entire island. Most of the road was flat as can be but there was one section that went almost straight up a large hill. Needless to say these two old people walked our bikes up the hill. It was worth the walk in the hot sun as the views we experienced from the top were nothing short of spectacular! And, the ride down was refreshing. And one day we were sitting in the cockpit when we saw a dog swimming out into the middle of the anchorage! Apparently his family left on their boat and he wanted to go too. Dan got in the dinghy, at Jilly’s urging, to try and get the dog but the dog wasn’t having any part of it. He growled at Dan so Dan stayed with him until he reached the shore. That dog swam about a half a mile from the shore to the sandbar where his family was playing on the beach. Guessing this wasn’t the first time he did this!
After a couple of days we headed out to the south anchorage which was like being in heaven. The water is so clear and you are near the edge of the reef so you get these stunning sunsets and views of the waves crashing over the reef into the atoll. We saw a huge manta ray swimming in the shallows.
We took the dink and went exploring one day. Another day we went out to one of the beaches where Dan flew the kite one of his daughters bought him as a birthday gift a few years ago. And of course Jilly took the opportunity to enjoy a little float time on the Royal Swan in the crystal clear waters too.
We spent almost a week here before we planned to leave for Suwarrow in the Cook Islands. On the morning of our departure Dan started the water maker for a bit. Soon he realized we had a leak in the pressurized end cap. Water was literally spraying everywhere. Well now, this is not going to be fun.
He got on the satellite phone and called a few places trying to figure out a temporary fix. Of course we had no internet here so we couldn’t do our normal research. We did call on Jilly’s brother, Brad, to see what he could find on the internet. After our first fix was a complete failure, between Dan & Brad they were able to come up with a solution that worked. Of course this delayed us several days which meant we needed to re-provision before taking off to the Cook Islands. Oh, and we needed internet so we could order the parts we needed and get them on the way to American Samoa. So, we headed back to Bora Bora where we got provisions and ordered our parts.
Within a few days of our arrival back in Bora Bora, the proper weather window opened and we set sail on the six day passage to Suwarrow in the Cook Islands.
My watch is nearing it’s end. It’s almost 0400 and off in the distance I can see the pale grey lights of Papeete, Tahiti illuminating the dark purple sky. I hear Dan start to stir in the cabin so I head below to make coffee for us. I won’t be going back to sleep now. We’ve only got a couple more hours until we arrive and I always enjoy watching the sun come up as we enter a harbor.
We reach the western tip of the island and finally the large rollers start to settle down a bit. The sun is coming up over the mountainous island and we’re both ready to get into port. We are going to stay at the Tahiti Yacht Club. We will be moored out but it will be nice to have a place with hot showers and laundry facilities.
There’s a reef that surrounds the island so I head to the bow pulpit to stand watch. We talk back and forth on our headsets as we watch the island grow larger. We are about a quarter mile out when we begin to hear the noises of the city. It’s immediately obvious we are going to be experiencing a bit of culture shock. The sound alone is much louder than we’re used to these days. After all, the places we’ve been over the past few months have had sometimes as few and 50 or 60 residents and Papeete alone has over 137 thousand. Yes, this will take some getting used to for us.
We arrive at a mooring ball and once we are all tied off it’s time for our anchor down beers. There won’t be much time to settle in, however, as we’ve a long list of parts and supplies we hope to acquire here. This is the first place we’ve seen since México that has a large offering of provisions and boat supplies.
We waste no time in getting to shore. One thing we’ve been warned about is theft here in Papeete so for the first time since I’ve been on board Dazzler we actually take a cable and lock to secure Sparkle to the dinghy dock.
On shore we spend a few minutes trying to find out who we pay for the mooring. No one speaks very good English and as I’ve said before, our French leaves a lot to be desired. After about fifteen minutes we find the man in charge. He tells us not to worry about paying since we’ll only be there a night or two. He provides us with keys to the shower and is nice enough to phone a taxi for us to get to downtown.
The taxi driver is much like those in México and the rest of the world. He’s hurried and changing lanes frequently. There’s tons of traffic and noise and chaos everywhere. I can feel myself becoming overwhelmed by it all. I sense Dan is feeling the same.
The first stop is to drop off our propane tank. We ran out of propane while I was making coffee this morning. The driver drops us at a gas station but it’s not what we’ve read in the compendiums so we are feeling ill at ease. The guy inside assures Dan everything is fine and so we leave our tank hoping we will see it again in a few days. The good news for me is I can’t cook so we’ll have to try some of the restaurants here until it comes back.
Now it’s time to head into the commercial district to locate marine supply stores and such. As we walk the streets I’m feeling more uncomfortable by the moment. It’s very loud and crowded and nothing at all like the peaceful places we’ve enjoyed along our journey. It’s also very dirty. There’s trash everywhere with large piles of it on almost every street corner. Some is in bags but much isn’t so it’s left to the whim of the wind. México is not the cleanest country but I’m feeling like Papeete is the worst we’ve seen.
We walk from part store to part store and are not having much luck. It’s frustrating. We’re hot and both of us are exhausted. We did manage to find a couple of items but not nearly as much as we hoped. Finally we leave one store and decide it’s time to head back to the waterfront to get a bite to eat before going back to the boat to crash.
We have a tourist map that we picked up so we leave the last store and see what appears to be a shortcut back to the waterfront. As we start walking down this street it becomes immediately apparent we have taken a bad turn. All of the sudden we see lots of less than savory characters milling about. One look down beside a building and I see tents and mothers with babies sitting on the ground. It’s pure squaller. Everyone is looking at the two of us knowing we certainly don’t belong here. On the walls there are signs of gang activity in the form of tagging. I’ve got my cell phone in my hand so I ever so slightly slide it into my backpack which I hold onto tightly with both hands. Dan’s head is on a swivel. He’s watching everyone and everything and sticking very close to me. It is the longest five minute walk of my life. As we reach the end of the road we head right toward the water. We walk about a hundred or so yards and then stop so Dan can look at the map. He’s got his back to a wall and I’m standing guard. Then from the street we had just walked down, a young man in his twenties comes out as if he’s looking for us. When he sees me staring straight at him he quickly turns back and leaves. Phew! I’m ready to get the hell out of Dodge and soon!!!
We make our way back to the waterfront and stop at a little bar called the Bora Bora Lounge. It’s all open air and they have fans with misters to keep us cool. We sit down and order a picture of beer and some lunch. We both discuss the fact that we do not want to stay in this place any longer than necessary. It’s obvious there is a lot of crime here. Yes, it looks beautiful from the water and even the first couple of blocks off the water are nice and fairly clean but if you get more than three blocks from there it’s dangerous territory. Dan even tells me I’m not allowed to wear my jewelry to town again. I never wear much but he’s afraid any of it will attract the criminal element.
The good news is we fell in love with the BBL. Isabella who is currently the manager but is working to buy the place is a complete sweetheart. And the food there is off the charts good. Oh yes, super fast free wifi as well. That’s something after months of sluggish connections. During our stay here we visit there almost daily for lunch or happy hour.
After one night we decide to move the boat to the Downtown Papeete Marina. A taxi ride from the TYC was 30 PFC one way to downtown. As much as we don’t want to deal with the noise, we do like the idea of being walking distance to stores and such. Also, many other cruisers that we know from México are there so it will be nice to catch up.
We end up spending about twelve days in Papeete. Unfortunately it took us that long to get the supplies we need and make a few repairs to Dazzler and we did have some great things go on. For me, I got the best haircut I’ve ever had there. The second is that my amazing man bought me a beautiful black pearl necklace. He saw it in the store and told the lady to put it on me. Once it was on he said it was perfect and I needed to have it! I love this man!
So, what are the good things about Papeete? Well, in addition to the BBL and Isabella, we did find a few other redeeming qualities. Obviously provisioning was good. We finally were able to find real iceberg lettuce so we got to have some really good salads. They have great meats and lots of amazing cheeses to choose from. Liquor was a little less expensive than in the Marquesas and Tuomotos but I’m still drinking rum because I refuse to pay $60 USD for a small bottle of vodka. In one store we saw the small bottle of Grey Goose for…wait for it… $92 USD!
It was nice to have a variety of different, quality restaurants to choose from as well. And, being near our dear friends, Ed & Linda was awesome too! We spent quite a bit of time together and shared many a meal while we were there. One night we had them over to Dazzler for some of Dan’s famous Arracharra Tacos and Ed even treated several of us to a delicious meal of Orange Beef! Oh yeah!
There’s a wonderful fresh fish and vegetable market called the Marché de Papeete. It’s a huge, two story building where you can find the freshest fish and veggies at really good prices. You can pick up other touristy things as well like t-shirts, hats, bags, jewelry etc… It’s open Monday to Saturday and turned out to be a great spot for us. We had fresh tuna several times while we were here. It was $5 USD/kilo. Can’t beat that!
In the evenings starting around 1800 at the Place Vai’ete along the waterfront the roulottes start to open up. These are food trucks and they set up tables and chairs and serve everything from Chinese to hamburgers, to ice cream to steak and frites (fries). We tried them three times. My first experience wasn’t all that great. I ordered fried shrimp. They batter them, then deep fry them with the heads & shells on. By the time you get the heads and shells off the coating is gone. And, they were so hot I literally scorched the tips of my fingers. But, I didn’t let this keep me from trying again. That’s when I found the beef satay and OMG was it awesome! I was immediately hooked. In fact, we’d have come back several more times but we only got one more chance before we left.
If you’re coming by boat I’d recommend staying that the downtown marina. The location is perfect because you can walk to just about everything. And the shower facilities were nice and water was hot, unlike at the TYC which not only had no hot water but the water and lights are on a timer. There’s nothing like the lights going off while you’re in the shower. No, not a good thing.
As far as we’re concerned, Tahiti is not paradise! There’s too much chaos, noise and crime. I actually did some reading on the crime there and it’s pretty bad. One elderly man was recently robbed and beaten with a rock near the ferry terminal. Some good samaritans stopped and ran the bad guys off. They called the police and an ambulance. The ambulance came but the police never did. And that’s not a one time thing. Basically they say the local police do virtually nothing. There is definitely a drug problem and no doubt there are gangs. Ask a local business owner and they will say there is little crime but anyone with eyes can see that’s not true. They just don’t want to run off the tourists. No, Tahiti didn’t do much for us. In fact we said we’d only stop back there if we were on a path that led us nearby and we needed to provision and even then we would do it much more expeditiously and move on.
One final note that I feel must be included to be fair is that we only stayed in Papeete. We did not move around the island to the less congested areas where there are more resorts etc… It may be a lot different there but we’re guessing there is still going to be significant crime as the criminals prey on tourists. There’s no doubt that Tahiti is putting on a show for the tourists and they depend upon them. It was honestly a bit disappointing for us as we’ve both always dreamed of going to Tahiti. You know the image…palm trees swaying as they lean out over a white sand beach that is being kissed by gin colored waters??? Unfortunately that was not our experience but we know there are many more beautiful and amazing places in our future and we’re glad we did visit even if it didn’t live up to our expectations.
Yesterday was one of those absolutely perfect days. You know, the kind of day you never want to end? We woke up in the morning and did our normal coffee & computer thing. Then it was time for a few chores. Dan cleaned the dodger and putthe dink in the water while I stayed below doing some cleaning and writing. Around noon we decided it was time to get off the boat for a bit. We pulled out our snorkel gear, threw a few beers in a bag and hopped in the dink. Ed & Linda were in their dink too and we all headed to shore.
The water here in the south end of Apataki is just beautiful. We could see lots of colorful fish swimming around the bommies we dodged on the way to shore. We beached the dinks, put out some chairs, popped open our beers and sat there for hours just chatting and laughing. We were the only four people in the anchorage! As we sat there on our very own private beach we saw a couple of small black tip sharks swim within a few feet of us. It’s awesome to sit there and be able to see so clearly in the water. We snorkeled and played in the water and had an absolute ball.
At one point Ed started trying to goad Dan into climbing one of the many coconut palms to get us a fresh coconut. Fortunately Dan didn’t take the bait. He did, however, go back to the boat and get his machete. Back on the beach he starts looking for some low hanging fruit. He ends up harvesting a couple of these magnificent gems. He cut one open and we sat on the beach eating fresh coconut while enjoying our beer and great company. It was absolutely fabulous.
As we sat there beside the gin colored water on the white, coral sand beach beneath the swaying coconut palms, the sun and the deep blue sky we all agreed that this is exactly what we dreamed of when we dreamed of sailing French Polynesia. I mean really, how much better can it get? We have our private beach, clear water, beer and amazing friends. Yes, it is truly perfect!
The sun begins to get low in the sky and we have run out of beer and wine so we load up our dinks and head back to our floating homes. We shower and rinse down all the gear and I go below and make spaghetti. We are making the overnight passage to Rangiroa tomorrow and leftover spaghetti makes a perfect passage meal. After dinner we curl up together around the table and watch a movie. Oh yeah, it was a wonderful day!!!
This morning I wake up feeling a bit odd…yes more odd than normal. My bottom lip feels numb and swollen and I reach around to scratch by back and I feel lumps. Not wanting to panic I slowly climb out of the bunk and slide into the head. I barely make eye contact with Dan who is sitting around the table having coffee. I look in the mirror and see my bottom lip is swollen on the right side. I lift my shirt to look at my back and find huge welts all over my back and my bum. I turn around and see long, 5-6” welts across my stomach and groin area. My entire torso is covered with them. Okay, now I’m panicking!
I step out of the head, “Honey, there is something very wrong with me.” I say in a high, trembling voice. Dan immediately sits up and asks what’s wrong. “I’ve got welts all over and my lip is swollen.” I reply. I lift my shirt to show him. Ever the calm in the midst of the storm, he looks me over and tells me to take two Benadryl immediately. He never raises his voice or shows any sign of panic. Thank God because I’m doing enough of that for both of us. You see, I have anaphylactic allergies that have been known to close my airway. They are not fun and while I have Epi pens and Benadryl on board, the last thing I want to deal with when we’re 100+ miles from a hospital is an anaphylactic reaction.
I take the Benadryl and Dan re-inspects my body looking for signs of a bite or a cut. He finds nothing. Now he starts drilling me with questions. “Did you touch any live coral? Did you get stung by a jellyfish? What did you eat?” You know, all the things a doctor would ask. “No, No” and “Spaghetti, Coconut and some cheese.” I reply.
Dan tells me to sit down and stay calm. Sure, easy for him to say. He’s not feeling the need to scratch his body till it bleeds while wondering at what moment he’s going to be jabbed with a three inch needle in the thigh as he gasps for air. And then there’s the thought of what happens if the two Epi pens we have on board aren’t enough? Oh yeah, that’s right. He has that airway thing he will cram down my throat after I go unconscious. Sure, stay calm. Yeah that’s not going to happen.
I’m doing my best to follow Captain’s orders but I can’t stop scratching and I’m getting a little teary eyed at the thought of what could possibly be in my future. Dan tries to act like everything is fine but I see the look of concern in his eyes as he “nonchalantly” looks over at me every minute or so. That alone raises my panic level.
Fortunately after about twenty minutes I start to feel the effects of the Benadryl and I’m becoming quite loopy. Thank God the water is still and the boat isn’t rolling or I’d be like a pinball bouncing off of everything. Dan takes another gander at my body and decides the meds are working even though I’m certain my lip is getting fatter by the second. He suggests that I lay down for a bit and take a nap since I’m head bobbing at the table. With no energy to argue I go back to the bunk and within seconds I’m out like a light.
A couple of hours later Dan wakes me up to see how I’m doing. I’m groggy but he insists I get up so, you know, Captain’s orders. Once out of bed he checks me again. Almost all of the welts are gone and my lip is almost back to normal. Thank you Lord! I’m going to live!
We decide based on my still dopey condition that leaving for Rangiroa must wait another day. Not sure I’d be ready for night watch later. So, we let Ed & Linda know and we all agree to wait for tomorrow. Darn, we’ll have to spend another day in this amazingly beautiful spot.
By 1300 I’m feeling good enough to get out so we take a dinghy ride along the beach checking out the beautiful shore. The view and the fresh air wake me up and make me feel somewhat normal again. We stop back at SV One Fine Day for a couple sundowners before heading back to Dazzler where my sweet man makes me dinner. Yep! He’s a keeper!
I think we watched a movie tonight but I was so wiped out by the day I slept through most of it. Here’s hoping tomorrow and our trip to Rangiroa are less eventful than today. As Dan says though, “Even in paradise it can’t always be perfect.” so it’s anybody’s guess.