I have Photos!
I arrived in Auckland this morning, had a good flight and everything, with a stop in Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands. I didn’t have a real solid idea of what I wanted to do in New Zealand (and still don’t), and didn’t feel that my 5 days here warrants a guidebook purchase (am also regretting only planning 5 days here. Don’t really know what I was thinking), so I was either going to play it by ear, and either take a ferry to Waiheke Island in the Bay of Islands near Auckland to stay at a hostel there, or take a bus south to Rotorua to see the thermals/geysers/hot springs. Well, my decision ended up being made for me, unfortunately enough. My backpack never arrived in Auckland. It would certainly be nice to have, but I was prepared, having all my valuables on me. I don’t have a change of clothes or a towel, however. Anyway, I made a claim with Air New Zealand at the airport, (which is very nice, by the way, as is all of New Zealand I have seen so far) and they gave me a number to call when I knew where I was staying. The fact that my backpack might arrive today made me decide to stay in Auckland tonight. So, I picked the most auspicious, flashily advertised, probably largest hostel in town, Auckland Central Backpackers. It’s like a giant dorm, and they’re always arranging activities, etc. You’d think you’d meet lots of people at a place like this, but you really don’t, since everyone either has their own group, or assumes that you do. Anyway, I booked a day tour of the Bay of Islands with another night at a hostel in Paihia, which is somewhere, I don’t know, but I guess it’s supposed to be nice. I got a room here for tonight, a drink at the bar, 1 hour of internet, the bus tour of the Bay of Islands, continental breakfast (wow), a free transfer to the airport when I leave and some other goofy things for $150 NZD, about $100 USD. I feel maybe as if things went a little hastily in my decision making process; after all it’s only 2:00 PM, but I have lost a day (left on Monday morning, arrived on Tuesday afternoon. Thank you, International Date Line) so maybe I had better catch up? And now I leave out of Auckland for Australia this weekend. I can’t believe I only planned 5 days here. It didn’t take me long at all to realize I could easily spend 6 months exploring this country. It’s cheap too. Oh well. In the Future. Anyway, being here, I do like the accents, and the left-side-of-the-road driving.
I read a USA Today on the plane this morning. Strange reading about the US from the outside. I also got to watch Spin City and Frasier on the Plane. Yippee. In the airport in Rarotonga, a shop was playing that song about the “convoy” with the man in the deep voice; “…In a Kenworth, pullin’ logs,” etc. Reminded me of Monte.
I’m definitely still experiencing a bit of the “I’m not really here, am I?” phenomenon. I sometimes wonder as well if the flexibility of being alone is worth the disadvantages of sustained companionship that it at times lacks in. I am not confident at all about making friends in this place. It feels like a school cafeteria where you have to walk up to someone and formally introduce yourself, ask “Hello, would you like to be my friend?” But, I have plenty to do this afternoon. I don’t need other travellers slowing me down. I am going to try very hard to find an internet cafe that will let me download my Tahiti photos and upload them to the internet for you all to see. There were quite a few on Queen St. that I saw on the way here from the airport. Trendy place, this.
Waiting for the plane to reboard in Rarotonga, I met two Americans, one sort of daft exercisey-type lady, and a guy who lives in Australia, was raised in Japan, speaks fluent Japanese, minored in Linguistics for his undergrad degree, and has his PhD. in “Yield Management” and can’t be a day over 30. He flys for free on all of the Star Alliance airlines (Air NZ, United, Air Canada, Lufthansa, etc.) because he works in their “Yield Management” program, which from all I understood is basically something having to do with selling plane tickets. He lives on the Gold Coast in Australia, near Brisbane, and highly recommended it. Apparently, you can get a flight from Sydney to Brisbane or some other place near for $30 AUD, which is maybe $25 USD. Maybe? Who knows. I will definitely pick up an Australian Lonely Planet before I leave New Zealand, though, I think. 2.5 weeks justifies it, I think.
There is lots that I did not have time to write about Tahiti while I was there, since internet access was nearly 10 dollars an hour.
Where to begin.
The morning I arrived in Pape’ete, I really did have a good dose of what-the-hell-am-I-doing shock. I didn’t really explore anything, sat around the very touristy Vaiame Center, and on a whim caught one of the last ferries to Moorea, the neighboring island, and ended up finding a fantastic place to stay and some great people, which ended up turning my virtual travel-frown upside down. I met a British Couple named Chris and Cate Byrne, in their early thirties, who were on their 8th month of a round-the-world trip. The guesthouse we were staying at was small, and very relaxed, and as the only English speakers, it didn’t take me long to find them/us each other. I tagged along behind them that night, and we bought food from the tiny shop down the island road, to make pasta with ham bits, canned corn and tomato sauce. Mmm.
The next day, Monday, we hopped over the the expensive Sheraton resort, and used their beach, which is a legal right in French Polynesia. Nice for us. The beach was neat, and the view was beautiful, and I got some sun. That night, we went to eat out. The place that we had planned on eating was closed, so we went next door. The “Plat du Jour” was either Shark or the Boeuf (beef) something. The waiter (also the proprietor) didn’t know how to say the name of the dish in English. So he approximated. Le boeuf… euuh… Pancakes! Beef Pancakes! Sounded interesting. Also sounded basic. Shark and beef seemed like it would make a good combination, so Chris and I ordered both together, so we could share each. The Shark came, and looked good, and then the Beef Pancackes came, and looked like clam chowder. I didn’t know what to think, and, being curious and willing, I took a bite. Tasted like clams. Mussels, something chewy. Definitely not Beef Pancakes, whatever those may be. So, Chris asked what they were, in broken French, and thanks to the help of our guesthouse host, Herve, (who accompanied us to dinner) we found out that it indeed was beef, technically. It was actually tripe. A lovely French dish, consisting of intestines, and stomachs, sphincters, internal organs, other “things”. But I had already tasted it, so reverting to any prejudice I had wasn’t as easy as if I had known beforehand. It’s still disgusting though.
On Tuesday, it rained. We walked down the shore a few kilometers to Cook’s Bay, one of the seemingly infinite places in the South Pacific that man visited. We waited for the store to open from its lunch break, and bought some baguettes and food for dinner that night. On the way back it was pouring. Like a 55 gallon drum of water being poured on you. So, that day was an inside day from then on. We wrote in our journals, and deciphered an article in French that was about our host, Hervé and the time that he lived alone on an island in the Tuamotus, the ridge of atolls lying several hundred miles north of Tahiti. It took us about 45 minutes for the 700-word article. Fun though.
Wednesday, we left Moorea for Tahiti, since Chris and Cate were leaving for Easter Island that night, and I was going to try and come along with them. We stood in the rain waiting for the mystery bus, which may or may not have come, because we hitched a ride to the Ferry Quay. A small four-door Nissan pickup pulled over, filled with 5 polynesians, the girls dressed up, flowers behind their ears. We figured they were going to a wedding. We sat in the back of the pickup and were pelted by rain as we wound around the curvy coastal road. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the easter island thing to work, as I said in a previous post. So, I headed for the Pension (a relaxed family-run guesthouse) which Chris and Cate had stayed at previously. Pension Te Miti on the west coast of Tahiti, in Paea. You can actually visit its website here: http://tahiti.pensiontemiti.com/index.htm And the website for the place I stayed at on Moorea, which I would recommend highly if you ever go there. http://www.fareoaoa.com Anyway, I took le truck to Paea, and slogged through the rain for 2 kilometers after missing the stop I was supposed to get off at. Then I basically did nothing for 4 days.
I got burned on the beach on Thursday, avoided the sun on Friday, I went snorkeling on Saturday, which was very cool, and then again on Sunday, which was just amazing. When I first arrived there was this very chatty British couple who I sort of defaulted to, but they weren’t very interesting. They left on Saturday morning, so on Saturday and Sunday, I was the only English speaker in a guesthouse full of French speakers. So, I tried my hand at my bad French. I ended up having quite a good time, and made a short-time friend in a 40 year old French metalworker from Grenoble, in the Alps. He spoke as much English as I did French, and we fought our way through the language barrier for several hours on Saturday night, talking about all sorts of things, but quite a bit about America and France.
My snorkeling trip on Sunday was sort of a personal challenge, albeit not a huge one. Thierry, my frenchman friend, had swam all the way to the surf break the day before, and I wanted to do that. So, I did. With goggles, snorkel, and flippers, I navigated my way through the coral and made it to the reef, the surf break, which was actually really scary. The waves were still strong out there, and I was really afraid of being smashed into a big outcropping of coral. I didn’t stay long. I navigated my way back to the beach, with appeared to be about 3 miles away from out there. I saw a big school of cleaner fish of some type on my way back, and followed them for 10 or 15 minutes. They were yellow with black stripes, and there had to have been 200 of them.
The only other thing in Tahiti at that point to achieve was to have a Maitai, which is really not all that great. I went to the bar on the beach, got horrible service, watched the waitress (the bartender was nowhere to be found) pour some whiskey, rum, fruit juice, red coloring, and ice into a glass, garnish it with a palm leaf, and call it a Maitai. 1100 francs, or 11 bucks. Then I went and bought a cheeseburger and fries for about seven dollars, walked back to the pension, and drank a “Tahiti Drink” that I had purchased the night before (10% alcohol) which I realized tasted pretty much like my 11 dollar maitai. It cost about $1.50
Then I paid the the 2500 francs to get to the airport, and finished off the last of my goddamn Pacific Francs.
That was Tahiti. Not sure if I’d recommend it.