Thursday, July 21, 2011

Crazy for Tahitian Pearls... among other things

Combine shopping in a colorful open air market, great deals, girl-time outings, pearls, crafty jewelry projects, natural beauty, all in an exotic foreign port and you'll understand why I took some time off of the boat to explore and enjoy Papeete- even if it threw our budget out of whack this month. (The budget was going to suffer anyway from the sticker shock that's attached to everything. So I might as well enjoy myself right?.)

Traffic flows pretty smoothly with all these roundabouts and french cars

Papeete has character- probably as much as Berkeley, but in a different way. The streets are filled with color, culture, music and smells- the good and the bad kind. It's the biggest city in French Polynesia, and yet it comes to a stand still at lunchtime and on Sunday's. There are groups of old men playing traditional polynesian music on the sidewalks and peddling ukuleles.

Buses run frequently during business hours and when you can't catch one, some kind local always seems to be around to offer you a ride to where ever you're going. The two-level open market is overwhelming; full of local produce and tourist trinkets. Retail stores line the blocks surrounding it, making it quiet easy to lose track of time. A personal favorite of mine were the fabric stores. I've included a photo, because I just can't describe them. I would've loved to have found a traditional dress made of one of those splashy floral prints, but nothing fit me quiet right.

Floral yardage in every color of the rainbow

The famous Papeete market

I would be remiss to leave out the ulterior motive for going down town: PEARLS!

In almost every color, shape and size...

The pearl craze actually started way back in Makemo. Or was it further back, Nuka Hiva maybe? We'd all read about the fabulous South Pacific pearls and pearl farms in the guide books, maybe even seen a few promotional shots, but we were comically surprised by our cravings for pearls when we landed in Papeete. Once we started, things rapidly got out of hand. The girls and I fell in love with one shop in perticular: Mihiarii Pearls. We'd make excuses to stop by the shop. We stayed until close at least five nights. It was addictive! We busied ourselves matching pearls for earrings, planning out our next jewelry project... a pendent, bracelet, necklace... It didn't help quench our lust that for every ten pearls, you got four free. And of course there's the tactile urge that's gratified by plunging you hand into a large bucket of hundreds of shiny smooth pearls. Oh and did I mention that it's air conditioned in there?! Paradise found!

Of course there's more to the city than shopping. We were lucky enough to be here during Heiva- a local festival celebrating... well I don't really know. But we enjoyed the fruit running races and the fire dancing anyway.

These guys were dressed in no more than loin clothes and tattoos while they ran with nearly 100 lbs of fresh fruit

Amazing- a whole different way to play with fire.

Afterward we all headed to the Roulettes (think food court/ taco truck) for dinner. I always love it when someone else does the cooking and cleaning up!

This is one of the more affordable ways to grab a bite. And so delicious, everybody in town is doing it.

The Piko's, WGD's and Britannia's out for dinner at the Roulettes

We've been at anchor here in Marina Taina for almost a month! I can't believe it- kinda makes me itchy to get outta here when I think about it. First we waited for parts. Once they arived, it took several trips into town to get everything we needed to do the auto helm install (it was the lack of a stainless steel backing plate that really held us up). Then there were several days of provisioning, errands, laundry, boat projects and what-not woven in there.

A month's worth of dirty laundry, 8+ hours and 36 gallons of water

But now, at last we are about ready. Tomorrow is Friday; not a day for superstitious sailors to start a passage. Not that that has anything to do with us, but we're taking the day to calibrate our new auto helm by changing our anchorage to the calmer Point Venus. There's a beach and a Captain Cook monument to check out there and we'll be able to relax before heading over to Huahine on Saturday. Our time in French Polynesia is quickly coming to a close; our visas expire at the end of the month. I'm bummed we can't stay longer, but excited because I'm sure there's plenty more to explore westward. We're looking forward to the Cooks, where people will speak English again, and then to Tonga, land of idyllic anchorages.

Rainbow over the anchorage just before the rain started

Until next time! Au revoir, Parahi nana, Chao, Ta-ta!


  1. "Proud to be Awesome" - that shirt sums up you two up perfectly!
    Beautiful photos, Tahiti look amazing. Couldn't be more happy for you guys!!!

  2. I love just the look of the pearls! To be able to see them would be great!Everything you describe seems so wonderful and real world.Thanks for taking the time to post the pics and stories. Love you-Ah Betty

  3. The pearls and the fabrics look beautiful! xx--Maud

  4. I've never been much of a shoper, but your descriptions of Pepeete are changing my mind a little. Great pictures! Gene

  5. Thanks for the update, I love it! Surprised you didn't buy fabric to sew yourself a dress or two :-) love you!!

  6. Taking a rest after a boat ride is the right thing to do, good follow the advise of weather men other than dwelling on superstitions.

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