Monday, August 24, 2015

Before Pitcairn: Tahiti

Shortly after midnight, I flew from Los Angeles to Tahiti.  This was my first trip to the South Pacific, and I wasn't really sure what to expect.

I arrived in Tahiti around 5 AM and spent an hour going through immigration.  Tahiti is part of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, so I had to get my passport stamped, change my US dollars to French Pacific francs, and be embarrassed that I couldn't speak any French.

I planned to spend a day in Tahiti before continuing my journey to Pitcairn, so I took a taxi to my pension, which is what they call hostels in French Polynesia.  The drive was on the main road that circled the island.  My first impression of Tahiti wasn't particularly good.  It seemed crowded and grimy, with graffiti everywhere.  I imagined the Bounty mutineers arriving at a very different Tahiti, a charming island full of friendly scantily-clad women.  The Tahiti that I had arrived at was nothing like that.

I ate breakfast at my pension and walked around a bit.  I noticed breadfruit trees around my pension.  I had never eaten breadfruit before, and since breadfruit was an integral part of Pitcairn history, I felt obligated to try it.  I asked the pension owner if I could have a fruit, but he said that they weren't ripe, so I made it my mission to find a ripe breadfruit before leaving Tahiti.

From my pension, I hitched a ride to Papeete, the urban center of Tahiti and capital of French Polynesia.  I first wandered around the municipal market, which was basically a farmer's market.  I then wandered around the waterfront where I saw a number of large ships in the harbor.  I could also see Moorea, a heart-shaped island 11 miles northwest of Tahiti.

At around lunchtime, I went back to the municipal market to search for breadfruit, which the Tahitians call uru.  I managed to find one that was already cut up and eagerly bought it.  I sat down at a grassy area on the waterfront and ate breadfruit for the first time.  I thought it was dry and bland, but it was quite filling as I had no desire to eat lunch after finishing the fruit.

I spent the afternoon walking around Papeete and then took a bus back to my pension.  I watched the sunset at a beach near my pension, ate dinner, and then returned to my pension where I chatted with some of the other travelers there before going to bed.

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