I never thought I would consider, at my age, purchasing a Lego set. Then as I was setting up my computers to be able to follow the WEC (World Endurance Championship) season, the first race in Portimao -Portugal is today, I came across this add.
It is a monster scale model with over 1700 parts to be assembled. That shoud keep me busy for a while and it should at the recommended price.
It is not available before May 1st and I am seriously considering pre-ordering it
A couple of weeks later, in other words this morning May 17th, the postman brought a packet sent from Denmark…
I am extremely glad I went, the time spent planning ahead was really worth it. Everything ran according to plan. It was also extremely well budgeted. I suppose our day to day experience in a previous working life had something to do with it.
I agree that Polynesia is as close as one can get to paradise. It is of course another way of life, “island life” so to speak where nature has priority over anything else. I am convinced it takes a lot of getting used to but I can understand people abandoning everything and settle in such an environment. I doubt it is everyone’s cup of tea.
I only visited islands in the western Leeward Islands. There are 115 to go in the other four archipelago. The main and largest island of Tahiti with the capital Papeete is like any major town and even major town in the south of France with its French supermarkets and DIY shops (Carrefour, Leclerc etc etc). The nature and the ever changing colours of the sky and sea are of course very different.
The largest and most impressive difference for me in an extremely positive way is the people. Welcoming and friendly to an extent I have encountered nowhere else before.
All the other islands are very much smaller, all within their fantastic looking lagoons. As a rule they are extremely clean and well kept with a luxurious vegetation and exotic plants. A possible exception is Bora Bora. Due to the relatively large tourism industry the island is not as tidy and clean as the others visited. However the views from the air and the lagoon itself is simply out of this world.
The flora on the islands and the variety of fishes in all the emerald lagoons is incredible.
We have been told by some locals that the good news is that the coral is growing. This is excellent.
The same people told us and actually showed us that the water is rising and some of the smaller motus (small islands around the lagoons) are disappearing and lost half of their size in the past 10 years. This is a disaster.
From a political point of view there is a strong independents’ party wanting to pull away from France. We saw quite a few of the “independent flag” on houses and cars. Polynesia is certainly not very rich, I really wonder what would happen without the financial support from France who ensure the infrastructure (roads, hospitals, etc) is maintained and from what I have seen to quite a high standard.
(Click the pics below for short videos)
My very first time with sharks. Quite a special feeling
This incredible feeling of floating in the current which pushes you through this gigantic aquarium
It is almost impossible to relate the real colours with photos and videos
Wherever you go, it is lush green with exotic flowers and fruits growing everywhere.
We walked to the top of the Magic Mountain in Moorea for the 360 degrees view
From the air
Brilliant views of the lagoons and islands when you fly over them.
The majestic rays. Quite an experience to swim near them. They are so impressive.
This one on Moorea was particularly satisfying and needed after the climb shortly before on top of the “Magic Mountain”
Smooth and relaxing. The ideal way to discover the surrounding lagoons.
7:40 am scheduled departure. I have been up a couple of hours after a not so good night. I shall find sleep on the plane for sure.
I have a feeling I might be comfortable enough for the next 8 hours.
Very nice flight, excellent service
Then hell broke loose. Landed in LAX and were faced with the long long immigration queue and long long wait for the shuttle to the hotel.
The hotel shuttle driver offered to take us to one of the local Mexican eatery and to pick us up when finished. After checking in and dropping our luggage in our rooms, we took his offer. I have to say that I have never been a fan of american eateries and fast food places (I refuse to call tehm restaurants).
One quick call and the driver was there to pick us up again to take us back to the hotel.
The next morning going out for a walk I discovered that next to the hotel was a Carvery which looked a bt more up market… I should have consulted my phone before we decided to take the driver’s offer.
2:30 am and wide awake, making the most of the relatively fast Wifi to update files, download boarding passes etc etc
Breakfast at 9am after a few hours of deep sleep.
There are 6 hours to go before our flight and 3 before we depart for the airport so a walk around the block to get some fresh air is a good idea.
Airport shuttle booked for midday
Speedy check in, even more speedy security check
It gives us time to enjoy a nice drink in the lounge.
It is another Air France 777 (Business Class) which is taking us to Paris in just under 12 hours
Click pics for video
After another excellent flight and a few hours of deep sleep, we land in Paris late morning. We have a very tight connection for our next short hop to Toulouse, fortunately the flight is delayed an hour or so and we can relax.
We arrive home after the hour’s drive from to Toulouse mid-afternoon
Today is the final day, we decide to go to the beach and walk across the lagoon to one of the motu. We have been told this is possible and indeed it is.
This is where we have to walk back to. Did I mention that a couple of rays swam around us on the way. The warm water never got higher than our waste.
Bye Bye Maupiti
We catch a boat to take us back to the airport which is far more fun than any other airport transfer I have used in the past.
The plane lands, empties passengers and luggage, reloads and within 20 minutes we are in the air and 30 minutes earlier than scheduled. Wonderful service.
Great views of the island we just left
The flight to Papeete left early and arrived 30’ early meaning that we had to wait for our driver to the hotel. Hotel which is not far from the airport. We enjoy ur welcoming drink and the spacious and comfortable room (anything is comfortable after the one in Maupiti) but there is no time. We catch a lift to the port where we know a place and can enjoy the the sunset and a drink or two and a bite to eat.
No telephone signal, an extremely weak internet so I guess any blog updates are impossible for the next couple of days.
Will try nevertheless (it took half the night to upload this photo).
Some highlights for today
The Maupiti Pass
It is very clear on this photo that there is only one passage to enter the lagoon. It is one of the few, if not the only one, south facing entrance to the lagoon in the archipelago. The pass is also considered as one of the most dangerous in the South Pacific.
The Maupiti pass, called Onoiau, is located in the south of the lagoon and is oriented north-south. It is long and very narrow, which makes it subject to weather conditions. If the wind is too strong from the east or south-east – i.e. if it exceeds 15 knots – the swell that rises crashes into the entrance to the pass, making passage dangerous or even impossible.
Similarly, if there is a residual southerly swell, even without wind, it can interfere with the entrance. The recommended limit is 1m50 for the swell. Beyond that, it is better to wait before venturing towards the small island. Finally, you must also take into account the current in the channel, which is always outgoing, and can be more or less strong. In particular if there has been (or still is) a lot of wind and the lagoon has to be emptied of its excess water or depending on the tide.
Today it is extremely calm and no wind and the captain took us through the narrow passage. The view of the waves on each side was very impressive and I certainly would not approach them in bad weather or during high tides. Once we were through the captain proudly said “now we are in the ocean”.
The Manta Rays
I sit most of the time right at the front of the boat on the look out
And of course we do spot a few rays and immediately jump in the water. Quite a sight everytime. They are so majestic.
The Coral Garden
Similar to other islands, there is a specific spot called the “Coral Garden”. It is a paradise for snorkelling as the current simply carries you and all you have to do is admire the corals and the fish. It really feels like you are floating in an aquarium.
I have a lot of videos which I am still sortig out before linking them
After the morning’s boat tour, the captain drops us off on one of the islet (motus) where every weekend the locals (popolation on the island is 1.450) and a few tourists gather for lunch and an afternoon of local music and dances.
Lunch is cooked in the ground and covered with branches and leaves. Vegetables, fish etc are cooked for hours. Tastes fine accompanied by a Tahiti beer.
We are treated to a boat trip round the island in the lagoon on the way back from the motu to our accommodation. That was not expected and was a the crown on a very pleasant day. it is less than a 5 minutes walk from the beach we are dropped off to the house.