Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Two looks at Tahiti

Knowing we had two full days in Papeete, Tahiti following our return from a South Pacific cruise we planned two day-long excursions so we could explore Tahiti beyond its shoreline. It was time to check out beautiful palm-studded coastal landscapes and lush, green forests of the interior highlands.

One excellent way to see this beautiful tropical island is to rent a car and drive all the way around Tahiti stopping at scenic and exotic points along the way.  It’s easy because there is only one highway, and it hugs the coast as you travel southward, then east, north, and back to the city of Papeete.

Around the island

Gorgeous tropical flowers
bloom in Vaipahi Gardens

The first place Larry and I stopped was Vaipahi Gardens, just off the main road--the quintisential tropical garden filled with a kalaidascope of color displayed by abundant flowers and plants (and an enticing waterfall) in the gardens. 

Larry pauses on a bridge in
the gardens.
We then detoured down an unpaved road through the smaller, attached peninsula of Tahiti-iti, exploring this agricultural region until noon when we returned to the mainland.

Among the bounty of waterfalls that splashed at various locations along the coast were three famous waterfalls called Cascades de Tefaarumai. Here we were inspired us to get out and hike awhile. Nearing the end of our magical journey we marveled at Ara Ahoaho Blowhole and took sunset photos of the lighthouse at Point Venus.

Waterfalls add immense beauty
to this tropical island.

Across the island

For a different perspective, we wanted to journey into the vastly different interior of the island to explore  mountainous regions that are not visible from the coast.  This voluminous green landscape is unbelievably captivating for its  beauty and historical significance for native islanders.

An unimagined landscape for those
who only stay on the coast of Tahiti

Tieva braids plant leaves into
a strong rope.

For that, I booked an eight-hour tour with Tahiti Discovery owner and guide Tieva Tiapoi, a twelfth generation Tahitian whose family still lives in the mountains. He knew the land intimately and provided one of the most enjoyable excursions we’ve ever had.

Riding open-air in the back of Tieva’s truck (covered when rains came on the return trip) we traveled through territory uninhabited since the arrival of Western civilization 200 years ago—a world of lush mountains, high cliffs, verdant valleys, and streaming waterfalls. What a view we had!
Tieva made this lovely heart for 
our special picture.

We especially enjoyed lessons learned from Tieva on using resources from the land—creating plates from plant leaves, testing a natural shampoo, consuming plants that appeared inedible, and braiding stems into ropes. Other highlights included a brief dip in a lake, multiple photo opportunities, and a jaunt into the Papenoo Valley, the caldera of Tahiti’s great extinct volcano. 

Lunch was served at the only restaurant on the route, the turn-around point, which was about the time rain started. But that led to a bonus—dozens of waterfalls began streaming down the mountain sides.

Some mountain roads are
tricky to navigate.

After the rain dozens of new waterfalls were visible 
on the mountainsides.
While relaxing at a luxury hotel pool with an exotic drink in hand can certainly be part of any Polynesian experience, our adventures during those two days enabled us to get a real sense of the island and truly appreciate all it has to offer.

 Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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