L O G B O O K - by John Philp


MON 3rd JULY - It’s a busy scene here on the waterfront in the centre of Papeete : yachts on both sides; friends and interested people stopping by the boat to chat; the busy road only ten meters away; throngs of people passing by - Polynesian women with long flowing hair in floral dresses, flowers behind their ear; tanned French women in stilettos and short skirts trailing perfume; muscular Polynesian men, shirtless - in sandals and a sulu, fine tattoos all over them, long hair tied behind.

Papeete has a thriving transvestite population. Tonight Sabrina and I are walking down a side street when we see a car parked in the middle of the street, doors open and an older Polynesian lady out of the car shouting down the street at someone, obviously upset about something. Just then a beautiful figure in a short black cocktail dress and high heels hurries past us. I say,”Wow that’s a beautiful girl!”. Sabrina replies, “That’s not a girl!”. Next thing we know she has a large rock in her hand and is hurling it at the car. A young man materialises with a beer bottle in his hand and starts towards us assuming we’d thrown the rock. We hurry down a side street, not wanting to rush or he’ll think we’re guilty, neither wanting to hang around to be crowned with a beer bottle. The ‘girl’ has disappeared.

TUE 4th - A local friend, Xavier de Longeaux lends me a car allowing us to drive around the sights of the island. Venus Point is most interesting, a beautiful old lighthouse from 1867 still operating there.

WED 5th - French Polynesia is a friendly place. More than just smiles, people are genuinely concerned that you are okay. This morning at Papara Beach I was joking with a kid on a body board in the surf showing him that I had no leash (I’d forgotten it on the yacht). A couple of minutes later he swims up offering me his leash - the equivalent of hiking up a mountain and offering someone else your shoes. Complete and innocent selflessness.

THUR 6th - A constant presence across the harbour in Papeete is the dreamy purple outline of Moorea, 19 km away - a dramatically beautiful island who’s fabled reputation precedes it. After lunch we cast off to sail to our dream island.

Moorea is famous for it’s two spectacular bays. We pass the first - Cooks Bay : a long calm waterway facing north, many yachts, shear mountains rising up on all sides, resorts peppered along it’s shores, pineapple and vanilla plantations covering the slopes. A short distance along is Opunohu Bay, also bordered by high green mountains and volcanic plugs. We enter by a reef pass, where the shores are lined with white sand beaches and coral gardens in gin clear water, and motor into the inner bay where the water turns dark and calm, and the coastline is no longer touched by resort development. We drop anchor off Urufara where the water is deep right up to the beach. When Tony shuts the motor down a hush falls on our little bay - a world away from the bustle of Papeete.

FRI 7th - It’s nice to wake up this morning to the sound of roosters and nothing else - such calm and tranquility. Less than a hundred meters away is the magasin (local shop) Urufara, we could stay here a month and not have to go anywhere for supplies.

Tony and Kristy go for a walk in the morning. They don’t return until the late afternoon, explaining that they walked so far around one side that they thought it silly not to carry on and circle the island - 60km of it! Even with a couple of short hitched rides it was a brutal slog and they were a couple of tired sailors at dinner time.

They’ve just completed a sealed road all around the edge of the island and it makes Moorea almost too perfect. There is so much natural beauty here, and it is so clean, the locals unfailingly obliging, the resorts gorgeous - like a dream.

SAT 8th - I catch the high speed catamaran to Papeete this morning to visit friends. I’m getting used to seeing local Polynesians with a Hinano (beer) in their hands first thing in the morning, especially, for some reason, on the ferry. Passing time perhaps?

In the afternoon I go surfing with a friend at Ta’apuna, where the surf is powerful enough this day to break his board in half. When we came ashore a couple of his Polynesian friends are kicking back beside a car, music thumping from it, drinking cold Hinano’s, and asking that we join them. Hmnn, tough decision...
All about us the waterfront is busy - jetski’s and powerboats buzzing around, fisherman readying to go out, joggers puffing along the road behind us. Around the car though we’re in our own little world with these happy, soulful people, living for the moment, as the sun eases into the Pacific behind Moorea silhouetting it’s majestic peaks in orange light.

SUN 9th - I pick Kristy up from the ferry wharf at 8.30am as she is joining me from Moorea to watch the Jimmy Cliff concert in Papeete tonight. We drive down the southern coast to visit an artist friend - Jaabi, who lives on the peninsula joining Tahiti and her smaller cousin Tahiti Iti. He takes us to see Teahupoo - the ultra dangerous surfing break where professional surfers from around the world come each May to take off on it’s glassy walls of death. Just a few months ago a Tahitian surfer was killed here during a local competition. We also visit Belvedere lookout high up on grassy slopes of Tahiti Iti. From here you can see clearly the curve of the earth, and the outline of Tahiti and her surrounding reefs.

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