Friday, February 5, 2016

We went out Tuesday morning for a half-day interior 4x4 tour of the island. We rode in a Land Rover Defender with Sebastian. Manimal rode in his car seat installed in the front (and quickly decided to nap), Hamish rode on a booster in the back with us. 
We drove through Papeete around the North side of the island to the valley that runs through the interior. Then we turned inland and drove up through the hills, stopping to see breadfruit, candle nut, and pomelo trees and a few varieties of ginger. We saw several of the permanent waterfalls and a couple of new ones for the rainy season. 
This is how you cross the river:

Near the top of our route we saw two of the six hydroelectric dams that help provide 25% of the island's power needs. We stopped to swim in the river. The kids loved jumping off rocks and I did flips and cannonballs to everyone's delight. Quite quite sadly, we left the cameras in the jeep so we could play in the river, but it was a lovely spot. A group of Tahitians were at the swimming spot at well, kids playing in the water and the adults cooking up lunch. 

While we were playing in the river the drizzle that had accompanied our drive up turned to driving rain. We climbed back into the truck--all four of us in the back--and carried on with the tour. In just a few minutes we reached the overlook into the crater of Tahiti's extinct volcano, but the rain and clouds kept us from seeing the other peaks that make up what's left of the crater rim. 
(I asked Sebastian how they could be sure the volcano was extinct and not just dormant. He said there were four "hot points" that created the Society Islands. The points are still there, but the tectonic plates on which the islands sit have shifted. Now the hot points are about 40 miles east of the islands in the middle of the ocean.)

We drove home in hard rain--Sebastian zipped down the plastic walls of our truck--watching many new waterfalls that hadn't been there earlier. Thankfully, there were no landslides, and we made it home safely.
This video is not taken from a boat:

We made it safely home, and Hamish took a much-needed nap, but Manimal was done. When Hamish woke up  there was a little playing with dress up clothes:
Then we headed into Papeete. We wandered around downtown, shopping the market and the vanilla shop.
Then we went to the roulette park to find dinner. They didn't open until 6, so we walked around and found our way to the tourism office. Alli and Hamish went in and were asking about going to see a dance show. This was something on our list-- these elaborate dance shows complete with buffet, but they are very expensive, long, and we could not find one that started before 8 p.m. We just didn't think we could make that work with the kids. But Alli was asking about this at the tourism office, and they were super helpful and just said "hey, we have dance shows on DVD". They popped one in, and all 4 of us sat in the lobby of the tourism office until after they were closed watching (not until the show was over). It was interesting, but I think this was the right speed. We proceeded out into the Place Vaiete to wait a little longer for the roulottes to open. There was an unused stage, so we decided to have some dancing of our own.

Finally we ate dinner at the roulottes, poisson cru for me again, pasta for Alli. Dark clouds blew in with the Paul Gaugin (cruise ship), and the bottom fell out on us as we were finishing out une glace. But it was short, we hid under the roulotte "wings" and then we were able to stroll back to our car dry. 

WEDNESDAY 

We got up without a firm plan, but made it to the car. We stopped at the drive through restaurant at the bottom of the hill and bought a half dozen Beard Papas (yum!) and a 10-piece of fried chicken. We planned to go to the Cosmetic Laboratory of the South Pacific to learn about Monoi oil. Sadly when we got there they were closed until January 13th :-(

We came back toward home and stopped on the road for bananas and at a Super U for some Brie. We added those to our baguette and drove to the PK18 beach for lunch. 

It was hot when we got there and our little beach tent didn't make a huge difference, but we ate chicken and cheese and bread in its shade. All in a five minute span Jude sat on the sunscreen, Josephine bit into her Beard Papa and lost most of its gooey goodness filling, and it started pouring. But we hung in there. Soon the rain stopped, the sand was considerably cooled, and we had a lovely morning at the beach. 

The kids had a great time with the beach toys and were comfortable enough in the lagoon than Alli and I each went snorkeling. There was some coral bleaching, but we saw beautiful fish that easily rivaled things we've seen on dives. It's the only time I remember walking out from a beach, snorkeling, and seeing anything worth seeing.
We packed up our things and got in the car just before the rains came and stayed all afternoon. But after a long morning at the beach the kids both napped well. And Alli and I discovered some pretty serious sunburn on our backs, guess we had too much fun snorkeling.

We ended the day with a trip to Carrefour and then--after missing an easier turn around--drive-through dinner at McDonalds. 

THURSDAY
The rain decided to stay for the rest of our visit. We got up late, then drove around the whole island. We had a couple of stops in mind but the Hall house was still closed, and we couldn't find the lava tubes. 

We had lunch in Taravao, where we fed our children pretty questionable meat. Andouillettes. We both speak a little French, and based on best guesses, we just figured this was little sausages. Sounded like a nice option. But I think when the meal came out I checked the Manimal's diaper. Andouillettes, it turns out, are coarse-grained sausages made with pork, intestines, pepper, wine, onions, and seasoning. I'm pretty sure these were mostly intestine. Oddly enough, neither child liked them much. I ate a couple of bites, thinking there must be some redeeming quality, but no. They are an acquired taste, and one that I have no care to acquire. The worst thing is they were the most expensive item from our lunch.

I had yummy poisson cry again that was only mildly tarnished by the andouillette aroma.  I could definitely eat this stuff with regularity.
We stopped at the grotte de maraa on the way home, but falling rock signs everywhere and rain kept us from spending too much time or getting quality photos. They are little grottos- small caves filled with water that are supposed to always be cool. Well we got this one photo of Hamish on our stroll anyway:
We came home and took long naps while it rained. While Hamish was sleeping, I decided to try to tighten the legs/joints on our host family's coffee table. It was just a little loose and seemed like an easy thing to improve, so why not? I put the table up on its side to work on it, and the Manimal came to investigate. It did not immediately occur to me that this could be a problem (I was preventing the table from falling over in any way).  There was a glass insert in the table, but it was inset such that I didn't really consider it might fall out. Manimal pushed it right out and it shattered into a million pieces. Praise the Lord it was shatter-proof glass (so it broke in chunks, not shards and splinters) and everyone was fine. I also did not get the table tightened...

We swept up and had to email the host family, hoping we could find a way to make amends, like by replacing their coffee table. They were amazingly gracious about it and said not to worry about it at all. In the end, we left some cash that would have at least covered replacing the glass in the U.S. There, we have no idea, it's just not the kind of place you can go online and order replacement glass. But we told our hosts worst case they don't fix it and they have a nice dinner or two- or they fix it with something else cheaper and this more than covers that cost. 

Thursday night--in order to get out of the house--we brought our popsicles and ice cream to the beach and ate our treats and walked on the rocks. This is that place.
Then we went home and had pizza. 

Friday we wanted to go kayaking, so we got up and got ready to go to the park at PK18.5 and rent kayaks. Unfortunately, the rain had scared everyone off and no one had kayaks for rent there. 

We drove up and down the road through Punaauia again and again looking first for signs about kayaks, then at a guesthouse that was supposed to have kayaks, and finally to Le Meriden and the Intercontinental. The kayak rentals at the Intercontinental were the best, so we finally got out on the water for about an hour. Manimal rode with me and Hamish rode with Alli. They both did beautifully.

When we were done, we went home for naps and again a quiet dinner. And we stopped for a few more local mangoes and pineapple.
We meant to spend our last morning at the beach, but the car wouldn't start when we got down there. We were tired of breaking things, so we didn't push it. Instead we went to the condo's pool for a while.

We spent the rest of the day cleaning and napping, trying to get the house in great shape to leave. We didn't get all of the sheets dried--it's hard to finish the laundry on move-out day with no dryer, but otherwise did a decent job.

We were packed up and gone by 7, giving us plenty of time for our 11 pm flight. Faa'a airport was not great by any stretch. It was basically closed when we showed up at 7 with people waiting out front just to get in. We got a little bit of special care because of the kids, but still waited in the heat for a while. Even once in and past security, there was some air conditioning, but also an open wall to outside, so we sweated for a while, which just feels wrong in an airport when you are not running for your plane. I also changed the Manimal on the floor in the airport since the bathroom was in no way equipped for baby care. The duty free shop was the best thing going because it was very nicely air conditioned. We picked up some Tahitian rum drink for toasting when we got back home.

The flights home were long flights, but uneventful and for the most part everyone slept. We were extremely poorly dressed for American when we arrived, but so very, very happy to be home.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Year's Day, Friday:
We woke up and the children basked in the toys. Alli and I were alone for a few hours to discuss priorities and semi-plan our remaining trip.

I had my second near-death experience (the first was when the car didn't go into reverse and I nearly ended up in the ditch). Just a typical morning visit to the restroom. Locked the door behind me, like a generally normal person. I mean, not everyone locks the door when they use the bathroom at home with their family, but kids sometimes like to just bust on in there, and I like my privacy. Anyway, when I was ready to exit the bathroom, the locked door would not unlock. I tried calmly for a while, trying to decide whether to cross the threshold into "I am locked in the bathroom" territory, but I quickly realized I could use some help.  I sort of assumed it was one of those bathroom doors where a key would work on the other side pretty well, but in fact I had the better opportunity to unlock the door. It was sort of just a deadbolt. Here was my view:
and here was Alli's:
We have these photos because I had my phone and the internet in there with me, and we were communicating with each other in this way in addition to talking through the door.
On Alli's side you can see that the unlocking mechanism is just a piece of plastic with sort of a flat head screwdriver indentation to use for leverage. The deformation to that piece was there before Alli made any attempt. Bottom line, Alli could not help me out of there. I should say more in that this was a small bathroom with no window, just a tiny little ventilation port, and we were in an apartment building that was like concrete walls and metal doors. I made multiple attempts to open from my side to no avail. We finally emailed the homeowners and even their local friend who they told us to contact if we needed help. The owners wrote back pretty quickly to say they didn't really understand my situation, but that they never used the lock on that door.  Clearly. The friends never did respond...
Alli kept trying to come up with ideas and also tried to keep the kids from going crazy or realizing how nearly panicked we were. And she prayed. I ultimately ended up taking the toilet paper roll core, folding that up, and using it to give myself a little extra grip/alleviate the pain of trying to turn the small knob, and with one last reach into the depths of my strength reserves, I freed myself. Then we went right back to life as normal, and we never used the bathroom door lock again.
We tell the truth about our travels here.

With that out of the way, we got the kids ready and took off around the North side of the island to hike some waterfalls. But when we got there, there were barricades set up that we could not pass. We found some locals having a New Year's party on the side of the road blasting Sublime's Santeria. I went and chatted with them and learned that the road had been washed out and nobody was going to those waterfalls any time soon.

Instead we drove around and found a deserted, beautiful black sand beach where we introduced the kids to waves.
We weren't planning to go to a beach, so no swimsuits, we just dared the waves (and they successfully soaked the bottom half of all of us). Manimal was actually asleep in his car seat again, so Alli and Hamish started it out.
Once he woke up, he took a little time to sit on top of the car and admire the view while eating a snack bar
Then we all played wave dare together.
We air dried a little bit, had some more car snacks,
and pressed on. We stopped at One Tree Hill for a break to watch some surfers and do just a little bit of climbing.
It's a neat little place, but the kids were being kind of ornery and as a result we took no pictures worth sharing.

We sought lunch, but practically everything was closed. Even McDonald's. We found a supermarket and bought some food, and then went home for naps and lunch. Hamish napped; Manimal refused. 

We got an email from the host family with details on a family-friendly happy hour nearby, so we jumped in the car and went to the Le Meridien for their beach bar happy hour. 

We parked in the wrong spot and had to cross the water to get to the beach. Some friendly locals pointed out the walkway. We eventually got seats and beachy drinks. 

Hamish and Manimal were both bold and amazing in making friends. They ran around like wild things with other kids with whom they could find no common language.

We came home and had a dinner of baguette, pineapple, and rotisserie chicken. 

Saturday, we slept in until 7:15 and then drove down to the water gardens of Vaipahi to see different flora, hike, and take a dip in a waterfall.
Hamish needed to compare her size to some of the trees after she saw depictions in the placards for each tree showing size relative to a human:
There was a good hike up a hill involved:
view from the top:
finally waterfalls:
Mommy wouldn't get all the way in:
... there *was* a giant eel swimming around in the water there, though the locals told us the eels wouldn't hurt us...

Afterward we drove down to Tahiti Iti and had a rich and yummy (and too expensive) French lunch at Terre-Mer. (Manimal napped through it, which was nice.)

We drove down the south coast road all the way to the water and scouted a boat for later in the week. We had read a recommendation for Michael at Teahupoo Excursions, but instead found a guy on the dock who said he'd be happy to take us the next week. By this time Hamish was asleep, so we drove up the Iti belvedere, scouted the view, and let our car cool off.
kids ran around entertaining themselves and others-
It was getting late by the time we left Iti, so we drove straight home, just stopping for more groceries. Then home for a frozen pizza dinner, frog jumping, popsicles,
and bed. 

By Sunday, everyone was finally getting into a sleep routine. This was the first night Hamish didn't come visit in the middle of the night. We woke up later again and got on the road to the Sunday Market a bit before 8. The market seemed a little quiet, not nearly as much variety as we had been hoping for, and not nearly as cheap.
But we still bought things: soursop, chocolate crepes, donuts, watermelon, a pomelo, fei--an orange banana variety best cooked:

-- and poe'ape, a bamboo section stuffed with a mix of taro, brown sugar, and coconut milk:
We also bought Hamish a tiare flower crown. It was a bit big, but she looked precious. 
We came home after the market to unload and have breakfast. The chocolate crepes were surprisingly not a massive hit. The pomelo was.

Over the next couple of days I tried a couple methods of cooking the fei-- frying it like plantain, and boiling and mashing with some butter like mashed potatoes. Both were good, but an interesting and kind of intense flavor that you didn't want a lot of. Hard to describe.

After breakfast we went to the Museum of Tahiti and the islands. Lovely museum, but cut short by the kids being kids. So we sat on the sea wall and watched waves crash for a while before coming home.
Both kids got a proper nap. And we woke Hamish up at 3:30 to go have a picnic dinner on the beach. We went to the PK23.5 beach, it was black and white sand with lots of tiny rocks and coral. Not soft, but the kids still loved it.
We dug for treasures, and then the Tahitian family next to us gave us some treats (2 oranges and applesauce). We had a dinner of a baguette and pulled chicken (from the rotisserie), fresh watermelon collected from the market that morning, and our new oranges. Then we went back to play until the sun set. Baby tossing was performed:

The beach closed at 7, so we packed up after the sunset and headed home to bed. 

On Monday, we were hoping more things would be open after the holiday weekend, but our first stop--the James Norman Hall house--was closed. So we carried on to Point Venus for a beach morning. 

We found a lovely spot with picnic tables. The sand was again soft and black and we easily walked past the breaking waves and played in the swells. The kids mostly had a great time, only protesting when we tried to get them to swim. 
there was a neat little lighthouse here too
We didn't stay too long in the heat of the day, though, and headed to Place To'ata for lunch. Again Manimal fell asleep and snoozed while we dined.  It was one of our best meals so far: poisson cru and chrevettes cru, salad and green beans, then ice cream for all. Hamish quickly learned how to ask for une glace.


We headed home for Hamish's nap, but decided to drive past the condo and on up the mountain first. The houses and gardens get nicer and nicer as you climb! On the way back, though, we saw our coolant reservoir steaming again. When we got home and opened the hood, the cap was gone :-(

We put Hamish down, and then I left with the owner's other car at about 3:00 to either find the coolant cap somewhere on the hill (we thought we'd heard it fall) or find a garage where I could buy one. 

While gone, Alli tried again to book an inland driving tour and called family. By 5 she woke Hamish up and started praying in earnest.

She was thankful when I came back by 5:20 or so. I ultimately found the cap-- still in the car, just bounced around under the hood and well hidden from view. With a flashlight and a leatherman I extracted it and we were back on track. 

We headed back out and visited a marae. The ruins are of the cultural and religious centers for villages. Many of the marae were torn down when the missionaries arrived in Tahiti. Several Christian churches were built symbolically on top of the marae. 
After climbing over the "paved" courtyard, we headed out for dinner. We had seen a few roulottes the night before, so we picked a crepe one for dinner. It was just a small metal trailer parked in a field with four tables with plastic stools out front. The one next door was slightly more legit: it had an awning. 

The food truck wasn't fast food, but it was delicious. We ordered a pizza for the kids and two savory crepes for us. The pizza was neglected in favor of an egg, Gruyere, onion and bacon crepe and an egg, Gruyere, ham and pineapple crepe. When we'd devoured those, we got an Oreo crepe with whipped cream. 
We were all stuffed and happy and tired. We took the pizza to go and loaded up the car to put everyone to bed. And drove away with the pizza on the roof.