This morning we were, reassuringly, still in port, having stayed overnight in Papeete (which is pronounced pap-ee-yay-tay).
And for the first time on this cruise, we were given tour escorting duties. Although on different coaches, both Tracey and I were down for the ‘West Coast’ – an easy, ‘On the Bus, Off the Bus’ trip, which should only take up the morning, leaving us with the afternoon to ourselves.
Being on tour did mean having to be up early, though (6:30am early). Fortunately, breakfast was being served from 7am, which gave us plenty of time to be in the Palladium Show Lounge at 7:45, as per the Shorex Office Dispatch Sheet. From here, passengers turned up clutching tickets, and were allocated bus numbers. As soon the folks outside were ready, we had to lead them downstairs to the quayside, and the waiting coaches.
The weather was overcast and grey, with a lurking threat of rain, as the coach left the quayside. Our first stop was a temple, guarded by two odd-looking stone statues…
The temple itself was quite interesting to walk around. More importantly, it remained dry for us…
… that didn’t last long, however. Once everyone was safely back on the coach and we were on our way to the next stop, it started raining. The downpour continued as we took a short walk to see a black-sand beach, noted for its surfing waves. There were a few folks doing their thing there, but we didn’t hang around too long as it was quite exposed, and everyone was quite keen to return to the bus.
Our next stop was at a public park, where the rain continued to fall. With lots of tree cover, the rain seemed less of a problem, and I rather liked this waterfall…
With just one final stop at a smaller park featuring a couple of caves, we were back at the port by 12:15pm.
After a relaxed lunch, we headed ashore again. We had the whole of the afternoon to ourselves, and we’d identified a large white cross situated on a hill on the outskirts of town as being a potential walking target. It was clearly visible from the ship, and despite being quite a stretch away, looked like it might provide us with some excellent views over the town and back up towards the middle of the island. Tahiti, like many of the islands in French Polynesia, has an enormous volcano at its centre.
The walk was long and hot, but the rain mercifully held off. Slowly but surely, as we navigated our way from the centre of Papeete, into its suburbs and beyond, the roads started to become a little steeper and the houses grew bigger and much further apart. Eventually, the road ran out and we found ourselves following a trail that climbed the hill where we knew the cross would be found higher up. It was clear enough to follow, but the ground was quite slippery in places and muddy, and as we walked, we remarked how thankful we were that it wasn’t raining, since it would make the going much harder.
At one point, we had to navigate our way through a whole pile of trees that had fallen across the track, and slowly but surely, as the track become a little steeper, the views started to open out. Finally, after a couple of hours hot, hard walking, we reached our goal.
We spent a few minutes enjoying the views across town to the port, and back up towards the hills, but we knew we couldn’t afford to dally for long. For starters, we’d got a long walk back, and then we could see a storm approaching.
As we started to descend, things started turning all biblical on us. We’d seen the clouds of rain approaching from beyond the next hill, but what surprised us, and the thing we were least expecting, was the wind. Almost like a warning of impending nastiness, the wind whipped through the trees around us like an agitated giant waking from slumber. We’d just managed to climb our way back through the fallen trees, and was on the muddy track when the howling began, and all around us the trees buffeted around madly. For a brief moment, we thought trees might be upended in the building maelstrom, and we picked up the pace… because we knew what must surely come next… the rain!
And boy did it come! And yes, the track we were were on became quite mushy underfoot… fortunately, we made it to the road just as the heavens really opened.
There’s a point, when you’re caught in the rain, when you get so wet that any ideas of even trying to remain dry just become impossible. And when you reach that point – which happened remarkably quickly for us – you no longer care.
The truth is; I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so wet in all my life, while still having clothes on. As we walked down the hill – on tarmac by now – the rain came down so heavily that the drainage channels running down either sde of the road became raging torrents in no time at all. By the time we were back in the town, we were totally sodden through, and must have looked like two drowned rats.
The traffic in the town, by this time, had become extremely busy; clearly, this was rush-hour in downtown Papeete; long queues of cars were at a standstill, and large groups of school children and teenagers appeared to be waiting under any available shelter to – presumeably – catch their school buses home.
We squelched our way back onto the ship and couldn’t wait to get into dry clothes.
As it turned out, our timing was impeccable. At 5:30pm – after drying off – we were in time to watch a local dance troupe perform in the Palladium show lounge. A very entertaining end to a very interesting, and challenging, day.
Just for the record; No internet again. Nothing – not a squeak. We might have tried to use the free wi-fi in any one of the many bars and cafes in town, but escorting in the morning and walking all afternoon rather put paid to that. I had hoped to be able to do everything I needed to do on the ship’s wi-fi, but that – once again – proved totally fruitless… how frustrated am I on a scale of 1 to 10… Grrrrrrr!