Schlagwort-Archive: backpacking

French Polynesia – Summary & Pictures

People: The award for friendliest locals of the South Pacific goes to…Samoa. But French Polynesia came close, at least the Tahitian part of the inhabitants of the Society Islands. The originally French were less nice, often not wanting to speak English, and we somehow met less nice people in the Tuamotus. While we did meet some other cool backpackers, a lot of them were also French and often not willing to speak English. Seriously, I found their attitude a bit embarrassing: I mean French is only my FIFTH language and therefore, I don’t speak it well. But to grow up in a Western country nowadays with good schools and not speak ANY other language? Embarrassing.

Food: We mostly cooked for ourselves to save money, and even that was expensive (high supermarket costs). Sometimes we ate out at roulottes (food trucks) and we had some delicious food on our lagoon tours. I guess if you can afford to eat out, French Polynesian food is really quite nice!

Weather: Overall, we were quite lucky – while there were some grey/rainy days, it was usually not on the most important days. And all in all, we did get lots of sunshine and heat!

Costs: French Polynesia is not cheap. The only thing cheap is probably the baguettes which are luckily readily available on most islands. Our daily spendings ended up being about 75€/person/day, including everything, even the flight pass. This required us to re-think the purchase of every little cookie package we felt like buying though!

Accommodation: We camped almost every night of our one month stay in French Polynesia – sometimes in beautiful spots directly on the lagoon or pretty beach, but also in someone’s back garden on hard coral rocks which was not so nice. Only in Huahine, Bora Bora (kind of) and Papeete we had a „proper room“. We really started to like camping though and are going to miss it!

Infrastructure: There are not many public buses or ferries, hence we decided to buy the Air Tahiti flight pass for both the Society Islands and the Tuamotus. While it was not cheap, it was by far the easiest way to see as many islands as possible in just a month. On the islands, we often had free bikes or rented scooters.

Illnesses: Mathijs had to fight his new wound and I had a bad throat infection at one point, so it wasn’t all perfect, but we made it work.

Safety: All good.

Itinerary: We took advantage of the flight pass as much as possible. The only island we failed to include was Maupiti which we were very sad about – but there was just no way: All flights into and out of Maupiti were fully booked. I guess we’ll have to return one day to see Maupiti, and maybe some of the more remote island groups like the Marquesas or Austral Islands. Since we really liked the country, we would definitely like to return one day!!

Highlight: Difficult to choose. As for islands, Huahine and Bora Bora were the best and I will always remember the „wall of sharks“ in Fakarava.

Lowlight: Tahiti/Papeete.

Click on the photo below to see our full photo album of French Polynesia:

IMG_6908 (Small)

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Tahiti – exploring the main island

Of course we couldn’t visit French Polynesia without spending some time at least in Tahiti itself – the main island of the archipelago. We spent two nights in Papeete and took a rental car for a day to explore the island. At first we headed East to a couple of viewpoints and blacksand beaches. People say Tahiti does not have any nice beaches – ok, they are not white, but we still found them quite pretty. Also nice for a change to see black sand instead of always white sand! There were also some nice views over the little bays and Moorea in the distance.

Unfortunately, after we started driving again, an alarm light in the car went on. We called our rental agency and were asked to stop by their location close to the airport. This was super annoying since we were already out of Papeete city traffic and we only would have passed by the airport at the end of the day otherwise (on our way back and to drop the car). But well… we have rented cars and scooters in so many different places in the world and never really had an issue up to now. I guess it was bound to happen at one point! To make things worse, we get stuck in a really bad traffic jam just 2km or so away from the rental station and were moving only meter by meter. At the rental agency, they checked things and told us that it’s only a broken alarm light and we should keep driving. Oh man, lost almost 2h for nothing…!

Anyways, we decided to continue our drive South instead of heading through Papeete another time. There was still some traffic jam, but luckily soon we were driving on rather empty roads again. Along the West coast, we stopped at multiple sights – some gardens, a waterfall, a natural spring,… all not that exciting though. We quickly (also because we didn’t have much time left) made our way to Tahete Iti, the smaller island of the two (unlike Huahine, Tahiti Nui and Iti are actually one island and not just connected by a bridge). We drove all the way down to Teahupoo, a place famous for its big waves and surfing competition. Unfortunately, you need to hire an expensive boat to get to see the wave and surfers – you cannot see them from town. Even so, it was a nice place to walk around for a bit, a cute little town.

Next, we decided to drive into the interior of Tahiti Iti up to a viewpoint, which would have been amazing, I’m sure, if the light would have been good. Unfortunately, mid afternoon was not a good time – we had the sun directly against us… Still cool to see, but we wish we would have been there at a different time of the day.

We then were left with the dilemma whether to finish the circle of Tahiti Nui (the big island) by driving up the East coast or to drive back the same way we came. On any other day, we would have opted to see what we had not seen yet – but we were a bit pressed for time and worried that Papeete city traffic would once again be really bad and we would get stuck in a traffic jam yet again. So we decided (sadly) to give that part of the island a miss… to be honest, I don’t think we missed all that much though. Tahiti overall has not been too exciting, and with our bad luck combined, we were happy to leave again next day for Moorea!

Moorea – last but not least

As a last island of French Polynesia, we decided to visit Moorea. I had always wanted to go there, but since we were not able to include it in our air pass, we saved it until the end and took the ferry from Papeete instead – which was easy enough. And a beautiful ride! First, we had great views of Tahiti, with Moorea in the distance, somewhere in the middle we had humpback whales breaching close to the boat, and later on we got the most spectacular views of Moorea – Tahiti faint in the distance. What an entrance to Moorea! The harbour is located between some high green mountains with beautiful blue waters around. Wow!

The next few days we explore the island by scooter and by foot, and of course soaked up the sun a bit more on the beach in front of our camping… some last beach time before we would go to South America and cooler temperatures would await us!

One day, we rented a scooter and drove around the whole island (which is not thaaat far). First, we headed to a viewpoint called Magic Mountain where unfortunately the guy told us it’s better to hike up than drive by scooter. A sweaty walk up an almost perfect road…where we easily could have gone by scooter. Oh well! The views were absolutely worth the hike though. Green mountains and turquoise waters, once again!

We then decided to drive along the South coast first, since the weather in the two bays in the North looked rather grey and rainy. Good choice! In the South, the sun was shining and we were able to enjoy some beautiful views. A really nice viewpoint is just past the Sofitel, where you can see the over-the-water-bungalows and the perfect clear water. Too bad we cannot afford to stay here! (Well, we probably could, but then our entire travel budget would be gone veeeery quickly…)

It was all very pretty, but the best are the two twin bays in the North: Opunohu Bay and Cook’s Bay. Here we took countless photo stops, relaxed a bit on the beach and enjoyed the typical Society islands landscape a bit more. Too bad this is the last island we are visiting!

Of course, we also drove up to the Belvedere, the most well-known viewpoint in Moorea. You don’t even have to hike at all to get this amazing view! Unfortunately, it was still a bit cloudy, but we nevertheless really enjoyed it.

Next day, we went hiking! We first hitched a ride to Opunohu Bay, then walked up again to the Belvedere – not along the road we had driven the day before, but on a nice trail in the forest. Up at the Belvedere, we took another trail which took us to a couple more viewpoints along the way and then all the way down to the other side of the island. It was pretty, but to be honest, the view stayed pretty much the same the whole time and a lot of the walk was just in the forest. In addition, it was raining for a big part of the hike, so at one point we were a bit done with it and ready to finish the hike. Also, hitchhiking proved difficult that day and it took us about 45min to get a ride. All in all, it was good to do some hiking again, but probably not absolutely necessary.

And…that was it for French Polynesia! Bus to ferry, ferry back to Tahiti and then a long wait during the night for our 3am flight to Easter Island. Why do flights have to leave at crazy times like these!? Seriously…