The marina in the town center is in the best location and is well maintained, so it’s a great base to work from. They don’t take reservations, though, so getting in is always a crap shoot. There’s nowhere to anchor nearby, so if you can’t get in, you have to go back from where you came. When we arrived, we saw a boat that had come in just ahead of us leaving again. We had nobody behind us so we took our time looking through the whole marina and found THE last spot. The manager and several other people told us we were SO lucky to get it. The guy who left rejected it because it was too small for his boat. HA! I guess size DOES matter!
It seems to be a favorite theme of cruising guides to introduce the section on Papeete by complaining about how awful it is. It’s noisy and smelly and crowded and expensive. Yes, that’s because it has cars and car exhaust and people and stores that sell all of the stuff that you haven’t seen for months that you really want to buy, not just beach coconuts and nothing else.
Waterfront around sunset
Enjoying Tahiti Heiva - 2018
I like Papeete. It felt good being back in a familiar place. Sure, it’s not a deserted tropical atoll, it’s a city, but as cities go, it’s pretty nice. The people are friendly, the parks are beautiful and safe to walk around in twenty-four hours a day, the food is delicious, the beer is cold and they have all of the aforementioned stuff at hand. It is true that everything is really expensive, but that’s because if it’s not a coconut or a mango, it has to be shipped to the middle of the Pacific Ocean from anywhere. The Pacific is the biggest one. I think I’ve been clear on that.
Top of our list, of course, was shopping for all of the food we would need to get us through all of those islands where the only store only has two cans of okra to our next real store in New Zealand.
Provisioning in Papeete is not for those prone to fainting. Every trip to the store costs $300. It’s like Costco, except that we had to go once or twice a day for a week. Even worse than that, the bill is in Francs, which are about one to a penny, so every time we check out, the line at the bottom of the bill says something like, “Please pay: 32,458”. By our fifth trip, I was starting to panic, particularly considering the grocery store was not our only expense. There was the chandlery, the hardware store, the marina and, of course, the evening out eating the pizza we have been craving for months. I kept having to remind myself that we were buying months of supplies and that if it were evened out into normal weekly trips, it was only a little worse than living in California or New York, except that we don’t have jobs! Eventually, I got so used to it that when we found a guy who said he could fix our spinnaker and quoted us a number I’m more used to seeing on real estate flyers for small houses, I said, “Eh, what the hell..” and gave it to him to work on. “Remember”, I told myself, “Divide by a hundred. Divide by a hundred...”
The second largest block of our time was busy chasing internet. God, I am getting so sick of shitty internet. Most places we go don’t have it at all, so we don’t worry about it, but Papeete does and some of it is even not too bad. Most of it is, though, and I’m getting sick of wasting great big chunks of the beautiful day dealing with it.
To give an example: As a test, I started downloading a single thirty-minute audio podcast to see how fast the connection was. At the speed it was coming, it would have taken two hours to get, except that it didn’t because the system signed me out every five minutes and required navigating all of the password screens to log back in. This made the download start all over again from the beginning. Never mind that.
After much searching, we found a decent connection that didn’t automatically log us off, but it was far away and only available during business hours. We made a point of only doing the bare minimum; Make sure we’re not overdrawn, read the emails that look important, as long as they don’t have attachments, and do whatever software updates we need to keep our computers from locking up when we really need them not to. Then we wait and spend hours watching progress bars that never move or the dreaded Wheel of Death while the world cycles by on the path outside, bathed in the sunshine of paradise.
In the middle of our stay in Papeete, we gave ourselves a break from all of the chores by taking an evening to see the Heiva. We love the Heiva! It’s grand and unmistakably Polynesian. Going to it has the feel of attending an opera or the ballet, only it’s outside and the dancers aren’t doing it right unless they have shaken half of the flowers and palm fronds off of their costumes.
When our week in Papeete was done, we collected our repaired spinnaker, filled the water and fuel tanks and left for Moorea. Begonia was at full weight again, squatting down on her waterline like a duck with a quarter-million francs of canned goods and half of a metric ton of water on her back. Think Chilean Steamer Duck.