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Day 1,940 - Papeno'o, Tahiti (17° 38.35S 149° 26.01W)
18:05hrs - September 21st 2012
Room With A View

In the heart of the island of Tahiti Nui, nestled deep within the craggy folds of Papeno'o valley, hidden by shadows, surrounded by lush rainforest, and just below a cloud line which hangs almost permanently over the volcanic peaks, lays Relais de la Maroto. A hotel unlike all others in Tahiti.

Far away from the busy streets of Papeete and the swanky thatch roof bungalows perched over shimmering waters, La Maroto offers visitors a different perspective of the island - a rather rustic one, we discovered, one rarely seen by tourists, certainly not by those desiring all things sunny, clean and aquatic.

In an entirely inadequate economy-size rental car, we started our adventure
by driving off the paved coastal road a little before marker 'PK17' and into Papeno'o valley. The rocky, dusty road wound its way alongside the Papeno'o river, the longest in Tahiti, and into the very center of the island, a road that according to the guidebooks, tour companies and travel blogs we had referenced regarding the hotel, should only be negotiated by 4x4 vehicles, hikers, or viewed from a helicopter.

The one-hour drive was exciting. We meandered and trundled our way up and over ridges, past cascading waterfalls, around rock falls, across narrow bridges (rather than driving through the river), and while the scenery was rugged and the drive marginally challenging (although I wouldn't recommend driving this route in a car after heavy rain or without a little off road experience) our adventure didn't really begin until we arrived at the hotel.

Originally built in the 1980's to house workers constructing Tahiti's hydroelectric dam, La Maroto was later converted into a hotel and, we were assured by staff, recently renovated. It's ideally located for tourists interested in experiencing the wilder side of Tahiti - visiting waterfalls, hiking into remote valleys, wading across rivers and exploring archeological sites. Or for those simply interested in a days distraction and who drive up just to sample the restaurant's gourmet French cuisine and exceptional wine cellar. It's worth the drive, the food is very good, the wine list extensive, and the views at the hotel, stunning - just as long as they don't include the hotel itself.

You see, La Maroto is a rich and colorful place. Sure, the paint's peeling, the building's exterior is camouflaged with streaks of black mold and layers of healthy moss, the rooms have rising damp, they smell musky and provide shelter for cockroaches, ants and lots of unseen critters that you can hear scurrying inside the wall and ceiling cavities at night time, but it's got character.

The hotel lobby has a pool table that looks as though it was used by the hydroelectric dam construction workers - there's only one cue, snapped in the middle and held together with tape. And after just three hours of checking in to our room the hot water dribbled to a stop, followed by the cold water, and the toilets, all the toilets in the hotel, ceased to flush (something about the hot tub we had run in our room draining the last of the hotel's fresh water supply). But despite all of this, I actually quite enjoyed myself.

What La Maroto may lack in convenience and luxury, it makes up for in character, and I liked it. It gave us a unique and oddly refreshing view of Tahiti. Sure it was a little weathered and earthy, but it was also strangely refreshing to be somewhere far away from the perfectly groomed bungalows and imported white sand beaches of the larger franchise resorts.

We got a swanky green bucket from management and, ironically, were able to continue flushing our loo using the water from the hot tub that we had yet to drain. (Luckily we were the only guests staying that night.)

So if you ever visit Tahiti and are feeling up for an adventure, take a trip up to
La Maroto, enjoy the view, the French cuisine and wine cellar, but if you arrive during dry season, and decide to stay the night, check first with management before filling the jacuzzi.

 
 


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Quick Fix: 17° 29.45 S / 149° 51.16 W

September 3rd 2012 (day 1,922)
Conditions:  Wind: 8/N     Sky: Mostly Clear
                    Boat SPD: 0   (Anchored)

New Heights
After living in the Tuamotus for over four months, where the separation between land and sky is distinct and definite. Where the white coral islands rise no more than a few feet above sea level, and save for the occasional radio antenna or luxury yacht, palm trees are the tallest objects to be found, it feels strangely intimidating to be anchored amongst towering cliffs that rise from the water to over 6,000 feet,
high enough to touch the clouds, bridging a space that seemed infinite in the Tuamotus. Today we took a trip into the interior of Moorea. We looked down on Mount Rotui, a volcanic peak that divides Cook's Bay from Opunohu so symmetrically, it could be mistaken for a mirror image.
- NH





 
 


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Day 1,920 - Cook's Bay, Moorea (17° 30.0S 149° 49.1W)
17:34hrs - September 1st 2012
What Ever Floats Your Boat

With Catherine boasting a boat speed of 12.2 knots during her 2200 - 0300 night watch, and with winds gusting regularly to near gale force, it's fair to say that our passage from the Tuamotus to Tahiti was
a fast one.

Tom, our nephew from London who was brave enough to fly out and join us for two months, weathered the experience with a casual indifference, spending much of his time reading, trying to nap, and munching on Pringles in the cockpit, a snack which I suspect brought him just a little comfort on his first deep blue passage - a passage that after 24-hours of rolling, pitching, clinging and bracing, he likened to an inebriated night out on the town, where the initial stages of anticipation and excitement, give way to staggering intoxication and eventually, regret.

But after two days at sea, trapped with his Auntie and Uncle on a boat smaller than his climate controlled bedroom back home, Tom arrived in Tahiti with his sense of humor still in tact and, I hope, thankful for the experience (which perhaps he will appreciate more with time - once he's had a chance to 'edit out' the more uncomfortable realities of passagemaking).

Tom is quite certain that "sailing is not for me", and seems happy to have his feet on dry land again.
But he's stuck with us for another 19 more days, and perhaps, if the conditions are just right and we
have the perfect sail between Moorea and Tahiti, he'll change his mind.