After months of being at anchor or underway it was lovely to be alongside in Pape'ete. Instead of co-ordinating water taxis and tenders we were able to simply step off the gangway! The strange thing is that after so many months of visiting tiny little islands Pape'ete (pop 26,000) felt like a bustling metropolis.
The first couple days I was still working so didn't have the chance to see very much. I also knew I would have some time off after so I wasn't too concerned.
There's a big market in the city with vendors selling a range of items: straw goods, fruit and vegetables, ready to eat food (Chinese food on a baugette anyone?), fabric items (pareos etc), fresh flowers and of course black pearls. Pearls were everywhere in the city, from cheap ($10 US for a pair of earrings) to the incredibly expensive. Black pearls aren't always completely black, they come in shades of grey and some have a blue hue. I've heard of other colours as well but I think they're more rare and I didn't see any.
On Sunday morning I went with the school to a service at this church. It was a special day, the anniversary of missionaries first arriving in Tahiti I think. For this occasion the ladies were dressed in all white. The 'regular' congregation sat according to tribe and at different parts of the service each tribe took a turn to sing a cappella. We didn't stay for the whole service, it was in Polynesian for one, also super hot and the students had another field studies trip to get ready for.
I walked around the city (at least the few blocks closest to the ship) a fair bit. There were some fancy buildings (I think this is something official):
And some more modest.
Being French Polynesia we wondered why the stop signs were in English.
With a few days to explore, after finishing my rotation but before flying out, I got to see some of the island. Some crew mates rented a car and we drove around the island stopping a couple places. This is Pointe Venus where Cook watched the transit of Venus and I think where the HMS Bounty landed.
Beautiful black sand beaches. This was taken just before I went wading and ended up soaked when I didn't notice the larger than usual wave approaching.
The road pretty much follows the coast which makes for a very scenic drive.
It's not all palm trees, we stumbled on a lily pad/water garden.
The last night before flying out I joined some crew mates going to the nearby island of Moorea. We rented a cottage/bungalow where we enjoyed relaxed meals, wifi and a good amount of down time.
It was fun going to the supermarket and picking things to eat. Especially since, being French Polynesia, there was a fair amount of French food.
In the afternoon we rented bikes and rode to the beach for a swim, snorkel and walk. One of those "is this too good to be true" moments.
The next day I took the ferry back to the main island in order to get to my flight.
Between the ferry and the airplane I had time to stop by the dock and see Sørlandet set off for Fiji. First time I've seen her leave the dock while standing ashore. As much as I love being on board I was very content at watching her depart without me, on to new adventures and new places now.