Tahiti, French Polynesia – July 2008
To see my bike standing unscathed in the arrival lounge in Tahiti’s International Airport a few weeks ago was a happy moment, not unlike picking up your son after his first day in kindergarden, I assume.
It’s time to turn a few pages in the World Atlas. After 4½ hours strokes of the wing and a 4.000 km chunk of the South Pacific on board the Boeing plane from Auckland, New Zealand, I’ve crossed the International Dateline, and have thus moved from being about as far east as man can go to about as west as man can go. French Polynesia is the place.
It’s a funny thing, crossing time zones. During the last more than 2 years of cycling east I’ve occasionally sacrificed an hour here, an hour there in order to synchronize with the local time. And then, all of a sudden, the clock’s turned back 24 hours thus giving me an extra day which happened to be Saturday July 5th 2008. It’s not daily fare for me to get an extended weekend for free (but then again, it’s always Sunday in my life as a good girlfriend in Adelaide once told me).
French Polynesia is country #24 on my bike expedition around the world. To my delight the temperature’s been tripled compared to Auckland’s 10 winter degrees Celsius, people say Bonjour and Ça va? and drive in the right (that is the right, as opposed to left and opposed to the wrong as well) side of the road which in an odd way seem wrong to me after the last 10 months in the wrong (left, that is) side of the road. Confused? So was I crossing the first few intersections in Tahiti’s capital Papeete.
I’ve left the introductory tropical coma behind me (it’s more comfortable that it sounds) and lap up new, Tahitian input like a sponge. As expected it’s beautiful, seductively exotic and insanely expensive here. One hour internet’s up to 25 USD, a 2L bucket of ice cream is 17 USD, a kilo of capsicum is 12 USD and I nearly crashed on my bike when I saw a net of oranges (approx. 2 kg) with the proud price tag of 30 USD!
Understandably, I’ve become even more anorectic with my money and survive on tap water, bananas and jam sandwiches. And God bless the French for introducing le baguette which is dirt cheap, fresh, and readily available. But I’m willing to make a few compromises in the culinary department because it is food for the hunger of my paradise dreams to be here in Tahiti and Moorea, without a doubt France’s most sexy accessory as they say.