We all liked the mood lighting on Virgin America, but for sheer old-fashioned service I think Air Tahiti takes the prize. Our plane back to Tahiti from the Marquesas was 3 hours late, which meant that we missed our connection to Ra’iatea and Air Tahiti paid for our taxi, put us up in a good Papeete hotel, paid for our dinner and faxed through to the hotel in Ra’iatea where we were supposed to be staying so that we wouldn’t get charged for the night. When was the last time anyone got that kind of treatment on a domestic flight in the States? Mind you, I think we also paid almost as much for our domestic flights within French Polynesia as we did for the whole rest of the trip, still, it was a pleasant surprise.
Or would have been if it hadn’t been for the mutiny it almost incited. We are staying in a lot of different kinds of places on this trip: pensions, hotels, bungalows, condos, even a house in one place, and even though our accommodation in the Marquesas was definitely on the upscale end, the boys seem convinced that I am going to land them in a fleapit. “We just don’t have that much confidence in your choices, Mum,” according to Abraham.
Dani, who has a taste for large international hotels, refers to these dubious and unsatisfactory establishments as “Motels.” So, when Air Tahiti put us up in a large expensive hotel chain with multiple bars, restaurants, and a lagoonarium (!), he and Matiu were in hog heaven. Soft bed, nice sheets, huge flat screen TV, room service, the works. Unfortunately there was no time to enjoy any of it because we got there about 8 pm and had to get up at 5 the next morning for the next flight out to Ra’iatea.
No one got enough sleep; the airport was mobbed with people flying out to all the islands; we were a bit late and barely made the plane; all the seats were taken and we had to sit separately (no assigned seating on these flights); and to top it off, the place I’d booked on Ra’iatea turned out to be a spartan one-bedroom cottage with linoleum on the floors and thin mattresses, set in a pretty coconut grove on the water. The owners were very nice and, under the right circumstances, it would have been perfect. We had a terrific card game on the veranda, watched the fish jumping in the lagoon, made friends (in a manner of speaking) with a gecko who lived on the ceiling and even managed to make a meal for ourselves (ramen, cocoa, grilled toast and cheese, not exactly gourmet, but kid-friendly). But you may imagine what we endured along the way. “You took us away from that to bring us here?“
We did. I just had to get to Ra’iatea to see the Taputapuatea marae — which is similar to the Kamuihei site on Nuku Hiva, but different in interesting respects. One big difference is the location: Taputapuatea is built on an east-facing promontory, looking out to a major pass through the reef. It’s a commanding position, wide open to the sea and the sky and very visible from several directions. At Kamuihei you are up in the forest, it’s dim and green and there are huge trees with great twisting roots and big tumbled blocks of black basalt. It’s a really different feeling; though the basic structures are quite similar.
Here are a couple of pictures of Taputapuatea:
and another with Dani in the background, picking his way over the coral (that’s a motu in the distance, a little islet on the reef):
Luckily for me there was a really lovely beach by the marae, which is itself set in a beautiful garden, so we spent most of the day there, me wandering around looking at rocks…
…and Seven and the boys swimming. Seven opened some kind of huge mollusk and fed it to the fish, which I think is what they are looking at so intently here:
Finally, I thought you might like to see “George” the gecko who kept us entertained for quite a while…