Category Archives: Pacific Ocean

Tahiti – and not a grass skirt wearer to be seen

The beaches, with their black volcanic sand, remained in the sunshine as we toured the island.

Early this morning we docked at this beautiful tropical island in the city of Papeete (pronounced Pa-pae-ett-ae because the Polynesians sound every syllable). The word ‘city’ is an exaggeration as it is probably smaller than most of our towns. But Tahiti is the largest of the 130 islands which make up French Polynesia and the next time I see the Olympics I will watch out for the “Society Islands”, of which Tahiti is a part. It is certainly remote – 4,100 miles from Los Angeles, 3,800 miles from Sydney and in the South Pacific, so not exactly a hop, skip and a jump from the UK.




Preparing to go fishing…

1F0EA0D2-3731-4544-BA34-921914A96BB3Of course, Tahiti is known for the famous people who have lived here. Captain James Cook started the trend in 1769 and in 1788 William Bligh stopped by in HMS Bounty to collect breadfruit for the slave plantations in the West Indies. He stayed too long, his men enjoyed life with the happy-go-lucky Tahitians and the day of departure was not greeted with any enthusiasm. Hence the legendary mutiny and the departure of a group of beautiful Tahitians who sailed to the Pitcairn Islands with Fletcher Christian and his crew (having dispatched Captain Bligh and his supporters in a long boat). Moving on a year or two, Gaugin, Somerset Maughan and Rupert Brooke all chose to live on Tahiti.

You realise that it is a tropical island when the craggy volcanic mountains (covered in lush vegetation) peek in and out of low cloud and steam appears to rise from the tops of the trees. The beaches, with their black volcanic sand, remained in the sunshine as we toured the island. The surf was spectacular although the undertow is fiercesome and sea swimming is only recommended for strong swimmers.


There she blows…
Ginger Plant
But by far the most spectacular part of the tour was a visit to the Faarumai Falls.



Chasing waterfalls!

We were taken to Point Venus where the early navigators landed and there stands a rather spectacular 75 ft high lighthouse. It is also the spot where the 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty (with Marlon Brando) was filmed. We were taken to see the Arahoho Blowholes where waves force themselves through a tunnel in the rock so water then spurts out at the top of the cliff.


But by far the most spectacular part of the tour was a visit to the Faarumai Falls. The first waterfall is set in a lush green valley and we were able to climb to the point where it cascades from a great height into a deep pool. The noise was deafening, the rocks were slippery with the spray but the reward for perseverance was a breathtaking view.

Lunch included local specialities such as poisson cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and topped with coconut cream, onions and oil) and fafa (spinach served with young suckling pig). But the local breadfruit (a bit like potato but drier and sweeter) served as fries was a gastronomic experience in its own right. Fabulous.

Even the locals say it is expensive here and my goodness they do not exaggerate. The unit of currency is the French Pacific Franc but American dollars are very welcome. The island specialises in the sale of black pearls, which are really beautiful. However, family and friends should not hold their breath… the shop’s credit card machine had broken!! The local market hall (where you cannot barter) actually had some hand made ‘grass’ skirts but, sadly, I couldn’t think of an appropriate occasion to show up in one.

The locals are delightful and the children especially are spectacularly beautiful. For anyone with ambition to live in the middle of nowhere, this is indeed a ‘nowhere’ worth considering.



Pitcairn Islands – no mutiny but bountiful!


In the early hours of dawn the Pitcairn Islands loomed into view and as the sun rose in the sky we were boarded! Not by pirates, although some claimed they were, but by a boat load of direct descendants of Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers from HMS Bounty all those years ago. And here they have remained, on this remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, living (now) a peaceful life with only recently installed telecommunications (complete with New Zealand phone numbers).









They brought their own ‘bounty’ in the form of souvenirs and once most of the passengers had disembarked from their boat, the remaining men lifted panels from the floor to reveal crate upon crate of goodies. All these were hastily lifted aboard and stalls were set up. The trading was all in American dollars with people who had a distinct New Zealand accent. This is because, as children, they are sent to New Zealand for their final two years of high school. Many never return because jobs and money here are extremely limited.

Then there was time to chat with Jacqui Fletcher. She is a seventh generation descendant who left the island, qualified as a pharmacist, worked in New Zealand, Australia and the UK before finally returning to the place of her birth. She is no longer a pharmacist as medical needs are met by the island’s doctor and a part time nurse, but this bright, well educated woman takes pride in doing a lot of administrative work on behalf of the 52 islanders. That’s right, just 52!!!



96CD10AE-485D-46CC-AAA0-70EAE8E56B74.jpegThe cruise around Pitcairn left me wondering how on earth they got on and off this lush green volcanic island with its towering cliffs and steep rock faces. In spite of the calm seas, the tide raged relentlessly against the craggy shore line and it was difficult to spot any natural harbour. A circuit of the island seemed to reveal just one inlet, complete with a slip-way which appeared man-made. So how did the Bounty fare? There seemed to be no roads on the island but steep pathways linked houses built in terraces on the hillside. Jacqui enlightened us that the only mode of transport is quad bike (how exciting) or by walking the 2 square miles.

As for the landing possibilities….freighters come by 4 times a year with provisions and often have to wait for a couple of days for the sea to be calm enough to get the goods to the shore.

The island’s history is fascinating. The mutineers arrived with some Tahitian women (but not enough). There was fighting because the Tahitian men who also came were only allocated 1 woman to 3 men and eventually Fletcher Christian was shot, along with two other British men, when the Tahitians staged their own mutiny. Of course we had to ask about the clear dangers of small populations being limited for marriage opportunities. The answer was amusing. Pitcairn is an island with a small gene pool but because it is an island it is visited by ships heading to and from Tahiti and sometimes genes just happened to get left behind!!

Some children accompanied their parents to the ship and were some of the friendliest kids you would find anywhere. They are immensely proud to count the generations separating them from their ancestors. One little boy had his arm in a plaster cast and was happy to tell anyone who asked that he “fell off a cliff”. Ouch!


There are 4 islands which make up the Pitcairn Islands, two of which are atolls. Henderson Island offers beautiful sandy beaches with palm trees but no population! I didn’t expect to feel quite so proud to have got closer than most people to this truly fascinating island but I now fully intend to keep in touch via their website. As a protectorate of the UK they are immensely grateful for the small amount of support they receive and I will now follow the islanders’ progress with interest as they sell their honey (said to be the purest in the world) and their beautifully carved wooden goods.

We are now doing what most people do who pass by here and heading for Tahiti.