July 17 – 26, 2013
Port Phaeton seems to be in a world all to its own. Located on the south side of the isthmus that joins Tahiti Nui (big Tahiti) and Tahiti Iti (little Tahiti), Port Phaeton is almost completely surrounded by hills. While it was blowing 30 knots with 4 meter waves on the outside, we barely saw a puff of wind inside the anchorage. This little spot is an excellent hurricane hole, and probably the best in all of Tahiti. However, also due to its location, clouds tend to hover over the area, there is more rain, and the temperatures are quite a bit cooler than the rest of Tahiti. We never imagined ourselves bundled up in Tahiti!
Once we were well rested from the passage, we didn’t waste anytime getting ashore and setting out to find the Carrefour, one of Tahiti’s biggest grocery store chains. It was just a short walk up a gravel road, and then we reached the first major paved road we’d seen in a very long time. Looking across the street, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Among a strip of other stores, sat the Carrefour, and more importantly there was a real, paved parking lot, with cars parked in it. This was real civilization!
Shopping in a Carrefour was actually quite a pleasant and modern experience. When you enter, you must store any backpacks at the customer service counter. Although, I was permitted to keep my pack with me since it contained my iPad, and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving it behind the counter. If you need a shopping cart, you must slip a 100-franc coin into the slot on the handle that locks each cart to each other. The coin remains in the slot until you lock it to the next cart when you’re done shopping.
Carrefour is an excellent quality, large grocery store. There is mostly food, but like a super Target, there are also other sections of home goods, school supplies, electronics, and auto parts. I expected to be completely overwhelmed with choices, but I wasn’t. Maybe it was because we needed so many things, and it was exciting to have it all right there. Also, we were forced to take our time because we were reading everything in French.
The first time we stepped foot inside the Carrefour, we were like kids in a candy store. The best isles were the fresh fruits and vegetables, and the large assortment of meats and cheeses. We were still in the middle of the store when Colin ran up and began tugging at my shirt. He wanted to show us something. He dragged me to . . . get this . . . the produce section! He wanted almost absolutely every fresh fruit and veggie that he saw. Take a kid cruising, and look at what happens!
One thing we were beginning to learn about French Polynesia, and I understand this to be a French thing, is that the stores don’t supply an overabundance of plastic bags. They expect you to bring your own, and if you don’t, then you have to buy bags for 100 francs each. The baguette bags are 200 francs each. Lack of plastic makes for a cleaner environment. People around the world could learn a thing or two from the French! We usually brought our own bags anyway, and after having purchased one baguette bag, we’d re-use it every time.
This particular Carrefour also provided free wifi. Along with s/v Sueño, s/v Flour Girl, and s/v MacPelican, we’d sit at the picnic tables for some hugely craved internet access. While some of us shopped, some of us used internet, and the kids hung together. Our wifi antenna at the top of our mast was also able to pick up the Carrefour signal, so we could continue to browse the internet, make Skype calls, and update the blog from the boat. What luxury!
At the top of the gravel road leading to the Carrefour was a BMX dirt track. Whenever we’d stop at the end of the gravel road to wait for some of our group, the kids would take to running the dirt track. We stood there in disbelief as we watched them run up and down the steep and dusty hills. Occasionally, we’d see a kid wipe out in a cloud of dusty, red clay, only to reappear with clothes that needed to be scrubbed with the strongest stain remover and a bristle brush. We’d cheer when it wasn’t our kid, and we’d cringe when it was.
Justine’s 13th birthday was celebrated while we were in Port Phaeton. Kim (s/v Flour Girl) baked the cake which we were able to accompany with ice cream from Carrefour. Sueño, Flour Girl, MacPelican, and Duende all joined us for the celebration. The kids had fun making soft pretzel creations, and Justine received many wonderful gifts.
Our group of four kid boats took a bus ride to the east side of Tahiti Nui to explore three waterfalls named “Les Trois Cascades”. The bus dropped us off at the bottom of a road which we had to walk up before we reached the park area with the waterfalls. It was a beautiful walk, passing by homes with children playing ball in the street. Once we reached the park, there were trails through the woods to each of the waterfalls. We visited each fall, and enjoyed a picnic lunch by the base of one.
Before catching the return bus, we walked down the main road to a popular blow hole. There was a section of road on the mountainside that is no longer used, and probably for good reason. The remains of this road are highly exposed to the waves crashing against the rocky shore. It also appeared to be built on top of an old lava tunnel which provided the access for sea water to make its way into the blow hole. While we weren’t supposed to be out on the road, some of the kids had a blast being blasted by the forces of nature.
We stayed in Port Phaeton until the winds outside the reef died to less than 25 knots and the seas subsided to less than 3 meters. Our next port of call would be Commune de Punaauia, a day’s sail from Port Phaeton and just around the corner from Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia.