Tahiti 24th May to 2 June 2015
Trip to Tahiti — to participate in La Ronde Tahitienne Cycle Race
Flight NZ Sunday 3pm. Arrived Saturday 11pm
This is the first trip that Dave and I had attempted where we were taking our bikes on a plane, therefore a learning curve in transportation was occurring as
we went along. We packed our two bike ‘bags’. Dave’s a specially purchased bike bag which had hard base and soft sides. Mine a very soft bag which we put into cardboard box obtained from a bike shop. Bike front wheels, handle bars and seats were taken off and stored into the bags. Padding around the more vulnerable parts, then the boxes weighed. We were considerably under the 23km limit therefore into the bags went our helmets, bike shoes, tools, various food [never know what we may need]. We then packed between us a separate back with our clothes. Then off to the airport for the Sunday 3pm flight with Air Tahiti to Papeete. Tahiti Nui airline charged us $70.00 for one extra bag.
We traveled with my sister Debbie and her mad keen cycling husband Don.
Arrived in Papeete and after queuing for over 1 hour to get through customs, we received a warm island welcome of flower leis and kisses from the local cycling group – Velo Club of Tahiti. Amongst the welcoming crowd were Stephanie, Benoit, Paulo, Claudie, and Roger. On the same flight as us were a Frank and Jo-anne from Wellington and another couple from Hong Kong who were to be in our group. The local club transported us and our bikes to our hotel and advised that there was an 8am bike ride in the morning and would we like to join them. Since it was now just past midnight [local time] and we had not even unpacked let alone reassembled our bikes, I declined. Which probably was not all the courteous but luckily the couple from Wellington said that they would join them. We did get out of bed in time to see them off.
We were staying at Manava Suite Resort located 10km south of Papetee. It has a lovely infinity pool which over looks the surf on the coral reef in the distance. Each unit has a full kitchen which is extremely handy when staying for a while considering we had been advised the Tahiti was very expensive.
The rest of the first day was spent sitting by the pool with the cyclists after their 60km ride and then had to wait for the local TV station to turn up to interview people. We did not understand and luckily the presenters did not talk to us.
Off to the supermarket to get our food for breakfasts, lunch and snacks. One large pawpaw together with muesli and weetbix we brought with us was a great breakfast to have. The soft cheeses and pate with baguettes or crackers went down well with wine, beer and gin/vodka in the afternoons and for lunch. Supermarkets we found in both directions from the Manava and were excellently stocked and well priced. Read meat seems to come mainly from NZ with a lot of packaged items from either NZ or France.
We tried the local food / restaurant across the road from the hotel and had great meals of fish, salads and potatoes. Good staple food at a reasonable price.
Monday was Public holiday which provided another opportunity for the local cyclists to take us on a ride. They decided to take us partly on the race course so that we knew what we were getting ourselves into. Therefore a 15km ride to the race start location, then 30km ride along the course and back again. The course was due north of Papetee, along the side of sea, primarily as there is only one major road around Tahiti as the island is made up of very old volcanoes, those craters have created very steep jungle clad mountains rising inland from the sea. These mountains rise to 2800metres from sea level in a very short distance.
Not all our entire expanded group went on the ride. Debbie, the Hongkong couple and a French journalist choose to drive and follow us taking photographs and enjoying the scenery – sea, sand, surf, surf kites, coconut palms, local villages. There was a slight language barrier with the common language being English, but with very minimal understanding by the French journalist and one HK person. Shared interests make things easier.
There was only one major hill on the ride which was not overly steep and about a 1km in length. I lagged considerably behind all the others as I was starting to overheat. It was now about 35 degrees. At this point I decided to withdraw from the 110km race occurring on the following weekend and participate in the shorter 55km race. I was not going to kill myself. Dave also decided this might be the wisest option.
There were lots of cyclist on the roads and drivers were considerate and used to people biking. We were told that there were 6 local cycling groups and lots of people enjoyed and participated in different forms of cycling.
We noticed over the week, that a high portion of the locals are out doing some type of physical activity, be it; playing soccer, body boarding, surfing, kite surfing, paddle board, running, walking, cycling, mountain biking. There seems a high participation in physical activities far more than any other Pacific Islands I have been too. This may result in the general population not being as large as other islands.
We were told that most people lived in Papeete. Population of Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti was 180,000. All business and most schools and work is in Papeete resulting in big traffic jams on weekdays as people tried to get their work and deliver child to their schools, as there is only one road around the island. There is no income tax paid. Tax is only VAT and import duty. The French Government contributes towards the utilities and pays the pensions.
I noticed that there is not much bird or insect life. Not sure why, at least no mosquitos. Maybe it is the time of the year.