After a scrumptious hotel breakfast we went to the hotel lobby to wait for our 8:30 pick up to go for boat trip. Waited and waited, until someone had the incentive to ring Benoit at the other hotel, who only then realised that we had not been picked up. I gather that since there was a tour boat in the next bay, all the taxi buses had gone off to collect them and forgot us. At long last something was organised and we driven back along the coast to meet the others who were waiting for us on small flat bottom tourist boat.
The tour guide, Seeki was excellent with years of practice with explaining and showing things to tourist. He had little stories about the mountains as we cruised along the coast, even coming close to the Hilton were we were staying. We thought it would have been easier to pick us up from there. The scenery was magnificent with the high steep bush clad mountains, falling down to a slither of white sand before the ever changing colours of the sea.
We arrive at a stop in the middle of a bay about ½ km from land, amongst a few similar tourist boats. There we were told we were to go swimming with the sharks and stingrays. Told not to touch the sharks but the stingray were OK. I was a little apprehensive, as I have seen the nasty things that stingrays can do with their tail barb. But as soon as we were in the water, our guide with a little fish pieces held tightly in his hand, had the stingrays flocking to him. They clambered up and over his back and shoulders and over each other trying to get to the tit bits he was holding. He also got them to float and roll over us. It was an amazing sensation to feel their soft smooth wings mould over your shoulders. We could stroke them all over and even feel around their mouths. Their tails did not seem to have any large barbs, although I did keep away from that area. It was great feeling to snorkel with these creatures and them allowing us to touch so much. The sharks circle in the background with their pilot fish hanger ons. The sharks were black finned reef sharks ranging from ½ metre to 1.5 metres while the stingrays would have been approx. 1 metre in width. Some of our group we very frightened of these creatures and refused to stay in the water for more than a quick dip.
We did wonder why the sharks never approached anyone but still continued to circle in the distance. When we had all exited the water, the sharks started to closely circle the boat. By this time there must have been about 40 or 50 of them, that we had not realised were there. As soon as the boat motor started they started swimming and circling faster and faster. Then we found out why. The guide tossed a bucket of old fish over and feeding frenzy started. The trashing and splashing lasted a few moments then it was all over.
Off to the motu for a picnic lunch including raw fish preparation, coconut shredding and pareu tying demonstrations. All and all a lovely day and something to remember especially the swim with the stingrays.
The night the 6 of us had tapas and wine by the bar and off to bed for an early night
Ferry back to Tahiti and trucks back to hotel. We spent the time going to the supermarket, swimming by the pool.
Time to ourselves. Dave, Don, Frank and Jo biked to Papeete to look around while Debbie and I went to a supermarket to the south of the hotel to look at all that was for sale. Prices are good, lots of variety and lots of fresh ready-made meals. Spent the rest of day swimming and sitting by the pool reading even when it rained, we did not notice as it was still warm and the umbrellas protected our books from the rain
That night an early meal for the 6 of us in a restaurant to the south of the hotel, called The Blue Banana, My choice was again raw fish. This time many variations of one plate. Don had a large steak which he could not finish. While Dave again had duck, as the previously time he had while at the Hilton it was delicious. The others had pizza and hamburgers.
Sunday – race day
Early start, yet again. We woke up and it was pouring with rain. Not a good sign. Left the hotel at 6am arriving the outdoor Veledrome at 7am. Karen from NZ Road Cycling magazine was noticeable by her absence. She had decided she did not like the idea of riding in the rain. After numerous speech and introductions all in French, all participants had to queue up to get cycle check. They check the brakes and your race numbers displayed correctly. A quick peddle around to the other side of the stadium and all lined up together in no order – 15km, 55km and 110km all mixed up. Approx 400 people all together. The rain had stopped and day looked like it was going to be cooler than previous days.
After another round of speeches and hula dancing, a 2km neutral ride was on. What chaos, cyclists of all abilities getting in the way of each other. Faster ones trying to get to the front. Mountain bikes weaving all over the place. I was told there were a few minor accidents just after the actual start line.
By the time I had reach the hill where previously I had over heated, I felt fine and passed a lot of people, as I got stuck amongst the mountain bikers. Maybe it was because the day was cooler and/or I had acclimatised. At the top of this hill people lined the side of the road throwing flower petals over all participants and the road.
The first half of the race I was peddling most of time into the wind by myself. Just after the turn around point a male and female cyclists came along. The female and I worked well together switching front position while male stayed behind until just before the hill. They got ahead of me on the hill although I had nearly caught them up by the time the finish arrived.
Later on after watching Don arrive back from the 110km, I was surprised to be called up to the stage. It took me awhile to understand what was going on, as the announcements were all in French, but I had come first, in 50+ age group at 1hr 46 minutes. 1st out of 10, 50+ females and 8th out of 35 of all females. Dave took 1hr 29 minutes, 11th out of 54 of the 50+ male cyclists
Don did extremely well and completed the 110km in 2hrs 36minutes coming 2nd in the 50+ age group and 7th overall. Jo was first in the female 110km 50+ age group out of five.
The winners received a pearl shell trophy with breakfast voucher for Manava Hotel where we were staying. I gave mine to Karen and Brent who were moving into our hotel that night after a week in a different hotel.
Paulo and Claudine drove us all back to the hotel for a quick shower and to pick up Debbie who had refused to get up early to go to yet another bike race. Then off the Benoit’s house for a meal consisting of BBQ fish, raw fish, taro, rice, beer and wine thus ending a fantastic holiday.
A 4:30 start the next day to catch the 8am flight back to NZ.
Thank you to the Tahitian cyclists who organised this trip especially Benoit, Rodger, Paulo, Stephanie, Claudie and the rest of the Velo Club de Tahiti members.