Article repost from Neilhennessyvass.com
Article by Neil Hennessy-Vass
January 23, 2017
Tahiti : Paradise Found
I wouldn’t dream of attempting to improve John Milton’s Paradise Lost, with its 10,000 lines of blank verse, biblical storylines of Satan, Adam and Eve. But what I can do is write with confidence about my recent trip to Tahiti in French Polynesia and how it could very well be paradise on earth (not lost).
There are similarities between the Tahiti that Samuel Wallis, the first European to set foot on the island in 1767 a hundred years after Milton’s seminal work and the lustful lives of Adam and Eve post apple consumption. But it would be a mistake to not consider Tahiti one of the most restful, beautiful and pleasant islands populated by the most delightful and happy people that I have ever met on this planet.
The first thing to take into consideration is that Tahiti and its islands are a long way from Europe so it takes a while to get there. I flew with Air Tahiti Nui to Los Angeles and then on to Pepeeté, the capital. To give you an idea how wonderfully remote things are Hawaii is 2700 miles away, almost 5ooo miles away you’ll find Chile and it’s some 3500 miles from Australia. You don’t really arrive in Tahiti by accident these days, you seek it out and seek it out you should. Let me tell you why.
Things are small scale here. The population of Tahiti is 200,000. Only 185,000 visitors make it this far every year compared to Hawaii’s 8.5 million. Are you beginning to see what’s so attractive about this group of islands? Family, music and food are the pulse of life here. The Samoans, Mãori, Chileans and Polynesian cisilizations all stem from the same ethic grouping. Pre European arrival to the islands they were governed as separate chiefdoms. Usually by clans with blood ties and were believed to be direct descendants from Polynesian gods – in short they had ‘mana’ or spiritual power.
When Samuel Wallis’ boat arrived in 1767 initially he was greeted with hostility but over time was accepted. Wallis was not intent on taking the island and soon he and his crew were accepted. The technological differences are hard to comprehend now. At one stage Europeans were able to exchange trees and supplies for nails, which the Tahitians promptly planted in the belief that iron would grow from the ground.
I would be coming back to the main island at the end of my trip but my first real experience was on the island of Taha’a. Flying to Raiatea then a boat ride of 40 min took me to Moorea Island then by water taxi to the Relais and Château’s Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa. The systems of travel here only add to the romance of the islands. This is a paradise on earth. Greeted with a singing tattooed local playing a ukulele and a garland of flowers placed around your neck is hard to beat when you get off the boat.
To give you an idea of the level of service in this resort on arrival in all the excitement I lost my lens cap down a gap on the jetty. That’s the last time I see that I thought. When I had checked into my bungalow on stilts sitting over the lagoon (with its own window in the floor to watch the rays swim by) my luggage arrived by bicycle and with it a beaming young man who proudly returned my lens cap. He explained they had taken the steps apart to find it. That’s what I can above and beyond a call of duty. And I am most grateful for their efforts.
What is there to say about a location like this? Well it is all you’d imagine, blue clear water, incredible sunsets and a sense of other worldliness that must have been in the minds of those first explorers from Europe. The lush vegetation, which incidentally contains no predators harmful to man, no snakes, no monkeys or apes just lots of pretty birds and butterflies and the odd gecko. But don’t worry, if you’re the active type you can wind surf, snorkel, scuba dive, parascend, fish or four-wheel off road drive, which I tried out (during a tropical storm)!
It must be said that when it rains in these parts it really rains. I have rarely seen such a downpour, but it clears soon enough and after all, those lush green forests have to get that colour from somewhere. An off road drive is a cool way to explore mainland of Taha’a as I climbed up to the high point on the island you get a great view of the sea and the canopy before you. Our guide was fantastic, making a flute out of a branch (yes he did play it and it had holes to play different notes). Showed us the ylang ylang plant or cananga tree used as an ingredient in Channel’s No.5 perfume. A pearl farm was also on the itinerary where you can see how they culture and grow. It can take up to five years to culture a pearl and even then it might be rejected.
Lunch is always a casual thing here with fish usually on the menu. A specialty is raw tuna with limejuice and coconut milk often served with simple vegetables. Done well it is a refreshing and healthy meal. I moved out of my comfort zone after lunch and went quad biking (I said you can do pretty much anything you want here) great fun and an invigorating way to see ‘behind the jungle canopy’.
Back at Le Taha’a I enjoyed a fantastic meal of lamb cooked to order on a BBQ and a traditional show with dancers in grass skirts, coconut bikini tops and the most tattooed man in Tahiti. I couldn’t help but notice the elaborate ink on all the dancers both male and female. There are a lot of tattoos here. It is in fact the home of the tattoo, the word comes from the original way of applying the ink with a wooden rod and a needle attached to the end and being hit repeatedly with another piece of wood. The noise made was a tat, tat, tat, hence tattoo. Unlike our western versions the markings in Tahiti all tell a story, usually folk tales and legends and are more creative and swirl around their owner’s legs and bodies.
After a massage and another fine dinner I discovered that Le Taha’a has amongst others some of the great and good of Hollywood. Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts have stayed here but I don’t think they were together. This is a chill out zone par excellence with plenty of space to be alone or swim with the rays. My bungalow on the water even had its own landing jetty and steps down to the water.
Checking out of paradise was tough especially in brilliant sunshine.
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