In 1985, I had the pleasure of taking my family across the south Pacific on an extended vacation. We were living in La Serena de Chile at the time, and the 57th World Science Fiction Convention was held in Melbourne, Australia, 2-6 September, that year. From Chile, Australia is not as far as Europe and not much farther air-mile-wise than the US, so why not go?
So I took three weeks of vacation, and we made the trip: La Serena, Santiago de Chile, Easter Island, Tahiti, Auckland, Melbourne, and Sydney. I even made a side trip to the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) and Eppling Laboratories, extending my family’s vacation with a couple of work days.
The air connections made it impossible to avoid Tahiti, but we did not try hard. The connection had a 23 hour layover (the outgoing flight left one hour before the incoming) ? Do you suppose the tourism industry had anything to do with that? So instead of spending 23 hours in the airport, we spent half a week in a fancy hotel, touring the island and seeing the sights. It was certainly one of the high points of the trip (I may talk about the other stops in future blogs, which is why the II in the title).
We did have a slow start. Travelling a quarter of the globe west across the Pacific, the sun never sets! By the time we arrived at the airport in Fa’a’a at 5:30 PM local time, it was midnight for my children. So we decided to have them take a half-hour nap and then go to the 6:30 dinner show the hotel was about to put on. When we all woke up at 4 AM, we realized we had missed the show! And of course, the children would be hungry for dinner … or breakfast … which would not open for two hours.
Tahiti at 17° South is tropical: the fact that it was mid-winter (August 14) did not make a difference. We dressed lightly, and the five of us headed out in the warm pre-dawn, exploring the hotel grounds in the light of faux torches, smelling the tropical flowers and salty sea, wandering across the sandy beaches, and listening to the waves calmly roll up to our feet, interrupted by the calls of the night birds. I should explain one benefit of having an expensive hotel: they had imported thousands of tons of white sand for their beach. Tahiti’s beaches are normally blank sand, composed of broken volcanic rock and glass (obsidian). Obsidian is not something you wish to walk barefoot across, and of course the children wanted to play in the sand.
After two wonderful hours with the beach totally to ourselves, we headed to a totally wonderful breakfast banquet of fresh, juicy tropical fruit, meats, French pastries, cheeses, coffee and juices, breads, and just about anything else you could think of. What did the children head straight for? Kellogg’s cereal.
One day, we took an around the island tour, seeing all the sights. Another day we took a glass bottom boat tour over the coral reefs and marveled at all the sea life. A third day we road “Le Truck” into Papeete and explored the city. Of course, all of the girls ended up with a pareau: it is what the women wear (if they wear any top at all).
I highly recommend Tahiti with one caveat. After the first day, I did stop converting Polynesian Franks to dollars: I knew it was not going to bankrupt me, and I that I would enjoy it much more if I did not think about the actual prices. But with that one caveat, it is truly a tropical paradise, and I am glad we spent four nights there.