"Le truck" is French Polynesia's most popular form of transportation, and certainly most colorful. This is a form of commuter bus service similar to what's found all over the South Pacific, an open-air, hard-benched, home-built, 30-person, wooden container, mounted on a truck chassis. The "truck" is usually brightly painted and blaring forth rock music from mounted speakers. The cab is a spectacle unto itself. It's usually a showcase for the driver's personal mementos, family snapshots, postcards, movie and rock star magazine cut-outs, religious paintings, beads, bangles and flowers.
Short-haul trucks operate between major cities and their suburbs, making frequent trips. Villages farther away are served by long-haul trucks, which often are driven by residents of those outlying districts. These trucks run less frequently. They may take commuters into town for work in the morning and then drive them home again at night. They might stop along the way to help carry some young lady's banana stalk to her door, or to have coffee at the snack bar half-way to the destination.
Most trucks congregate around the town's open-air market to collect passengers. You can flag them down anywhere on their routes. Passengers signal the driver when they want to get off, usually by pushing a bell or buzzer mounted along the truck ceiling. Fares are prorated by distance travelled and are fairly standardized. You pay the driver when you get off.
During certain hours of the day, some trucks will not stop for you since they are carrying a load of school children to or from school.
On rainy days, most trucks unroll canvas blinds, so you may be sitting in the dark. On dry days, dust flies into the truck, coating the long-distance passengers, who somehow never seem to lose their sense of humor. Trucks can be a good way to meet Polynesians, particularly on the outer Society Islands where they are less frequent and less crowded.
Taxis are available only in major towns. Taxi fares are regulated by the government:
Basic fare 330 francs, plus distance driven
Each kilometer driven 55 francs
Hourly rate 2,000 francs
Hourly waiting fee 850 francs
Fares double after 11 p.m. On Sundays and holidays, a 25% surcharge is added. A fee of 50 francs per suitcase may also be charged.
Cars, motorcycles, mopeds, and bicycles can be hired on every island covered in this book except Maupiti and Mopelia. Rental agencies and individuals with vehicles for rent are listed in each island chapter.
Licensed drivers over 21 can use their home country license to rent a vehicle. A deposit is usually required, which can be cash or credit card. Vehicles can be rented for a half-day, full day, 24hour day, or by the week. Prices vary considerable depending upon mileage driven and whether any free mileage is included in the quoted price or not. Fuel is usually extra. Rates are about what you'd pay in USA (standard rates). An air-conditioned large Puegot cost us about $50 for a day in Tahiti.
Traffic moves on the right in French Polynesia. Distances are measured in kilometers. Vehicle ownership among Tahitians is very high and so are accident rates. Tahiti has three times the rate of vehicle accidents due to drunken driving than does France. Rental vehicles are the best way to quickly tour an island, and we've certainly enjoyed using them.
Bicycles and motorcycles that you have on board can be landed, but may require posting a refundable bond and purchasing insurance. See "Bonds" under "Planning the Voyage," Chapter 2.
Hitching is not common in French Polynesia, perhaps that's why it works so well. Don't try it in busy Papeete, but in the countryside, you usually won't have any trouble, particularly if you are neat appearing, or better yet, have children. You may have to ride in the back of an open pick-up. It helps to speak French or Tahitian.
These range from tiny ten-passenger sports-type boats to big freighters that take passengers and supplies to the other Society Islands and to the outer island groups. These vessels are usually called trading schooners ("goélettes" in French), a term which hangs on from the era when interisland trading boats were sailing vessels. Travelling by schooner is much cheaper than flying, and can be a colorful and interesting way to travel.
Frequent ferries carry passengers to Moorea. The 200-pas-senger, 100-foot, air-conditioned, bar-equipped "Keke III" departs the Moorea ferry dock in Papeete for Cooks Bay every day at 9:15 a.m. (also 6:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Fridays and Sundays) and departs Cooks Bay for Papeete at 4:30 p.m. (also 7:30 a.m. Fridays and Sundays). The fare is 900 francs one way, half price for children under 12. Telephone 28060 for further information.
A smaller boat, the "Maire," carries 80 passengers, departing the Moorea ferry dock in Papeete Mondays through Saturdays at 9 a.m. It goes to Cooks Bay on Tbesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and to Vaiare Bay on Moorea's east coast on the other days. The return trip to Papeete is at 2 p.m. Fare is 600 francs one way, half price for children. Telephone 28189.
The "Tamarii Moorea" is a 120-passenger vessel that departs the Moorea ferry dock in Papeete every day for Vaiare Bay at 9:15 a.m. (9 a.m. on Sundays, and 5 p.m. on Fridays and Sundays). Coming back, it departs Vaiare at 5 a.m. most mornings (6 a.m. on Thursdays; 4 a.m. on Sundays; and also 2:30 p.m. on Fridays and 3:30 p.m. on Sundays). The fares are the same as aboard the "Maire." Telephone 61392.
The "Moorea Ferry" departs from a dock in Fare Ute and goes to Vaiare Bay every day except Tuesdays, departing at 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (also 6 p.m. on Fridays and Sundays). Coming back, it departs Vaiare at 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (also 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Sundays). This air-conditioned 200-pas-senger vessel charges 700 francs one way, half price for children. Telephone 37364.
In the lies Sous le Vent, three vessels carry supplies and passengers. The "Taporo IV" (telephone 26393) and the "Temehani" (telephone 29883) depart Papeete for Huahine, Raiatea and Bora Bora. The "Kia Ora" (telephone 29367) sails between Papeete, Tahaa and Maupiti.
In the outer islands, the "Tuhaa Pae II" sails to the Australs; the "Tamarii Tuamotu," "Taporo II" and "Taporo III" visit the Marquesas. Many vessels bring supplies and passengers to the more remote Tuamotuan atolls, including the "Araroa," "Arii Moana I," "Auuranui," "Moana Otera," "Matariva," "Man-ava," "Rairoa Nui," "Saint Xavier Maris Stella," "Tamarii Tikehau," "Teretia" and "Vaihere."
You'll become accustomed to seeing these vessels as you
Photo by Julius M. Wilensky n
Moorea ferry, Papeete, Tahiti cruise French Polynesia and it's interesting to know where they're going. Their arrival in any island, particularly in the more remote areas, brings an air of holiday-like excitement, as villagers turn out in throngs to greet arriving passengers and send off departing ones. Crates of supplies and merchandise are off-loaded, mail and sacks of copra are taken aboard. Some vessels in the Tuamotus actually have a small store aboard where you can purchase food and supplies.
When one of these schooners is arriving, make sure your boat is anchored well away from her potential path or anchorage. Never leave your boat at any pier or dock when a schooner is expected. This is easy to avoid in the lies Sous le Vent, where schooner schedules are regular and most anyone ashore can tell you the expected arrival time. In the Tuamotus, schooner schedules are irregular and villagers often do not know when a vessel will arrive. The same advice applies even more so to fishing vessels. Our yacht was once bumped by a fishing boat owned by Tahiti Tuna, while we were tied to the wharf at Manihi in the Tuamotus. Another yacht was dismasted when a fishing boat accidentally hit her while at anchor in the Tuamotus.
International Airlines connect Tahiti with the outside world. Nearly all planes arrive at Faaa International Airport in the middle of the night or just before dawn. Budget travelers and tourists departing Tahiti often forgo spending their last night in a hotel and stretch out sleeping bags on the airport floor. The airport guard even switches off the lights so they can sleep until the first plane's arrival about 2 a.m. Then, it's lights on and everybody up, so that the arriving passengers from Los Angeles or Sydney are not confronted with the spectacle of sleeping bags and backpacks spread out over the floor. Then, the place comes alive as Tahitians pour into the airport, each carrying flower leis or crowns to present to their arriving friends or relatives, and shell leis to their departing visitors. These can be purchased at a pavilion right outside the airport.
International carriers and their telephone numbers in Papeete are: U.T.A., 22222; Qantas, 30665; Air New Zealand, 20170; South Pacific Island Airways, 37318; Lan Chile, 26455; Air Pacific and COTAM, no phone. Most airline offices are located in the Vaima Center or on Boulevard Pomare. You can fly between Papeete and Honolulu, Los Angeles, Auckland, Sydney, Paris, Santiago, Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji and Easter Island.
Within French Polynesia, Air Polynésie has frequent connections between Papeete and all the Society Islands airports. Moorea is served about every 15 minutes by Air Polynésie or Air Tahiti. Airports or landing strips are on the following islands: Societies—Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Bora Bora, Maupiti and Tetiaroa; Australs—Tubuai, Rurutu; Marquesas—Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Ua Huka, Ua Pou; Tuamotus— Rangiroa, Manihi, Takapoto, Tikehau, Arutua, Mataiva, Apa-taki, Fakarava, Kaukura, Hao.
Some sample one-way prices are Papeete to: Moorea, 1,665 francs; Huahine, 95,490; Raiatea, 6,315; Bora Bora, 7,525; Maupiti, 8,425; Tubuai, 15,125; Hiva Oa, 31,205; Nuku Hiva, 31,205; Rangiroa, 9,130. Credit cards can be used to pay for international, but not domestic flights.
Air Polynésie's telephone number in Papeete is 22333 or 22444, but it's almost always busy. The office is located on Boulevard Pomare, together with U.T.A., nearly across from the public showers on the Yacht Quai. Air Tahiti's telephone number is 24429. Air Tahiti also offers charter flights and sightseeing by air.
If you or your crew intend to fly somewhere within French Polynesia, make a reservation long in advance, as flights are almost always full, especially during school holidays and regular holidays such as Christmas and the July "Fête."
RESTAURANTS, HOTELS AND NIGHTLIFE
Restaurants and hotels with restaurants are described in chapters covering specific islands. If dining out and dancing are your fortés, then Papeete is your kind of place. There are over a hundred restaurants in the city area, and dozens of hotels and discos. Restaurant menus run the gamut from simple but good stir-fried Chinese vegetables to sumptuous and elegant gourmet French meals. Unless otherwise noted, most restaurants' menus are à la carte. Some will have a "prix fixe" complete meal, or a special "plat du jour," which is usually less expensive than ordering à la carte. Eliminating cocktails and ordering house wine ("vin en carafe") rather than bottled wines can also help cut costs. There is no tipping anywhere in French Polynesia, so don't spoil a nice custom.
Restaurant hours are usually 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner, although some stay open later. It is advisable to make a reservation in advance for dinner. Some restaurants and many sidewalk cafés open early for continental breakfast, bread or croissants and coffee, then remain open throughout the day, serving light meals and take-out food such as hamburgers, sandwiches, pastries and ice cream. "Salons de thé" (coffee houses) in Papeete serve coffee and tea, and rich French pastries that should not be missed. The many Chinese restaurants have excellent food ranging from most reasonable to very expensive. You can also enjoy pizza and Italian specialties at half a dozen restaurants, Vietnamese dishes, and of course, traditional Polynesian fare. Hotel restaurants sometimes lay out elaborate buffet tables with everything from "poisson cru" to fried chicken, roast beef, spring rolls and chow mein. Barbecues are also popular.
Hotels in French Polynesia are often constructed in traditional Tahitian style, with individual bungalows, or "fare niaus" covered with thatched roofs. They are picturesque, but also have all the modern conveniences expected by tourists, and prices to match. Some hotels offer American plan, three meals a day; others have modified American plan, breakfast and dinner; while others do not include meals, European plan. Prices range from about 2,000 francs per night for a double room up to about 20,000 francs. A four percent government tax is added to all hotel bills.
Less expensive accommodations can sometimes be found in private homes, by asking at the tourist office, airline office, village Mairie (mayor's office) or village chief. There are no organized camping facilities in French Polynesia, although travelers sometimes set up tents at the Papeete Youth Hostel and on private property by requesting advance permission from the landowner.
Nightlife abounds in Papeete, at hotels, in bars and at discotheques. While you might be watching a floor show of traditional Tahitian dancing at a hotel, elsewhere young Tahitians will be decked out in skin-tight designer jeans, dancing amid flashing lights to the loudest, farthest-out music.
Outside Papeete, you'll find very little night life aside from hotels and the occasional small disco, usually with raucous partying only on Saturday night. Movie theaters are scattered throughout the islands and are very popular. Theaters in Papeete show up-to-date recent releases, while the outer island cinemas are likely to show films that are several years old, with kung-fu and westerns predominating. Admission ranges from 100 to 400 francs.
TAHITIAN FEAST (TAMAARAA)
One thing you should not miss during your visit to French Polynesia is a "tamaaraa," or traditional Tahitian feast. These are scheduled by hotels, individual caterers, and some restaurants, or spontaneously organized by Polynesians on holiday, and sometimes, groups of yachts. Food for the feast is cooked in an underground oven called an "ahimaa," a hole in the ground lined with preheated volcanic rocks. The food to be cooked is wrapped in banana leaves, placed in layers into the oven, then covered carefully with more leaves. More hot stones are placed on top of these banana leaves, and they are then covered with earth or burlap bags to contain the heat within the oven. The food steams in its own juices, and after several hours the oven is opened. This is a process similar to a New England clam bake, steaming seafood using stones andd seaweed. The Polynesian food is spread out on a tablecloth of palm fronds or banana leaves. Guests eat with their fingers, dipping juicy pieces of roast pork, fish, breadfruit, taro and other goodies into coconut cream sauce. Poe, a sweet pudding, and fresh fruit are served for dessert. The feast is usually followed by Tahitian dancing. Hotels and caterers offering "tamaaraa" are listed in the island chapters.
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Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.