Sunday, August 19, 2007

August 17, 2007 - Maeva Beach, Tahiti

It is like old home week around here. We've seen most of the boats anchored around us before, whether in French Polynesia, Galapagos, or Panama. Just to reinforce the impression that all roads lead to Tahiti, the other morning a boat that we haven't seen since St. Maarten showed up. Bahati was also in Bermuda with us. It made us wonder how many of the other boats that did the Newport to Bermuda run last fall are in the Pacific now. We don't think many - most of the Americans we meet started on the west coast or spent a season or five in Latin America or the Caribbean before jumping the puddle.

It seems like all we have done since we got here is eat. Yesterday, we spent four hours yesterday in the big Carrefuor grocery store nearby. At least half of it was spent wandering around slack-jawed looking at the huge variety of stuff. The other half was spent exclaiming over the prices. Luckily, we're still in pretty good shape on our dry and canned goods. Most of the produce and the meat seemed to be from New Zealand. The cheeses, pate and wines were almost exclusively French. Unlike the French islands of the Caribbean, the wine here is very expensive. In our desperation (we are down to four bottles of white and one red - this is easily my biggest provisioning mistake) we bought a few uninspiring boxes of white Spanish table wine to try.

Every third person we passed was snacking on crusty baguette sandwiches. After we bit into one we understood why; so delicious. So much so that we immediately got another - in part because I had only managed to get a few bites of the first. Only by walking away with the sandwich and leaving Sten to try to catch me with our unwieldy cart did I manage to get a fair share of the second. After 4 hours and $300 we had a very full and heavy cart that we pushed back to the marina. Back at the boat, we stowed our provisions. I set about cleaning out the fridge - a project that was several weeks over due - while Sten went off to talk to another cruiser about a problem he was having with his Northern Lights generator. Sten came back with an idea about a "simple" maintenance item he now wanted to do to ours. Last night we had a wonderful baguette dinner of cheese and pate.

This is what $300 buys you at the grocery in Tahiti:

Today, while I was off checking in with our agent, Sten's simple generator project expanded. I returned to the boat to find the salon and galley trashed. Luckily, I had brought lunch back with me from the Chinese grocery. Just as I was finishing my shopping, they had started to set out all of these to-go lunches of delicious smelling Chinese food. I couldn't resist. After watching several locals pick out their lunches, it seemed like a pretty safe bet. Unfortunately, it smelled better than it tasted.

Sten needed a part to complete his project, so after lunch we headed into Papeete to get a gasket from the local Northern Lights distributor. Papeete is a sprawling, loud, dirty mess of a city. It reminds me of Panama in a way. The cement buildings all seem to be crumbling after too many years in the tropical sun. But it is also charming, in its own way. After traipsing all over town to locate the needed part, we collapsed into a sidewalk table at a brew pub. Accompanied by old Madonna and Duran Duran tunes we shared a $30 pitcher of amber beer (the first dark beer we've seen in ages) and people watched.

After sunset the quay comes alive as roulottes set up for their evening trade. Roulettes are vans containing small kitchens, with sides that lift up to form awnings. They are surrounded by plastic tables and chairs. In front of each is a sign listing the menu and an additional cooking area. Several had what looked like pigs roasting on spits out front. They turned out to be veal. I had thought that the skinny pizza that we had shared at the brew pub was sufficient for dinner, and that we were only going to get dessert - crepes or waffles. But after watching several guys grilling and working their gas-fired woks, Sten convinced me that a second dinner was in order. Afterwards we were too stuffed to even think about dessert, so it will have to wait until next time. From the windows of the le truck (the local buses are enclosed lorries with bench seats that run the length of the truck bed) that we took back to the marina, we noticed that similar roulottes had set up at various spots all along our route. Considering the prices at the local restaurants, I wouldn't be surprised if we find ourselves at one or more of the roulottes near the marina before Sten finishes his generator project.

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