TRAVELLING AROUND TAHITI ISLAND - SEPTEMBER 2004
Tahiti Island was the dream island of many writers: Melville (1819-1891), Gauguin (1848-1903), Stevenson (1850-1894), Loti (1850-1923), or Maugham (1874-1965) praised its beauties. Today things have changed a lot, but the Island still keeps its interest. Consisting of two roughly round portions centred on volcanic mountains and connected by the short Taravao isthmus, named after the small town existing there, with a population of almost 170,000 inhabitants, representing roughly 70% of the total population of French Polynesia, 1,048 square km of area, and being 45 km long at its widest point, Tahiti is the largest island of the archipelago. The north-western part is known as Tahiti Nui «big Tahiti», and the south-eastern part, much smaller, is known as Tahiti Iti «small Tahiti». The capital is Papeete, on the northwest coast.
The Market is a must see, and should be visited on early Sunday mornings, from 4:00 AM to 6:00 PM, when one of the last places where you can find the authentic Polynesia is at its best. Anyhow, as one is probably sleeping by that time, the market is well worth a visit on any other day of the week. The renovated Papeete Market is the historical, cultural and social centre of Papeete and, covering nearly 7,000 square meters, is a photographer's delight. Inside, you'll find everything one can expect from a market; outside, around the walls, the merchants sell pareo, flower leis and hats. If you're in the buying mood, bring bank notes and small change, and don't think on using bank cards, except maybe on some handicraft shops on the second floor...
"FRUIT AND VEGETABLES - The market includes a section reserved to for fruits and vegetables, where further to local products, like taro, sweet potatoes, ginger roots, fei bananas, sweet hamoa bananas, oranges, pineapples, limes, mangoes, grapefruits and watermelons, we may find typical tropical fruits: guavas, corossols, grenadillas, star apples, quenettes, tamarinds or ginger apples, all creating an extraordinary range of diversified fragrances. By 3 p.m., only some last Mohicans still resisted in the stalls..."
"FLOWERS - Fragrance reigns in this section of the market: tiare, plumerias, hibiscus and orchids. The flower merchants create colourful arrangements"
"FISH - At the main entrance, one finds the fish market. Tunas, bonitos, mahi mahi, swordfish as well as smaller fishes like paihere, ature, iihi, vete, moi, can be found there. The colours of the parrot fish illuminate the market, but there are also lobsters, shrimps, crabs, sea urchins and the famous big clams"
"HOTEL DE VILLE - Papeete means «water basket», and one of its main points is the City Hall, a quite interesting example of French colonial architecture. Interesting is also to know that 40% of the city's population are government employees and another 40% work in the tourism industry and services"
MUSEUM OF TAHITI AND HER ISLANDS
"THE TAHITI MUSEUM started offering in 1974 a complete panorama of the Islands history and culture: ancient canoes, typical tools, tikis carved in wood or stone are on display and allow you to follow the evolution of the Polynesian people. The Museum's garden, with a beautiful view towards Moorea, has also some quite old trees..."
"ARAHURAHU MARAE - The marae were open air sacred places, quadrangular in shape and tabu to any lay person, usually away from village centres. They were dedicated to religious rites and ceremonies, such as worshipping, enthronement of kings, sacrifices or funerals. Arahurahu is a national marae - the only in all of Polynesia that has been fully restored (in 1954) - and it is maintained like a museum. It is believed that a warrior was cremated in these places and that the supreme chief of the valley placed his ashes in this marae"
"TIKI - The tiki is an anthropomorphic sculpture, made out of coral, lava stone or carved in wood, with a religious and symbolic function, as it stands for deified ancestors as well as for God of the generation. According to the legend, the tiki was the creator of man and had a special power called mana. The body is divided into three parts of quite the same size, and is characterized by a triangular face without a neck, the arms stuck along the body and the short legs"
"TREES - There are many hectares with tropical trees, plants and flowers, as well as streams and ponds to be seen at the Botanical Garden in Tahiiti"
"FISHES in the nearby stream..."
"NOA NOA is the autobiographical narration of Gauguin's life in Tahiti, and has nothing to do with a Pousada with the same name in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. In 1865, when he was seventeen, Gauguin listed himself in the merchant navy and travelled the seas for seven years. In one of his trips in the Portuguese ship Luzitano, he visited Rio de Janeiro. That is why he writes at the beginning of his book Noa Noa that his arrival to Papeete in 1881, aiming to paint illustrations for Pierre Loti's The Marriage of Loti - the most popular novel of those days - had nothing of magical and could not match the magnificence of the Rio de Janeiro Bay of Guanabara. The first photo is from the front of the 1924 edition, and the second from drawings in the book. It's amazing that though he was the grandson of Flora Tristan, a founder of modern feminism, his alleged erotic life in Tahiti has recently been subject of review and criticism from some woman authors"
"GAUGUIN MUSEUM - We visited the Museum in 1992. The impression was not so fascinating: the museum has no originals from Gauguin and, though very well organized as a space, left no particular wish to revisit. So, this time, with much less time, we just bought something at the shop, and carried on our tour"
"SMALL BAY in Tahiti Nui"
"POINT VENUS is where Captain Cook on June 3, 1769, observed the planet Venus passing in front of the sun, and is the Northern-most point on the island of Tahiti. There is a lighthouse located on the black sand beach, which was built in 1867 by Robert Louis Stevenson's father, Thomas Stevenson"