Tahiti, no Gauguin

Almost the best thing about Tahiti was the volcanic sand, the colour of dark chocolate densely flecked with gold and bronze. When the tide oozed over the flats it was as black as thick oil spreading, and when it tugged away from the pumice shingle it broke up into tiny vees of silver. A better photographer than I am might have been able to capture it. The crabs were black too, and scattering away from my footprints they looked alarmingly like tarantulas.

Tahiti black sand

I felt tired here, after four weeks of travelling, so for a lot of the time I sat and looked at the sea and the backdrop of thick, tropical vegetation. After long days of rain the cloud suddenly lifted and we had two days of brilliant sunshine. Banana palms and the gorgeous fans of traveller palms steamed in the heat and frangipani blooms scattered on the steps to the apartment. It would have been ideal to look at some art, but the Musée Paul Gauguin has been closed for two years due to lack of funds. We explored the lush botanic gardens at Mateiea instead and then drove on to Tahiti iti, the handle of the island’s saucepan shape, to admire the famous surf beach at Teahupoo. Surf was not up. Under heavy grey skies the scene was more North Sea than Polynesia. We retreated to a surfers’ caff and had a plate of chips and beer for lunch.


We’re now packing to move on yet again. As always, I’m wondering vaguely if I have done Tahiti justice, if I ‘got’ it, whatever it may be. Maybe it’s the traveller’s/writer’s disease to feel uneasy, to have a sixth sense that the perfect scene was unfolding just over the next headland, and I missed it.

Meanwhile, the chef d’activités from the hotel next door is chivvying a group of chic French ladies through their aquabike session in the swimming pool. ‘Un, deux, trois, plus fort….et voilàaaa… ‘

I’ve never seen this before, sitting shoulder deep in water and pedalling like mad on a plastic bike. Needless to say, the up-dos remain immaculate and the (new, Tahitian, black pearl) earrings are all in place. I shouldn’t have been surprised, this is French Polynesia after all, but from the voices and the outfits we could easily be in St Trop.


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