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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : The charms of French Polynesia

Duration of the stopovers
Marquesas : 5 days
Tuamotu : 7 days
Tahiti : 15 days

We have been 19 days at sea since the Galapagos. We are finishing our longest sailing leg by arriving in a French speaking land. The last time I practised my French with the locals, it was in Quebec... In November 2009.

French Polynesia has 5 different archipelagos : Marquesas, Tuamotu, Society, Australes and Gambier.

We had the opportunity to stop in four islands in three archipelagos. First in Hiva Oa in the Marquesas, then Fakarava and Toau in the Tuamotu and finally Tahiti in the Society archipelagos.

The Marquesas
From our sailing boat, we can see that Hiva Oa looks very wild. Sharp mountains, dense vegetation, white and grey clouds on top of the islands ; the first steps in the other side of the world are quite interesting !

We let our boat on the bay of Atuona

The bay of Atuona

The climate is tropical and those same clouds are sending us huge amounts of rain every hour. This must be one of the reasons why Hiva Oa looks like a Garden of Eden. It is indeed possible to find many fruits and plants all over the island.

Myself, the vegetation, the mountain and the clouds in Hiva Oa

Bonjour !
A local is greeting me as soon as I step on the island. The locals and generally all the people of the Pacific Islands, are very respectful, hospitable and smiling.

I am answering in the same language as this young lady and I notice that she has a flower in her hairs. Later, I will find that this fashion is extended to most of the women in the Pacific, however without fully understanding the meanings of it.

A post office worker in the main city Atuona in Hiva Oa

On which concerns the local fashion, the Marquesian tattoo is very famous. I think that more than 80% of the population of Hiva Oa (which is around 2000 inhabitants in total) has at least one tattoo. I am myself not very into tattoos but I have to say that the ones I have seen in the Marquesas were looking absolutely fabulous.

The life looks quite quiet here. The locals are lovely and we can feel very safe in this place. Some french-speaking personalities decided to end their life in Hiva Oa, like Jacques Brel or Paul Gauguin.

The tomb of Jacques Brel, in the cemetery of Atuona

The last stop of Paul Gauguin

Hitchhiking in the Marquesas is very easy. Even though the traffic isn't busy, you can be sure that the next vehicle will stop if he sees you on the side of the road. There is a strict control against the alcohol while driving, and also many speed control, which is helping for the safety on the road on the island.

Hitchhiking in Hiva Oa

The life is pretty expensive though. Our localization in the middle of the Pacific doesn't really help for the importation prices neither... So the life can cost a lot there.

However, we are leaving the Marquesas with a very good feeling thanks to the wonderful welcome we had. We keep travelling in French Polynesia as we go next in an archipelagos exclusively made of atoll : the Tuamotu.


The Tuamotu
The Tuamotu are between the Marquesas and Tahiti. This archipelagos is made of 78 atolls. Amongst all those places where to stop, we chose to visit Fakarava and Toau.

Fakarava

This is the first time in my life that I have the chance to see what an atoll looks like. I believe there aren't a lot in Europe.

As we arrive by the sea, we can have a good look of the panorama of the place before to actually go on it. Fakarava is absolutely flat. The highest point of the island must be a telephonic pole... Let's say that we are quite far from the Alps !

We can see the coconut trees and the white sand beaches in the middle of the Ocean

The white sand beaches and the coconut trees

As it is an atoll, we have to get in through a pass. This one is an open space that allows us to go from the Ocean to the inside of the atoll in a place that we call the « lagoon ». The northern pass (that we use) of Fakarava has very strong currents because it is exactly localized in between the oceanic currents and the ones from the lagoon. The entrance in Fakarava is quite a rush. Our boat has some problem to go forward and is sent in different directions except the one we need.

The northern pass of Fakarava has some strong currents

Inside the lagoon, everything is much more easy. We are anchoring in front of the main village of Rotoava.

The life seems to be even quieter than in the Marquesas. The marquisians were greetings us, the people of Fakarava are conversing with us. Hitchhiking is too easy. I don't think that even one vehicle didn't stop if I was requesting a ride. Fakarava is for me the place in the world where hitchhiking has been the easiest... and from far !

One night. I was hitchhiking with three fellow crew members in one part of the island. The first vehicle invited us on the back of the pick up, where the daughter of the driver was. She was around 13. This is very unusual and looks like a proof of the trust of the local population.

Another time, still by hitchhiking, a young woman is taking us to her home, where she asks us to help her to take the furniture she has on the back of her pick up into her place. The trust is really here in Fakarava !

One particularity of Fakarava is the culture of the black pearl ; Those pearls are then exported to some of the most famous jewellery in the world.

The oyster delivering the black pearl in Fakarava

Some local shop are selling the famous « Black Pearl » (now you know where the name of the vessel of Jack Sparrow is coming from)

Tourism is also a very important activity in the atoll. You can find in Fakarava what the travel agencies are selling you in your country. The perfect dream, the white sand beaches, the coconut trees and the turquoises waters, this is here.

The beach, the corals

The wharf, if you want to take a boat for the lagoon

I can see an interesting experience in Fakarava. Indeed, my captain and the Michele the Italian decide to have a tattoo made by a local on themselves. As I said, the Polynesian tattoo is world famous, especially the one from the Marquesas.

The tattooer, tattooed everywhere, comes on a friend's boat where we are gathering for this little event.

The tattooer, tattooed everywhere

This one is doing a tortoise on the Michele's arm

Then on the captain to realize a beautiful Polynesian dolphin

We are leaving Fakarava to go in the atoll in front of. From 850 inhabitants, we are going to ... 0! Indeed, our next destination is Toau, where nobody currently lives on.
 

Toau
There is absolutely nobody when we arrive in Toau. Indeed, this atoll isn't inhabited.

In the middle of nowhere for once!

However we can see that some people have already been living for a while on this atoll. Indeed, we can see a hut with a fishing net, which let us think that some fishermen may come during the right season to this place.

A hut...

...And a fishing net

I would like to be able to talk about the local culture but the lack of inhabitants isn't really helping me. The reason to come here is to feel the authenticity of the Nature when nobody come to destroy it. On top of this, the landscape is gorgeous.

The turquoise water of Toau

The beaches of Toau

No inhabitants... I am not so sure when I think about it.

Indeed, thousands of “Kaveu”, who are a kind of coconut crabs, are living in Toau. If you choose a shell, anyone, you can almost be sure to disturb someone.

An inhabitant of Toau

We spend the night around a fire and then we go back on the “Khamsin” on the way to the capital of French Polynesia: Tahiti.

We spend the night around a fire


 

Tahiti

Tahiti, this is like the France outside of France. Even if the name can make you dream, the island of Tahiti looks like a little bit a urban area. Pollution, traffic, criminality... You also can find some of the urban problems. Even if this is still very much below the average, we still can find a little bit of those problems that become easy to spot after having been in Toau!

Tahiti, this is a little bit like France outside of France...

Indeed, many goods are imported from France. Even if the prices are often very high, you still can find the products. The stopover has been useful for our boat, as we could find there the boat parts that we needed.

Some of the things I was happy to find... A baguette and a camembert...

As the main island of French Polynesia, many things are centralized in Tahiti. An international airport can bring you to Tahiti from the rest of the world. It is possible to find some brand of shops coming from France. Tahiti, as Martinique or Reunion, is a part of France in the other side of the world.

I take the advantage to be there to keep promoting my project with the local media. A reportage of my journey is realized by the local television Tahiti Nui TV.

To see the reportage on TNTV, click here

After this reportage, the channel is inviting me on a show where I can introduce my journey during 30 minutes, and for the first time all in french!

To see the show Manihini, click here

Tahiti is also known for its waves. Indeed, the surfing beaches of Tahiti are worldwide known. I have been to Teahupoo, one of the greatest surfing spot of the island. I have been impressed by the high of the waves that were reaching 4 meters this day.

The famous waves of Tahiti

The locals are also very nice in Tahiti. Maybe that the Tahitians are a little bit more sophisticated than the rest of the Polynesians but still, their welcome is warm.

Hitchhiking is once again very easy. Many drivers were more worry about me because they thought I would not arrive before the night. I could tour the whole island on a half-day thanks to everyone of them.

One of the many nice drivers who took me this day

On the back of a pick-up

Yes, the smile, the charm and the little Polynesian flower are also in Tahiti. The capital Papeete may have some urban problems (this is a city after all) but the rest of the island is absolutely charming, as its inhabitants.

Tahiti has also a lot of beautiful landscape as in the rest of Polynesia

Some mountains

Some rivers

And some unbelievable panoramas, like here a sunset on Moorea

At the end, I have been totally charmed by French Polynesia. Its inhabitants, its landscapes, its way of live, I almost like everything. I felt safe and I connected with the “joie de vivre” around me.

Nevertheless, this is time to get back to the sailing mode, because the boat is now ready to go. We are now starting the second part of the journey and our next stop should be the island of Niue.

See you very soon,

Jeremy



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