Greetings from Tahiti! The land of relaxation, beautiful and lush green landscapes, amazing turquoise waters, RAIN, and extremely expensive “everything” everywhere!
Now first let me rewind a moment to our first travel day of our RTW trip, last week Tuesday (Feb 26), which included three flights and a five-hour layover in LA just to get to Tahiti. It was a day full of all kinds of travel “complications” that one might hope to avoid on a long all-day trip. Our flight from Milwaukee to Minneapolis was delayed one hour due to a snowstorm! They had to de-ice the plane and the whole airport was closed for a bit. With limited time in Minneapolis because of the Milwaukee delay, we barely made our connection to Los Angeles. We then arrived in LA around 7:30pm and our friends, Corey and Diana, picked us up so we could visit with them during our 5 hour layover. We went to their apartment and Diana made us an AWESOME pasta dinner, visited with them for awhile, had a few beers to help us *hopefully* sleep for when we get on the next plane, and then we were back to the airport a few hours later!
They dropped us off at one terminal, which we then find out is WRONG: our flight is at a DIFFERENT terminal, and now we have to RUN! We finally got to security at the correct terminal, totally sweaty from running, and the line is LONG and we are running out of time to catch our plane which leaves at
11:30pm! We FINALLY get through security with only like 10 minutes before takeoff and we RUN to the plane, completely frantic . . . just to find out our flight is DELAYED due to technical problems! Phew!—Well, maybe not “phew,” as we then end up having to wait several hours after that, and they tell us the flight might not even be able to take off that night at all! However, finally around 2:45am (almost 3 hours after schedule), our plane takes off, and we are on our way to Tahiti!
Yikes!—what a start to our trip, eh?
Of course, as soon as we arrived in Tahiti, all prior travel stresses and worries were erased, as the warm air and beautiful scenery took over! In case you didn’t know, Tahiti is actually just one of many Islands that make up an area called “French Polynesia.” The Islands are actually governed by France, so the local language is French . . . Bonjour! You probably have only heard of three of the most popular Islands: Tahiti (the largest Island, and the only one that has an International airport), Moorea (closest to Tahiti), and Bora Bora (gorgeous but SOOO expensive!)
Our first five nights were in a lower-priced hotel on Moorea Island, Kaveka Hotel, and we weren’t sure what to expect. Moorea is overall EXPENSIVE, and is completely dotted with luxurious, expensive, and over-the-top resorts . . . so we were about to find out what we would get from a pretty modest hotel.
We arrived to the hotel and were actually pretty pleased and impressed with our cute little bungalow we were given! It was our own little “hut”, with a small patio & chairs, and was just steps away from the beach. We were a little worried because the room/hut did not come with air conditioning—as the temperature was about 85 degrees and it was EXTREMLY humid—but it was an extra $30 per day for A/C and we didn’t want to pay the extra cost. Turns out the ceiling fan worked just fine for us, and A/C really wasn’t necessary. [See a video of our garden bungalow here.]
The five days and nights we were there were very relaxing and wonderful – just what you would hope for in Island luxury: Slept 7-10 hours per night, laid on the beach, swam in the ocean daily, did a lot of reading and writing, watched some beautiful sunsets, hiked or walked every day, and had a few beers here and there. [To see photos of this all, click here, and see a video of our hike here.] Lots of good conversation, reflection on life, and thoughts and plans for the future.
And there were many other little idiosyncrasies and fun discoveries as well . . . There were chickens and roosters ALL OVER TAHITI in general, and the yard at our hotel definitely was not lacking, as we were woken by a “cock-a-doodle-doo” every morning between 5 and 6am (UGH!) in between “bock, bock, bock”s! There were a few stray cats that hung around the area, and I enjoyed the company and entertainment of one particular cat which I named “Sam.” Crabs—large and small—were ALL OVER the beach, pier, and rocky areas near the water, and we had a lot of fun “taunting” them, running after them, and watching them in their habitat.
Now . . . on to the more not-talked-about parts of a tropical paradise: RAIN, more RAIN, buckets of RAIN, mosquito bites, and EXPENSIVE EVERYTHING!! Unfortunately, since the islands are in the middle of the ocean, thunderstorms are quite frequent and unpredictable, especially this time of year. We were lucky the
first couple days we arrived to hit mostly sunny or cloudy non-rain weather, but then it was all scattered thunderstorms from there on out, which we often got caught in (and drenched.) Once or twice it was fun, but after that it was mostly just miserable. [See a video of us caught in the rain in Tahiti here.] In addition, rain brings mosquitos, and of COURSE they love-love-love BreAnn’s tasty skin—CHOMP! For some reason I was getting bit up LIKE CRAZY, even though I stopped putting on lotion or perfume to try to keep them away, and tried to use bug spray as often as possible. James was “sitting pretty” most of the time, and only got a few bites overall.
But the BIGGEST challenge for us was to try to keep our expenses low, and stay “on budget” while on Moorea. Our overall budget for the WHOLE RTW trip is around $100/day for both of us (for everything: hotel, transportation, food, water, etc.), but the average hotel cost ALONE for French Polynesia will be around $215! Of course, other cheap countries along the way–such as China, India, and Cambodia–will bring that average down, but we’re really trying to be as FRUGAL and cost-conscious as we can!
Obviously, French Polynesia will be our MOST expensive stop in our travels this year, and with hotels being pretty costly on the islands, we are trying HARD to keep the other every-day expenses here low, mainly food. We thought we would have some lower-priced options for eating out, but WOW—It’s pretty BAD! Our hotel offered breakfast for $20-30 a person, lunch and dinner options were $20-50, drinks $11+, water bottles $6 for ONLY ONE LITER, and even a “starter” item like a small salad or appetizer started at $10. UGH. There were very few other restaurants around, so our options were SO LIMITED, and it was incredibly frustrating.
At least there was a grocery store a 20 minute walk away from our hotel, so we loaded up on water, cereal, yogurt, granola bars, nuts, and ham and cheese for sandwiches . . . but were challenged when it came to dinner. We opted most nights to share a $20 pizza (which wasn’t even that large) with lots of veggies on them, so we could try to fill our tummies and get some vitamins as well. [See video of us walking into town for food and wifi here.]
But I have to say, it felt somewhat “defeating” to me, as we were constantly challenged to find the cheapest dinner that would fill us up, be somewhat nutritious, and still taste good! Instead of my past ways of trying to LIMIT my caloric intake, I was instead trying to figure out how many calories we could TRY to get! The experience definitely made me a bit more humble to the stories I’ve heard in the past from friends in college trying to get by day-to-day with very little cash.
For now, we are back on Tahiti Island for three days, staying at a hostel, and checking out the Island life here. Most people actually do not stay on Tahiti Island itself as it is a lot more run-down and more city-like than what you’d expect or want from an Island experience. We opted to stay here for a few days so we could see how the locals live, and hopefully get a glimpse into the REAL culture of the Tahitians.
Then, on Thursday (March 7th), we will be back on Moorea Island to experience what most Americans do on a classic trip to Tahiti: LUXURY OVERWATER BUNGALOWS!! Fortunately, snorkeling gear and kayaks are FREE at this hotel, so I’m sure we’ll be spending most of our time in the water. Well . . . that is, if it’s not raining buckets and/or we haven’t starved ourselves at that point! 🙂
***To see photos from Tahiti and Moorea so far, click here!****