January 25 2013
Anyway, it was Saturday. Day 4? Raining again. We woke up bright and early to head off to explore another island. I insisted on calling it ‘adventuring’. Just like Captain Cook! I told the wife, “Get ready for adventure!!”
Two island excursion choices: Taha’a (main attraction there is a “vanilla farm tour”) or Raiatea (markets and a ‘temple’). We decided on the half-hour bumpy boat ride to explore Raiatea.
I rented a car from their local “Avis”. This Avis outpost was so far off the grid it seemed completely unaffiliated with Avis. Like Japanese soldier in WWII left on an island. When I proudly told him I had a “Wizard number” he looked at me as though I was bragging about something unrelated.
The guy rents us a small Fiat (which I suspected was also his personal car) and asks us to try and fill the tank before returning it — but he warned us the gas station may or may not be open. Apparently guy who runs the gas station flakes out all the time or whatever. He also told me there was no antenna because people kept stealing them off the car. So no radio.
But the car is stick shift! I’m psyched! Love driving stick! And we were free to actually go somewhere!
(BTW — when my Dad was teaching me how to drive he immediately taught me how to drive stick shift. If you’re raising a kid and he’s learning to drive. Teach stick. Totally comes in handy. Plus, the wife thinks its cool and all man manly and stuff.)
Anyway, we were told to go to the ‘markets’ asap because it was Saturday and “everything closes at noon on Saturdays”. (That makes sense.) We drove into town and I expected to see clothing stores and souvenir shops. Maybe coffee cafes and a weird fish market. An art gallery or music shop? But the town by the Raiatea airport is more along the lines of any town that’s right by an unimpressive airport.
Lottery bodegas. Supermarket. Liquor stores. T-shirt shop. Weird no-name bank. Vague feeling that there was a potential to be shanked if you take a wrong left. It wasn’t really a touristy place. More of a local main strip where people buy stuff and hang out. It became clear in a snap that Raiatea isn’t really an island for tourists. It’s just where people actually live.
So from there I decided we should just drive toward the ‘temple’. It was like a 45 minute drive deep into Raiatea. Although the island itself is beautiful (as I guess all islands are to a certain degree)… but here’s a list of the main attractions we saw:
1. Sick and/or starving dog lying on the side of the road.
2. Shirtless heavy-set Polynesian kid sitting in a lawn chair in the pouring rain looking up at the sky. (passed him on the way out and the way back doing the same thing.)
3. Shanty style housing with roaming packs of dogs.
4. A scary pickup truck. (And at one point we were behind a shady looking pickup truck with tinted windows. The truck started driving slower… and slower in front of us. Bunch of dudes in the car. It was suspicious. Like they were messing with us. I prepared exit routes to speed away if this became a situation. Prepared to spring into car chase action! Downshift! Upshift! Aka a real adventure!!!… but they just made a left into a driveway.)
5. And finally the ‘temple’. Which is this. (Picture it with grey skies and rain):
We stared at the ‘temple’ from the car — defeated. Adventure failure. No interesting place to even grab lunch. Nothing discovered. A Big Captain Cook Zero.
We headed back. passed the fat polynesian kid staring at the sky, starving dog was mercifully gone, no threatening truck… and we dropped off the car that we rented for the day after a couple hours. (The gas station was closed btw). I don’t mean to Raiatea bash btw. Sorry Raiateanians if it comes off that way.
Anyway,…but bonus! When we arrived back at the airport we found out that we’d have to wait three (3) hours to catch the next boat back to our boring drenched resort. We couldn’t even get back to the place we didn’t want to be.
We sat down at the airport cafe to kill the time. It was the only choice. We ordered beers and big baguette sandwiches. The rain pounded down. Crabs scurried around by the drainage ditch for our entertainment.
I felt for the first time I wasn’t going to be able to turn our honeymoon around by sheer force of will. I was counting on Adventure! to save the day. Our adventure led us to a dead end at a remote airstrip airport… waiting for a boat.
Then this song came on the radio in the cafe. A song, just one week prior, the wife had so blissfully danced to at our wedding.
And for the first time on our honeymoon… she started crying..
(to be continued)