Car hiring around Tahiti
We hired a car and split up the duties: me driving, Mark and Cindy guiding, and Maria supervising. That worked well. Mark and Cindy know the island well enough, having put more rubber on the Tahitian roads than an average Papeete taxi driver.
But first, we had to get to the car hire company. That involved a short bus ride to Arue (200 CFP each) and an even shorter walk to Regina Car Rentals, where our new car was waiting. Then, after spending half an hour recording all the scratches on the paintwork (I gave up and recorded a video), we bundled ourselves in the car and set off to see the sights.
A little history
Standing proudly atop Matavai Bay is a 25-metre-high lighthouse built by Thomas Stevenson with stonemasons from the Gambier in 1867. On its own, that’s a nice piece of history. But two earlier events give Matavai Bay historical heft:
James Cook arrived here from England onboard Endeavour, with a team of early naturalists and astronomers, on a mission to witness the 1769 Transit of Venus (when Venus can be seen passing between the Sun and Earth). This mission formed part of a broader objective to accurately measure the distance between Sun and Earth to get a grip on the size of our solar system. And because the next Transit of Venus wasn’t going to happen until 1874, the pressure was on for a safe and speedy voyage.
Fortunately, they made better progress getting here than us ocean loafers. The Endeavour sailed from Plymouth in August 1768 and dropped anchor in Matavai Bay 8 months later. They even had time to call at Madeira and Rio de Janeiro for a spot of provisioning before rounding Cape Horn to make their way up to Tahiti.
Funnily enough, despite its scientific significance (the measurements proved later to be only 3% out), this achievement doesn’t get much of a mention in any of the plaques and signs dotted around Venus Point. What does get a lot of attention is HMS Bounty.
Breadfruit for the Bounty
Captain Bligh, onboard HMS Bounty, arrived here in 1788 to collect and cultivate breadfruit ashore for a year, then carry that as cargo to the Caribbean. I think the tale of what happens next is well-known. But it seems to be of particular interest here. There are brass mugshots of who I assume to be the protagonists of the tale and a brass plaque containing the names of the ship’s company. The mutiny didn’t happen here, but like ourselves, the crew were keen to return.
The black sand of Matavai Bay on the shoreline below Venus Point is a hive of activity for humans and sea creatures. The warnings about jellyfish meant nothing to these hardy folks enthusiastically bouncing around in the sea for an aquarobics workout.
And it’s a handy base for keen Va’a paddlers.
Nearly flattened by Andy Tupaia
The road to Belvedere du Tahara’a is probably better suited to 4×4 cars than a Peugeot 206 automatic. But, despite its full complement of passengers, that little car bravely managed to strain and grunt its way up the long single-track road to arrive at one of the most picturesque spots in Tahiti. And the view from here is stunning.
To one side of the lookout was a small film crew pointing a camera at a man sitting on a chair miming the words to a catchy song. Interesting, but not quite as interesting as the view of Papeete.
Until that man on the chair nearly flattened us.
After absorbing the view and taking some photographs, we returned to the car. I had just started the engine when I noticed the truck in front reversing towards me. I blasted the horn, and the vehicle quickly jerked to a stop. Fortunately, the driver was quick on the brakes.
The man in that truck was the man on the chair, Andy Tupaia. He apologised profusely; his film crew came over to see if everything was OK, then – noticing a total lack of recognition – they explained that Andy is a famous singer in Tahiti. Andy (because we are on first-name terms now) told us he was there to create a video for his new song and that he sings in Tahitian, English and French.
He also explained that he was talking with someone in Los Angeles while driving his Toyota-sponsored Hilux out of the car park for a publicity shot. That’s showbiz for you.
Maria got a selfie, though. And the man has some good tunes on Apple Music…
After lunch, we headed to Teahupoo, hoping that this time we would see the wave that makes this place so famous. But the water was about as flat as one of Liz Truss’s speeches.
So there was no point in hiring a small boat to take us to the reef. Instead, we unleashed our inner children for some photographs on the concrete wave:
Other Nickel Tour Highlights
We toured the island for two days and saw a lot more than I can now remember, which is my own fault for not writing this up earlier. But here are some of the other places we stopped at:
The above is really forward-thinking. Not only are these houses protected from tropical storms, but they are also thermally efficient. I understand that architects in the UK have cottoned onto this idea. Hillside dwelling is the future.
On the way back from our circumnavigation is this sign. It isn’t one for the indecisive.