It’s hard to talk about French Polynesia without resorting to cliches. Craggy mountains with lush moss-green slopes, shallow intense-blue lagoons teeming with colourful fish, atolls with palm trees swaying in the breeze, hibiscus flowers, smiling people: it really does look like every postcard or brochure you have ever seen. Locals tell us this is not – nor was it ever – paradise, but to a visitor, it sure looks like heaven on earth. The major decision was what to do on each of the seven islands we visited: Raiatea, Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahiti, Huahine, Rangiroa, Nuku Hiva. Should our activities be nautique (on or below the water) or terrestre (land-based)? Some days we had time for both.
“Wrap up and enjoy,” says New Zealand Tourism. The month of May, our visit time, is on the “autumn-winter cusp,” but it sure felt like winter to us. Wearing beanies and all our warm clothes, we enjoyed the silver tree ferns and songbirds of the Queen Charlotte Track, the architecture of the world’s Art Deco capital, and the rugged west coast beaches of Auckland. Stormy seas followed us up and over the International Date Line, but we had fun nonetheless, kayaking with friends in Tonga and discovering 550 toads in the jungle in Pago Pago. On sea days Doug scrounged materials to design and build a vessel; his team was runner-up in the Shipbuilding Contest.