The cruise has been really fun so far! After visiting Dravuni Island, we hit Samoa, the Cook Islands and French Polynesia. There are five sea days between Bora Bora and Hawaii, during which we’ll cross the equator– which involves a ceremony, going from pollywogs to shellbacks– and that ceremony involves passengers, so I’ve signed up. Apparently it’s pretty messy (meringue, Jell-O, spaghetti sauce…..) so we’ll see if my name gets drawn out of the hat for that 😛 Then we’ll be doing some scenic cruising by Christmas Island, during which we’ll sing Christmas carols and possibly decorate makeshift Christmas trees. It’s the end of July, and we’re on the equator– what better time to celebrate Christmas?? 😀
And before I get to the details of my latest adventures, I’ll start a list of interesting foods encountered on the ship.
– Lemon chicken soup :: Now they say there was chicken, or perhaps chicken broth in this, but upon further inspection those slivers floating around in the broth were actually shreds of lemon. Two words I found summed up this serving quite nicely: DISH SOAP. The lemon-smelling kind.
– Glop and rice and glop :: Seeing this glop (my greatest apologies for forgetting the actual name) at the buffet, it had the 50/50 appeal: 50% chance it could be excellent, 50% chance it could be disgusting. Though it didn’t necessarily taste bad, the essence of it was too weird to go back for seconds. Two words that sum up its taste: BABY POWDER.
And why they’re serving us dish soap and baby powder on this ship is beyond me. Maybe it’s because they’ve got some two thousand passengers to feed and are getting desperate to find food sources, that or else the chefs are being creative. They’re also out of green tea and haven’t restocked! Tsk tsk tsk; overall, though, the meals have been pretty good.
And at night, at sea, it’s really something to go to the unlit front of the ship and look at the gajillions of stars out there!
Let’s get onto some adventures!
APIA, [Western/German] Samoa
When we arrived in Apia, we were greeted by the expected touristy kiosks set up with souvenirs. After making our way towards town, we were greeted by a wall of taxi drivers, but we told them nooooo, we’re going to walk into town on our own. But one at the end caught my mom and me and said he’d drive us into town really cheap, because of the walk, and so on– so sure, why not.
And then we get in the car and he tells us that for just a little bit more he’ll take us up to the Robert Louis Stevenson house/museum. So we go for it– and the first thing I noticed, besides the LUSH, BRIGHT VEGETATION was that all the taxis and buses drove on the lawn at this museum. And it rains enough that the grass never quite dies. Here’s Darlos, our driver, and me, next to our taxi parked on the lawn:
Apparently RLS was a really short guy, all the doorknobs were knee-level:
After checking out the RLS museum, Darlos offered to drive us around the entire island and see the villages and waterfalls. Haven’t taken an adventure like that before, so why not?
In Samoa, the men wear lava-lavas, which are basically wrap skirts. Tattoos on all these pacific isles are really intricate tribal designs. Everyone I met in Samoa had a “love” tattoo, either on their left shoulder or hand somewhere. (Men seemed to have it on their hands, women on their shoulders). They’re such warm, peaceable people! There were plenty of dogs in the streets, but they too were really friendly and were probably pets.
A house is called a “fale”. Every family has its own fale and meeting hut, where they eat and hang out with friends and family:
And then every full family (cousins, uncles, grandparents, etc) had their own meeting pad, which was larger than the houses. Also, no one had mailboxes– they went to the post office; however, they all had these trash pads:
And religion’s really big as well.
There are no public cemeteries. Instead, people have the graves of their family members in their yards. The more important the person, the more extravagant the grave!
Little kids freely frolicked on the sides of the streets. It was so open– it felt safe, and the kids were all really happy too; it felt like being in a parade, just being in this taxi, because everyone we went by waved as we passed.
On our way to our first waterfall, I was pleased as punch to find that these plants, Sensitive (as I think they’re called) were abundant in the wild:
If you touch them, their leaves close in, kind of like a taco. Very interactive, very entertaining, very addicting. Playing with these wild plants was almost better than seeing the waterfall!
It seemed more like a river rapid sort of sighting more than a waterfall, but that would be made up for later. Still, it was pretty, and we got to play with the plants.
After more driving around the island, we came across another waterfall ‘site’, but it required an hour walk to get to the actual waterfall. And in the rain with the camera and sandals didn’t sound like a good mix, so we moved on. However, a couple of sweet little boys gave my mom and me flowers to put behind our ears!
We then made our way to our next waterfall site, the Papapapaitai Falls (I kid you not, check out the sign):
These falls were huuuge and spectacular! Too bad it wasn’t a little less cloudy, but these were still realllllly something.
All the island’s vegetation was so bright, I really expected it to glow in the dark come nightfall.
Sadly, the bright plants let me down when the sun went down. Still, you’d expect the sky to rain neon-highlighter ink in order to get these plants colored so vibrantly.
When we left, a rowing crew did a bunch of laps around the harbor to an energetic, exotic beat. These guys kept going and going (as did the drummer)– really expected them to run out of steam after the 2nd lap but I think they did about 5! We waved at them, and they got a scolding whistle blow if they were caught waving back. 😛
(What a bunch of showboats!) 😛
PAGO PAGO, [Eastern/American] Samoa
Pronounced “pango-pango”, American Samoa definitely had a more American feel to it.
When we got into town, I was quite delighted to hear that the Arts Festival was happening! Apparently this only takes place once every four years, and on a different island each year. There was a collaborative sculpture being made:
And, a whole bunch of different music/dance/cultural groups from various Pacific islands had come to share their ceremonial dances (in full dress)! We saw a lovely group from Fiji, their songs were cheery, with really pretty voices, and the dancers were really happy to be there:
There was also a group from Australia, but the whole ‘ethnic’ vision was tainted when non-Aborigines were performing traditional tribal dances:
And then there was also a group from Kiribati, they too had joyous songs and fun rhythms.
On our way back to the ship, we saw some more local Samoan dancers, just to tie up the cultural dance theme.
I was surprised to see the amount of fabrics being sold. Besides every store carrying fabrics and screen printing ink, they were organized in some strange Samoan way that I hadn’t the time to sort out. A selection of band-aids may also include sticks of glue for a hot glue gun. A shelf of shampoo may also include a Transformers toy. Perhaps this method of organization was meant to remind you of other products you had possibly forgotten to write on your list? Or maybe it was all somehow alphabetical, or simply placed on the shelves in the order that shipments were received. I may never know. Speaking of which, you could buy a cellophane-wrapped hot dog (and burger and sandwich too) at the counter.
RAROTONGA, Cook Islands
As Pago Pago is to the US, Rarotonga is to NZ. I’d say one of the most notable features of this island was that the vehicle of choice was a motor scooter. (Must be gas prices!) There was lots of island-inspired abstract, tribal-esque artwork on display in all the shops, which was really cool to see. Even the buildings were painted:
As I mentioned before, most all men on these islands were lava-lavas, and sarongs are popular among the women. Fabrics were abundant, and very very pretty!
I’d say the big cultural experience here was getting coconut-flavored Italian gelato. Mmmmm!
PAPEETE, French Polynesia
Bonjour! At least, that’s how people greet you in FRENCH Polynesia. Greet them like that right back and they’ll start jabbering away to you in French, so it’s best to say “hello” to let them know that yes, you’re a wandering tourist.
Funny thing about French Polynesia: all the stores have an hour or two that they close down for during lunch. And then, on Saturdays, they completely shut down at noon, and on Sundays, NOTHING is open. We landed in Papeete on Saturday, but had the entire day and night there (the boat left at 4 AM). Talk about expensive, overpriced shopping! And yes, the people here were pretty attractive, as rumors speculate.
Now I’ve never been to Paris, but I’ll take a gander that this was an islandy version of France. People kindly stopped for you if you were standing at the edge of a crosswalk, but if you’re behind a car that’s backing up, good luck to you for being fast on your feet!
Saw some more really cool artwork painted on buildings, and lots of cool graffiti.
There were a few kids break dancing out by the ship:
Brassy brewery goodness (yeah steampunk!):
There was a really amazing sailboat there too, here’s a view of the masts:
At night there was a big weightlifting shindig going on, there was quite the crowd, and during the event little kids ran amok all around the stage. (There’s that free spirit of the island life!)
AND, there was this guy in town that belted out operatic French (or Tahitian?) every time I walked by. He kept up his song for quite a while; being serenaded by a local is truly an interesting (and awkward) experience.
That night, some Tahitian dancers came on board to perform folkloric dances for us. Again, the dancers were more than happy to share their culture, and were in traditional grass skirts, shells, and other handmade costumes. At one point, the dancers jumped offstage and grabbed people out of the audience to go up and dance with them– and lucky us, Mom and I were in the second-to-front row, so they brought us up on stage! Yay for dancing with Tahitian dancers! Thankfully the show broadcast on the ship’s TV was of a previous version of the same show, so any dorky dancing doesn’t have to be re-lived.
Here are some photos I over abused in Photoshop, enjoy…
MOOREA, French Polynesia
So we got to Moorea not knowing what to expect. Originally the plan was to have no plan and head straight for the beach. But cranky weather took over the island and a dark cloud promising rain reigned our decision to not bring our beach towels.
Getting off the tender and on the island, more overpriced souvenirs awaited us. And so did a lady pointing at a sign about snorkeling with the sharks (noooo thank you!)– then she pointed at a tour bus and yelled out a price, and we were sold.
Louise was our guide around Moorea. We started out by going by a shrimp farm:
After a few CLOSE calls with other tour buses, we made it to an amazing viewing point where we could soak in all the amazing terrain (not to mention a few raindrops, too):
Ah yeah, and there were loads of chickens, roosters and chicks roaming the island.
Next we went to an old Tahitian temple, where they used to make human sacrifices looonnng ago. (Only male sacrifices, apparently there were many more men than women).
There was also this massive tree that they’d bang with rocks to inform the people that a ceremony was going on. This worked kind of like a church bell or African talking drums– hit the trunk really hard with a rock and it’ll make a noise that echoes throughout the mountains.
Next up, pineapple plantations!
Apparently if you take a pineapple and cut off the top, you can plant it– and by the time 4 years are up, you’ll have yourself a pickable pineapple. Pick it, wait until it turns yellow and your 4 years of waiting are up. 😛 I plan on planting a few of these so when I graduate from CalArts I’ll be able to celebrate with tropical fruit…. 😀
We then made our way to Cook’s Bay– here’s Mom!
We learned about hibiscus flowers and some of the plants and their uses/symbolism.
The leaves of one plant can be used as a plate, and afterwards, as toilet paper….
And, on a finishing note, I was pleased to know that the shirt this tag was attached to will not give me cancer if I wear it.
BORA BORA, French Polynesia
Being Moorea felt a bit disappointing due to the gloomy weather (cloudy skies and cool rain) I dreaded that Bora Bora may see the same skies– in the morning it did indeed look dank, but as the afternoon went on the clouds parted and a bright blue sky was to be had.
So what’s visiting Bora Bora without going to the BEACH? After bidding adieu to our postcards, we immediately hopped on a bus and went straight to Matira beach. White, semi-crunchy (due to shells and coral) sand met with pristinely clear, shallow (and warm!) water. Apparently four hours of splashing around in the water and loafing on the beach wasn’t enough to give me a sunburn…. YAY! There were again lots of dogs here– really friendly, very used to people (you could walk right alongside them– they were laying down and sleeping all over the beach– and they wouldn’t mind the slightest). The locals were kayaking, and one guy was kayaking right up by the sand; his dog was following him, though he had to sniff every tourist who crossed. The water was clear the ENTIRE way out; looking out along the surface was a glimmering light cyan color. (And it seemed to taste cleaner than other beach water… not that I’d go drinking the stuff, eeew). There weren’t so many touristy kiosks to buy overpriced jewelry at, though Tahitian pearls were still really popular. Houses were built right on the beach; didn’t see many people on the sides of the road, and I think that’s because everyone has a beach instead of a back yard. If I were them, I’d spend all my time on the beach!
Well I think that concludes my adventures thus far on this cruise, we’re about half-way through, so many more stories, pictures and adventures to come!