Making The Best Of A Bad Situation

Images of Tahiti 1986

 

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1986 was an interesting year for me. I was working as a programmer and in December, I got fired. Got a severance check and I was thinking that (A) The likelihood of my finding another job in December was slim and (B) I wanted to see the South Pacific and if I didn’t go now I’d most likely have to wait 30 years for retirement.

One either has the time and no money or money and no time for such things.

Or no health.

As it happened Qantas (For Queensland And Northern Territories Air Service ) was offering a special ticket – like a EurailPass – where, if memory serves me, I could make up to 20 stops in the South Pacific – I just couldn’t backtrack.

So I made a general plan as to where I wanted to go – Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and maybe Hawaii. The Australian and New Zealand dollars were at the time about 56 cents (No more!), I was single, no pressure to return by a certain date, so off I went.

Oh, I decided to send my now ex-boss a post card at each stop.

Two Nearly 3 months later I decided to return. I ended up wandering around Australia for about 6 weeks, but I’m getting ahead of the story.

And to bolster my contention that God has to have a sense of humor on the first day I was back I went to a Costco box store and who should be just standing by the front entrance – waiting for someone – was my ex-boss.

“Sounds like you had a good time”, he said.

“That I did” was my reply.

Which all goes to show you that sometimes we can make good things out of bad situations.

Anyway the trip started a bit ominously. The flight to Los Angeles was delayed, and by the time I got to Burbank – needing a taxi to LAX – the Qantas 747 was about ready to go.

Like the British Air employee who rushed me down the corridors at Heathrow for my waiting plane 12 years earlier, a Qantas ticket agent rushed me down LAX’s corridors to the waiting 747.

It would be an 8-hour flight in the darkness to Tahiti (we left about 22:00) but the flight attendants offered all the Queensland-produced rum we wanted (which as I have gotten older learned to moderate).

So, welcome aboard.

The next few weeks we’ll tour the South Pacific.

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These guys greeted us some 8+ hours later – they really didn’t seem too enthusiastic 😉

We landed at Tahiti’s capital, Papeete. It I had one sentence to describe it I’d think it would be Honolulu 100 years ago. The French really control building and emigration in Tahiti.

Tahiti is about equidistant South of the equator as Hawaii is north. In fact Tahitians settled Hawaii who-knows-when.

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At the Papeete airport, as soon as I stepped out, this is what I saw – the island of Moorea just 11 miles across the channel. That was my destination – at the Club Med. There were 2 ways of getting there – either a 2 hour ferry ride that left 2x a day, or plane. I took what was probably one of the world’s shortest airline destinations…

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You can see the megalopolis of Papeete as we are departing….

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Club Med, which started in 1950, was a Frenchman’s idea of allowing inexpensive vacations.

And while this was/is the only Club Med I attended, I like their way of doing things. Everything, other than alcoholic drinks, is included in the price. And for alcohol here they would only accept beads.

Of course the beads had to be purchased with my VISA card 😉

Tahiti had/has 2 Club Meds – the one on Moorea – an island about 40 miles around, and a smaller one on Bora Bora.

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I think Moorea – if not the biggest island, is one of the biggest.

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This is the Tahitian public transportation – at least on Moorea.

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2nd day I was there – despite the colors being washed 25 years later, do I look a bit red?

Well, because of my late entry onto the Qantas jet my luggage was not with me.

Meaning my sunscreen was going to arrive a day later.

“No problem”, said I, “I can last a day here without it. Well, I got so burned the first day I had blisters. And because sundry items, and everything else in Tahiti is very expensive, I was too cheap to spring for sunscreen there (at $20 – in 1986!).

So I paid the price. Even diving you’d see me with a shirt on.

I believe that the UV rays in the southern hemisphere are stronger than the north – in fact, I was told the country with the highest incidence of skin cancer is New Zealand.

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Some of the bungalows at the Moorea Club Med…

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Everything here – meals, diving, tennis , water skiing, is inclusive. Do what you want without worry of an extra charge. Which, in Tahiti, was a tremendous bargain.

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Even with my slide colors changing in 25 years you get an idea of the beautiful blue of the water…

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A fairly common sunset in Tahiti – note the rain…

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One of the dinners. The blurriness is because I had to use a slow shutter speed. As I mentioned a nice tradition at Club Med is seating you – you will meet different people from around the world each day.

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The first boat was the dive boat – I made several dives there. One of my most memorable was when the dive-master chummed the water – bringing in reef sharks. After the customary safety lecture “don’t move suddenly, take off any shiny objects” we dove and it was the eeriest sight – seeing these 6′ sharks just glide – silently – past us.

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The sky wasn’t originally purple but the water seems accurate 😉

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Like my shark foray, this was a memorable evening. Sitting on a wooden deck with a wine, listening to Beethoven through the speakers, and seeing this sunset.

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One day I decided to rent a little Vespa scooter and ride around the island. I took my camera and just stopped at whatever interested me. The whole island was maybe a 50 mile circumference and very little traffic

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Hogday what do you think of that crash helmet?

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What you see is the “highway” around Moorea 😉

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This is Captain Cook’s Bay. In traveling around the South Pacific I learned that James Cook had been just about everywhere. And in a bit of historic trivia I recently learned that when the American colonies were lost, and the British still wanted a place to exile their prisoners, an American Tory suggested to Cook that he look into Australia as a prisoner destination.

Anywho, this bay was interesting for a couple of other reasons. Its natural beauty, and a dozen or so sail boats from all over the Pacific – San Francisco to  Sydney – would moor here.

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It was time to head back to Papeete – and catch my QANTAS flight. Since it didn’t leave until late at night I had a day to see the town. BTW in the evening, waiting at the airport – presented a problem unique to Tahiti – the airport had no walls, and if you relaxed too much late  at night the sand crabs would crawl up your leg. Bet that doesn’t happen at Heathrow or O’Hare.

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Downtown Papeete…

I took a tour for a few hours but the highlight to me was the Paul Gauguin Museum. Gauguin lived there for some years and I remember a quote that I had read – that if he could only sell one of his paintings for a few francs he could eat better…

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After the previously-described wait at the Papeete airport, off to New Zealand (next week)

Next Stop New Zealand

 

update 06-14-2018 While writing another post I have learned that this Club Med  has closed! Sad as it was a wonderful place and fairly inexpensive to stay. 

18 Comments

Filed under Travel

18 responses to “Making The Best Of A Bad Situation

  1. Dust

    Bill,

    Very enjoyable tour you present here. As I have also learned the best revenge is to succeed or achieve in the face of those who set you back. Keep ’em coming.

    Best,

    Dust

    • Bill Brandt

      Thanks Dust – in the years I was wondering of my sending my ex boss post cards was “passive aggression” but I did take a perverse pleasure doing it 😉

  2. How idyllic! You most definitely made lemonade outta lemons, Bill.

  3. Nicely done, and you DID take advantage of the situation… Unlike many people and thankfully you will always have those memories!

  4. Bill….Thanks so much for the post. To see the South Pacvific has always been a dream of mine….particularly some of the islands where we fought the Japanese.

  5. AFMom

    I don’t post very often, but I just had to say how much I enjoy the stories of your travels!

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  13. Anna LM

    What a wonderful read. Club Med Moorea was my first trip overseas and it was also the trip I got engaged at. We went in March 1995. I loved reading your post. It brought back some fabulous memories. I wish the place was still there but it got burned down many years ago and has never been reinstated to its former glory. Those beaches were amazing and the snorkelling. I so loved that snorkelling. Thank you for writing such a lovely piece.

    • Thank you for reading it Anna! Club Med also had a place at Bora Bora – much smaller – and it too is closed. A shame because Tahiti is so expensive and Club Med was a fabulous bargain.

  14. Brenda

    I was there in ‘86 as well, for my honeymoon, thank you for sharing the pics, brought back some fun memories. Our flight from L.A. was horrific! People smoked back the, someone spilled a meal on a nicely dressed woman and the entire plane heard about it. Luck for us, they over booked the flight home and we got an extra 2 days and a much nicer plane, less crowded on the way home.
    Cheers!

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