Goin' Down, Under travel blog

The Intercontinental Hotel ... from the lobby

Polynesian carvings

Dive buddies.

Returning to our hotel

An early rise this a.m. Jim, Karen, Gary and I were up for breakfast at 6:15 a.m. so that we could meet our contact with Top Dive Tahiti at 7:15. Although we're here for two full days before flying to Sydney, there are safety restrictions on flying after diving so that our only option to do so was today. And what a wonderful day it was.

Our first dive kept us within the lagoon outside Papeete, which is all but fully encircled by a large coral reef. At about 75 feet down there are two wrecks available for visiting: a WWII-era flying boat which has been stripped of its engines, pontoons and all the cockpit instrumentation. Although our divemaster indicated visibility was poor because of some recent storm activity, for those of us who have learned to dive the murky waters off Vancouver it was incredible ... at least 35-40 feet. And clear enough to seen an incredibly rich variety of tropical fish. Don't ask me names (the only ones I could identify with certainty was a type of Angel Fish). Then it was a quick swim over to a second wreck, this one a fairly large wooden hulled boat of some kind ... Sitting on its side, the hull was still reasonably intact, though badly decomposed. Much of the ship's metal superstructure was spilled over the ocean floor and was unrecognizable.

One of our fellow divers an IBM representative from France (there are lots of French here both tourists and residents) had a digital camera inside a plastic housing specifically made for diving, and he took a number of shots. I gave him my email address so I'm hoping he'll forward some to me.

In the afternoon we returned to our hotel (The Intercontinental), a very nice resort with massive swimming pools and very comfortable rooms. A quick swim, late lunch, and some leisure time followed, but Jim quickly organized a dinner out for about 9 of us. We boarded a somewhat rickety old truck whose cargo area had been modified to include an enclosed cabin with two wooded benches running along each side. We were then trucked up the mountains through the narrowest of jungle roads to arrive at a restaurant (The Belvedere) perched about 600 meters (1800 feet), above Papeete. I thought one of the ladies in our group was going to pass out from fear of rolling off the road ... she kept yelling, "Oh my God ... will it ever end?" To be fair, for most of the trip the only lights that were visible were the ones coming from our truck. As it turned out, however, the uncomfortable ride was well worth it. The food was excellent, and of course the views spectacular. It reminded those of us from Vancouver of the city views available from the top of Grouse Mountain on a clear night.

About the only down side of our first full day of actual vacation was the sunburn visited upon those of us that went diving. Despite the roof over our heads on the dive boat, all four of us realized last night that we'd been quite burned by what we can only assume was sunshine reflecting into the boat off the water. Ouch ... lesson learned!

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