Paradise on Earth:
The Romance of Tahiti
And Her Islands Story by Ringo Boitano Photographs by Deb Roskamp
he first thing you notice is the fragrance. The intoxicating perfume
of the tiare flower announces to your senses that you are in a magical
place, overflowing with tropical vegetation and soothing trade winds.
It is the same fragrance that the English seamen on the HMS
Bounty also first encountered; but they came, not for flowers, but
for breadfruit, intended as a new food staple for their slaves in the
West Indies. But that was another time and another emotional place.
located on Tahiti
Nui (Big), is Tahitis vibrant capital city and
gateway to her islands. Roughly one-half of all of the Tahitian islands
population lives in this city. Papeete bustles with world-class resorts,
restaurants, nightclubs and endless shopping. If its a pearl you
want or a hand-painted pareu (sarongs) - worn by women and men alike
- this is the place for it.
Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands offers a good overview of the islands
history. The English were the first Europeans to arrive, stripping the
islanders of much of their heritage. In 1842, the French took over,
and today the islands inhabitants possess full French citizenship,
but the Gallic texture is evident only on the surface. Tahitians have
maintained much of their old lifestyles. This is an island paradise
and the warmth and openness of its people is the essence of its charm.
Not to be missed is Arahurahu
Marae, the islands only completely reconstructed marae.
An open-air place of worship and ceremony, the sacred temple is
constructed of tiers of stones where the Tahitian elite made sacrifices.
Yes, sometimes even human.
Put an inland safari on your list, too.
My jeep tour was deep into the mountainous valley of Papenoo;
a true Garden of Eden with fertile displays of ginger, vanilla,
taro, noni and breadfruit. The medicinal and cosmetic benefits
of the pants and flowers are well utilized by the Tahitians, renowned
for their health, physical beauty and spiritual serenity.
Tahiti Nui has much to offer, but locals also proudly
tout the outlying, less-populated islands for their beauty and tranquility.
Exploring the other Tahitian islands is best accomplished by booking
an excursion on a cruise ship. You get to see more islands and it is
With its alluring blue lagoons, lush tropical slopes
and Mount Otemanu looming in the distance, this enchanting island is
synonymous with romance. Bora Bora is the place for a bike ride around
the island, a leisurely hike, or to simply disappear on a white sandy
beach. The history buff will enjoy seeing remnants of cannons manned
by American servicemen during World War II. Until 1942, there were no
roads and no vehicles on Bora Bora. Now tourism is on the rise, with
scores of over-the-water bungalows dotting the multi-hued clear lagoon,
but to the Yankee mainlander, this is still paradise found.
Moorea is the very essence of a South Seas island paradise,
and it comes as no surprise that it is a favorite of many Tahitians.
The beauty of the island, with its jagged green mountains and palm-draped
beaches, is astounding. James Michener called it Bali Hai, Herman Melville
based his novel Omoo on it, and Captain Cook spoke passionately of its
landscapes and the beauty of the local people. Moorea is unique among
the Tahitian Islands in having magnificent expanses of both white and
black beaches. High in Mooreas interior mountains, Polynesian
royalty practiced their archery and maraes are hidden in rainforests.
On a hilltop lookout between shark-tooth Mount Rotui and towering Mount
Tohivea, there is an once-in-a-lifetime view once reserved only for
Raiatea, meaning faraway heaven was the
cultural, religious and royal heart of Polynesia the birthplace
of the gods. The second largest Tahitian isle, it was where entire clans,
complete with dogs, plants, trees and livestock, sailed off to find
new homes on other islands. Today, you can canoe around the fjord-like
Faaroa Bay and discover why the island was a favorite of Captain Cook.
Tahaa offers a glimpse of the traditional tranquil
life of the Tahitians. The flower-shaped island is surrounded by tiny
motus (small islands) and in its fertile valleys farmers grow watermelon
and vanilla - which is much stronger than the vanilla that is generally
obtained from Mexico.
The Foods of Tahiti
Indigenous Tahitian cuisine uses whats available
from the land and from the sea, and is abundant in fish and fruit. Coconut
milk and vanilla are incorporated in many of the dishes. Poisson
Cru, tuna cured in limejuice with chopped green onions, cucumbers
and tomatoes; and Fafa,
a stew of chicken with spinach-like taro leaves; are among my favorites.
The taro root (more flavorful than the Hawaiian version), breadfruit,
sweet potatoes, and plantains offer typical starch fare. Mangoes, bananas,
watermelon, pineapple, papaya, guava, soursop and pummelo are in abundance.
From the lagoons come parrotfish, perch, and mullet; from the open sea
the freshest of fresh tuna, bonito, wahoo, scad and mahi mahi.
My Irish roots understand terrible beauty. So do my
human roots. The concept has such a ring of truth to it, doesn't it?
Great article, Ringo. I hope to get to Ireland eventually, and thanks
for blazing the trail!
Sandeee Bleu, Seattle, WA
* * * *
No wonder I've been hearing all these wonderful stories
about Ireland. I used to think that it was just for Irish Americans
seeking their ancestral roots but your article seems to call out to
the non-Irish like me. Fascinating and intriguing.
Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA
Thanks for this great post wow... it's very wonderful.
Key Logger, New York
* * * *
Lets not forget that the Marriot Harbor Beach is within
walking distance to the world famous Elbo Room - Fort Lauderdale's oldest
Jeff, Fort Lauderdale, FL
* * * *
Thanks for taking the time
for the message and reminder. Indeed, I had a quick drink at the Elbo
Room. My trip to Ft. Lauderdale would not have been complete without
a visit to this historic institution.I have been reading about it for
years, and was not disappointed. It felt like a real local's hangout.
thoroughly enjoyed your article about Dick and Liz. I remember seeing
that article back in the heyday of Life Magazine.
To remember the "behind-the-scenes" stories
like that makes you genuine fan of the 60's. The famous couple's turbulent
relationship was just a precursor of today's headline-grabbing media
stars like Britney Spears and her colleagues. Life was simpler then.
The paparazzis still had some sense of decency. You "coulda"
been a good paparazzi. I say "coulda" because you kept this
to yourself all these many years.
Looking forward to other media trivia you can remember.
Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA
Enjoyed your article on Antarctica --- cool photos,
too. One thing, you mentioned that Ushuaia in Argentina is considered
the most southern city in the world. I read that Chile lays claim to
that distinction, with Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world.
Mick, Greenbay, WI
* * * *
Now that football season is
over --- Ive often wondered what you Packer fans did in the off
season ---- its great that you took the time to visit TravelingBoy.
Great question, unlike my older brother, I adore all lamb products,
and Patagonian Lamb --- cooked in a restricted area at the restaurant
in an opened wood-fueled fire pit --- is amazing. The chef actually
uses an ax to carve it. Frankly, I found it superior to Norwegian fjord
lamb, Irish Burren lamb and even those much esteemed creatures down
in New Zealand. The crab in Ushuaia is the other thing to eat. Wait
a sec, you asked about Punta Arenas vs. Ushuaia as the furthermost city
in the world. Well, they both have little disclaimers re populations
--- you know, whats a city, which one is a town, ect so
better let Chile and Argentina brass it out. They seem to be able to
argue about any subject.
Journey to the Bottom of the Globe: Exploring the
White Continent of Antarctica
As a travel journalist I am constantly asked what are
some of my favorite travel experiences. The list is endless. But there is
one destination that seems to raise the most eyebrows. That destination
is a cruise to Antarctica. Sadly, that cruise line I was on is no more,
but today there is a plethora of cruise lines that offer similar packages.
Here's a look back at my Antarctica cruise.
Treasures of Ireland: The Quiet Man
The Palladian Traveler follows in the footsteps
of some Hollywood icons as he goes "on location" in Cong to
pay his respects to his all-time fave movie.
Would You Believe She Can Carry 800 (Yes, 800!)
As she came around the corner we could not believe
how big she was. Massive, and yet incredibly beautiful almost elegant
in fact. Her lines were so symmetrical she seemed to blend into a classic
example of astonishing good looks. The other fact that amazed all of us
was how quiet she was. We felt sure that with the obvious overwhelming power
she evidenced, she'd be extra loud. It's a cliché, but she was as
quiet as a church mouse or "as quiet as dreaming trees."
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's
In the 1840s, the population of California was only
14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived
from all over the world and they came for one reason: gold. James
Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutters Mill in El
Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.