Whelp. That went fast. We’re closing out a month here in Tahiti, and it feels like it went in about a split second.
Perception of time is odd. The first couple of weeks felt like the world had slowed down as we were adjusting to the new schedule, the new location, a new home, and a friendly reminder that not everyone speaks English so you better dust off that french you’d forgotten in Paris.
Then a couple of weeks fly by and before you know it, we’ve settled into a routine that begins to feel normal. We find a grocery store and a local restaurant; Erin finds a cross-fit gym; I figure out a work setup; Erin starts her PADI diving certification program; I become a certified drone pilot. The spider-web of micro-connections that connect us to a place are being quickly build, almost without us noticing.
I would likely never have recognized this except that my good friend Cecilia joined us for the past week, and it was fantastic, partly because it simply disrupted the pattern. I was so close to it all, so far in the weeds, we couldn’t see the pattern that had so quickly been built.
This is, of course, what we’re out here to do. We’re out here to remove ourselves from the patterns we built in the US, both intentional and unintentional. This as much a trip of self-realization as it is of external discovery, and Cecilia’s visit helped remind me that we’re not simply here building new patterns to replace the old, but to remove crutches and rebuild our lives intentionally.
Now, of course, that wasn’t what Cecilia was her to do. She was her to visit some friends and experience the incredible world of Tahiti, and we did that in spades. We kicked off immediately with a lagoon tour of the nearby island of Moorea, less than 18 hours after she landed, and way before her internal clock adjusted. But... meh. That’s what you do.
So we did it. Booked the tour, slathered on the sunscreen, hop off the ferry, jump on the bus, stop and get our photo at the scenic outlook, board the boat and strap in for a purpose-built tour of the lagoon surrounding Moorea. And it was awesome.
We had a fantastic guide who lead us in both French and English to explain where we were, the hotels we were passing, the wildlife that we were seeing, some history of the islands, and the food that we would be eating.
You know you’re deep in it when they tell you that this is the stop where you’ll be swimming with the stingrays and sharks. So we all pile out the front of the boat into a shallow area of the lagoon about 3 feet deep, which meant everyone could easily stand and experience this crazy thing. And it was crazy.
The 20 or so people on the tour hopped out of the boat into the waist-deep water, and these sea-creatures knew the deal. Guides tossed out rice, and they came a-swimming. The stingrays were comfortable enough that you could reach out and touch them. The sharks... not so much. No one touches a shark and comes out on top of that situation.
I was simply struck by the beauty of these creatures, on display so close to me. The black-tipped reef sharks came within an arm’s length, while the stingrays would literally brush up against you. I’ll leave the deeply troubling moral question of habituating wildlife for another post, but will say that it was freaking awesome.
After swimming for a bit, we pulled anchor and headed to our lunch spot. We snagged a table in the water, filled our cups with some rum-laced punch, and laid back to wait for the food to be prepared. There’s nothing like shooting the breeze with an old college roommate in the middle of a Pacific lagoon.
The guide, ever the showman, found a couple of volunteers to help out and showed us how to make a local dish I’ve come to enjoy called “Poisson Cru au Lait du Coco”. This roughly translates as Fresh Fish with Coconut Milk, and it’s freaking delicious. It’s a meal I’ll take home with me. Fresh bluefin tuna; onion; bell pepper; tomato; and spicy pepper. Mix it all together and let it marinate for a bit, then serve. It’s in the same family as ceviche, though without the heavy lime.
Once the poisson cru was complete, they called us to the awesome buffet of green salad, poisson cru, grilled chicken and fish, and some sides. We took this back to the table-in-a-lagoon and this was where I discovered that stingrays are the raccoons of the ocean.
If you think fish are excited by breadcrumbs, you should see stingrays in 6 inches of water brushing your feet in their excitement. The aquatic life there was pretty wild to see, and you shake your feet to brush off either the fish or the stingrays, and see a small shark sniffing around and a little baby barracuda as well. Pretty surreal, in fact.
Aside from the French dude next to us nearly losing his drone in the water, the rest of the day was fairly uneventful as we motored back to the ferry, jumped across the straight to Tahiti, and headed back to the house. Some quick dinner at a local roulotte (Tahitian version of a food truck) and we were wiped.
Having Cecilia in town was such a blast. The Moorea tour was just one of the hijinks we found, and her stay with us happily shook our routine, gave us a great reason to put on our tourist hats, and it was fun to catch up.
So.. the question is: who’s the next friend to come visit?!