Monday, February 21, 2011

The little paradise of Mataiva

I call it little because Mataiva is an atoll in French Polynesia, near Tahiti. It means that it's not even an island as it is a ring of sand with coconut trees everywhere and a blue lagoon in the middle. It's a whole 22km round... yeah... little.
Sand, coconut trees, and lagoon
We went there after spending a day in Papeete to wait for the twice-a-week flight that goes to Mataiva. (There are only 200 people living there so they don't really need more than that). That day gave us time to adjust to the time difference. Not that we really had to though. It's only 2 hours of difference from San Francisco but the fact that they get up at 5am there (the market of Papeete even starts at 3am on sundays) makes it that we pretty much kept the same schedule as in SF. Pretty convenient!

Anyway, we went to Mataiva thanks to the recommendation of friends who lived in the area for a couple years. We went to a pension a.k.a some kind of hostel / bed and breakfast for 4 days. Now the awesome part of it is that thanks to some freak luck, we were the only ones there. We had the whole place for ourselves, which means we had the lagoons for ourselves too. (as we left 17 new people arrived).

We started off easy by taking bycicles around the island. The road was flanked by coconut trees everywhere. The fun part was the myriad of small crabs that were hanging out on the road and around, and that were scattering around as we were approaching. They were everywhere!

We had different activities planned during our stay. Nothing too strenuous, don't worry. We took a boat to grab lunch, which means we went and picked up a couple fish from the lagoon. It gave us the opportunity to discover the crazy cow-fish and its rigit body, and even the famous blowfish. Seeing a blowfish was already cool, but you should have seen when the guy started cutting it open. That was impressive. As a city boy, I was quite impressed by the ordeal.
You don't even need to hold the cow fish, with its hard body, it can't jump anywhere

I swear he was all big and all a second ago!
Not the best time to be a blowfish...

We also went to a bird island, completely overrun by... birds, as well as eggs everywhere on the ground, and little baby birds too.

(c) Alfred Hitchcock
We went fishing along the ocean. While it took me forever to catch anything, Denise seemed to be in one of two modes. She was either catching a fish in under a minute or getting her line stuck and ended up breaking it. It was quite impressive and funny at the same time.
Fresh lunch, in plates we made ourselves. This coconut bread was delicious
Bust most of all we spent a lot of time in the lagoon. Nice, clear, warm, many-shades-of-blue, with pretty fish... lagoon. Since we were the only guests, we were all alone out there. It was awesome.

Yeah, it was crowded

See urchins like to be cozy

What color do you want to swim today?

White on the left, blue on the right

What really made it as well were our hosts who were super nice and really received us very warmly. They joined us to play cards after dinner, and even taught me again how to play the famous card game "trou du cul", which I've played for countless hours with my friends in France at Saint Laurent many years ago.

We also got to meet one of the uncles (it's a big family out there) who was cultivating coconuts and showed us how to open them with the hatchet, and most of all how the coconut tastes depending on how mature it is. For example the juice of some coconuts he got out of the tree for us was actually carbonated, while the entire core of the germinating coconut will be hard and edible (we even got fried beignets of that part right before taking the plane back!). We are now a lot better outfitted to survive if we ever crash on a deserted island (as long as it has fish and coconut trees of course)

Our friend Jacob made Denise promise that she would play freesbee in Tahiti. This is the proof Jacob!
As you probably gathered, We had an awesome time there and except for the few sunburns and bug bites, we left Mataiva fully refreshed.
I'm telling you, it was really hard out there

Turtle rock

Some safe-to-handle see urchins and a shell

This guy came swimming by. Don't worry, he's quite small
Denise named him Gumbo after he woke us up in the middle of the night. Bet he would taste good in one.

More photos right here:

1 comment: