It’s been a weird and wonderful first week in French Polynesia (our 111th country!) where we will be living on the island of Mo’orea for two months. Getting here was no simple task…with ever changing PanDamit rules, overnight flights, weather woes etc., we were filled with gratitude on arrival. Here is our story – Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One.
As our departure date loomed and Omicron exploded we found ourselves checking the French Polynesia entry requirements incessantly. We didn’t honestly know if we would actually go. But as we have said before, we are approaching travel in the brave new world like a poker game…some skill, some luck, and some divine intervention. Living the gamble and a few prayers for good measure.
In November FP changed it’s entry requirements to a 24 hour test from time of departure. Our embarkation point was San Francisco so we had to base our 24 hour test on an 11pm departure from San Francisco. This meant testing in the morning before departing out of Seattle. No easy task. We pinpointed three Rapid Antigen sites and headed to the first one in Port Orchard Washington at 8:30am where we found a three hour wait (outdoors). Ugh. Moving on to Tacoma we lucked out at a site that took us in about 15 min. Only 30 minutes later we had our negative results. Hallelujah.
Both our flights were pretty full and we were happy to have our newly acquired N95 masks which feel much more secure and more comfortable than what we have been using (KN95 and regular surgical mask). We dozed but didn’t really sleep very well on the nine hour flight from SF to Tahiti so we were pretty dazed on arrival.
Despite all our research we weren’t really sure what to expect on arrival. One thing we were grateful for was that we had printed all of our Covid documents, entry documents as well as an email we had with correspondence from the French Polynesian President’s office. Although we had all this on our phones it was quick and easy to show the printed documents as we proceeded through the three step process on arrival;
Step One – showing our documents from our negative Antigen test 24 hours before departure.
Step Two – Anyone who had Antigen tests (even if negative) had to have a Rapid PCR on arrival. We knew this and got in that line next. There were about a dozen testers and it went really fast. We expected to pay for this but it was free.
Step Three – Our research had given us the impression we would need to quarantine for up to three days as we waited for the PCR. But instead, step three was to go through to passport control and into baggage, get the bags and then wait 25 minutes. A sticker on our passport said the time when we would be clear to leave the airport. So after 25 minutes and no red flag positive Covid results we were free to leave.
From landing to taxi was about one hour and 45 minutes. It was well organized and everyone was nice and helpful. So off we went to Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One.
On to Mo’orea
It was POURING down rain. We grabbed a cab for the short ride to the ferry terminal to leave the island of Tahiti and head to Mo’orea. We made the 8:10am ferry but got absolutely drenched running from the terminal to the vessel. The stormy weather gave us rocky seas and I was really nervous given my motion sickness history. But, with mama’s little pill, and staring out at the horizon for the thirty minute crossing I made it. Maeva Mo’orea!
Avis Rent a Car right at the Mo’orea Ferry Terminal was convenient and very helpful. So we were in a car within minutes. Then we had two hours to kill before we could check in to our Airbnb. Super jet-lagged driving seemed dangerous. But since the weather was crappy there was really no where to go so we ended up stopping for groceries and then driving all the way around the island.
Mo’orea by the Numbers
Bigger than Praslin in the Seychelles and smaller than Maui, Mo’orea is about the same size as Orcas Island in Washington State. About ten miles by 7 miles. The ring road is about 61 km (38 miles) and encircles the island. A few roads go inland off the ring road but it is the main road for most of the traffic. The area is 134 square kilometers and the population is around 18,000. The highest point is Mont Tohi’e’a is 1207 m (3960 feet). It’s very mountainous!
Mo’orea has six communes (villages) scattered around the island. We are in the commune of Teavaro, home to about 2000 people.
French Polynesia is 60% vaccinated and a mask mandate is in effect for indoors, although many people where masks outdoors as well. FP had a huge Covid spike in August which dropped off to zero for early winter, but began a gradual climb again over the holidays. But nowhere near what it was in August. Mo’orea has one hospital and several clinics that service the population, which currently is very light with tourists. We feel quit alone in the tourist category. We feel safer from Covid here than we do at home.
Parlez Vous Francais?
French is the official language but most people speak excellent English as well as the local Polynesian language Tahitian. Our Airbnb host, who lives on Tahiti but is here one day a week, speaks excellent English. I know bits and pieces of French but not enough to carry on an intelligent conversation. Of course through all our travels we have learned to use Google translate to read information on packages and signs. Even with Google it took us 20 minutes to figure out how to turn on the washing machine. Oh la la.
Meanwhile our darling little bungalow in the village known as Teavaro is a fabulous space, with a kitchen, large covered porch, tiny pool and beach front. Less than a mile to grocery and restaurants and large public beaches. We feel very comfortable here and our host is wonderful. Merci!
Tsunamis and Celebrations
We arrived on January 13th and I celebrated my birthday on January 14th. Still incredibly jet-lagged we enjoyed a quiet birthday at the bungalow, and watched it rain nearly two inches in 24 hours (more on that below). It was an uneventful but nice birthday. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, 1200 miles West a giant volcanic explosion near the island of Tonga created tsunami warnings all around the Pacific. We didn’t learn about this until nearly 12 hours later when we awoke on the 15th and read it in the news.
Although Hawaii (due north of us 2600 miles) as well as the West Coast of the USA, Australia, New Zealand and even Japan all went into Tsunami alert, we heard absolutely nothing from the FP government or warning systems. What the heck?
There were no visible signs of anything unusual on our beach, which is only about 30 feet from our front porch. This experience however prompted us to take a good look around at what our evacuation options are. When we first started traveling we used to do this regularly, but I admit I have gotten a bit lax about it. I still am that girl on an airplane that pinpoints my nearest exit before settling into my seat…but tsunami evacuation route isn’t something I think about…until now.
The reality is, no matter where we are, or what disaster might present itself, we will be on our own to save ourselves. This is true at home or abroad. A little preparation goes a long way.
Monsoons and Mosquitoes
Well we are here in the rainy season. However, everyone we meet, including our host, says this sustained rain is extremely unusual. If you have any doubt about climate change spend a few years traveling around the world. Because EVERYWHERE we have gone over the past five years we have heard these words about the weather, “this is not normal”. Not normal is the new normal from what we can tell. And the incredible amount of rain we have seen since arriving on Mo’orea is not normal. Not much to do about it though, and so we are okay. Hopeful it will clear eventually.
Meanwhile the rain and floods have brought out the mosquitoes in droves. Mosquitoes generally find me exceptionally tasty anyway, but at the end of week one I am covered in bites. C’est la vie!
Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One
After a week of pretty much doing nothing but reading, playing scrabble and watching it rain, we have some plans for the week ahead. We have a reservation to do both a street food tour and a Polynesian dinner and show. With improving weather we also plan to get out to some of the beaches and restaurants. But we have enjoyed a relaxing week and have been perfectly fine just hanging out and doing very little for our Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One. We may or may not blog each week…time will tell.
Thank you for joining us in this weird and wonderful week.
See last week’s annual blog post Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021 here.
Check out our earlier blog My Favorite Islands Around the World here
And see this week’s top performing pin My Self Care Journey with Noom here
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