One time in Tahiti, we had an “overnight” and decided to rent some cars to go to a yacht club called “Coconut Grove” to watch the sunset. It was considered in the top things to do on Tahiti in the Lonely Planet Guide Book.
For some reason I was fixated on seeing the sunset over Marlin Brandow’s favorite place on the planet. Plus, too many times watching and singing songs from the South Pacific musical while I was growing up… “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair and send him on his way.”
Little did the fine folks at Lonely Planet know or warn us that car rentals in Tahiti are quite interesting for American English speaking individuals (i.e. those of us non-French peeps). Not only that, but there is some freaking crazy rush hour traffic in Tahiti… Yes, I said it, RUSH HOUR. More like 3-5 hours trapped behind other cars without air conditioning on a two lane road going in a circle around an itty bitty speck in the middle of the big blue oceanal abyss, but hey, we had a “long day” remember.
We decided on 3 cars because we had between 10-12 people who were interested in our little adventure. It’s always fun to have a group to pitch in on costs and to have a support network should something go amiss.
One thing you should note is, the car rental place is only open until 8 pm and they expect all returns in by 7:30. The guys and I had to play a show that night around 9:30. We decided to have only four of us go to pick up the rental cars at the airport and hopped a cab away from the ship and downtown Papetee.
After a 15 minute cab ride, we strolled leisurely in to the rental car store. A plump Tahitian woman in standard office wear, navy skirt and white button up shirt, stood behing the counter looking ominiously our way. Realizing she barely spoke English and we spoke no French, we proceed to show the reservation slips and confirmation number. Stacks of paperwork came our way, each driver had to fill out a separate rental agreement and provide a credit card guaranteeing $1000 deposit were anything to happen to the vehicle while in our posession for the day. Jake realized that his drivers license was expired, so I became the default third car driver. (I was totally hoping to be a lazy passenger.)
Literally 1.5 hours later, and a new nick name for Scott, “Mr. Vernee”, we had keys and were heading to the parking lot to view start up our hooptees. The funniest little cars waited, kinda like a hatch back Renault but not any make I’d ever heard of.
Our friends that were in on the gambit, were by now waiting patiently by the side of the road for us to swoop in and pick them up near the port. Little did we realize that by 2:30 pm, the traffic both heading into and out of Papetee would pick up and start to bog down. We cruised past graffiti coated buildings and the blue bay on the left. Finally in another thirty minutes, we’re near the ship in a dead lock down. The fellow adventurers, Alicia, Scott B, Scott V, Bill, John, Cat, A, Coco, Matt and some others, were waving their hands trying to get our cars over to the their side of the road to hop in.
We passed through the round about and picked them up. We started navigating back out away from the city toward the airport and beyond that the sunset side of the island. Crawling at maybe 10 mph at the most, the traffic was really stop and go. The whole time, I’m watching the guys in the mirror behind me and trying not to let the engine or our bodies over heat from the 95 degree temps and poor air conditioning in the car. The futher we get away from the city we get, the more rural our surroundings become and still the traffic is backed up for days. I just kept wondering where all these people are going.
Next thing you know, Scott B and some of the others a few cars back are yelling. We realize that they got rear ended by some local. The pulled their cars over and I pulled a U-turn to see what was up. Basically some uninsured local chick hit his bumper but you really couldn’t see any damage. We made a plan to meet up at the Coconut Grove and the rest of us took off.
We cruised around some neighborhoods that looked pretty slumy. The houses were mostly of corregated tin and cement block. I remember seeing alot of bright blue tarps. The road was very gravely with huge pot holes. We got a little lost and turned around the block three times and to get back on the highway. We ended up far away from the restaurant turning around at some fancy resort…
Finally, with a little back tracking and some fancy U-turns, we ended up in the parking lot of a tiki bar / yacht club. The gang all piled out of our little clown cars and scored some tables close to the pier for the evenings entertainment… The glorious sunset in the South Pacific in the French Poloynesian Island on Tahiti over looking Moorea, this is an event of a lifetime. And it sure was quite a memorable day.