Saturday, December 27, 2014

Home via Tahiti - Everyone's Dream

We arrived in Tahiti from Auckland at 1am.  We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel room and schlepped our luggage up the stairs - all the time we were sooooo grateful that we only had 2 suitcases each and had sent the largest suitcases home ahead of us.    That was probably the smartest thing we did - and at times we wished we only had one suitcase!  After falling into bed at 2am, we awoke to a busy Papeete and this magnificent view from our hotel room.  Our accommodations were minimal, but we were in Tahiti!!!  

 We headed to the local market for a breakfast of french pastries and lots of water then schlepped the luggage again to the ferry for a 30 minute ride to Moorea.  Our French Polynesian missionaries had helped us find this place to stay because it was not as touristy nor as pricey as most accommodations.  So this is Tahiti on a budget - of sorts.  

We took a taxi to our Eco Lodge, only to learn that our only transportation would be renting a car - so back we came to this "huge" rental car agency so that we could actually get around.  

And this was the eco lodge - not sure what that means, but we had a separate house with our own beach!  Not too shabby!  Of course we had a little gas stove that needed to be started with matches, a sink, and small drink fridge.  Off we went to the grocery store to buy some food.

A coral reef surrounds most of the island, so not easy walking in the water.  But we did find the small kayaks were great exercise and fun to use.  We are working on our tan - with 30 spf helping us!

You can see Tahiti in the background.  These are the typical tourist accommodations of French Polynesia.  They are built over the water on the reef so that you have a view of the fish.  Very cool but very pricey - $300 - $400 per night.  Ya we did not want to blow our money on that.  With our rental car, we were able to drive the 62 k's around the island on the only road.  It was pretty rugged in some places with pot holes and construction.  Kind of like Utah roads in the spring.

Sometimes we think our mission is to find the most beautiful sunset pictures - but honestly, we just come upon them and are blessed with a great camera to help us out.

The next day's activities included seeing some of the ancient archaeological religious sites on the island - their ancient temples, as well as the sea turtles sanctuary, interesting birds, and swimming with dolphins.  By 3pm the rain was  coming down in buckets, but we did not let that stop us.  It was actually quite warm and of course the dolphins did not mind the water.

This was a great 45 minute experience and we learned a lot about these fascinating creatures as well as watching them perform just for us - as well as 6 others who stood on the bridge with umbrellas.  

 There were several shows to choose from, and since the rain was still pouring, we chose this hotel close by which provides a floor show every night.  They were wonderful and very entertaining.  Sister Feil will have to practice for years to get her hips to move that fast. We may just have to stick to ballroom dancing.

On Sunday the rain had finally cleared and we headed to one of 3 churches on the small island of Moorea.  These two Elders were great and translated for us.  The Elder on the left is from Utah, but was originally from Las Vegas.  He spoke French and Tahitian and spent 12 weeks in the MTC learning both languages.  His companion is from France so only spent 8 weeks learning Tahitian.  The missionaries all over the world are simply amazing in their dedication and diligence.  What a great example for the Senior Missionaries!

We enjoyed comparing notes and were surprised to find them driving a car.  But as we had learned the day before, you need either a bike, a scooter, or a car to get around this small island because the bus only runs on a limited schedule - whenever the ferry comes with the tourists.  :)

This was the original "Bali High"  from South Pacific.  The play has its setting here and Bora Bora.  That will be our next trip to French Polynesia.

Yes it is just a Rooster but look at his amazing colors!  We thought he was exceptional - and there were many chickens and roosters on this island.

What a view!!  You are looking at the two bays of Moorea - Captain Cook's Bay and Opunohu Bay.  We came to this lookout after a very winding drive on a narrow road that was mostly paved.  It was a little nerve wracking to pass another car but somehow we survived.  Since Elder was the only one that could drive, he had the fun of learning how to drive on the right side of the road again.  This was his practice run before heading home.

Love the auto button on the camera!

 Ananas (pineapple) were in season and were being sold along the roadside for 500 xpf each.  The Bishop of the ward invited us to stay for lunch and we enjoyed stir fried chicken and vegetables with noodles over rice.  Dessert was fresh pineapple - which you can see growing here in the fields a short distance from the church.  We had to agree that it was the best ananas we had ever tasted!
Another day ends with another great sunset.  We pinched each other to make sure we were not dreaming any of this.

Monday found us bidding farewell to Moorea and schlepping our luggage once again.  We pondered what to do with our last day in Papeete and our taxi driver suggested renting a taxi to take us around Papeete.  For $120 for four hours and a private guide, we thought that was a great idea.

 He picked us up at the ferry and off we went.  The picture above is of bread fruit - we tasted some and it is aptly named.  He first took us to an ancient religious site that is very sacred to Tahitians.  
After that we went to this grotto with cool fresh water dripping down in the caves.  There were a couple of people swimming.

Next stop was another fresh water river with some eels that will come out when you feed them bread - people were also swimming in this water.  We thought we did not have time to swim with the eels.  :)

Gorgeous sunsets and waterfalls have been our mantra and this is just like the movies.  These water lilies were also worth a photo.

We stopped for a picnic lunch at this waterfall and then went on to the next waterfall!  Not only was our taxi driver informative, but he also likes to take pictures!  It was a bonus and we enjoyed our day with him.

The black sand beaches here and in NZ were just amazing to see.  This is our "Merry Christmas" photo card.  "Wish you were here". 

This is the light house of Papeete.  It was built in the late 1800's and has a nice park and beach surrounding it.

From the jungles to the mountain view stops.  We felt completely spoiled and blessed.  

It was Monday so the Temple was closed - but here is the Papeete Temple.  It is in the middle of a commercial district but our taxi driver knew right where to go.  What an oasis amid the world.

The airport is on the left - you can see the tower.  Imagine landing those nice big jets on that little outcropping of land - we are grateful for well trained pilots.  

It is not a beautiful city, but it is quaint - even the traffic circle has flowers growing everywhere.  They do enjoy lots of flowers here.

This was a memorial to the islands that became the nuclear testing grounds in the 1940's.  People were injured and there was a price to be paid.  This was history for us that we had not thought about - everyday we learn something new.

We should make a book on beautiful sunsets around the world.  Anyone want to foot the bill to send us around the world????

Dinner was on the wharf with food trucks selling their wares.  You had multiple choices - kind of like a food court at a mall.

As we walked through the main park in town, we found the missionaries and members doing just what they should do on a Monday night - have family home evening with friends in the park and teach their neighbors about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

What a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel message and the work of the Lord spreading throughout the world.

As we landed in LA and prepared for our flight to Utah, we were sad to see it all come to an end.  Our 19 months were the shortest we have experienced in a lifetime.  

We love the gospel, we love to serve, we know the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that along with the Bible, contains the truth that will bring us true happiness in this life.  Christ is the reason for Christmas.  We are grateful for His great gift to us of the atonement and know that all who will repent and come unto Him, will have eternal life.    

We had a wonderful surprise welcome home party - they had dinner all ready and we enjoyed spending a few hours with family on our first evening home.  At the end of the day, family is most important and we are grateful for their love and support.  We could not have served a mission without their prayers and help.  We love all of you and look forward to the next 30+ years!!
Tom and Molly
Mamoo and Grandpa Tom
Elder and Sister  :) :)