After three days at sea crossing the South Pacific, we were fairly glad to see any land at all, no matter what it looked like. Unfortunately in a fairly ceaseless torrential downpour, Tahiti’s capital, Papeete, was not looking its best.
To be honest, Papeete is probably my least favourite of all the South Pacific ports – just too much concrete and traffic for it to compare with the beauty or isolation of all the other island paradises we visit. But, on a horribly rainy Sunday when pretty much everything is shut, it was not presenting a very welcoming face.
On the otherwise deserted streets, there seemed to be a much larger population of homeless people lying around in the concrete arcades, just waiting for things to get better (whether that was the weather or the economy it was difficult to say). A general feeling of ennui seemed to have descended on the city – what else do you do when it’s absolutely bucketing down for 72 hours in a row?
Actually, I’m not being totally fair to Papeete – if you’re willing to get up at the crack of dawn, then Sunday is a great day to visit the town’s wonderful market. Sunday is the day that everyone cooks a big family lunch (the reason that the town was deserted by the afternoon), so the market opens up at about 4am and is packed with shoppers until about 9am when everyone shuts up shop. We headed over with Chef David Bilsland at 7am, and there was an incredibly lively atmosphere in there, as people snapped up fruit and veg, exotic fish, and (curiously) lots of Chinese BBQ pork – they were queuing round the block for spare ribs. You could hardly hear yourself think with the rain hammering down on the roof and the cries of the sellers trying to attract you their beautifully arranged fish stalls. But, everyone was friendly and there was a jolly atmosphere in there – maybe they were just glad to get out of the rain?
So, Papeete’s vibrant market was easily the highlight of our time in rainy Papeete – just don’t expect much to be going on here after 9am.