Day#-61 Waterfalls, Water Grottoes and Water Gardens

A trip to Tahiti isn't complete without a tour of the island, and this was our best day yet!
There's only one road so you can't get lost, and only 71 miles in total. We set off in an anti-clockwise direction nice and early to make the most of the overpriced car hire, a lovely black MG. $170 for a day I thought was very expensive but preferable to a coach tour. 

We passed through Papeete which is the only town on the island and found our first stop, the Museum of Tahiti. This was a fantastic experience, the museum is a brand new modern building on the coast. With incredible, interactive high tech displays and ancient artifacts. 
My favourite was a scale model of the island which had an internal projection of various geographical and political maps. First time I've seen anything like this.
Another fascinating display showed the migration of people from Asia to the Pacific islands with a timeline of when the islands were first inhabited. Afterwards we had a walk in the museum gardens and could see very clearly the neighbouring island if Moorea from here. 
We continued our drive along the coast stopping at black sand beaches along the way. It is low season here so hardly anyone on the beaches and the skies were heavy with rain. 
At one beach Spencer made a friend, a stray dog. He was so friendly and I had to pet him. Neither of us had our rabies jabs so we had to be very careful. If I could, I would have taken him home. I gave him a bit of food before we left.
Our next stop. The Mara'a Grottoes. We were very surprised and overjoyed that all of the tourist spots like these are completely free to enter.
These three caves were originally sea caves but now lagoons fill them. The heavy rain made viewing them more dramatic with small waterfalls everywhere. 
Next we found the Water Gardens of Vaipahi. These were again free to visit and a lovely trail past waterfalls and ponds. 
Further along the coast we came across Pape'ana'ana Falls. A short walk from the car and we were the only people visiting them. It made for quite the romantic spot. 
My intention was to drive around the island, but we were next confronted with the road blocked. There was a huge landslide and work was being done to clear the road. It was due to open in a few hours so we decided to head back and explore Tahiti Iti - translates as Small Tahiti. This is another extinct volcano attached to the main island of Tahiti. 
This wasn't a route tourists tend to take and much more rural. We were really happy to find a series of really big waterfalls along this stretch of road. The road ends abruptly mainly due to the cliffs drop into the sea too steep to develop for habitation. So we turned around. 
The houses dotted along the roadside are quite weathered and ramshackle. Over half the population of Tahiti are living in poverty, it was quite evident in the architecture. Stray dogs line the sides of the road and at times wandering across, so I had to take extra care driving. 
We then drove along the south road of Tahiti Iti. Again this road comes to an abrupt end some 30 minutes drive along so we turned back to continue around the main island. The road was now open and a long line of traffic made its way past the freshly cleared landslide. 
I noticed a sign for three cascades and as we had no map or guide I decided to check it out. This must have been the main tourist spot on the island as several coaches were parked up and we could see why. 

A monstrous waterfall dropped in front of us. We had to walk a short way to get to the base of it and people walking away were totally drenched. As we approached the spray was intense and the flow of air from the falling water became stronger and stronger until you were almost blown off your feet. The sheer intensity of the water dropping instantly drenches you and the sound of the falls immense. 
Two more falls were a 10 minute walk from here, reached by crossing a rickety bridge. Both falls are next to each other creating a stunning view. 
We got back to the car drenched and had to dry ourselves with towels. 
From here we drive a short way and noticed a lot of cars and coaches parked up by a beach. We pulled over to find this was where the famous blowhole is located. This one quite different to the one I'd seen in Maui, with a sideways blowhole and the area was paved around it. 
It was late afternoon now and I had planned to reach the northern top of the island intentionally at this time as I had read this was the best spot to watch the sunset. The Point Vénus is a stunning spit of land with a large beach and palm trees. 
The first thing we saw was a huge double rainbow. So perfect and intense I was mesmerised to the right of the beach. To the left a beautiful sunset. We stayed to watch the sun set behind Moorea island from the beach. 
As we had the car for one day we decided to go into the main capital town of Papeete for dinner. As we walked along the streets everything was closed. We found only two bars open which served food in the whole of Papeete! I was so surprised how much the island was closed for winter.  We settled for a brasserie style street restaurant. We had been warned by people how expensive Tahiti was, and paying £20 for a chicken wrap and £10 for a beer, they were right! 
We drove back to our hotel after 12 hours of driving, it was a fantastic day I'll never forget.