Wednesday, July 21

The Aranui Experience: Fakarava

The Aranui 3 is a cargo/passenger ship, based in Tahiti, which services the inhabited islands of the Marquesas 16 times a year. It also has room for up to 200 passengers in accommodation ranging from dormitory-style to suites. The restaurant serves three meals a day with wine included at lunch and dinner. There’s a small swimming pool (which sloshes mighty spouts of water in rough weather), a lounge with constant supply of tea and coffee, a bar, video room and boutique with a great supply of shirts, t-shirts, pareu and other essential souvenirs. You’re encouraged to open an account which makes it very easy to buy goodies and the credit card just suffers one big hit at the end of the journey!
We sailed from Papeete at about 10.30am and reached Fakarava early the next morning.
Fakarava is the second-largest atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago and is supposed to be an excellent place for scuba diving as well as black pearl farming. We had our first encounter with the whaleboats, a mode of transport we soon became very familiar with, but weren’t ashore long enough for more than a blitz on a couple of pearl shops and a dip in the lagoon.
The population is less than 700 but the road in Rotoava village is a wide, well-made concrete affair. It was built several years ago when French president Jacques Chirac was due to call in. Chirac never turned up but the road is still there and it’s no doubt much more useful than a presidential visit.
All the main roads and many of the small ones on the islands we went to were this standard. Not a pothole in sight and no Telecom trenches cutting across. The Aranui probably makes a fortune transporting the cement! I’ve got to confess I’m envious. There are obviously compensations for being a French territory.