Unfortunately it happened. The government powers that be kicked us out of French Polynesia and so on a early Saturday morning March 21, 2009 we untied our dock lines from Marina Taina for the last time and shoved off for lands unknown. Our Zarpe (the official paper that’s created when you check out) says we are headed for the Cook Islands, but which island is anyone’s guess and Christmas Island, 1,000 NM to the north is still a possibility. “Natural Mystic” is in good shape to go anywhere, her problems sorted and her holds stocked with enough pricy French Polynesian provisions (we could probably live off sweet chili sauce for two months alone) to take us hungry boys across vast oceans.
Not a single one of us wanted to leave French Polynesia and neither did any of our many Tahitian friends wish to see us go. We tried to get a letter stating there was something wrong with our boat, but no such luck, as everything was for the time fixed. On our last Taapuna surf session, when we informed all our friends in the lineup (we basically know everyone now) we had to leave, they were telling us not to worry they would help us out.
Enzo, a Tahitian ripper and all around great guy, has an uncle who is the head of immigration at the airport. On Thursday, our last legal day in FP he picked us up bright and early to go visit his uncle to see what strings he could pull. His uncle called the head port immigration official on our behalf and then it was off to visit the port immigration officials for their final determination.
Well, it didn’t work. The port official stating, as there was nothing wrong with our boat, which is the only exception for a visa extension we had to leave. Enzo was in disbelief that he couldn’t help us out and so, with sad looks across our faces we proceeded to go through the checkout process. I have to say the FP government and their rules are not doing their country and favors. Everyone here is complaining tourism, their biggest economic producer is drastically down, but yet they force people like us who are just spending our money in their country, basically transferring wealth, to leave. And it just makes zero sense that we can all travel back to our home countries and apply at a French consulate for a one-year visa that is extendable here in person, but can’t do so while in their country. Its also a super great policy for the environment, sail here with basically zero carbon emissions, but in-order to stay for a while, you’re forced to burn tons of polluting jet fuel and all your crew does too, flying back and forth from your respective home countries, what an absolute environmental waste. Here, 90 days is the most time you can legally get, as a non EU citizen. I guess its good that it keeps people who are derelict sailors from camping out in paradise for too long, but the revenue stream generated from legitimate cruisers they kick out has to hurt their economy substantially, as we are not the only case. One wealthy couple on a yacht was forced to leave after 90 days and the dude was buying new jewelry and expensive items almost every trip into town, talk about biting the hand that feeds you. But, I guess who really cares about real economic viability and independence here, when France gives FP huge sums of money to keep the country afloat and operating. Maybe someday FP will have enough of the French and their nuclear testing based pay-offs and have a say for themselves about their own country’s economic viability.
The check out process went quite smoothly, except for one thing. As none of us are EU citizens, we had to post bonds here of equivalent value to an overpriced plane ticket back to our home countries. This amounted to $5,000 of my money one of their banks was holding for free, as you receive no interest. The first letter immigration gave us didn’t have all of our names on it, as I paid for all the bonds and so, the bank would only give me my money back. After a lengthy, unsuccessful argument it was back to immigration to generate another letter, this time with all of our names on it, then back to the bank and finally I got my cash back, but in Pacific Francs. As not to loose any more money than I would have to, on exchange rate spreads, we did all our last shopping and provisioning with the returned cash. But, when I went back to the bank and then another and yet another, none had any dollars or New Zealand dollars, the Cook Island currency to change the money back into. So, now we are leaving FP with a boat full of worthless currency that hopefully we can convert wherever we end up, what a pain in the ass! Maybe we will just have to come back to spend it.
Thursday, our last legal night here found us tied up to the dock right in front of Pink Coconut, the most raging night of the week for the bar. It was classic, most all our Tahitian friends who just came to the bar for a drink found us preparing to leave and all were wanting to have a last celebratory Manuia (cheers in Tahitian) with us and most did. They were all angry their government was forcing us to leave and hoped we would return someday. I know this will be the case, as Tahiti and it’s culture are a part of me now and I will return, but only God knows when.
As always there was a long string of sad good byes with all our many friends here and where usually I’m looking forward to the next land and ready to go. Here I easily could stay for much, much longer. The people of Tahiti and FP really make you feel like you are part of one big family and I will miss them all tremendously.
A big list of Thank Yous or Merci Beaucoups goes out to everyone that made Tahiti and Moorea such a special place for the crew of the “Natural Mystic,” Charlotte, Alex, Vainui, Christiano, Myra, Virginia, Helene, Leilani, Jessica, Milan, Adam, Simon, Enzo, Herman, Nelson, Christian, Teki, Manu, Jamaican Mike, Mark and his wonderful family, all the Taapuna boys, all the Teachupoo boys, Michele of Tahiti Yacht Accessory (the man to talk to if you need to get your boat fixed), Patrick (a darn good yacht electrician), Philippe and Constance of Marina Taina (great people running a great marina), Domenic, Adrian, Eve, Tina and all the wonderful people I might have missed that truly made our stay in Tahiti such a wonderful experience and leaving just that much harder. Everyone onboard “Natural Mystic” wishes you all the best and we hope to see you all again some day soon.
Tahiti is truly a beautiful, magical land that holds great power and is filled with wonderful people who are the true gems of the South Pacific. I know I will return some day, as I have never traveled to a place that has infected me the way Tahiti has, Respect!
But, one last stop in Moorea had to be made, taking care of two, last unturned stones. The first, to say “See ya in a little bit.” To our good friend Cristiano on “Mundo Vagabond” whom we have all shared many memorable times with here in FP. One last good dinner and a couple of beers with our mate and his girlfriend, as they are hanging for another month or so, before heading west hopefully to meet back up with us in yet another tropical paradise.
Secondly, to journey on a Tahitian spirit quest of my own. Attempting to attain the summit of Rotui, the main monolith of Moorea, in order to garner a glimpse into my life, that is floating on the sea way down below.
The bright midday sun scorched my back, sweat poured forth profusely, as I climbed straight up the volcanic ridge, no switch-backs assuaged the elevation gain, as the narrow ridge was barley wide enough for two of my feet side by side. “Natural Mystic” and “Mundo Vagabond” sat peacefully anchored to a shimmering, sapphire sea below.
Up and up I went, following the overgrown way, more than a path, constantly jabbing me with sticks and the endless pricks of thorny, fern type shrubbery in my raw exposed reef cuts. The pain purifying my intentions, as no one would do this just for fun, but only with a purpose, only driven.
The deadly consequences on either side resulting from one misstep were very real, but alas I was not to obtain the lofty summit nor enlightenment. My water was down to drops, as I reached the still high false summit viewable from the boat way below and knew continuing on, even though it was the home stretch, was not the prudent thing to do.
Still, from way up there you could see Moorea’s verdant land sweeping down from its craggy volcanic mountains to the Pacific ocean in all directions, Tahiti Nui across the channel to the east and the winds blowing silent whitecaps across the ocean on all sides of the island. I was looking at what could be the most magnificent place to make a home someday, but if I could have jumped off the precipice and let the warm currents of the tropical atmosphere carry me to whatever destination was next, I would have. But, as I can’t fly yet probably not too good of a plan! And I know for me, I still have to let our earth blow me along it’s ancient watery highway until one day I climb that mountain, look down on the tumultuous sea below and don’t feel like blowing in the wind anymore. Cheers – Kyber
One last crunchy Tahitian Sunset!