We’d had an amazing honeymoon so far.
Sure, John’s wedding ring was now fish food, but there was nothing to be done to change that. We had more than a week left in paradise and we were going to enjoy it!
We signed up for another adventure through the resort called an “overland excursion.” We joined another couple on the island of Taha’a for the day, riding around in the back of a re-designed pick-up truck with a guide named Dave. He greeted us at the boat dock with a song.
Our first stop was a lot on the coast filled with coconut pieces. We learned that they were being dried to extract the coconut oil for beauty products. The set-up was interesting- large trays for the coconuts with a sliding roof to cover them in bad weather. The owner also braided palm leaves for hotels and builders to use as wall coverings. Gorgeous!
As we drove through the small community, we got a glimpse of life on the island. Something I found intriguing was that most homes had a graveyard at the front of their property, a well-kept area that contained at least one tomb. Dave explained that locals bury family at home on Taha’a.
We turned off the paved road and headed into the mountains. Every now and then, Dave would stop the truck, jump out, and grab something from nature. Once he cut some large leaves off of a plant and made a platter out of them. Another time he selected a coconut from the side of the road, shaking it to be sure it was a good one. Each time he stopped, we learned something new. And as we got deeper into the hills, the views became spectacular.
At the top of the mountain, we took a break. Dave used the things he’d gathered along the way and created an insanely lovely fruit buffet for us- fresh coconut, banana, papaya, and the best grapefruit I’ve ever tasted. While we munched, he played songs for us on his ukulele. John strummed it for awhile, too, and Dave showed him how to play “Hotel California.”
Our next stop was a small vanilla plantation. Taha’a is called the Vanilla Island and produces the majority of the Tahitian vanilla. I had no idea how hands-on the process is to grow these vanilla beans. They hand-pollenate the flower, for one thing- each flower. And also, each vanilla bean is massaged often to make them more aromatic. Amazing.
Our last stop of our Taha’a tour was a pearl farm. French Polynesia is known for glorious black pearls. The woman who harvests the pearls lives in a stunning house. Talk about a dream life! Her happy dog, Jengo, made us miss Cholula.
We learned that pearls are actually grown by implanting a “nucleus” inside of the large oysters. Sometimes the oyster spits out the nucleus but still creates the pearl- those are the un-round kind. If an oyster keeps the nucleus and grows a decent-grade pearl, they keep using it. Each pearl it grows is bigger than the last. Very interesting.
We stepped inside her lovely studio to learn about the different grades of Tahitian pearls. I could not believe the amount of TREASURE this woman displayed for us. She must have incredible insurance!
I brought home a little treasure of my own.
When we booked our honeymoon, we thought we’d stay for a week at Le Taha’a Resort and then go back to the main island of Tahiti for the second week. When we got to Le Taha’a, we decided we didn’t want to leave (can you blame us?), so we changed our itinerary. Now, for the second week of our honeymoon, we were going to stay in one of the classic overwater bungalows that French Polynesia was known for! We enjoyed our last sunset at the villa, packed up the free minibar, and headed to our new digs.
We had requested the last bungalow, the one furthest out over the water. It was positioned perfectly for sunset cocktails! As gorgeous as the villa had been, we decided we liked the smaller bungalow better. It was so much fun to be over the water! My favorite feature was the window at the end of our bed that could be opened to feed the fish below. We also had our own little deck with an outdoor shower and a ladder that went right into the sea!
Over the next week, we snorkeled, swam, fished, sunbathed, read books and magazines, and enjoyed room service on the patio. We saw manta rays, sharks, a rainbow of tropical fish, and snorkeled with moray eels. (Seriously.) We caught an unbelievable Tahitian rainbow and the standard magical nightly sunsets. We also visited Chez Louise again for the best fresh-caught fish on the island. Fantastic!
One unique experience we had was to join some local fishermen on their boat as they fished for the hotel’s menu. It was very interesting to see their method of fishing for huge fish like mahi mahi, black marlin, wahoo, and tuna. John cast his line a few times, too! The fishermen were dazzled by his reels- they pull gigantic fish in BY HAND.
After a few hours, when the fish had successfully evaded us, we went to an area with large, open-water, fenced areas containing different kinds of fish. Our fisherman spent quite a while chasing fish around and finally speared a bonita and a jack. Little did we know that they were going to give the fish to us! We brought them to the kitchen and enjoyed bonita sashimi and grilled jack for our dinner that night!
Our days at Le Taha’a were coming to an end. On our final day at the bungalow, we got one in one last swim and enjoyed a scrumptious meal on the deck. Our manta ray friend came by to say farewell.
We boarded the water taxi, then a plane to Tahiti (stopping on Bora Bora). We rented a fun little car and headed for Le Meridien Tahiti. The hotel was beautiful– modern and open. However, it was situated in the hubbub of Tahiti. It wasn’t the glorious, peaceful private island of Le Taha’a. We were happy that we’d made the right decision to change our itinerary.
In the morning, we woke early. We had one full day to explore the island, and wanted to do some souvenir shopping. As we sipped our coffee from the patio, we could see the island of Taha’a off in the distance. Our last day of the honeymoon was beautiful, perfect weather!
Thank God John is comfortable driving in crazy city traffic! We located the public market and started to explore. The lower level seemed to be a large farmers market of sorts, with fresh fish, a rainbow of produce, and stunning flowers. Locals meandered in and out, buying their groceries for the week. There were also little knick knacks and local crafts on display.
Upstairs, there were more shops with intricate carved wooden oars, tikis, jewelry, artwork. I loved all of it!
We picked up some treasures and headed off to feed our grumbly tummies. We stumbled upon an Italian eatery near the harbor with awesome pizzas– after two weeks of fish, it was exactly what we wanted!
We explored the island a bit more before heading back to the hotel. One thing I found interesting was that no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t get up into the mountains. All of the development was along the shoreline- the fishermen had no reason to be away from the water in the hills. We did find a rare surf break at a black sand beach, colored by surfers and graffiti.
That night, we sat near The Most Beautiful Tree in the World for our last honeymoon sunset, clinking glasses of champagne and recapping the incredible trip. We ended our day with a surprisingly large seafood meal for two, and before we knew it, our honeymoon was over.
It had truly been the vacation of a lifetime- the way a honeymoon should be.
We had gone on adventures. We had been lazy in the sunshine. We had stories to tell and suntans to savor. We had 1600 photos to sort through and enjoy for years to come. And we had 8 hours on Air France in First Class before returning home to our puppy. I snuggled in with a glass of wine and When Harry Met Sally, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.
It was time to start the new chapter in our lives as husband and wife. It was time for new adventures together.
It was time to be home.