Friday, April 4, 2014

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

I know, I suck. I can't believe it's been two years since I updated this blog. I had such good intentions when I started out....

I have lots of excuses. The best one is that we bought a new house and moved in which as everyone knows is a soul-sucking process that exhausts you for doing anything other than taking nutrition. And then only if you're lucky.

The new homestead is "off the grid" and on five acres, which made me become an avid gardener, get a second dog, and start prepping for chickens and bees. I also hang clothes on a clothesline. In other words, I've lost my fricking mind.

We even have a river and a bunch of waterfalls. I could pitch a tent in the back yard and post a travel blog about it.

What the extensive break was not was for want of material. The past two years have been full of some of the best and most adventurous travel experiences of my life. I'm sorry I didn't write about them sooner, when they were fresher in my mind but going through photos has been a great process for remembering and getting inspired.  Here's a preview.

In preparation for getting back into blogging, I've been doing a lot of reading of blogs, mostly travel-related or lifestyle blogs, but also I've dipped my toe (as a reader) into the cray cray world of mommy blogging. I've learned a lot about what NOT to do when writing, especially about travel. Seriously, no one cares about the ham sandwich you had on the airplane, or the great parking spot you nabbed (let alone a photo of it), or details of your bowel movement stops. 

Other things I wish people wouldn't do that I promise to try not to:

Please, I'm begging you, no more photos of your feet. I'll plead guilty to doing it on Facebook, but after seeing enough of people's ugly ass toes spoiling a perfectly lovely vista to last a lifetime, I'm swearing off of it. And I have nice feet.

Enough with the photos of you and your kids or whoever jumping up in the air. I don't know who thought that was ever a good idea but now, well, that's "jumped" the proverbial shark.  I wouldn't be caught dead in such a photo (although that might at least make it interesting), but my son has gone there, so here's the bad example. What can I say, he takes after his father.

-10 points if you do one in silhouette. Although I can understand your desire for anonymity.

 Ditto the photos of you holding the moon or catching a rainbow or pretending to fall off of cliffs or doing handstands on cliffs...bad things can happen aside from just looking stupid. The boy again...sigh....

Don't post a photo of a sunset unless it's awesome. I mean, like one of the best sunsets you've ever experienced kind of awesome.

Stop with the exclamation marks. I'm seriously concerned for their well-being. There must be a finite number and I've read enough blogs to know that we're bumping up against it. If you must use them, if what you're telling us in that sentence is so amazing that it needs to be exclaimed upon more than whatever else you're writing about, then one is enough. Really. Really!

But you don't have to listen to me. Like eight people read this blog. And I probably lost half my readership during the hiatus. 

Things I think people should do:

Post photos of yourself and your kids. People want to put a face to a blog. But not in every shot and not in front of otherwise lovely scenery.

This is me taking refuge at the Four Seasons in Manhattan in my D&Gs while Hurricane Sandy struck, and we missed our flight to Istanbul. It's quite the story. Maybe I'll blog about it. I'm not making any promises.

Grammar and spell check. I can forgive an occasional typo because, duh, but if you don't know how to use apostrophes, well, there's an app for that.
Edit. If you've written 1000 words and haven't covered a 24-hour period, you need to edit. If you find yourself navel-gazing about your grocery store trip, you need to edit. If you have to tell us how you "had a blast" you need to edit because that phrase just shouldn't be anywhere.

Use a thesaurus."Yummy" is not a word an adult should use.

I'm not going to post examples of the lousy blogs I've read...I went there so you didn't have to. You're welcome.  But here are some that I regularly enjoy.

The Everywhereist
Everything Everywhere
The Pioneer Woman

I'll spare you the Tahiti repeats we've endured in the past couple of years, we obviously hate the place and keep having to go back to see if it's getting any better.

This is something else that 25th highschool reunion. And I went to it. Holy shiznet. Here's me and my besties in Nashville. Don't we look great? Yes, yes we do.

So what's next for this blog? Well, I've almost completed an entry on our bear safari adventure in Canada that should go up this weekend. After that, I'll try to keep things in order with Around the World in 42 Days, a blog about our trip at the end of 2012 to Africa and the Middle East via Hurricane Sandy. 

What's coming next in travel? 2014 will see some mainland trips for family and a trip to Vegas to try and pay for it all at the poker tables, but the next big planned adventure (although you never know with me) looks like it will be Rwanda gorilla trekking with a Kenya and Tanzania safari in 2015. Stay tuned. In the meantime I'll try to get on a regular schedule with this thing.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tahiti Redux

On our way out of town to Tahiti this month, our second trip there in the past few months, a friend sighed and said "Tahiti. That's what we thought we were getting when we moved to Hawaii." There's a lot of truth in that statement. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but there's no denying it...the water is bluer and warmer, the air is cleaner, the French wine is cheaper and more plentiful, the fishing is easier (you don't even have to use BAIT!), the sharks are nicer, and, well, yes, the grass is greener.

First up this trip was Bora Bora. The Tahiti Tourism board has done a bang-up job of marketing Bora Bora. It's the iconic Tahiti destination, it's almost synonymous with Tahiti, and for good reason. I can't even start to write about the colors in the lagoon because people who have cruise ships and university wings named after them have tried before me and failed.

The Four Seasons shuttles everyone around in cute little vintage boats.

And then there's THE mountain.

Mount Otemanu is mesmerizing. The locals say it's sacred and talk ominously about the idiot foreigners that have attempted to climb it and died trying. It's everywhere you look, and there aren't even condos crawling up its spectacular flanks. Bora Bora has a rep for being "overdeveloped", and this is where those of us who live in Hawaii laugh and laugh. But it is true that the myraid of five star resorts ringing it change the feel of the place. For better or worse, French Polynesia is omnipresently...French...and resort chains like the Four Seasons, Intercontinental, and the St. Regis have their European managers and front of the house staff, oh-so-hip sunset sushi bars playing techno or French jazz, and over the top pool cabanas and spritzers.

For those hesitant to set foot in, ya know, the actual OCEAN, there are even man-made lagoons stocked with friendly and well-behaved fish and coral-graftings.

 It's all a little weird. But stunningly so.  It rained some and there were clouds, which seemed to absolutely horrify the other Four Seasons guests who apparently holed up in their bungalows. We felt like we had the property to ourselves.  It was like post-apocalypse Tahiti. We swam in the lagoons for hours around "Teen Island", a brilliant plan conceived by the Four Seasons to isolate all of the pimply faced, awkward offspring of the filty rich guests. The island was completely jungly and deserted, but with scary looking treehouses and scattered kind of reminded me of Lord of the Flies and I seriously thought maybe some long abandoned teens were going to jump out and drown us. Or beg us to bring them Evian and clean their sunglasses.

The spa has a steam room with tiny lights all across the tile ceiling, so it's like you're gazing up at the stars. Outside, a shower plays showerhead themes like "Tropical Breeze" and "Polar Mist" with accompanying music and jungle and bird sounds. I'm almost embarassed to be in it. Ha, who am I kidding, I push all of the theme buttons and giggle like a little kid. I want one.

One day an outrigger with a ridiculously hot fire dancer and jolly, ukulele-playing Polynesian picked us up and took us out to the open ocean where we jumped in with three 8 foot lemon sharks and about two dozen circling blacktips.

 Rapa played his ukuklele and Ralph, well, looked hot.

He declined to dive down and ride the lemon shark like the Frenchman in the next boat. Ralph was apparently smarter than he looked. We then did the obligatory shark and stingray feeding where hordes of very large, shrieking tourists stand around and pretend they are grossed out by touching the slimy stingrays but who in truth can't wait to kiss them repeatedly.

The ladies on the other tour boats all hang off the rails and sigh after Ralph longingly as we outrigger away to the tune of Rapa's ukulele.

Back at the Four Seasons bubble, *EVEN I* suffer sticker shock wandering through the pearl boutique. Really, the pieces are uniquely stunning, but I had to keep doing the conversions in my head over and over to make sure that yes, there really are that many zeroes. Y I K E S.

After four nights, we say aloha to the ginormous OWB and surreal island of Bora Bora and fly an hour to a destination I never even heard of until a year ago...the Tuamotus. After landing at Tikehau, an adorable kid named Kaena picks us up in a nice little motorboat and in about ten minutes we're at Ninamu. 

A jewel of an island with pink sand beaches, six bungalows made from coral and wood from the island, an all solar eco lodge owned by an awesome Aussie, and a few young and wonderful staff, this place was CRAZY BEAUTIFUL! I mean, are you KIDDING me?

The next five days are filled with swimming eyeball to eyeball with huge manta rays

And snorkeling through reefs full of sharks and unusual golden organ coral

Two beautiful young women, one from France, one from Tahiti, who I call the Bond girls, make great desserts, ride jetskis around, free dive, bring us drinks, and look lovely. Not a single person calls me Mrs. anything and I LOVE IT. Instead, we jump into the little boat, take a seat on the floor, drink cans of Hinano while floating off the back of the boat, race across miles of open ocean with thunder and lightning chasing us, and fall asleep to driving rain in our shell hut.

We eat fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, usually the same ones we had caught the day before. 

I feel a brief pang once for the steam room and musical shower at the Four Seasons spa, and then it's gone, washed away in the dawn of our own Middle-Age Island.

The bungalows built by Chris and friends are a reflection of the spirit of the place. Doors and windows don't fit their frames. Coral and shell walls don't meet the ceiling. The thatched roofs are made by women in the village. There are no drawers or closets, instead we hang our swimsuits on the branches of the logs that form beams, a staircase, and roof supports. It's Bilbo Baggins for Architectural Digest.

We visit the magical Bird Island where red-footed boobies, Tuamotu sandpipers, bristle-thighed curlews, and white terns all nest.

Chris has stocked the island with coconut crabs, which are huge, multicolored beauties that apparently make good eating. But Chris likes to keep his crabs alive for the viewing pleasure of his guests. The locals kept coming and stealing 'em, so for that and other good reasons, Ninamu has pit bulls. They're perfectly lovely and are much more interested in chasing the reef sharks than anything else. I'm going to write Cesar Millan and tell  him my great show idea..."Pitbulls in Paradise". It would be huge.

Anyway, man, we hate leaving Ninamu, but next up we head to Rangiroa in search of some of the best diving and big animal encounters in French Polynesia. It doesn't disappoint. We drift through the famed Tiputa pass, and it's like flying.

Huge bottlenose dolphins, moray eels bigger than us that battle dog-size trigger fish, rays, sharks, it's all here, with the characteristic kaleidoscope lagoon and luxurious OWB.

Our local captain and his ten-year old son, Nova, show off their free diving and spearfishing skills as we explore the rich waters of Rangiroa. In my head I marry off my ten-year old daughter to Nova and text her to tell her so. I'm pretty sure I can score a French Polynesian passport easier with some Rangi grandbabies...right? Twenty or so years from now, of course....

For about the third time this trip, a creepy remora tried to attach itself to me. Yeah, yeah, no comments from the peanut gallery.

The time flies, washed down with Provencal rose and poisson cru and Bordeaux and bacon-wrapped mahi mahi. Too soon, it's time to return to reality, which maybe is absent the OWBs and blue lagoons, but is, still, Hawaii after all.

Tahiti still calls, though, and with entire archipelagos and thousands of islands left to explore, well, yeah, we'll be back.