The very name Tahiti probably triggers the wildest imaginations in most people, a tropical island with white sandy beaches lined with palm trees, populated by graceful people dressed in exotic costumes with flowers in their hair moving their hips to the wailing music.
Well, the truth is, Tahiti is a volcanic island with beautiful steep green mountain slopes and lush vegetation, but there are no beaches to speak of and the often overweight islanders dress in western clothes, speak French and obey to E.U. rules.
What Tahiti really stands for is the magic beyond it, the many islands or atolls of French Polynesia with a couple hundred inhabitants, luxurious resorts with bungalows over the water, the crystal clear water of a lagoon surrounded by dots of land, water in all shades of blue and green, palm groves and its famous black pearls.
Being the biggest island in French Polynesia with the only real city, Papeete, Tahiti mainly serves as a transport hub for tourists moving on to one of the many islands or atolls that can easily be reached by plane. Our first arrival was around midnight, so we slept a couple of hours in a cheap but pleasant pension, Chez Myrna, and left the next morning for Fakarava in the Tuamotus Islands, for some serious diving.
Staying about 5 kilometres from the centre, our only memories are barking dogs until late into the night and noisy roosters early in the morning. On the way to the airport, we saw lots of grand houses perched on the mountain slopes around the city. Papeete seemed as well quite a busy city with lots of traffic. Once our host explained that only 35.000 people live there but about 100.000 people work here, we were not surprised anymore.