by Whitt Birnie
The lagoons of French Polynesia capture the imagination. It’s difficult to break away, unless you have a better destination in mind. I was torn between nature and civilization, eventually giving in to temptation for a return to Papeete.
Tetiaroa Island, Brando’s atoll, just to the north of Tahiti, always belonged to royalty and remains a majestic spot, lost in the warm calm waters of the South Pacific. It was on my way back to Tahiti, so I made an effort to pass nearby and pay my respects.
The mountainous southern coast of Tahiti is in great contrast to the low island of Tetiaroa. Simply navigating the passage through the reefs takes total concentration as the currents can be wicked.Swells from the Southern Ocean and the ‘Roaring Forties’ excite everyone in the Fenua, especially surfers, but for navigators, attaining a safe anchorage inside the coral reef is the first order of business. Nature delights in showing off.
At To’ata, for the dance festival, I met Cap, who spoke remarkably good English as he asked me about my camera. Then he said he wanted to introduce me to his Mom, who was dancing in the Heiva. Surprised, I was absolutely sure she was his sister. The rhythms of the drums were warming up, time was short, so we said “so long” as he helped carry her many-flowered costumes.
Good humor, constant laughter, skill, beauty and happiness endear the Tahitians to everyone. They are truly a remarkable people. I consider it an honor that they permitted me to record their joy in the Heiva I Tahiti.