Huahine… Suspended in Beautiful Time

Our foray into parts unknown on the Tahitian island of Huahine was an adventure from the moment we boarded the jaunty open air jitney. The travel brochures cautioned that this was not an excursion for the sleight of heart or the tender of seat. Truer words were never spoken. The rutted roads, canopied overhead by lush foliage, lent a sense of exotic expectation as we held on for dear life bouncing along to the rhythm of the potholes. Every time the jitney slowed along the way, we passengers got excited thinking … “ah, we almost there” only to continue for through the verdant maze. After more than 40 minutes of this Polynesian-style amusement ride, we rounded a curve in the road and began to slow down in a seemingly unpopulated area. My sister looked at me with a “is this all there is?” look on her face. Before I could respond, she muttered under her breath “this better not be town”. Spasms of laughter took me over. No, this wasn’t town … just our driver’s attempt to ease the toll the road was taking on our bottoms as we approached town just minutes away. Suffice it to say nothing worth having comes without sacrifice … even if the sacrifice is your backside. At last the jitney finally slowed, rounded one last curve and stopped. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There in front of us was a breathtaking cove straight out of every movie ever filmed in paradise. Sparkling azure water lapped against the shallow beach rim. Tall palm trees seemed to lean from their roots into the sun. Locals sat under a pergola between the water and the road, sharing the day’s events and peddling souvenirs. Every living thing was at ease and in harmony. You could hear music even though none was playing. This exquisite, quiet little sleepy “town”, dotted with a smattering of enticing restaurants and a handful of shops along a gentle beachfront, was well worth the sacrifice.   As we stepped, tender bottomed, off the jitney, a stunning young man approached and offered his hand to help us down. Wrapped in a bright red sarong, wearing sunglasses and a burnished tan only the sun can provide, he greeted each us with a smile as wide and beautiful as the cove itself. He said he would be our guide and would look out for us. How hospitable, I remember thinking. Such lovely people!   The waterfront was small and private. Shelling was as abundant on the beach as the smiles and greetings were from the island residents strolling along the boardwalks. Everything about this place gave you a “Woosah” feeling. We strolled down to a small park like area, bought some snacks from what looked like the only grocery store there … it sold gas, too. Breathing in the sweet warm air, we took seats under tall trees and fed the birds potato chips. Probably shouldn’t have, but they seemed to relish the treats. I felt as if I was in a time warp where peace and tranquility were being hoarded by the Happiness Gods.   With our excursion time in Huahine nearly over, we took our own good, languid time going back to our drop off spot. Waiting for the jitney to return, we wandered into one of the nearby souvenir shops where we encountered our young sarong-wrapped greeter. He walked along the counters with us, advising which items were good purchases and which were not. Thanking him for his kind attention, we asked his name. He obliged and then let us know that he really was our guide! He was from our cruise ship sent ashore to make certain the ship’s passengers were taken care of on our land excursion (i.e. didn’t miss the boat). He said we would see him again before the end of the cruise. …and we did. The evening entertainment was a stirring show of authentic Polynesian dancing and singing … and who do you think was front and center on stage? Our Huahine “guide” was a member of the shipboard troupe of beautiful, talented young Tahitian men and women who performed, taught us the local arts, hosted shipboard events and served as cruise ambassadors attending to our every whim. I don’t know what was more beautiful about that day … Huahine or meeting the young people gracing the cruise ship. It’s not written that I have to choose. So I won’t.

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