Hitchhiking from Tahiti to Bora Bora (part 1)
A fter 3,7 years of non-stop hitchhiking, I’ve finally arrived to French Polynesia and that fact seemed so unreal. I was literally 4 islands away from Bora Bora – and the finish line of my little mission! Everyone was telling me how hitchhiking from Tahiti to Bora Bora is going to be “sooo easy”…everyone who has never done it before. I didn’t really know what to think of it. Just the fact that I needed to hitchhike yet another sailing boat or a few of them annoyed me, because I’m not a big fan of sailing.
French Polynesia is REALLY expensive country, so in order not to bankrupt while there, I found myself a couchsurfing host in Papeete. I was super lucky, because my Tahitian host Ronny was amazing. We had a similar life philosophy and got on really well.
First few days I hitchhiked around Tahiti as I tried to get familiar with the people and the culture. Once I figure out how the locals breathe, it’s much easier for me to adjust and find my place among them. Soon, I learnt the locals are respectful, very friendly and kindhearted. The men have never tried to touch me while I was hitchhiking, flash me or give me any dirty looks. The people often invited me to stay with their families and handed me some fruits “for the road”. Almost every day I would return back to Ronny’s flat with the bags of fruit that I was given while hitchhiking around the island. Ronny was quite amazed by it and said I could stay in his flat as long as I want because I was bringing him free food every day. :))
My 5th day in Tahiti, Ronny dropped me off at the marina that was 10km from his flat. My plan was to talk to people on the boats and find a ride to Bora Bora. I visited a Harbor Master to check if he has some insights about the boats that are coming and leaving the marina. He was not very helpful, but he was very friendly and allowed me to walk freely around his marina and talk to people. There were TONS of boats all around the marina. I couldn’t decide where to start first…
Soon I’ve met a French sailor with the son. They were not planning to sail in my direction, but they were very determined to help me out. They took me to meet a young hippie guy who was a local bloke in charge of fixing other people’s boats and apparently he knew EVERYONE. He was shirtless, tanned and good looking….ohh and helpful, of course, because he told me about some Aussie guy who was apparently going in my direction. The name of his boat was COPS and I wondered who in his right mind would give his boat such a stupid name.
I walked to the boat, but no one seemed to be on it. I shouted HEEELLOOO!!! and a grey head popped up. It was an Aussie guy in his late 50s. I told him who sent me and explained my story in short. He said I was not normal and invited me on his board for a drink.
Long story short, he was going to New Caledonia and he would drop me off at Bora Bora because it was on his way. The only thing he couldn’t tell me was the exact day he was leaving, because he needed to fix his boat first, but he assumed it would be in 1 week. His boat was very similar to the one I sailed on from Malaysia to Australia and the guy seemed totally fine…lots of sailing experience and a pretty old school guy. He seemed simple, direct and cursed a lot. I think we would get on just fine. :))
The reason why his boat was called COPS is because he bought it from the French guy and didn’t bother changing the name. Apparently, COPS means friends or buddies in French. I spent the whole morning in the marina and couldn’t believe I found myself a ride on a very 1st day of searching! That doesn’t happen very often.
The next morning I decided to visit a small marina in the center of Papeete just to check what I could find there. I wanted to talk to their Harbor Master, but he was on the phone, so I talked to his assistants instead. As I explained my little mission to them, they got super excited and told me that their fisherman friend is going to follow the canoe race from the Huahine Island to Bora Bora and that he is leaving tomorrow morning. They called him and he agreed to take me with him, but only to Raiatea because of the space. I was thrilled about this adventure, because I’ve never been on the Tahitian fishing boat before and now I can hitchhike one!
I couldn’t sleep the whole night before the trip because I wondered what condition is the boat in. I’ve seen some really messed up fishing boats while sailing around Indonesia and I didn’t wish to myself to end up on one of those. I wondered if I made a good decision, because I found an Aussie guy on a proper boat who agreed to drop me off at Bora Bora, but now I’m risking it all because of a very exciting ride with a local fisherman who I’ve never met and who can only take me to Raiatea…?! Also, my sea sickness can get pretty bad and a small fishing boat is probably not going to help much. My choices have scared me and entertained me through the whole night.
The next morning at 7, tired as hell after the sleepless night, I was sitting on the dock with 2 big bags full of Polynesian food that I bought at the market as a small “thank you” for my new fisherman buddy. As I sat there, I expected an old guy with a terrible boat that shouldn’t really be sailing anymore, but what came to pick me up have actually blown my efing brains out.
There was not 1, but 3 good looking men on the equally good looking Tahitian fishing boat. I cracked myself up and thanked the Universe for that joke. I knew if I got sea sick at least I would have a good view around me while throwing up. 😉
The main guy called Puarai was a fisherman and the other two were his friends and family. They put me on the boat, we took a quick selfie and just as we were about to enter an open water – Puarai stopped his boat and all 3 of them just sat there in silence. This new situation freaked me out a bit and I immediately asked them what was happening, because I thought there was something wrong with the boat. Puarai shortly answered, we need to pray. We always pray before entering open water. Being irreligious, I put my head down, but with my eyes wide open observed the men while they were praying. My only thought was… how did I get so lucky?! They were really efing good looking.
6 hours later we were close to Raiatea Island and one of the guys said “Can you see Bora Bora? It’s right there in front of us.” After checking with ALL 3 of them to confirm that was really Bora Bora, strange emotion rushed through my body. After 3,7 years of traveling, it was finally there, in my sight. Words can’t explain that feeling. The tears were rolling down without any control.
When we arrived to Raiatea, Puarai asked me where I was going to sleep. I told him to drop me off at the beach. He said that was out of the question and he took me to stay with his family. What he forgot to tell me was that his garden has a direct view of Bora Bora…
Later on, the family took me to Uturoa, which is the biggest town on Raiatea Island; because the locals were measuring weight of all caught marlins. The biggest one was caught by the family I was staying with. It was a really sad scene of a dead 235kg marlin hanging above the applauding people.
As a cherry on top, the family found me another local fisherman who was going to Bora Bora THE SAME NIGHT and I could have joined him, but I declined the offer.
...read HERE where that decision has taken me next.