Newlyweds take on a new heartfelt vow: to embrace French Polynesia no matter the weather.
Sipping drinks under a tarp on the southwest coast of Tahiti, my wife and I had a crisis of confidence.
Rain beat on the blue plastic above our heads and spattered the lagoon to our left. The restaurant had a total of four patrons at lunchtime, all of us slightly chilled. The sky was gray, the water was gray, and so was my wife’s face.
We’d chosen French Polynesia for our honeymoon because it seemed alien and romantic — remote specks of green in the expansive blue of the South Pacific. Likely, we would visit only once in our lives. Getting there would take a full day, but the reward, we imagined, would be miles of snorkeling, breezy hotels and sunup-to-sundown sunshine.
We flew on a Sunday morning into Papeete, the territory’s largest city. A $30 cab ride took us from the airport to our first resort, a few miles down the coast in Puna’auia. After we checked in with a succinct, unsmiling clerk and paid for a mediocre $40 breakfast, the first drops of rain started to fall.
The next day, the clouds burst. Ditching our hopes for the beach, we rented a car and spent most of the day driving the 72-mile circumference of the island to get the lay of the land and see waterfalls.
If you’ve been to a tropical place when it’s raining, you know that what’s charming in sunshine can look sad in a downpour. The greens aren’t so green, and the water is not blue. We watched as rainwater gushed down from the mountains, churning red plumes of soil into the gray ocean, which looked like Lake Superior in November.
As the rain relented and clouds set in, we drove through Papeete, where the sidewalks and roads were busy, and the colonial buildings looked dingy.
It was an uninspiring afternoon, punctuated by our own clipped diplomacy regarding the rate at which the windshield wipers were wiping. We needed information. So we began tentatively questioning the hotel staff on the subject of weather.
“December and January are the rainy season,” said Jeremy, the guy who ran the pool area. “But the weather has been strange.”
It was March. That night, as clouds covered the moon, we huddled in our room and briefly contemplated an escape to Mexico.
Then we realized that the only way forward was to brush aside doubt and to hope for vindication. So we did. And we were. Vindicated, that is.
The next morning, the sun came out. Throwing open the curtains, I felt like I was stepping into the Technicolor of “The Wizard of Oz.”
There was the beach, white in the sunshine, and the bright blue lagoon framed by waving palm leaves and the coral breakwater a mile out. We rushed to the beach and spent all day there, still worried the rain would return.
But the sun kept shining, and we fell into a lazy rhythm of snorkeling, kayaking, napping on the beach and lunching on the balcony.
Octopus and angelfish
Most mornings we carried our snorkeling gear into the water, strapped in and drifted toward the forest of coral that covers the lagoon’s floor. We wove our way through mazes of what looked like giant heads of broccoli and cabbage.