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We joined two other couples on two-person catamarans that took us into the lagoon, a caravan led by a guide in a small motorboat. Everywhere the water was teal or aquamarine, the beaches studded by palm trees like a postcard of the tropics. At one point, we stopped and anchored next to a deep channel and all got out. Peter, our guide, used fish guts to attract stingrays and black-tipped reef sharks, and soon they were swimming all around us. The tan sharks, 3 or 4 feet long, all had the same frown frozen on their faces. Black or gray with soft white underbellies, the rays glided past our legs like cats.
Peter stopped us at a little island he called “his office,” and offered a bowl of fresh pineapple and cold lemonade. As a boat of elderly tourists from Japan zipped by, he stood in the shade and smoked a joint.
That night there was a feast on the beach and a powerful show of dancing and singing by Tahitians in traditional island garb — exactly what you might expect, except fresher and more arresting. It was all flower necklaces and grass skirts, gyrating hips, macho men swinging machetes and everyone singing jubilant, proud songs in unison. The leader was a woman probably in her 40s who danced like Beyoncé, called out orders to her colleagues like a drill sergeant and looked as though she were strong enough to easily kill a man. “Look at her butt!” my wife kept saying.
Our last morning we hopped an early-morning ferry from Moorea to Tahiti, and its larger airport. The front of the ferry was the quiet section, where people slept for the 30 minutes across the water, most of them high school students headed for Monday morning classes in Papeete.
My wife closed her eyes and fell asleep. Off to our right, a teenager with a backward baseball cap — looked like a nice kid — was trying to talk to a pretty girl his age. She was smaller than him but seemed in charge. Her schoolbag resting on her lap, she was friendly but noncommittal.
Good luck, buddy, I thought. Maybe one day you will honeymoon in Minnesota.
Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz