It is 6:58 am here in Tahiti and I have successfully made it through another round of airport fun!  Passport control, security screening and check in in Papeete threatened to test my patience at this early hour, but I thought back to the beautiful beaches of Moorea when I felt myself getting too impatient.  This airport is an outside one.  From where I sit I see small airplanes in front of me, stone floor below me, and palm trees and flowers to my left.  Honeymooners are taking final pictures and readying themselves for new lives together.  It is a great thing to be surrounded by language again.  The passports in each person’s hands are different, and it makes me feel at home.  Although I miss my loved ones so much, I feel most alive when traveling.  One day, they can travel with me.  At the top of the places I would like to meet them – Moorea.  Yesterday was a whirlwind of a day.  Without much time left in the islands, I ran around seeing the sights as much as possible and then headed out to the ferry to peek in on the island of Moorea.  Paul Sloan, an LA expat and fellow Rotarian, picked me up at the dock and took me for a two hour car ride around the island.  Within minutes of leaving the dock, I looked to my left out onto the absolute most beautiful beach I had ever seen.  The water seems to glow with a sort of bioluminescence.  It is incredibly clear, and a person can see the coral without even leaving the car.  Bungalows abound in incredible resorts that have nestled themselves quietly into the island.  The people are sparse here, qualifying Moorea as one of those few places in the world that is both beautiful and peacefully left alone.  The Paul Gaugin hangs out in the lagoon near the Sofitel resort, and the picture takes my breath away.  Paul and I stop a few times while he tells me stories of the island.  

Here in Tahiti and Moorea, there is a story about how the freshwater eel came to be.  Here's the reader's digest version, or at least as much as I can recount by memory!

There once was a beautiful goddess named Hina.  Hina’s beauty was matched by no other, and her thick black hair shone with depth that seemed blue.   Hina’s father arranged a marriage for Hina.  Accepting her fate, Hina arranged to be married.  While walking down the aisle to her soon to be husband, Hina discovered that she was to marry Te Tuna, the god of eels.  She ran away and refused to marry.  Te Tuna, so entranced by her beauty, had immediately fallen in love with her.  He began searching for Hina, swimming up rivers to find her.  (Now the eel lives in freshwater.  See what they did there??)  Hina meets Maui shortly thereafter.  She explained to Maui that she had a stalker and asked if he would kill the eel.  Maui agrees, and sets about to slay Te Tuna.  He finds the eel and chops off his head.  Immediately realizing that this was not just any eel, but the god of all eels, Maui immediately becomes fearful and asks Hina not to bury the eel on the land of the island, thinking it will become cursed.  The eel speaks to Hina and explains to her that if she would just learn to love him, he would provide both her and her family with all that they could ever need.  He then tells her that someday, she will kiss him.  Then he dies.  Hina wraps the eels up in leaves and disposes of him in the corner of the house.  In time, a strange tree grows where the eel’s head was buried.  This tree was unlike any tree the people had ever seen.  It’s leaves could be used to build houses for the people.  It’s trunk, for weapons.  It bore fruit for the people, and the juices were unlike any they had ever tasted.  This tree was the palm tree!  One day, Hina lifted a coconut to her lips to drink the sweet liquid.  On the coconut, three black spots that turned into the eyes and lips of the eel.  She had finally kissed Te Tuna.  Ergo, freshwater eels and palm trees! 

We head up to Belvedere Lookout Point to a sight that is truly astonishing.  Two lagoons on either side of the main mountain make for a sort of W layout.  The greens and blues meet together and coalesce into a serene landscape that the camera just cannot capture.  Our time there was too short as my tour had to be quick.  If one misses the ferry from Moorea, they would be hard pressed to do anything but wait for an entire day.  Granted, it would be one heck of a place to be stranded.  Cook landed here in the mid 1700s, and one can only imagine that his breath was taken from his lungs the second he came within eyeshot of the gorgeous island.  After a very quick goodbye to my tour guide, I ran to the ferry and made it without a minute to spare.  We were ten minutes late, but so was the ferry.  I ran up to the top deck and barely had my seat before we were moving.  The skyline as you depart from Moorea is a craggy and emerald masterpiece that is edged by this electric water brimming with sea life.  My biggest regret about my time in Tahiti was that I did not spend all of my time on Moorea.  Luckily for Air Tahiti, they will be the recipients of another charge on my debit card – I am going back to Moorea.  Paul tells me that he can see the humpbacks from his living room window.  He has built a house of glass right on the water in Moorea, and the whales bring their calves to rest after a great migration from Antarctica.  He says that he sometimes looks out of his window and sees an eye as big as his body staring back at him.  “If there is anything in nature that is a religious experience, this is it.”  I still haven’t seen a whale in the wild, and it is at the very top of my list.  They arrive in August and stay until October.  There is no question that I will come back to try to see them.  So to any of you who would like to come and visit, meet me in Moorea, you will not be disappointed.

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