Los Angeles to Papeete

Be warned! If you are traveling internationally from LAX, get to the airport early. Forget that two hour advice; allow at least three at the minimum. It appears that for now at least, there is construction at Tom Bradley, and for some reason, not easily apparent, the line to have your baggage scanned can be very long. First of course, the Air Tahiti Nui check in. I got to the airport at 8:30 PM for an 11:55 departure. There were five agents, all busy, but processing quickly. My baggage was weighed, then given back to me to be taken to the baggage screening line. I was number 50 in that line, but actually lucky, as by the time I finished the line went from one end of the terminal to the other. The guy behind me had a cart loaded to the point where he could not see its pointed front. No problem for him; each time the line moved a foot or so, he just pushed his load until it hit me. I tried to explain what was happening, but we didn’t share the same language.

That process finished, it was on to the end of the long line for security screening. At passport check, since there were so many non US citizens passing through, there were constant stops and starts as extra security was in place. The whole process took well over an hour, but for later arrivals the wait was even longer.

Although I got to the gate in plenty of time, a later arrival at the terminal could have been enough to erase a month’s meditation.

I caught a last minute upgrade to ATN’s business class so my flight was not as tedious as I had expected. It’s a bit over 8 hours from LA to Papeete.

Business class seats don’t lie completely flat, but go back far enough for a good sleep. A light dinner was served, wine, and the best Bloody Mary I’ve had on any airline. I checked out the mix and it’s Mr. and Mrs. T’s Spicy. In economy, wine and beer were no charge, and there were choices on the dinner menu. If I don’t get an upgrade going home, at least I know there are some tasty things waiting to ease the all night trip.

We arrived in Papeete on time; immigration was smooth, luggage arrival, speedy. Next order of business was to locate our group. Although there were signs with lots of names posted, none of the names were mine, or any member of our group. One man had a sign that said MNA Group. He couldn’t find anyone in his expected group, I couldn’t find anyone in mine, so putting zero and zero together, I figured that was my group. Helping with the math was the fact that he had a private van waiting. We waited as people came through immigration. Shortly, a young woman in white blouse and slacks came out. img_3253.JPGAs she passed us, I asked her if she was a writer. Well, not quite, she was Carolina Bustamante, the leader of our press group from Stuart Newman, Associates. Ah! The sign should have read SNA, the email prefix for the company. Apparently the sign holder (we nicknamed him “T” as he worked for T Tours) got his letter information on the phone, and had no pen or paper, nor retention. He was told to put the letters on a sign and hold it up. He had no idea why nor for whom.

Never mind, we were soon joined by two others. Still, we were two short. It seems one had a flight canceled in Dallas, and the other had bypassed all signs and jumped on a Star Flyer bus to the Radisson hotel. We each had a room at the Radisson until after lunch when our 1:30 island tour would get underway.

My room was stifling hot, and I couldn’t find the thermostat controls. The air conditioning unit was above the door and had several buttons and switches marked for international visitors from Mars. I stood on a chair and pressed several at random. At the last press, the louvers closed on the unit. Opening a window was useless as it was in the eighties and muggy outside. Oops! What’s this? The remote that I thought worked the TV was for the AC. Within minutes I could breathe.

We all had a lovely lunch and then, at 1:30, piled our luggage and our jet lagged bodies into “T”s van. Hmmmm, where was “T”? The AC in the van was on but not adequate. “T” showed up with a cell phone in hand and said his supervisor told him he needed to bring the van back to the lot as it was needed for another tour. Talk between Carolina and “T” was animated; “T” again called his supervisor. Each time he called he left the van the process went like this; door open, hot air in, door close, AC groan. He came back and said this bus had to be back by 2 P.M. Looking at my watch, I suggested he better hurry as it was 3 minutes before 2.

His supervisor then wanted us to fax her Carolina’s voucher for the three hour tour around the island with stops at several museums. The hotel said there were too many people checking in so the fax was not available. More phone calls, more head shaking, and finally Carolina talked to the manager. The manager capitulated and said we could have the bus until 4 PM, when we would be dropped off at the ship, but reminded Carolina that we didn’t have three hours any more to make the tour. Personally, I was relieved as I had no hunger for Gauguin, or Polynesian artifacts.

“T” came through for us and took us to a monument erected to salute the HMS Bounty.img_3128.JPG They came to Tahiti searching, never mind Guava or Papaya, but for breadfruit and found tons. The area was full of crab holes and I actually had to watch my step so as not put a toe in reach of a claw.img_3135.JPG

We also stopped at the burial place of the last King of Polynesia. img_3139.JPGThis dudes mother was a revered Queen and defeated the French when they tried to take Polynesia. After she died, her son became King. He drank, he gambled, he sold the kingdom to the French for some beer money, and breadfruit being no cure for a bad liver, he died.

Arriving at Star Flyer at 3:55, luggage went up one gangway, we went up the other, greeted Captain Brunon Borowka, and it started to rain.img_3140.JPG

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4 Responses to “Los Angeles to Papeete”

  1. owen edwards Says:

    Okay, I’ll admit a certain bias, being your brother and all. But I could still be resentful (that BB gun incident and all). However, your descriptions get better and better. You have mastered what I — a veteran writer — never have: the short, pithy sentence. Yeth, I thaid pithy.

  2. owen edwards Says:

    Okay, I’ll admit a certain bias, being your brother and all. But I could still be resentful (that BB gun incident and all). However, your descriptions get better and better. You have mastered what I — a veteran writer — never have: the short, pithy sentence. Yeth, I thaid pithy.

  3. matthew Says:

    So, then what. I wanna hear the rest of your review. I am looking at going in november. Great so far.

  4. matthew Says:

    So, then what. I wanna hear the rest of your review. I am looking at going in november. Great so far.

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