Meet me in the Pineapple Plantation
Though I walk through the valley of Tahiti’s neighbouring isle, Moorea, I will fear no evil. Well, actually that’s not true. I’m afraid of everything around me. I’m staying in a pineapple plantation in the mountains. I’ve been warned by my friendly host and bush walk guide for the afternoon that there are wild boars and a lack of definitive trails. Conditions are less than perfect. Heavy rainfall over the past week has created a very muddy forest.
The sunny islands of French Polynesia have been laughing at us the last few days, shattering the perfect illusion of a tropical oasis. Not only has it rained, but temperatures have also plummeted. During the short half-hour ferry trip from the mainland, the boat normally sails peacefully on glassy waters while sightseers gaze at the tiny island of Moorea.
My boat ride was nothing like that. It was buffeted by wind and rain and I suffered from travel sickness. The boat churned up, down and sideways as the wind and rain pounded it from every direction. The island of Moorea was a green haze beyond the grey sleet and my view rocked along with the motion of the boat.
Relief came as I set my wobbly sea legs on shore and climbed aboard the yellow American school bus which took me deep into the towering mountains, through one of the many pineapple plantations of Moorea, for a bush walk. Let me tell you, this is not the kind of bush walk my grandmother relishes.
I nervously place one foot in front of the other and don’t look back. Save for our banter, the bush is eerily silent. Wild boars are one of the few animals in this forest. The trees are tall, scrawny matchsticks with vibrant green leaves, thanks to all the rainfall. Soggy earth squelches beneath my shoes and leeches into my socks within minutes. This jagged landscape is hard-yakka. I try to keep up with my fellow travellers so I can use the paths they’ve painstakingly forged. Why didn’t I stay indoors with the girls at the lodge?
Someone squeals and grabs at a muddy hill while sliding down it. Okay, yes that was me. I gingerly throw myself from one skinny tree to the next, clinging tightly to avoid falling down the bank again. Our athletic guide is dressed in army green, it’s hard to decipher him from the trees. He stops us abruptly and announces my biggest fear: “Time to jump through waterfalls”.
I strategise as to which position will have the highest survival rate. I’m definitely not going first. With two volunteers safely on the other side, I’m up. I say a silent prayer. My subconscious gives me a kick and I plunge forward over the two metre waterfall and into the rushing water below. I surface alive and unharmed.
We make our way through the remaining waterfalls in the same mad fashion. Our group of cold, mosquito-bitten, tired, hungry, Kiwi kids emerge from the forest, feeling triumphant and exhausted. There is nothing like a waterfall-leaping, mud-sliding hiking trip in a forest on a remote island in French Polynesia to make you appreciate the basics in life. Now, if you would be so kind, please send me some good weather.