Tahiti truly is one of the most breathtaking places on the planet. The two-hour ferry ride from Papeete to Moorea had me spellbound. Crystal blue waters stretching out for miles, and as we approached the small island of Moorea, the lush green foliage covering the island was so startling a sight, I gasped. Everything seemed to be in technicolour; every shade so deep and vivid, so clean and inviting— the beauty caused an emotional response that surprised me.
The resort I was staying at was a half-hour drive from the ferry wharf, and I absorbed the incredible scenery as we sped down the road in a mini-bus. Driving past Club-Med, I craned my neck to see the beautiful people enjoying the resort grounds, and crossed my fingers in the hope that the much cheaper resort I’d be staying at would offer some of the same elegance. My hopes went flying out the window as we drove down a dusty driveway to a tired looking hotel, but I was in Tahiti— who cares if the resort needed some work? My room was comfortable and clean, and the hotel had its own private beach, so I was more than happy.
My days were filled with swimming and tours of the island, and as all my food was included in the accommodation costs, I tried to eat at the resort as much as I could. The food was great— lots of fresh fruit, salads, and home-style meals. They didn’t have much in the way of snacks between meals, and after hours of walking and swimming, I’d developed quite the appetite. I decided to take a walk down the road, under the palm trees with coconuts hanging threateningly over my head, to the little take-away caravan. Everything was written in French, but I recognised the blackboard that said, les pommes de terre frites— french fries! Ah yes, that’s exactly what I wanted. In poor French, I ordered some fries and stood patiently waiting for them. The young woman looked at me in annoyance and pointed to a small bench seat. I got the message, loud and clear, and went and sat on the bench. The minutes passed. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty, and no fries. What was going on? Had they forgotten me? I went to ask what was happening and again I was shooed over to the bench. After forty long and hungry minutes, I was called over, and handed a piping hot package of fries. I found a nice spot on the grass and sat down to enjoy my highly anticipated meal, and unwrapping them, I could see why they took so long. When I ordered them, they painstakingly peeled the potatoes, cut them up, and deep fried them. Nothing was prepped beforehand. Those fries were so delicious, I wanted more, but after the agonising wait, I decided against it.
Every day from that point saw me loitering around the not-so-fast-food caravan, waiting for yet another serve of fries. I had become quite embarrassed about my new addiction, but the fries were so good, and no one in Tahiti would see me again after this trip, so I ignored my self-recriminations and ordered more and more fries. I hated thinking about the blisters developing on the hands of the poor worker peeling those potatoes, but I just couldn’t stop.
As had become habit, shortly after breakfast and a swim I would head down for more fries. But on this one particular day, I walked up to the van to place my usual order, and it was closed. Closed. I felt real fear coursing through my veins. What would I do? A sign on the door advised that they were closed for the day, so I had no choice but to head back to the resort. Hold on! There’s a general store another half a kilometre or so down the road. I remembered seeing it on the way to the resort from the ferry. Maybe they had some snacks. I realised I hadn’t had any chocolate since I arrived, and once the idea formed, I knew I had to make it happen. I set off down the road and it was a very humid day. There was no shade on the road and I was dripping with sweat when I arrived. Thankfully the store was open, and I scoured the shelves for some delicious treats. Nothing. It was all tinned food and fresh produce; no chocolate anywhere. Dejected, and on my way out, I saw a few Milo Chocolate bars on the front counter. Milo is an Australian thing, a chocolate malt powder mix you add to milk, and utterly delicious. Not quite the chocolate bar I was dreaming of, but it would suffice. I almost choked when I was told the price— twenty Australian dollars, but I was committed to the plan and had to see it through. I handed over my money, left with a smile, and slowly unwrapped the chocolate malt treat. One bite into it and all of my illusions were shattered— it was old and stale, probably years past its use by date. And as pathetic as this is, I wept tears of disappointment all the way back to the hotel, and ate a banana.