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RANGIROA, POLYNESIA'S BEST KEPT SECRET
At the Airport | Pension Teina et Maria | Debating about Diving | Check out dive in South Pacific | Drift dives with the Currents | Hanging to the walls | Against the Current | Shark Encounter | Closing Dives | Downdown at Kia Ora Village | Sun Basking | Bicycling | Luci Martinez | Saying Goodbye
Map of Rangiroa

 

At the airport

On first impression, Rangiroa seems to move in slow motion. Even the waves - in sight on either side of the vast atoll's pencil-thin strip of land - lap with a kind of steady torpor: blue from the Pacific side, brilliant aquamarine from the nearly circumscribed lagoon. People mill around the thatch-roofed airport in no hurry to put-put anywhere on their vintage mopeds. The single road, stretching about five miles east to west like a smear of frosting between two layers of cake, is easily traversable by bicycle in less than half an hour. I have a sense that days here are measured by sunlight, weather, and inclinations more than by schedules.

The young mama with her five year-old girl who is escorting us to the Pension Teina et Marie guest house, merely stop along the one-way debris road at Avatoru to chat with anyone. Sitting at the back of her little le trek (errand-truck); gives me the opportunity to wave at the few local passersby. One middle-aged man wears a Chicago Bulls' baseball cap; on his friend, a Harley-Davidson T-shirt stretches taut over a girth generously. Kids chasing one another barefooted at the open-air Rangiroa Airport, with two check-in counters that seemed to be closed most of the time. A side café with an adjourning counter that sells expensive post cards, maps and handcrafted Tiki Polynesians figurines for souvenirs.

I take the opportunity to slow my pulse, to ease gradually into the gentle rhythm of a ramshackle, clapboard town all but deserted at midday. Only later do I learn that virtually all the other tourists here are deep underwater encased in scuba gear, or sun basking in another offshore island for a day out excursion.

PAPEETE