January 22nd: Papeete
Tahiti: Oh dear! Utter devastation. We arrived in Papeete to find them in chaos. Catastrophic rains have drenched the island causing slips, flooding the central shopping area, making roads impassable and overflowing drains, rivers and sewers. A state of emergency has been declared, and it's starting raining here again (a bit like summer in New Zealand really!).
The net result is that although the ship docked to take on fresh supplies and refuel, we weren't able to leave the ship. It's disappointing, but my heart goes out to those who are going to have to clean up the mess, or have lost their homes.
Rather alarmingly, a large contingent of our on-board companions approached the Cruise Director, volunteering to go ashore and assist in any clearing up that needed to be done. I respect and admire the generous spirit that prompted the offer, but common sense surely suggests that the last thing a flood stricken town needs is 2000 enthusiastic geriatrics clogging up their streets. Not to mention the potential danger for said passengers. Many of our number look downright frail and unsteady on their feet. Heaven knows what could happen to them ashore. Anyway, the Governor politely declined the generous offer.
Even more disconcerting were the other passengers who protested about not being allowed ashore to go shopping. They’d paid for the privilege after all!
I stood at the railings and looked up at the slips that have come down on the hills. The ambulance and police sirens went all day and night as emergency services rushed hither and yon. Around the ship, the dark surging water is filled with large logs and other debris brought down the river by the storm. I saw a washing machine floating away on the tide and wondered how it had ended up there. The waves against the breakwater are wild and angry, and the docks are flooded.
Our ship’s departure was delayed until the early hours of the following morning because the refueling pumps had been knocked out as the main electricity supply has failed. Consequently, refueling had to be done with an emergency generator which meant hours of extra time to get our ship tanked up.
The good news is that we call here again on the way home, so we get a second chance to see the island - and it looks so beautiful. Tonight we set sail for Easter Island. I've already discovered that internet access becomes extremely tricky when far from land. Presumably the satellites get overloaded. Also, I'm a bit worried by the bad weather we've run into. I hope it doesn't follow us across the Pacific and around Cape Horn.
Last night we had our first formal evening so we dressed up in our glad rags. My choice of dress was dictated purely by pragmatism. At the rate I'm eating, this could be my last chance to fit into the black and white number I wore. By the time we reach Rio I'll be several sizes too big for it.
Tomorrow I'm due to give the first of my workshops on writing and publishing. Wish me luck.