Deena’s Challenging Voyage to Gambier

Deena is a friend from San Francisco who has joined us aboard Aldebaran both in the Channel Islands and in Oaxaca, southern Mexico. Those were each short 4-day trips; now she is joining us for 4 weeks!

She is our first crew mate to fly into French Polynesia to meet us. The logistics were extra difficult because for her, because we are in one of the most remote locations that Air Tahiti flies to; and it costs US$400 each way from Tahiti. She spent a week in Moorea doing a SCUBA course before meeting us. I asked how her travels were so far:

….”Easy trip! Many hours door to door but all easy. Weather is tropical- humid, super breezy, not too hot. I’m staying with an older french woman, her four dogs and at least one cat, communicating in mangled french and spanish, riding around the island on a creaky bicycle, eating fresh tuna sandwiches and excited for my first diving lesson tomorrow 🙂 Slowly sinking into paradise, so happy to be here and be joining you soon!”

Then later in the week, we heard bad news: Air Tahiti wasn’t flying because of a firefighter strike! We feared the worst. Deena updated us:

….”I just heard about the ongoing air tahiti firefighter’s strike, which has cancelled lots of flights this week already. they can only fly to Tahiti, Bora Bora, Raiatea and Rangiroa – everywhere else is affected by the strike. fingers crossed that it will be resolved tomorrow, otherwise, i’m not sure when i will get to you! 😦 ”

It was a nail-biter. If she can’t make it, then what?? We have to sail north in a week! Thankfully, the day before her flight, the prognosis was good:

….”the firefighters have agreed to a minimum flight schedule this weekend. as of now my flight is supposed to arrive at Gambier at 13:55. if anything changes i will let you know. So how do i find you, where should i go from the airport? 🙂 ”

On Saturday, the day of Deena’s arrival, a sudden storm blew in and enveloped Gambier. Can you imagine that the plane wasn’t able to land due to poor visibility, and they circled back to Tahiti! Deena managed to read two books during the 10hrs in the airplane. Then she had to figure out where to sleep in Papeete:

…”I was lucky last night – the people I took dive lessons with were also in Tahiti and had an whole extra bedroom in their hotel room, so they let me crash one night of their honeymoon 🙂 Hanging out in Papeete today and will be at the airport at 5am tomorrow, all my fingers and toes are crossed that I can make it! I was inspired by your blog post and bought a pamplemousse at the market this morning. OMG it’s soo good!”

The flight was rescheduled for Monday, at which time the storm was subsiding. The plane lands in a tiny fringe of land on the barrier reef around Gambier, then transports passengers by shuttle boat to Rikitea for US$10. We saw the boat coming, and Deena was onboard! Along with two dozen people that had been stuck trying to fly to Gambier the last week. We were grateful to see her and begin our adventure together.

Postscript from Deena to help other travelers:

…”I was told that strikes are common here (apparently it’s very French). Weather delays as well! There is only one airline that flies to the outer islands, so there are no options if your flight is canceled. 3000 passengers were impacted by the strike, even more by the weather, and AirTahiti does not give vouchers to help with costs. For international travelers, missing a local flight might mean being stranded for another week. I felt lucky to have days to spare. But I was also inspired by the reaction of the plane full of locals on my 10 hour flight to nowhere, when we turned around after halfway. Laughter, shrugging, resigning themselves to reality instead of getting frustrated, and smiles of recognition when we reunited two days later for our successful flight to Mangareva. C’est la vie, à la Polinesie! ”

Check out Deena’s pictures from Moorea on Instagram at @deenstagram

Photo: Shortly after arriving in Gambier, Deena wanted to adopt this adorable dog. She’s moving in quickly!

3 thoughts on “Deena’s Challenging Voyage to Gambier

  1. Congrats Deena….so glad you made it onto the boat!!! Matt & I make a similar journey in about a month, so good to be warned about these possible delays. Also we’d be interested in knowing where you stayed and what dive course you took? Would you recommend either? We’re about to book reservations at the Moorea Surf Inn & Green Lodge for our stay in Moorea. Also any good accommodations in Papeete for nights before or after your flight? Thanks!
    We are stoked!

  2. Always an adventure traveling to small Islands. Blessed are the flexible for they shall not bend out of shape!

  3. OMG, that dog! Deenie, I’m so glad you have arrived and are settling in. What an adventure to get there! I can’t wait to see photos of every beautiful beach and gorgeous sunsets and all the people you’ll meet. I miss you and am so happy you are doing this!!! XOXO Lau

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