Monday, September 7, 2009

A Perfect Day at Te Pari

I'm going to let you in on a secret. OK it's not a big secret, this place is in all the guidebooks (including mine, the Lonely Planet) and tourist literature, but since no one seems to go it sure feels like a secret. I'm talking about the Fenua Ahiere and Te Pari, the 'lost coast' of Tahiti that is only accessible by boat or on foot. Fenua Aihere means 'the bush country' in Tahitian and Te Pari means 'the cliffs.' The habitated, flat jungle coast of the Fenua Aihere runs southeast from the village of Teahupoo for about 10km till the fringing exterior reef ends and the cliffs , Te Pari, begin. No one lives on this steep coast where the open ocean crashes against sharp volcanic cliffs.

Yesterday my family and I took advantage of a perfect, calm sunny day to hike along the wild Te Pari cliffs. The hillsides are covered in a jungle of pandanus, coconut palms and ferns and are cut every now and then by a waterfall, river, white sand beach or a land-linked coral outcrop. The trail is muddy, skinny and sometimes so steep that ropes have been attached to guide you along, but the effort is worth it. From two different vantage points we spotted humpback whales spouting and thrashing their tails; we bathed in three waterfall pools, ate uto (the spongy interior of a germed coconut), climbed up a lava tube (an elongated shallow cave with a river running through it); and, not so great, got devoured by mosquitoes. This was a beautiful Sunday and we didn't see any other people at all.

The reason more people don't go to the Te Pari is that you either need a boat or walk 10km alongthe Fenua Aihere, which takes all day. The numerous river crossings required to hike the Fenua Aihere means most of your gear will get wet plus all the vicious dogs make the walk less pleasant. Even if you have a boat you need to park it and if you don't know the owners of the two docks near the Te Pari entrance, this can be difficult to manage. The best way to visit the area if you're boatless and on vacation is to call Michael at Teahupoo Excursions ( who leads excellent, fun a la carte day trips to the area. You might also be able to talk Michael into dropping you off and picking you up later if you want to hike alone. The other option is to hire a hiking guide (contact the hiking guide organization at and make the two-day overnight trek all the way to Tautira on the other side of the island. I did this a few years ago and it was the best trek I have ever taken in my whole entire life. It's quite demanding and adventurous though (think: swinging on a rope from one rock to another quick enough to avoid getting pounded by incoming surf), so it's not for everyone. The technicality as well as the poorly marked trail, make the two-day trek a dangerous undertaking if you don't have someone who knows the area to show you the way.

So, I have to say that Te Pari is my favorite spot in all of French Polynesia and I've been to countless islands and atolls in every archipelago. There are so many hidden coves, caves, archaeological remains, waterfalls, beaches and vistas to discover that I think I'll never get tired of it. The area's open-to-the-elements geography means that it's miserable to visit during big swells, rain or high winds - and there's at least one of these elements at large most of the year - so it's a special occasion to find that perfect day and explore.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds wonderful (looks beautiful too). If I ever make it to Tahiti I hope I can see this area.



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