We recently learned that Pape’ete, about once per year, has an artist paint a mural in the town. During our walkabouts, we are awestruck by some of these fabulous giant works of art. Aruba and St Petersburg are a couple of other places we’ve visited with murals. Besides the incredible creativity and unbelievable art, these places all have one thing in common. They don’t tell the tourist about them. And, I don’t understand why they keep it all a big secret. Unlike Buenos Aires who made a walking tourist attraction out of cartoon statues located randomly about the city, this mural art appears nowhere on “things to do while in….” travel sites.
During a walkabout in Pape’ete, armed with cameras, we bring to you some of the artwork in this week’s post. In between the pictures are a couple of amusing thoughts that have popped into my head recently, triggered by generally nothing at all. I hope you enjoy.
(click any picture to start a slide show of the murals)
There is a horrible cold with flulike symptoms raging about Tahiti. This begs the question, how the heck did it get here? For months, borders to all of French Polynesia were closed to outsiders due to Covid-19 fears. Even today, the borders remain closed. July is the month when French Polynesia plans to re-open. So, who brought the cold to Tahiti? How did they get it in here? Darn good thing the person responsible only had a cold and nothing more serious. Freaky!
Cindy happened to look up something in her quasi diary she keeps. Exactly one year ago to the date when we were in Panama, we both had colds. Freaky!
Tahiti’s is hoping to get tourism going again. Their campaign is to advertise a Covid-free environment. They plan to do this to countries still battling the virus and hope to offer a vacation without the stresses caused by the virus. Am I the only person thinking perhaps it isn’t a good idea to have people come from countries still battling this thing? And, do they really expect people to get on a plane where it is difficult to social-distance for at least 6 hours in today’s environment. The new slogan should now read, come to a Covid-free island and catch a cold. Freaky!
Cindy, being the very organized one, has the smarts to take pictures of things we like to eat. For example, on the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, we tried various unknown French items we found in the grocery stores. We are very adventurous and sometimes brave about this. Often we purchase an item based solely on the label picture not really knowing what is inside. Sometimes the result is horrible. Other times, bingo! When we find something we like, Cindy takes a picture of the label. Now we are back on a French island, she looks back at her pictures so we can look for these items again in the stores. Clever, huh?
I went grocery shopping by myself a couple of days ago. Cindy decided she should be selfish with her cold germs and not share with Tahitians. Cindy loves it when I go shopping alone because I tend to spend a lot of time in the cookie aisle. Standing in this aisle and pondering over the generous assortment of tasty little snacks, I suddenly noticed some of the packaging was in English. My first thought, I have never seen this brand in the USA. Duh! It is because we are closer to Australia and New Zealand now than any of the Americas. This prompted me to start looking at other items in the store.
The assortment of food in Tahiti is eccentric. As I start examining other English label packages, I see a good portion of them are from the Aussies and Kiwis. Being a French island, the vast remainder of the store’s items are typical French stuff. There is no shortage of bread, cheese, and pate. However, there are occasionally odd-ball items tossed in like cheddar cheese from the United Kingdom, flour tortillas from the USA, orange sauce from China (it took me a while to figure this one out because of the Chinese label) and shortbread from Scotland. The Scottish make killer shortbread biscuits.
Next time you go to your local grocery store, take a minute or two and stop in front of the international section. Depending on how fancy the store is, this could be a large section. But regardless of how large it is, think about an entire store being like your international section. Now you know what it is like to shop in Tahiti.
In the marina where we parked Cream Puff, the back of our boat faces the promenade. Sitting in the cockpit and looking at the promenade provides hours of entertainment. It is truly amazing how many versions of wheels there are. I have seen a middle-aged woman rip past on in-line skates at twice the speed of sound. Recently I saw a guy on an Onewheel. Skateboards must be handed out for free to Tahitians. Everybody has one. I see electric bikes, regular bikes of all shapes and sizes, and bike doing wheelies. The riders can do incredible wheelies that go on and on until they are out of sight. I’ve seen up to three people on a single bicycle. But, nothing prepared me for the kid on a skateboard who made me laugh harder than I have in a long long time.
A little while ago, another skateboarder got my attention in Colombia. For about 3 months each year in the winter, the wind can howl constantly over 30 miles an hour for days on end. On the promenade, the kid used a towel as a sail. The lower part of the towel was attached to his belt. He got into position and then raised his arms holding onto the upper corners of the towel. Of course, he took off at an incredible speed. I never saw him again. There’s no telling where in South America he wound up. However, this kid didn’t come close to the creativity of the Tahiti skateboarder who made me laugh harder than I have in a long long time.
I tend to pride myself on being a little bit outside of the box. My brain just never seems to work in the way other people’s brains do. I’m okay with this. I like being different. I know being different sometimes means I can irk people. I’m okay with this too. So perhaps this is why I tend to appreciate other people who are different. But more than being different, I love people with ingenuity and creativity. I especially love these traits in fearless young kids. Perhaps because I was this way once.
About the age of eleven, my friend Anthony and I found a moped frame with the engine still attached. It was dumped on Kesgrave heath, home of Foxhall Stadium. For my non-British readers, a heath is an area of open uncultivated land, typically with characteristic vegetation of heather, gorse bushes, and coarse grasses. Kesgrave’s heath is much smaller now than it was in my childhood days due to development. It once ran from Bell Lane all the way to the A1189 along Foxhall Road. The heath at the end of our street was huge. We spent most of our childhood years roaming about the heath. We knew this land like the backs of our hands. And, we just happened to know where someone else had dumped some wheels.
As luck would have it, the wheels were still where we thought they were. And better still, they looked like they would fit the moped frame. Karma was with us, the wheels also had the badly worn tires. We each carried a wheel to the moped frame. Yep! They would work.
I need you to understand something here. This was not a newly discarded motor-bike. It was rusty and stripped of most items needed to make it work, such as the wheels. It was pure junk. But for us, it was a summer project. We planned to ride this thing – one day. This is the way I thought then and still do today, how hard can it be to fix it up?
Another thing I should tell you, I lived in a very poor neighborhood in government-provided housing. Having pocket money was rare. To take on a project of fixing a moped was going to take money or ingenuity. I only had one of these.
As part of our council flat, we were assigned a shed in a separate outbuilding. Ours was full as my sister and I keep our bicycles in it. Anthony’s was empty. He didn’t own a bike. As I said, it was a very poor neighborhood. His mom never used their shed or went inside it. It became the perfect place to stash our newly found treasure.
We started with the tires. Doing some odd-jobs we scraped enough money together for new inner-tubes. We searched trash for cola bottles and returned them for the deposit. When we couldn’t find bottles in the trash, we stole some empties from one pub and returned them to another pub. I never said we were angels. Every penny helped. From other wheels we found, we gathered spokes. We figured a few missing here and there didn’t matter. Using the spokes we could true-up the wheels and take the wobble out. We repaired the chain. We took apart the engine. No, we didn’t know how to fix it. So, we put it back together. It looked good to us, but then again, what did we know? We did all of this with a single pair of pliers and a broken screwdriver often sitting in the small shed while it rained outside.
The engine needed oil. We found oil dumped in a container on the heath. One day when roaming about we found a saddle. Then, we found an engine with the spark plugs still in it. Do you see how this unfolds? I make it sound like the heath was full of junked items. It wasn’t. Even in the pre-ecofriendly days, Brits were pretty good about not dumping stuff. But luckily for us, there were a few who did.
We eventually got to the point where we needed just two more items: A throttle cable and fuel. The truth is we also need brakes but in all honestly, we figured we’d worry about those once we were riding our moped. Brakes are not essential to the actual running of the moped. Putting our coins together, we went to our local store. We bought the cheapest throttle cable we could find not knowing if it would fit from the Battle Brothers shop. It did fit with a little tweaking using the pliers. I should now take this time to publically apologize to Mr. Micklethwaite for siphoning fuel from his car. At the time, his daughter Caroline was my girlfriend so I just assumed he wouldn’t mind. Sorry, Mr. Micklethwaite.
The day arrived when we were ready to ride. I’m not sure who tried to start the moped first. Whoever it was peddled like crazy pulling on the throttle cable to send fuel to the engine if you could call it an engine. Our throttle cable was not attached to a twist-grip on the handlebar. We were missing that part. Gas was sent to the engine using our pliers to pull the cable. If you are unfamiliar with mopeds, they are like heavy-duty bicycles with an engine. They are started by peddling like a bicycle, when enough speed is gained the engine sputters to life and takes over. Our engine sputtered a lot but never took over. Until, it did.
We both jumped on. I was driving. The saddle lacked any padding and the underside support was sticking me in the you-know-where. Anthony was on the luggage rack above the rear wheel. As we bounce along the dirt paths of the heath, I’m not sure who was in more pain. But, it didn’t matter. We were both in a state of shock that the darn thing actually ran and were having the time of our lives.
It seemed like we were going really fast. The was no speedometer. In all honesty, the next few moments are still blurry. Here’s why. We had what I call today and “uh oh” moment. Our throttle cable was stuck. And, it was stuck with us bombing along a narrow path between huge trees. I yell at Anthony. I had to yell because we had no muffler, “It’s stuck! What do ya think”. He didn’t hesitate, “Just keep going”. Obviously my will to live another day was greater than his.
We thought we’d ride until we ran out of gas. Do you know how many miles per gallon a moped gets? We didn’t either. Do you remember me telling you earlier how we didn’t concern ourselves with brakes? In hindsight, this was starting to look like a big mistake. The path between the trees became narrower. We couldn’t slow down. It seems like the ride was never going to end. I remember contemplating a controlled bailout. But, the reality was that was going to hurt – a lot. This is when the tree jumped out in front of us.
This was the first time in my life I was completely knocked out. I don’t recall us hitting a tree head-on. If we had, I’d probably not be here today. We didn’t have helmets. Putting the pieces together, I think we brushed a tree, went airborne, and landed a few yards from the moped which, by the way, had now stopped running. I opened my eyes. Seeing the trees spinning among the stars floating about my head seemed to confirm I wasn’t dead. I sat up. No blood. Nothing broken. Amazing! I crawl to Anthony. He’s still out cold. I shake him and he opens his eyes. He actually wakes up laughing. I swear I am not making this next part up. His first words with a huge grin, “It’s my turn to drive”. Anthony did drive back. We had only one speed: wide-open.
I don’t remember what happened to our moped. I can’t remember ever riding it again. Keep in mind, I took a serious blow to the head. I’m surprised I remember anything at all from that particular year. I had completely forgotten about this story until looking at the promenade where I saw the kid on a skateboard who made me laugh harder than I have in a long long time.
The skateboard kid was about chest high – I’m guessing 11 or 12 years old. The same age as Anthony and me on our moped adventure. The skateboard kid had a dog. The dog, on a long leash, was being used as the sole source of propulsion. But here is where it gets good. How do you go faster? How do you get the flux capacitor to kick in? Is it possible to achieve warp-speed on a skateboard? It is if you throw a ball in front of the dog.
The skateboard kid rocketed by the boat. I was admiring his ingenuity and creativity when the inevitable happened. The ball took a bad bounce and went into the grass. I could see it coming. I have never ridden a skateboard and don’t claim to have any expertise on the subject. But I do know they don’t travel well over grass. The kid wiped out. It was a spectacular wipeout. Oh crap! Does he need help? Oh good, he’s moving. That’s a good sign.
In a minute or two, the kid is back up on his feet. I think the licks on the face from the dog were encouragement. It wasn’t long before he was moving again being pulled by his dog at the peril of other pedestrians. He disappeared from my view. I went back to reading my book.
About 15 minutes later, the skateboard kid appears again. He’s coming back from the other way. He has seriously perfected the throwing of the ball and is now moving at an incredible pace as terrified pedestrians scatter in all directions. The dog is loving life. The tail is going nuts. Inside myself, I cheer the kid on. I love this kid. He reminds me of me.