Polynesian island TSA

Fakarava, Tuamotu, French Polynesia

(…cont from previous post)

4) The pearl farm.  This is the big business of the Tuamotu islands.  Most of the “Tahitian pearls” people buy the world over are actually from the Tuamotu.  You expect, with the price of pearls and all, for it to be some big production.  Vaulted ceilings, caviar, some champagne perhaps?  Classical music on the sound system?  Heck, air conditioning?  Nope.  A shack, 4 guys, couple of planks of wood, some oysters and hell’s dentist’s office.  To be fair, what the industry lacks ostentation, it make up for in patience:

If you’re a pearl fan at all (or at least have an appreciation for the fact that pearl necklaces are not cheap), check this out:

They leave bags of this stuff lying around.  Open plastic bags chock full of Tahitian black pearls casually placed, completely unprotected, near open windows without even a screen to keep bugs out, much less people.  Crime is not a huge concern here.  With a population of about 1500 people it’s not like you don’t know you’re neighbor.

Oh wait, you say, perhaps a tourist could steal the pearls and sneak off the island?  Not likely, as the only means of escape are rather…limited…in scope:

5) The airport

This airport has 1 flight per day, normally.  Saturdays are the big day with a total of 2 flights.  Most of the time the airfield is completely abandoned and totally wide open.  You can just wander on in, no restricted areas here.  At about an hour before the flight is supposed to arrive, a fire truck rolls in, soon followed by an unguarded fuel truck, ticketing agent and 2 baggage handlers.  That’s it.  No cops, no TSA, no security check points, no body scanners.  Heck, no boarding areas.  The gate agent?  After the ticketing agent finishes selling tickets, they become the gate agent.  Well, they become the stairway agent actually, because why would you need a gate for the one plane landing here today?  There are some cops on the island (Gendarme, kinda like French colonial police) but they don’t show up for the flights.  People get on, people get off.  The plane grabs some gas and off it goes.  The fire and gas trucks leave, soon followed by the airport’s massive 3 staff people.    I think sometimes an extra car shows up to act like a taxi and sometimes the hotel will send a shuttle.  Whole process takes about 2 hours.  It’s all very anti-climatic.

We should point out that this island is the second largest in the entire 78 island Tuamotu chain.  The second largest.    Which is weirder, the nonchalant manner in which this airport operates or our American reaction to it?

6) And finally, let’s not forget the aforementioned bar:

You sailed from Mexico to French Polynesia for a margarita?  You came all this way, on a boat, powered by wind, at about 7 MPH average speed, for at this point about 2 months of travelling, all this way to pay $15 for drink you could have gotten for 5 pesos back about 3,000+ miles ago?  Really?

Cripes at least buy a Mai Tai or something…

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