The Dead Streets of Oaxaca

Kongo took the redeye to Oaxaca City (pronounced wa-HAH-ka) last night to this beautiful southwestern part of Mexico after connecting through Mexico City.  He arrived about 8 in the morning and since his hotel room wasn’t going to be ready until about 2 PM, it didn’t matter that the monkey had pulled an all-nighter getting here, he was off to check things out.  After all, you can sleep when you’re dead — and that’s the point of Oaxaca this week.  It’s Day of the Dead time! Kongo is here to join a week-long photography workshop led by National Geographic photographer…

Cruise Review: Paul Gauguin

Kongo went on an 11-night Paul Gauguin all-inclusive cruise to the Cook & Society Islands from October 7-18.  This is a review of that cruise.  If you’re considering a cruise in French Polynesia I hope you read on.   Itinerary Kongo did a two-day add on at the beginning of the trip and flew out to Papeete early.  Part of the tour package includes airfare from LAX to Tahiti aboard Air Tahiti Nui, a direct flight that takes about 8 hours.  The first two nights were at the Intercontinental Resort in Papeete and we boarded the ship on the third…

More Moorea Please!

After a two-day sail from the Cook Islands, the Paul Gauguin arrived in Opunohu Bay at the ruggedly beautiful island of Moorea in French Polynesia.  The iconic peak, Bali Hai, dominates the mountainous landscape of the island’s interior and inviting, crystal clear waters in the lagoon provide splendid swimming and snorkeling opportunities. Actually no Polynesian ever named this mountain Bali Hai.  James Mitchener made it up when he wrote Tales of the South Pacific after he was stationed in the New Hebrides Islands during World War II.  The song, Bali Hai, from the Rogers and Hammerstein 1949 musical South Pacific was a…

Cook Islands

About 300 miles south of Bora Bora lies Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands.  The Paul Gauguin spent a day and a night at sea getting here.  Kongo loved it. A day at sea with rocking and rolling and endless horizons brought back many fond memories of the monkey’s seagoing days in the Navy.  This time he didn’t have to worry about contact reports, engineering status, how much fresh water was available, or fuel states.  He just had to worry about whether or not to have a Pina Colada or a vodka martini.  There were storm clouds on the…

Bora Bora

Bora Bora.  This iconic South Pacific island has always called to Kongo.  He wanted to come here to see the mountains and beaches and crystal-clear waters.  He got his wish on a two-day stopover at this little jewel surrounded by a formidable barrier reef that only has a single passage into the lagoon. As we motored ashore, boys in modern outrigger canoes paddled furiously to catch the wake of the tender boat and surf along with us on the short trip ashore. Like all the other Society (Sometimes called Leeward) Islands, Bora Bora is the sunken cone of an extinct…

Taha’a

Taha’a in the Society Islands of French Polynesia is tucked inside a large barrier reef.  Known as the “Vanilla Island” the 4,500 odd inhabitants make their living fishing, raising livestock, and yup, making vanilla.  This little place epitomizes life in the slow lane.  The very slow lane.  The whole island is like a set for one of those Corona beer commercials. Kongo spent his time here visiting another vanilla plantation, checking out a pearl farm, and cavorting on a private motu (little island) owned by Paul Gauguin cruises where he snorkeled, ate, drank, and laid in the sun.  Slow lane…

Huahine

After sailing from Papeete at midnight (the monkey was sound asleep at this point) Kongo’s ship arrived early in the morning at the island of Huahine.  Huahine is about 150 miles northwest of Tahiti and part of the Society Islands. This little island is an important part of Tahitian culture and has a rich collection of archeological sites that include ancient temples.  Kongo didn’t see any of these.  Instead he took off in the back of a pickup truck (they call this a 4X4 excursion) to see plant life and other interesting sites.  As Kongo gives garden tours at the…