Saturday was the last full day of the official trip.  Some of the other guests invited us along on a 4×4 tour of the island and we decided to join them.  We took a water taxi over to the main island and got onto a land rover with open sides.  There is only one road on the island, circling the perimeter set in just a bit from the coast.  There was no speaker system in the vehicle and being by the back gate meant that I couldn’t really hear our guide very well, so I contented myself to sit back and enjoy the sights.  Most of the structures along the road are modest native island houses with the occasional restaurant and shop.  There are lots of people along the road selling fruit and other goods from tables.  Our guide tells us that people selling goods in this way are not taxed, only those with retail store fronts have to pay taxes.

Eventually we turn off the main road and go up a very steep hill to where the communications tower for the island is.  This hilltop view is nice because you can actually see in two directions.  The center of the island is oppressively hot without the water nearby to cool things down.  We work our way back down to the road, speckled with wild dogs and chickens, and find our way to another impossibly steep road.  This time the road ends at the site of an American WWII canon.  It is rusted from years of neglect, but you can still read the Bethlehem Steel imprint as well as other markings.  There was also an empty, rusting bunker adjacent to it that doesn’t protect anything but spiders anymore.  Down and up again to the last mountain stop, a man made plateau that is the future site of a home for the native family that owns the land.  We spend quite a bit of time here taking in the view, and asking our guide a great deal of questions about agriculture, road building, school systems, health care and lots of other social issues.  I wonder if these are the kinds of questions she is used to.

We also stopped at a residence that has a more permanent shop set up in their front yard.  She tells us we can get better prices elsewhere, but that we can see how dye and pattern techniques are done.  We watch a woman dye some fabric and lay it out to dry on a table, and then cover it with linoleum cut-outs of fish, palm trees and the words “Bora Bora”.

Our guide drops us off in Vaitape, largest town on the island and home of the pier where we will meet our water taxi later.  We have a nice lunch at a restaurant just a couple of blocks down, mai tai’s for the ladies, beer for the guys and a tahitian vanilla milkshake for me.  After lunch we have some time to do some shopping, but there isn’t much to see.  There isn’t a lot of variety from shop to shop, and the prices are pretty consistent, but we manage to pick up a few gifts for people back home and grab some food to keep in our bungalow (a baguette and a tube of cookies with a cartoon prince on them).

When we have exhausted our shopping options, we sit in the covered waiting area on the pier to wait for the water taxi.  The pier appears to be a hangout for teenagers, and we watch them do backflips and acrobatics into the water.  Eventually another couple from our tour rejoins us and the wife decides to jump in.  The teenagers cheer her on and help her out.  There was no ladder, just a high gauge rusty chain dangling from the fenders for large ships.  I am thinking about how nice the water looks but I don’t know if I want to get me street clothes wet, but when Amy asks me why i’m not jumping in I decide to go.  I can’t do flips like the teenagers, so I settle for a running start and a high jump with some spin action.  The resulting picture is actually pretty funny.  I manage to climb out on my own, but the cement of the pier doesn’t go down as deep as it looks, so when I place my foot against the wall to brace myself, it slips and I cut my leg on the rough corner.  Nothing serious, just another little souvenir from the excursion.

After we get back we decide to visit the hospitality villa for some free cold drinks on our way back to our bungalow to take a nap.  When we get there, they are setting up for a happy hour event, and the pool is shaded from the late afternoon sun, so we decide to hang out there instead.  While visiting and relaxing there someone calls from the private beach that there is an octopus.  We want to see it, but are certain by the time we walk over it will be gone.  Eventually Amy goes to look anyway, and then calls me down.  The octopus is slowly moving down the beach right where the water meets the sand.  Amy takes some pictures and then I take the camera and take a nice long video, watching it change colors and textures as it crawls across the sand, rocks and Amy’s feet.

We missed the window for our nap, so we went back to the bungalow to get ready for the Black Pearl Gala.  We are instructed to wear all black for this final and most formal of evenings with the group.  We don our badges and head down to the beach where we had the tiki party the first night.  There is live music with beautiful colored lights that cover the sand and trees and a single giant table stretching down the beach for all 70 or so guests.   We are seated for dinner and have another great meal by candlelight on the beach.

Abruptly from the dark  two barely clothed native men emerge to walk around the table.  They take position on the beach near the water and scream out, asking for fire.  The guest on my left has a lighter, and the man comes and takes it, then targets Amy and pulls her up onto the beach with him.  She awkwardly lights the mans fuel soaked batons and comes back to her seat and then the fire dance begins.  Eventually the flames go out and they make Amy light them again.  The show was pretty entertaining.  Afterwards the CEO makes a speech, thanking everyone for their hard work, and asking for more to come.  Dinner winds down and a DJ starts up, but we end up turning in around 10pm due to exhaustion.  It’s OK though, we still have more time.