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French Polynesia Is Cycling Paradise
By Theresa Russell
Cruise on ship leads to pleasant cruising via bicycle on an island paradise for tour operator/cycling writer (who co-authored recently-published Anacus Press book, Bed, Breakfast & Bike Midwest).
Dreaming of riding your bike on the road instead of on the trainer? Tired of looking at the snow and bundling up to survive the cold? Maybe you should consider a cruise of French Polynesia. I did the exact thing this past summer aboard the R4, the Renaissance Cruises ship that plies the warm, azure waters of French Polynesia. Had I done my advance research more thoroughly, I would have planned the entire 10 days as a bike vacation. I did get some cycling in, but not as much as I would have liked. I came to realize that the cruise in combination with cycling makes an ideal and reasonably-priced vacation.
What I enjoyed about the R4 was the fact that it was a non-smoking cruise, with no assigned meal times or partners. These two amenities prompted me to give this particular cruise a try and I was pleasantly surprised with the experience. Think of the ship as your docked, all-inclusive hotel; and you have the ideal base for your bicycle exploration.
The ship visits several of the islands of French Polynesia, all distinctly different with their own charms. The ship boards in Papeete, the largest city in Tahiti, which is also the largest and most populated of French Polynesia. Because the roads are congested and the road around the island is 70 plus miles, this is the one island I wouldn't recommend touring, unless of course the distance and congestion dont bother you.
Moorea, where the mythical Bali Hai dominates the landscape, shrouds itself in a dense tropical canopy. A road of about 40 miles circumnavigates this natural, lush paradise. The road is mostly flat as the mountains form the center of the island.
The garden island, Huahine, seems more like a typical residential island community. Lagoons, vanilla farms, and coconut trees adorn this laid back island. Many of the roads are unpaved, but easily cycled. A tour around this small island amounts to about 20 miles.
Ranking second in size after Tahiti, Raiatea, with its mostly flat terrain and absence of traffic congestion makes this an ideal cycling island. This is the island where the first Polynesian peoples set sail to discover the world. On my cycling excursion on this island, I became intrigued by the land crabs that scurried about as I rode by. This required several stops for further observation and photos as did the pretty cottages, gorgeous flowers and inviting motus.
Neighboring Tahaa, a short ferry ride across from Raiatea, receives few tourists. Its forty-or-so miles of roads will definitely be on my list on my next visit. Renaissance Cruises plans on adding a port stop here in the future.
Bora Bora may be the best known of the Islands. The real draw of this island is the amazing ocean vistas. Stealing a catch phrase that describes Ireland, the ocean here is a thousand shades of blue. The circumference around this small island is about 17 miles.
Bicycles are available for rent on all the islands. Bring along a handlebar bag or one of the easily attached racks and a rack trunk for you camera and water. The bicycles are adequate for the ride, but dont expect fancy bikes.
Be sure to rent the bikes early the morning you plan to ride or the night before, as these are a very popular item. And should you own a foldable bicycle, take it with you.
I cannot think of a more economical way to enjoy the islands than from the seat of the bike. Renaissance Cruises often has two-for-one specials so you can take a friend or two along.
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