So my adventures in Auckland, New Zealand had come to an end. I was sitting in the airport waiting to fly out to Tahiti. I was once again flying air New Zealand but this time I had the pleasure of flying on the hobbit plane haha. I also got bumped up into the economy plus section of the plane which was a nice addition but was only for a roughly 5 hour flight. The plane boarded and I was joined by some New Zealand and Australian badminton players who were also going to Tahiti for the tournament which was nice.
The plane boarded and we were on our way, off to tropical paradise as I was thinking about it. Sun, warmth, crystal clear water oh boy was I ever looking forward to this trip and the tournament as well. The plane got closer and closer to Tahiti and then like a scene out of a movie the tropical island appeared quite literally out of the blue. It was light out and I was able to see the tropical paradise, the water was light blue thanks to the reefs that surrounded the island. It was a gonna be a great trip.
|Air New Zealand and the Hobbit Airplane|
Upon landing the heat hit and oh boy was it hot. Thankfully I wore some Capri's. Made my way through immigration which wasn't to bad but we (all the athletes) got a little snagged up there. Got the bags and proceeded out. The tournament organizers greeted us with open arms and a lay of flowers. We waited for everyone who came for the tournament to come out and took a group picture which was a really nice addition.
|I got Laid|
|All of us came on the same flight, Australia, New Zealand, England, and yours truly Trinidad and Tobago|
For the 1st night I stayed in a super fancy 5 star hotel/resort because I needed reliable internet and all to submit a final, write a final, and be available via Skype to do a group presentation back in Calgary for a class that I was in. Needless to say all of those went smashing, everyone viewing the presentation probably hated me due to the backdrop that I choose (overlooking the blue waters). After that though I moved to the university residence because well let's be honest it was way way cheaper and I wasn't gonna be spending much time in the hotel anyways. I ended up sharing the room with a great guy from India, Aditya, we hit it off and were friends instantly pretty much but he didn't come till a day later so I had the room to myself for 1 and a half days.
The day That I moved to the university residence I was able to go up to the tournament hall and have a hit with the new Zealand and England players who were there. Tracy Hellmann was among them who use to be a top ranking player back in the day, she was playing the tournament. It was hot there took a little getting use to the venue, they didn't have any court mats set up yet as the tournament wasn't to start for another 3 days. The locals were super friendly and incredibly welcoming. After practicing one gentleman took me out to get Chinese food with him and his son. It was great food and hit the spot after 2 hours of practice in the heat.
The following day saw our little excursion. The tournament had organized for the players (those who wanted to) to take a boat trip to an island. We left early in the morning around 6am when the sun was just coming up on a catamaran towards Tetiaroa which was about a 3 hour sail away. On the way it was amazing watching the sun rise from the boat and seeing dolphins swimming through the water. Its at that moment everything hit me im on a boat x amount of miles from home in the middle of the ocean sailing to an island in tropical paradise. At that moment I had the weirdest sense of accomplishment and tranquility I could think of. I slept for a bit of the boat ride and got splashed with waves most of the way haha but it was nice to work on the tan and relax for a change. I made friends with the other badminton players who were on the trip there was a player from France, the Australians, and New Zealanders as well as a few just tourists that booked the excursion for the day. As we got closer to the 3 hour sailing time the island started to appear but this time the view wasn't from the air it was sea level. As we got closer the outline of the reef started to show and tropical paradise appeared. The surrealness of the events had hit me fully at this point. I was enjoying myself like I never had before while on tour, I was actually relaxing.
|I'm on a boat|
|Lots of dolphins in the water|
Upon getting to the reef we had to take the dingy (small inflated boat) to get to the island and that involved some maneuvering and jumping of the reef. There was lots of screaming from the girls to say the least :P upon making landfall we set up the base camp where we would come back to for lunch. The tour was run by a lovely couple and the husband stayed behind on the beach to prepare our meal when we returned from exploring. Taking what we needed we set of on a track around the island. It was breathtakingly beautiful, the crystal clear water, sun and both flora and fona. There were some storm clouds in the distance as it looked like a storm would approach soon but that didn't stop us.
The walk started and everything was picture perfect. Hard to believe a place so beautiful laid uninhabited in the middle of the ocean. We walked then stopped and took a dip in the ocean, the water was warm despite the impending rainstorm that was coming. Only it held out and didn't hit quite as yet, the sky brightened up again and we were on our way. Another stop but this time it was to observe the locals of the island, this island was sanctuary for dozens of species of birds. After that stop the next one was for another sea bath and it was great. Continuing on the rain finally found us and unleashed its furry, the tide rose and the path that we walked across between two of the islands was now underwater so we had to do a little swimming to make it back over to where we started. making it back to base camp the rain subsided and we were greeted with the pleasant aroma of lunch. After spending the time eating we were allowed to go and explore the island (only the beach, we were not allowed to venture into the interior) for a few hours before setting sail back to Tahiti. There were lots of fish in the reef as well as crabs of all species to be amused by. With the sun setting the journey back was accompanied by a long nap on the boat which made the trip back seem substantially shorter. Upon reaching Tahiti the sun had just set and it was getting dark, I got a ride back to the university residence and grabbed some dinner.
|Paradise and clear blue water|
|Tons of fish, they would come eat bread right out of your hand|
|This shy little guy|
One of the amazing aspects was that night I ventured out to the main building searching for some food. And in the night sky an arm of the milky way was visible, the sheer amount of stars that could be seen was amazing. An attempt to take a long exposure photograph yielded some of the stars but there was about 5-10 times more visible. It was a beautiful sight and I stood out there probably for around 15-20 minutes just basking in its glory.
|Picture doesn't do justice, easily hundreds more stars visible|
The next day saw the arrival of my room mate and was the day before the tournament was to start. We went and had a hit at the tournament facility with the court mats all laid out. There were 3 tournament hotels which had a shuttle provided between all of them to the tournament hall and back. Turns out that shuttle was a rickety old bus that looked as if it would fall apart at any minute. That being said it got us from A to B countless times with all the hills and turns in between. There was an opening ceremony that happened and that was an elaborate opening there was dancers who did the native dance of Tahiti. I recorded it with my phone but my phone met an untimely end that trip when it hit the floor and the screen shattered. I was unable to unlock my phone and upload or transfer pictures/video so that was what really made me mad about it. I should have taken my actual camera to record the dance =/ oh well live and learn I still have the memory of it. We got a gift bag and were each brought out with an introduction of name and country, I got to dance with the Tahiti girls who were ushering us in and it was fun.
|All the Athletes lined up at opening ceremonies|
The tournament started and it was a round of 32 size international challenge. I played a local Tahiti player first round he was one of the top players down there. The 1st game wasn't to bad but then come the 2nd a draft had occurred in the arena and messed me up a little bit. None the less I won 21-16, 23-21. I had made it to the 2nd round and was about to play the 1st seed Kevin cordon of Guatemala but something had happened and he had been injured (blew out his knee) the week before at the Peru international so he withdrew from the tournament. Instead I played a player from the USA; Ryan Chew. The match went fairly smoothly and I won 21-11, 21-10. I had made it to the quarterfinals of an international tournament this was huge for me as nothing like that has every happened before. Let alone at a tournament graded as an international challenge. That meant that I would get a ton of world ranking points, 2200 to be exact, and also won some money. This also meant that I had to change all my flights cause I hadn't anticipated reaching that far, that caused some trouble but in the end got it all done with as few problems as possible.
|Tournament Hall, 4 courts and was nice to play in|
I had to play my quarterfinal match the following morning against a player from France named Matthieu Lo Ying Ping who was 3rd seed. He was a left hander and was one tough player to play. The first game saw mw struggling hard to figure things out but the 2nd game I was able to figure out how to play him and caused him some trouble. In the end though he beat me fairly handily 2-21, 12-21. So my tournament had come to and end but I was super happy with how things went. I still had a day and a half left there so I was able to watch the semifinals and the finals the following day before heading off to the airport. I was ecstatic for reaching so far in the tournament it was an amazing result for me and at the same time motivated me to keep pushing hard. Seeing results was a nice confidence booster, little did I know this would happen more through the year.
Tahiti International Challenge Men's Singles Draw
Tahiti International Challenge Men's Singles Draw
One of the funny and first's ever happened to me at the Tahiti international. There was tons of kids and adults watching and I had never signed an autograph before in my life until that day. I signed so many kids would just swarm me (and other players) after our matches. Took pictures with fans both young and old. During my matches players had whole sections of the bleachers cheering for them while the other side was cheering for the opposition.
|These Tahitian girls followed me around the entire tournament, they were nice to talk to|
It was a great environment and a fantastic tournament to play, I am truly grateful that went out to play in both the tournaments. Made new friends, saw new countries and experienced some wonderful achievements. Alas my time in Tahiti had come to an end and I had to leave the tropical paradise. I got to watch the finals and then right after that headed off to the airport with the Australian national team to make my way back to New Zealand where I would catch my flight back to Canada the following day. I was sad to go but so happy at the same time, I had been away from home for almost 2 and a half weeks, not to mention missing that same amount of time from school. The journey was coming to an end just a few more flights to take and I arrived back home to Calgary. No matter how many times I leave and where I go, Calgary will always be my home.
|Aditya, Me, and Teshana|
|Getting ready to leave|
|Bye Bye Tahiti, until next time|