We live in Christchurch, New Zealand, and are thinking about a cycling trip on one of the many Pacific Islands for between 1 and 3 weeks this winter.
There are so many islands I don't know where to start looking: Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Tonga, Niue... Has anyone done any cycle touring on one of them?
What would you recommend?
Many thanks x
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My experience living/traveling in the Pacific is from 1988 to 1993. We used our bicycles as our daily transportation and went on many bicycle adventures. Fiji was wonderful for bicycling. Good friends Austin and Kim Bowden-Kerby have an sustainable permaculture farm near Sigatoka that welcomes guests. My main suggestion is that if you are invited to stay with a local family be sure to do so in culturally sensitive ways - they will probably want you to stay in their home with them and not sleep outside in your tent because having you sleep outside is seen as very inhospitable. Be sure to repay any hospitality with gifts - cases of canned goods, big bags of rice and other non-perishable food is very welcome. Most people don't have cameras (although maybe this has changed with smart phones). Make copies of photos and get them back to people you meet (perhaps the internet is much more accessible now and so perhaps you can share digitally). Be willing to leave your bicycle behind and go to visit small outer islands on foot. Pay attention to dress codes (shirts for men and a skirt for women). Throughout the Pacific bare thighs are considered to be naked (just as going topless is in the western world) so don't wear short-shorts or bikinis (even at the beach). Long loose shorts/skirts will help people feel comfortable with interacting with you. Do as much reading as you can about the islands you will be visiting. Learn the words and gestures for greetings, thank you, yes/no in the local languages (hundreds of local languages). Have a wonderful trip.
If you are thinking of camping while cycling in Pacific Islands be very careful to always ask permission. The reality that most travellers don't know is that every inch of every part of the Pacific is privately owned by very caring land-owners with invisible no trespassing signs everywhere. When you arrive in a community, ask at the post office or local store about where to camp and then ask who to get permission from and ask how to find that person. Then go to that land owner and respectfully ask permission. We learned to ask permission to go on any trails or beaches or waterfalls or anything. The main outcome was that we had many wonderful adventures with many local people who were so happy we had asked permission first. The other outcome is that the ancestors who are all around everyone always caring for the land did not get angry at us or cause us to have any mishaps. We were taught these lessons in asking permission by Kardas Nena daughter of a royal family in one of the municipalities in Pohnpei. She was our next door neighbour and self-appointed culture teacher during our year living in Pohnpei. We followed her advice everywhere we travelled in the South Pacific and were very glad that we had done so.
Another tip is that all Pacific Islands are gift-giving cultures based on generosity rather than competition. Be generous with your smiles, stories, your time, your listening to others stories, your respect for local ways, your offers to help, and material gifts. Appreciate everyone's smiles, time, help, stories as the precious gifts they are. Be sure to repay hospitality.
Have a wonderful bicycle trip.