Tuesday 14th August - Raiatea

Jon & Carol Dutton
Mon 20 Aug 2012 09:01

16:43.69S 151:28.72W

Tuesday 14th August – Raiatea

As ever, Moorea was one of those places that we wished we could have stayed longer in but Bora Bora called and so on the evening of Saturday, 11th August we weighed anchor and set off for Raiatea about 100 miles north west  of Moorea.  An overnight passage was needed to allow for departure and arrival in daylight.  The wind was slightly forward of the beam but seas were very kind to us and it was a thoroughly pleasant passage and not a hardship to take turns on watch with such a magical night sky above.  Carol even managed to prepare a stir fry (chicken, pak choi, fresh ginger, soy sauce) from scratch on passage without anything ending up on the galley floor!

We entered the lagoon surrounding Raiatea through the straightforward Teavapitit pass not far from the main town of Utoroa.  We chose not to anchor or moor near the town but to go on past the small airfield to moor at Marina Apooiti.  This was where the highly recommended sail maker was based and we had a few repair jobs, including replacing Percy’s patch which Carol had applied on the passage between the Galapagos and the Marquesas.  She received a “lecture” from Regine on not using the correct size thread (we only have one size on board) but on being asked if we could buy some thinner thread Regine declined as it was far too expensive at about $250 a reel and she didn’t have any spare to sell us anyway!  The guys at the Moorings Charter office in the marina were very helpful in directing us to the local services and supermarket.  Transport is something of an issue here.  There are no buses and taxis cost a small mortgage to hire.  Most people appear to get about by hitching lifts – although we didn’t need to in the end – and everyone appears to accept that if you are driving and have space you pick up anyone in need. 

James and Mira managed to squeeze in a couple of dives in the Teavapiti pass where they were surrounded by eagle rays and a few sharks as well as some bizarre looking fish.


                                                                        Scene from Star Trek?  A squadron of eagle rays


                                                                                            Starry Puffer


                                                                                            Titan Triggerfish

It was Carols’ turn to drive on our circumnavigation of the island which be proved to be far more twisty than Tahiti as there are so many inlets but with beautiful views of motus on the outer reef.  On the other hand the main town, Utoroa, is almost entirely charmless.  It works, more or less, in that it has a few shops, banks and cash machines but that’s about it.


                                                                            Lagoon surrounding Raiatea

The highlight of the drive was a visit to the marea (meeting place) at Taputaputea in a beautiful, tranquil setting overlooking the lagoon.  Hundreds of stones are laid in a several squares with the equivalent of an altar at one end.  Apparently someone would sit on each stone – it must have been a tight squeeze, though the VIPs had stone back rests to lean on.  As well as being a meeting place where the chiefs would dispense wisdom and justice, human and other sacrifices were made here rather before the missionaries arrived.  So, whilst the birth of a son to the Chief (or the arrival of the due date for his circumcision or a couple of dozen other notable events) might have been good news for many, it was going to be rather less of a good day for someone.  It is sometimes said that Raiatea has a different feel from most of the other islands – but shares this feel somewhat with Bora Bora.  Ancient Polynesian history placed Raiatea at the centre of Polynesian culture and spirituality and it is from here that migrations to other Pacific islands and places as far south as  New Zealand apparently started and back to here to which those settlements referred until about the time of Captain Cook’s arrival in 1769.  Subsequently it fell under the jurisdiction of Bora Bora.  It wasn’t until the last decade of the 19th century that these islands and their satellites, Huahine and Tahaa, submitted to French rule after rebellion had been eventually quashed by overwhelming naval threat.  Whatever, there is a different feel.  The locals are not unfriendly – they just aren’t particularly bothered one way or the other.


                                                                The main marae at Taputaputea

On return from the island circumnavigation by road James and Mira tried to find a track suitable for an ordinary car up in the mountains but nothing was suitable and nor were there any obvious walking paths – Lonely Planet was right when it advised on hiring a guide.  Nor were we able to find the rare Tiare Apatahi flower which grows only in the hills in Raiatea – no-one has succeeded in growing it anywhere else in the world.

The next day, to make up for the lack of trekking in the hills, James and Mira went diving and on return decided to try a bit of halyard swinging.  Tom Daley has no need to worry about competition at the next Olympics!  It has to be reported that marks for technical excellence and style were moderate and James strained the shoulder he’d dislocated just before flying out to join the boat whilst sky-diving in an air tunnel.  As you can imagine, dear reader, the skipper oozed sympathy. 


                                                                James “Eros” Raley going for the Technical Merit points


                                                                Whilst Mira concentrates on the Style points

On Tuesday 14th after Carol made a quick dash ashore in the dinghy for fresh croissants for breakfast, we set off for a circumnavigation of Tahaa, Raiatea’s sister island enclosed by the same reef.  It is one of the few islands where this can be achieved by boat, certainly one with Arnamentia’s draught.  If we had gone ashore we could have picked vanilla pods as this is the main source of income after tourism.  We popped out of the Paipai pass on the western side of the reef to head off to Bora Bora, clearly visible about 20 miles away.