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Date: 19 Jul 2015 00:53:43
Title: Raitea

Dear Family and Friends,

I have this feeling of dejavu, I could have sworn I had written an entry for Raiatea but I cant find it anywhere. So if this is a second one please overlook it!

Monday 13th July

We arrived in Raiatea on Sunday 12th July, anchoring in the deep inlet of Faaroa. With good holding at the end of the bay, we had a peaceful night and a cockpit breakfast surrounded by beautiful scenery. With French Polynesia’s only navigable river in this bay, of course we had to go up river in our dingy, joining a veritable armada of small craft and surfers making their way up river in the early morning light. We have seen local river life, everyone has a canoe (GRP, they have moved with the times!), collecting coconuts, growing plantations of bananas and papaya, and at the limit of dingy navigation, more blue eels. You would think we would tire of water but no strangely going up river felt a little like ‘Swallows and Amazons’.

Moving southwards along the eastern coast, we anchored in the bay of Hotopuu, dingying back to the bay of Opoa and the Marea Tapuatapuatea. This is the father of all archaeological sites from which all the marea and tiki sites evolved over the following thousand years of Polynesian culture. It was the centre of political and religious life, following the cult of Oro, the meeting place of cultural representatives, its influence spreading out through the islands to Hawaii and New Zealand, forming the Polynesian Triangle. It is an impressively large site, arranged on the shore. The stone platforms are all that survive today, their erect coral slabs weathered and blackened, facing the sea and Moana, the resting place of their ancestors spirits. Several ‘houses’ are evident, formerly roofed stone platforms for their gods, canoes, meetings, priests and leaders.

The wind of change began to blow with the arrival of the first Europeans in the late 18th C, gathering pace with the missionaries in the early 19th C. Encouraged by the missionaries moral codes, the women were encased in modest long cotton gowns from their chins to their feet, replaced traditional tapa and palm ‘clothing’, and here you see the origins of dresses still wore as best in the islands, the ones I photographed in the street market of Papeete, frilly layered confections of floral prints and Broderie Anglais lace. Their traditional dancing and music was heavily suppressed in favour of hymns and church music. Today whilst religion is an important part of their lives, Polynesians are actively seeking to keep their cultural identity alive and that of course is why the Heiva festival is enthusiastically supported. We have heard drumming in so many places whilst at anchorage, and many young people practising their music in their houses and meeting places.

Churches abound and chart the arrival and influence of the early missionaries. Tahiti for instance has a significant Protestant congregation whereas Marquesas are more Catholic. Seventh day adventists, Later Day Saints, London Missionary Society are all recorded here.

The day was still young so we moved on again to anchor in the lee of the Motu Noanoa, an islet on the fringing coral reef, and watched the sun slide towards the horizon. As we head further south, there is a little more daylight, the sun sinks below the horizon around 6pm (local time), and is not finally dark until about 6.30pm. Earlier in our travels with dusk coming at around 5.30pm, it felt and still does, an incredibly long night. But then we need to adjust our body clocks and get up at 5.30am as many of the locals do, to make the most of the first light and the early coolness.

In the dying light I saw the tail fluke of a whale briefly breaking the waters surface, this is the first sighting since our whale experience in the Atlantic! We seemed to have missed all the sightings others have experienced when travelling the same routes, its always special when you do.

Tuesday 14th July

Bright and early, we dingyed around to the reef side of the motu, beaching it on the coral sands, before exploring the waters around the coral heads on the sandy plateau between the island and the reef. Clear waters allow you to see the beautiful fish, some of the coral colours of yellows and pinks, amidst the browns, and the iridescent blues and greens of the clam edges wedged into the coral clefts. The electric blue of the small reef fish is unforgettable. Memorable too was the number of mosquito bites on my back, they must have been having a feast.

Motoring up the West coast, we have to weave in and out of the lagoons as not all the lagoon waters are deep enough for us. We have met at least a couple of cruisers, travelling the same routes as we, who are now having the holes in their hulls repaired after hitting coral boomies! Lessons for us all! Anchoring on the NW of the island, we went in search of wifi, and yep you guessed it, no hotspots for the credit we hold. And of course it was a public holiday, Bastille Day, albeit an imported one.

Wednesday 15th July

We moved around to the main town of Uturoa, which is about as exciting as Fare on Huahine. Still it had a supermarket right by the free to use quay and a Mana wifi hotspot at the post office. All very helpful.

Thursday 16th July

We met up with Anne and Jonathan on Sofia. The curse of Tahiti has struck them too, their generator has packed up and will have to be lifted out in New Zealand. They too are looking for a portable one. (Jenny, on both her first trip here and on ours this time, suffered generator failure here, is this place jinxed?) Perhaps it’s a good place to set up a generator outlet, delivery and installation service, make a mint! We motored to the island of Tahaa, to the North of Raiatea, enclosed within the same lagoon. An round island of just a few kilometres, with many inlets penetrating deep inland and very pretty bays. Like Raiatea and Huahine this island is hilly but not exceedingly tall, the tallest, Mt Ohiri is 590m. Anchoring in the Bay De Apu we discovered that the restaurant recommended in our Trade Wind Foodie guide by Heikell, has sadly gone.

We all had dinner on board Jenny, Local melon and Serrano ham, lamb couscous, homemade greek yoghurt, grilled aubergines, spicy flat breads and apple crumble, we don’t do badly! Watched the movie, Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise.

Friday 17th July

Misty and grey, we nonetheless ventured out after some boat maintenance and had a nice cycle around the coast. I had the sensation of going up hill in both directions! Probably out of shape!
I think this must be the school holidays here, children were playing in the road (little traffic) racing redundant shopping trolleys, cycling, skateboarding and hanging out with friends in oversized T shirts or sometimes just their pants. They were all friendly. Their houses the usual mix of prefab on stilts or a substantial concrete base, some better than others. Fishing nets and washing were strung between the trees and palms that line the shore, coconuts were being dried, chickens raked around the drying meat and scratched in the church courtyard. A few businesses clustered around the anchorage, notably another pearl farm.

We just made it back before the heavens opened and it poured on and off for the rest of the day and night…..We have heard it can rain a lot here. We have moved again to Haamene Bay. More in the next post, just off to find






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