I wrote about the wonderful time Francesca and I had on Tahaa in my last post. Our next stop was Raiatea, a sister island to Tahaa. Both islands are enclosed by a single coral reef and, at one time, may have been one island. When we arrived, we were welcomed with open arms by Frendoo, the daughter of one my father’s friends, and her husband Roland. The last time I saw Frendoo she was 14 years old. On this visit, she was celebrating her 61st birthday, and Francesca and I were excited to be able to join in the celebration.
Finally saw a big fish
During our visit, we also met local fishermen and learned of a big fish contest happening on the island. It was an event that captured the attention of avid fishermen near and far.
The largest fish caught was a beautiful 533-kilo blue marlin by a Tahitian trolling a line in his 20-foot boat. It took 1½ hours to catch and was quite the feat given the marlin weighed as much as it did and was 15 feet long. I wish I had caught that fish, what a great story to bring home.
It was a joy to see such a huge fish, as we hadn’t seen anything like it during our entire trip. The marlin was caught off the shore of Raiatea where various currents come together and some big fish still hang out.
It was a great fish story and a big event for Raiatea. Years ago, however, this happened more frequently. Today it certainly is an exception. Our global ocean resources are not limitless. There is no question that the time is now to focus on the health of our oceans, including controlling commercial overfishing and moving toward the sustainable fishing practices that I talked about in a previous post.
Adventures around the island
Our friend Richard took us on a wonderful drive around Raiatea, and we saw various sites, including Marae Taputapuatea. It’s known as the most important sacred place on the entire Society archipelago, dating back to 1,000 A.D. This enormous site spans the length of two football fields. Just spectacular. If Tahaa is the Vanilla Island, Raiatea has to be the Sacred Island. Since it was off-season, we were the only visitors, which made our visit even more special.
The wooden structures have long disappeared, leaving only a big volcanic courtyard. It must have been a fascinating place in its heyday with religious and social ceremonies, including human sacrifices. It has been reported that more than 5,000 skulls have been found in this area.
Lifting a centuries-old curse
Taputapuatea is also the site where a fleet of Polynesian canoes from Hawaii, the Cook Islands, Easter Island and Tahiti gathered in 1995 to lift a centuries-old curse and rededicate the site. Seven huge canoes, carrying more than 20 people each, navigated under the stars using the old Polynesian ways. Some sailed from Raiatea to Hawaii, while others sailed on to the west coast of the United States. I remember when a couple of those canoes arrived in the United States for the end of that historic journey.
A California connection
Much of the fresh fruits and vegetables sold on Bora Bora and even Tahiti comes from Raiatea, so I was eager to see the farming here.
One of the highlights of our tour was catching up with one of Richard’s long time friends, Charlie. In his younger days, Charlie was a gifted surfer from Santa Cruz known for his crazy half red, half green hair as well as a renowned football player in high school.
Richard and Charlie sailed to Raiatea in the early 1960s and fell in love with the area. Richard ended up in Bora Bora (before eventually settling down in Tahaa) and Charlie settled in Raiatea. Charlie married a Tahitian woman named Desiree, who is a Tahitian herbal practitioner.
Charlie and Desiree live a simple life close to the land. Their home is primitive, but neat as a pin. They grow a wide variety of produce, herbs, and spices on their farm, including tropical fruit, star fruit, papayas, ginger, vanilla and more, all sold at the local markets. It’s a far cry from California surfing, but from my vantage point, this life inspired by nature suits Charlie to a tee. He is passionate about what he does, a real product of the product.
Fun with family friends
During our visit, we joined in Frendoo’s birthday celebration, a party lasting from noon till 10 p.m. with at least 40 people enjoying the festivities, including local dentists, doctors, and big business men.
About 10 people brought their own ukuleles, and they played and sang songs that everyone knew. (The only cell phones were Francesca’s and mine, and we only took them out to record some of the songs and take photos).
The party was so entertaining. The food was delicious, the music was fabulous and the laughter was just beyond fun. This is a very common form of entertainment on the island. It brought me back to younger days when I was in high school. A few friends and I played ukuleles and called ourselves the Geedies from Tahitis. We dressed in Hawaiian shirts and white shorts and sang crazy lyrics. We weren’t very good, but impressed at least a few girls, and that’s what counted in those days! We sure had a great time singing and just enjoying each other’s company.
All in all, our visit to Raiatea is one that I will not soon forget. If you want to see more photo highlights of our visit, check out Double X Photo Album 9: Raiatea.
Where to next?
We are on our way to Huahine, Moorea and Tahiti. We have made some more changes to our sailing itinerary based upon the things that I have learned so far. Once we reach Moorea, I will give you the full details.
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P.S.S. Don’t forget to check out our photos on the Society Islands from 40-plus years ago (Firebird Album 3: Tuamotus & Society Islands). I hope you enjoy!