24 June 2018 | Raiatea, French Polynesia
We awakened at a reasonable 0800 today, had a quick breakfast and I did my engine check. We had dropped the mooring by 0930 and were off to Uturoa, main village and second largest city in the country.
And it continued to blow! Sheesh! Even inside the reef, we were struggling to make headway against 20 knot winds. Where was the wind? On our bow, of course!
After an hour motoring, we approached Uturoa, but the wind was blowing us into the harbor and would have made a controlled docking difficult and with no hope of departing until the wind died. We decided to skip the honor.
Of course Julia has never seen Raiatea before so we enjoyed showing her our FP home. We motor-sailed southward along the shore, enjoying the lovely homes and scenery as we traveled. After an hour or so, we finally reached the entrance of Fa'aroa Bay, the bay that penetrates most deeply into the island and one of our favorites. Nevertheless, we opted to continue south and finally fetched up in Opua Bay, dinghy distance from the Polynesian "Holy of Holies", Taputapuatea.
We've shown this serene and holy site to every visitor and never miss an opportunity to visit ourselves. While neither Conni nor I are particularly religious, there is an otherworldly feel to the place, due in large measure to the remaining structures of the site. It's like visiting the Pyramids, I think. Decaying remnants of a long-lost world with large structures whose purpose eludes us. Why build in squares? How did they move the huge stones when they had no wheels or draft animals? Why choose this location? What were their gods like? The Europeans who eventually destroyed the culture and almost destroyed the people, too, were the only witnesses, and their watercolors and descriptions are all that we have to try and reconstruct the life that is hinted by the ruins. Through a glass darkly...the European visitors saw the locals as savages and heathens, so their descriptions are tainted by their prejudices, and of course, they knew nothing of cultural study. Much has been lost.
We know from the histories that they sacrificed citizens for the gods. Demanding the most precious of sacrifices, the gods and goddesses must have been hungry. indeed. I hope that the survivors received value. Their gods weren't strong enough to save them, though.
It is a Sunday so many families were out enjoying the open areas of this World Heritage Site, talking, laughing, and listening to music. I found a stray green coconut and quickly opened it, and we all enjoyed the refreshing milk. There's a shrine, of sorts, that is constantly being refreshed by small goods and gifts to the ancient gods who are said to lurk here. It's against one of the larger marae structures and is covered in small stones, shell necklaces, a large hand-carved Uru (a wooden totem), and detritus from the sea. A small hand tray held a bracelet, a thumb drive, and a yellow rubber duck. The old gods seem less picky than formerly.
We returned to the boat, all a bit quiet and full of our own thoughts. It's the same with every visit and visitor.
Dinghy back on deck and dinner in our bellies, we return for a rematch with Uturoa tomorrow. Perhaps I'll even be able to post this.