Day 4 and we are visiting our fourth island in the Society Islands in French Polynesia. We are on Raiatea, the second largest of the society islands. The traditional name for the island was Havai’i, until the name was adopted by another group of islands closer to home. Raiatea is the most sacred island in in the South Pacific. The name means “faraway heaven” and “sky with soft light”. Raiatea serves as the educational center for several of the surrounding islands; colleges on Raiatea provide secondary school to students who are local residents as well as children from the regional islands of Bora Bora, Tahaa, Huahine, Maupiti.
We have been anchoring and tendering into the islands, but today we are parked right at the pier. There is an old open air market building that now serves as a tourist information center and there is a shopping mall at the pier making it look more like a Caribbean port than what we have seen on the other islands in French Polynesia.
Today we are taking a cruise on the lagoon and down the Faaroa River with a stop at a motu, a small island just off the main island . We were able to transfer directly from the pier to our outrigger canoe for the trip. Guess what? Lots of rain and we are soaked again. From the lagoon we are able to see many beautiful waterfalls on the island. We have a wonderful tour guide, Bernadette, who gave us insight into the island, river, and French Polynesia. She used to live on Bora Bora and was even cast in the Dina De Laurentiis 1979 remake of Hurricane starring Jason Robards and Mia Farrow. Bernadette played Siva, Max Von Sydow’s local pregnant wife. (as an interesting aside, Roman Polanski was slated to direct and was part of most of the preproduction and selected Bora Bora-our next stop-as the site for the film; but he was sent to jail as part of his infamous 1977 arrest and had to be replaced.)
On most days, I suspect a kayak ride down the Faaroa river would be quite peaceful giving you a chance to view the beautiful fauna and wave to the people who live and work along the shore. Today, with multiple tour boats, the kayaks struggled to stay upright.
After our lagoon and Faaroa river cruise, we went to a motu for some beach and swimming time. Bernadette stayed on the outrigger. Boris did struggle to get ashore having difficulty with the ladder. I ventured out into the water, unlike most people. It was beautiful, clear, and warm. The motu also had beautiful soft white sand, with shells and rocks only along the shoreline. It had stopped raining, but the sky was full of gray clouds. Most people just explored the motu.
There were some people living on this motu with their own fish trap. They have to live there to be constantly on the lookout for poachers. We saw three poachers with plastic bags headed the way of the fish trap as we were leaving. Bernadette say they would check to see if the family was there. If not, they would head out to the fish trap and take what they wanted. Since I saw the husband out there collecting fish while I was swimming, I suspect the trap was pretty empty anyway.
After our excursion, we went back to the boat for dry clothes and a light lunch. Boris and I went back ashore to explore the town and check out the handicrafts. There is a large market and sales people ready to make you “great deals”. Their tactics left a bad taste in my mouth so I headed over to the huts along the pier instead. I went into one where I found a beautiful necklace made of woven straw and decorated with shells. There was a older gentleman and a young woman in the hut. When I asked if she was the artist, she told me the man was. He was a fisherman and collected the shells and then made the assorted jewelry. The price was also better than the handicraft market. I admired all his work and then he even offered me an additional $10 off and added a shell paperweight to my bag. Actually, the talking was all done by the young woman who I suspect was there for her language skills. I like the story behind this necklace as much as the beautiful piece itself.
Tonight we tried the Red Ginger, an Asian fusion restaurant found only on the Oceania Marina and Rivera. This is a beautiful restaurant where you greeted by a waterwall. I had a spicy tiger prawn appetizer, a duck and watermelon salad, and lobster pad thai. All were fabulous. The restaurant wasn’t full, but when word gets out I suspect it will be packed. Hope we can come back later in the cruise. In addition to the regular menu, you were presented an extensive tea menu to choose from. As another nice touch, they brought a lovely black box to your table and you could make your own chopstick selection. The magic finger towel came to your table looking like a tablet and the server poured water on it transforming it into a towel. Wonderful touches that added to the experience.
We had a full day and with Bora Bora tomorrow, we decided to skip the comedian and head to bed. My back was starting a feel a little warm and I suspected I had gotten more sun than I thought through those gray clouds.