Raiatea: The Sacred Island

By Derek On July 21, 2015 Under Post


Other than erecting what must be the largest hammer in French Polynesia, Raiatea is also the home of the most sacred temple in all of Polynesia.

Our first day in Raiatea we climbed the mountain that dominates the northern part of the island with the McMahon family on Seabbatical. The views were spectacular and from that vantage point we could see four islands: Huahine, Tahaa, Bora Bora and Raiatea.


Raiatea is a short 20 mile downwind sail from Huahine and is known as “The Sacred Isle.” This is because on this island can be found the most sacred marae of all marae. A marae is a stone platform on which ancient buildings were erected. This one, Taputapuatea, was a temple and part of a large complex of temples on Raiatea’s west side. When Europeans first encountered these islands they found that all temples across Polynesia, from Hawaii to Easter Island and as far down as New Zealand, had to take a stone from this marae and place it in their most important marae to demonstrate loyalty and spiritual lineage.


Clearly, we had to go see this place. Even the name, Taputapuatea, sounded like the rolling drum beat we had so often heard at heiva. We found the grounds of Taputapuatea, like public places all across French Polynesia, were immaculately kept. There were several large marae scattered amidst the grass and trees and while it seemed a rather picturesque place right at the water’s edge on the island’s southeastern tip, the atmosphere was a little somber. Human sacrifice was not unknown back in the day and it was at these very platforms where such religious activity occurred.


The mysterious large rectangular stone in the middle was interesting as it was not coral like most of the others. I am guessing it might have been basalt and touching it felt very different to the rest, reminding me of a similar looking stone in the beginning of the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Though, I am sorry to say, after approaching the sacred stone I did not, to my knowledge, gain any insight that might advance the human race. Rest assured, however, I am still working on this.


Boats here can tie up to the cement dock right in the center of the small town of Uturoa for free. Loyal readers will know we did not do this; we anchored. Town docks are places where things aboard can go missing and unwelcome stowaways can join your crew. I mean rats and cockroaches. No thanks. We anchored behind the reef about a mile from Uturoa in 15 feet of crystal clear water over clean white sand in peace and quiet.


Here heiva was in full swing and we and the dancers enjoyed the genuine experience fully.


Local girls getting ready to perform:


Along with the charming dancers there were “indigenous floats.”


And guys you would rather keep on your good side.


If it seems we are rushing through these wonderful islands, sadly, we are. This has to do with the great distances we need to travel and the short time we have available to us. Our time here is predicated on removing ourselves and the boat from the South Pacific before cyclone (hurricane) season begins in December. And we still have thousands of miles to go – all at a fast walk.


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