Monday, September 1, 2008

Shiriri Saga #48. Raiatea. The center of the world.

The offering.

It was a nasty time in the chaotic waves off Moorea overnight, then a gentle breeze all day that too slowly carried us toward Raiatea, so that now we must find a pass quickly and anchor if we don`t wish to drift around all night. Just ahead at the south end of the island is a motu and our chart says there is a pass there as well. We sail between the breakers into a large bay and find a bottom for our anchor in a hundred feet just as darkness falls, as usual, with a decided thump. We are tired; these short one day passages can wear a person out!
The cliff.

Morning again and we see an interesting cliff beside us and forest covered mountains at the head of the bay. For an emergency overnight anchorage, we have lucked out. We splash Edith, row for the beach below the cliff and walk down the road toward the point of land that forms the north side of this bay. This we like best of all, an unknown road leading to who knows where. Around the next bend we find a group of Polynesians in traditional dress gathered on the point that we can now see has several stone platforms set among the palms. We have stumbled upon a rededication of this ancient Polynesian religious site by representative groups from all over the South Pacific. This is no tourist event.

We ask, and as long as we keep out of the way it`s ok for us to watch. We feel honoured to be there as people dance and sing and make offerings to the gods. It is only fairly recently that the hula has been allowed and the Polynesian language used in the school system. It is good to see the people taking back their culture as they also prepare for their independence from the colonial power.

The end of the ceremony ends in a purifying bath in the sea and we feel how right this is that the great world ocean that we have ourselves been so moved by ( in both senses) should be acknowledged in a religious ceremony. We later learn that this marae complex was the center of religion for all Polynesia- a very significant place.

In company with Wylie Jim who also has heard of this ceremony and sailed down for the event we dodge north among the reefs in the lagoon to the main town of Uturoa where there is a brand new boat basin beside the cruise ship dock. Shiriri tucks in to a real dock for the first time in months. How extraordinarily secure we feel as the wind and rain rattle in the rigging.

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