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Published: January 25th 2006
It’s another morning of coffee and breakfast on our balcony as we near Raiatea
. This island is almost as large as Tahiti; but its quiet, rural demeanor is far removed from the hustle and bustle of Papeete. On the way into port, we pass more over-the-water bungalows perched on an island motu. Today we dock instead of tendering. The dock area is clean and fairly new with thatched covered huts housing local craftsmen. Raiatea and it’s twin island, Tahaa, share the same lagoon and there are too many choices of things to do.
Our excursion is the Faaroa River and Island Exploration. We are two jeeps traveling together with only five people in our jeep and nine of us total. First, we take a drive around a portion of the island and into the interior. The homes we pass are about the same as on our previous island tours. They sit very close to the water surrounded by tropical vegetation which always includes ginger plants. There are only two hotels on Raiatea but many pensions or home-stay accommodations are available. The beaches are located on the motus (small islands) sprinkled around the lagoon.
We turn up a muddy road that
travels through the crater of an extinct volcano. Along the way, our guide picks flowers or leaves, explaining their use in Polynesian culture. When our jeep crosses a river, she stops to pick wild ginger. She squeezes the juice into our hands and explains that it is used as a hand wash plus hand softener. The landscape is thick with vegetation and includes groves of coconuts along the side of the road. When we stop again, the other guide shows how Tahitians make serving plates out of leaves. It’s hot and steamy here and the possibility of rain exists plus lots of mosquitoes are buzzing around.
After our drive around the crater, we exit back onto the main road and go to a maerae. Raiatea is considered the most sacred Polynesian island due to the large maerae located here. The area overlooks the sea with one large maerae temple and several smaller ones including a special one for human sacrifices. At the maerae, we sample refreshments of fresh juice and fruit served on an arrangement of large leaves surrounded by tropical flowers, all served from the hood of the jeep. The grapefruit has a greenish skin and tastes like
a cross between lime and grapefruit, the mild taste is less bitter than our grapefruit at home and very refreshing on a hot, humid day.
We transfer to a motorized outrigger canoe and travel along the lagoon into a bay which eventually takes us to the mouth of the Faaroa River. We go up the river as far as possible getting an up-close look at the vegetation and island life along the river. Rain begins to fall and we quickly put on the raincoats provided by the tour company. Now we are really hot and steamy! The rain doesn’t last very long though, and soon the canoe takes us back into the lagoon and then to the dock where our ship is located.
Tonight we will stay docked in Raiatea. The ship is entertaining the passengers with a Polynesian barbecue on the pool deck. The Gauguines (a Polynesian dance troupe from the Radisson ship, Paul Gauguin) have joined us and they will entertain with more songs and dances. Unfortunately, the weather is not cooperating. Alan and I go to the Observation Lounge for our nightly glass of champagne. By the time we go out to the barbecue, the covered
tables are not available but they have opened La Verandah (a restaurant located on the same deck) so we take our plates of food inside. Vicki, Tyler, Stephanie and Phil have room at their table so we sit with them.
After dinner, we go back out onto the deck for the show. The rain has stopped. We walk up to Deck 12 which overlooks the pool area. The Gauguines perform and then the Voyager Quintet begins to play. Jamie, our cruise director, also sings with them. Hey, it’s Rock and Roll time. Dancing out on deck underneath a Polynesian sky is my idea of fun. Jamie invites other guests to join in the jam session. Our friend, Keith, steps up to sing a few Beatles tunes. This cruise just gets better and better!
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