Heiva is the big party that lasts for about a month until 14 July, the French National Day.
We decided to stay in Huahine for this event. We were already familiar with the place, had friends around, and on Raiatea, our other alternative, it’s a lot less convenient with regards to good anchorages(read lack of) at a reasonable distance from where it all happens.
Seems like we did a good choice and we enjoyed the whole thing immensely.
We visited the dance and song contest no less than 8 nights, and then all the traditional Polynesian sports. How about Beach Wrestling, javelin throwing where the target is a coconut on top of a 12 m pole, carrying big stones, lifting big stones, ‘ the strongest man’ which included big stones too, but also towing heavy sacks with long ropes, a running contest with a 40 kg load of bananas on a yoke made of bamboo, and you’ll get an idea of the ‘traditional’ flavor to all this. And then of course the Va’a or outrigger canoe races. Men, women, and mixed teams in 3-6-12 seaters and of course the V1, for a single paddler. Fishing contests, in the lagoon one day, and ‘au large’ on the ocean another. We were glad to see the team with our friend Kike from the opposite side of the island, my fishing mentor here, win the lagoon fishing trophy.
For the less physically demanding part, a contest in flying kites, the old style in bamboo and thin cloth, flower arrangements and the making of roof- or wall panels in braided Pandanus and coconut palm leafs are but a few…oh and not to forget the hat braiding contest! -all in all a crash course in Polynesian culture.
Unforgettable, what else can I say!?
There’s an end to everything, and after indulging fullheartedly in the Heiva for about three weeks we felt it was time to leave for Raiatea.
A nice following wind of 10-15 knots made for a decent morning sail, the 24 miles across, course due West. Laid back enough we just unfurled the genoa and still made close to six knots average so not bad at all.
This was yesterday, this morning we folded the genoa into a smallest possible size and rowed ashore to meet the sailmaker here. Largely because of the large number of charter boats based here, there’s plenty work for the loft apparently, they are four people at work there on an island with 13000 inhabitants.
After almost five years I the tropical sun, the genoa needed some work. The webbing in the three ‘corners’ of the sail started to deteriorate, due to UV, as the thread on the protective UV strip in particular. I have hand stitched the UV cover a couple times already, now was the time to have it re stitched completely so it could be in service another 4-5 years.
Regine, the sailmaker, wanted about a week to finish that, so in the meantime we’ll try and see as much as we can of the island. Not that easy it seems. The lagoon is very wide, and also deep, so good anchorages with easy access to the shore are not abundant. And where the depth is a bit more agreeable, well, that’s where the mooring balls are placed and with them the crowd.
At any rate, we gotta see the largest Marae ( ancient structures for gatherings and cult) on the SE side of Raiatea, it’s over 3 hectares (30000 square meters). Raiatea was named Hawaii originally ( or Hauaii depending on spelling) and was the seat of the royal family in ancient times. So of course this enormous Marae was constructed here.
According to the latest research, Raiatea/Hauai’i was also the hub in the eastern branch of Polynesia. From here,they voyaged in their big double canoes, and discovered Tahiti, The Tuamotus, Marquesas, Hawaii(the one north of the equator that is) and Rapa Nui (Aka Easter Island) and last but not least New Zealand.
James Cook was fortunate enough to take with him (on his first voyage) as crew a priest from Tahiti, who could without too much problem speak to and understand the peoples of the other islands they called on, including NZ.
For example, here the ‘Polynesians’ call themselves Maohi, compare with Maori of NZ.
So some more history and Maohi culture is in the pipeline, and hopefully a few sessions in and under water too. Right now though the swell is a whopping 3,5-4 mtrs, great for the surfers, but quite uncomfortable in the lagoon. Huge amounts of (relatively cold) water enters the lagoon, and this has to exit through the pass(-es) cuasing some weird currents and flow inside the barrier reef.
After Raiatea, we want to visit Maupiti, but this is only possible when the swell is less than about 1,5 mtr. This time of the year, due to the passing winter storms in the Southern Ocean, the swell is almost always from S-SW so the right conditions aren’t always there. We’ll see how it works out, from Raiatea we will go to Bora-Bora and wait for the right weather window to scoot over to Maupiti, some 25 miles further to west. Hopefully it works out, allowing us to spend a few weeks there before having to start backtracking (back-tacking too) to windward to Tahiti and then The Marquesas for the cyclone season. More about that later.