Long ago, on the Pacific island of Havaii, the ancient kings and their priests built the temple of Taputapuatea and in its middle they set a white stone higher than a man to mark the heart of the giant, mythical octopus Tumu-Ra’i-Fenua. From the coral sand beach next to this holy place, sailing rafts set out to discover and colonize the far flung islands of Polynesia. They used the wind to sail out through the holy pass of Teavanoa, leaving the gentle waters of the reef, passing through the small notch in the circle reef and voyaging thousands of miles across the open ocean. The vast tentacles of the octopus joined islands as far apart as New Zealand and Hawaii and bound them together.
The island is now known as Raiatea but the stones of the temple are still there so we visited them while cycling the ninety-six kilometers around the island. I am sure that we, as fellow voyagers who have sailed the Pacific, felt a much deeper attachment to the builders of Taputapuatea than the tourists who arrive there for a quick visit by plane and taxi.
Today we weighed anchor after a swim amongst the corals of the lagoon and worked our way south to Taputapuatea. The wind was against us (as always) so it took eleven tacks across the lagoon but finally we saw the standing stone shining white amongst the temple ruins and turned out to sail through Teavanoa Pass. Hard on the wind and with full sails set, we just managed to pass between the coral walls and then turned south.
And now, just like those who sailed this way a thousand years ago, we can only hope the wind carrys us along Tumu-Ra’i-Fenua’s tentacle far south to the distant Austral Islands.
GPS track of our tour round the island – 20201206 round Raiatea