Raivavae is far south in the Austral Islands. It is at the furthest point south that the sun reaches at Austral midsummer so still in the tropics but only just.
We sailed some five hundred miles south from Taputapuatea on Raiatea with good winds and, after less than five days at sea, could see the island only thirty miles away. After another twenty four hours of fickle breezes it was still five miles away so we gave up and switched the engine on.
We anchored off the “town”, reported our arrival to the Gendarmes, chatted with the vice-mayor, visited the snack bar, were given fruit and generally enjoyed our first days on this super chilled island.
There is a road around the islands and two concrete tracks across it so we assembled our bikes for a day of exploration and calling “Io arana” (hello) to all the locals we passed. There are about 900 people on the island and they are 99.7% very friendly. Apparently three people don’t like sailors. The rest wave, chat and ask where you come from. A few men tried teaching us boules and the next day one of them gave us bananas, papaya and a root vegetable called manuk. We received so much produce while on the island that we had to make chutney again.
We moved round to the opposite side of the island and anchored inside the coral fringed lagoon. With the Motu (coral islet) on one side and the mountainous island across the water, we understood why people say that Raivavae is the most beautiful island in the Pacific.
Mount Hiro is the highest point on the island and there are two extremely steep, very narrow paths to the summit from each side of the island. We walked up one side and down the other. On the summit we met some locals who had carried a pile of bananas with them so enjoyed the stunning vista while eating them. Unlike on the Society Islands, there are no trees on the summits so you have an uninterrupted panoramic view.
Between Christmas and New Year the locals come out to the Motu to party so there was plenty happening. We tried canoeing in a local boys outrigger canoe and it was impressively fast. Not the most stable vessel but great fun. We also enjoyed lieing in “la piscine”, a protected, shallow, warm inlet made for relaxing in We sailors barbecued on New Years Eve and on our last day a local family prepared a lunch with coconut bread, manuk and six different fish dishes.
Raivavae is going to be hard to beat.