Raiatea... what an absolutely beautiful island that we almost didn't see. Our new itinerary brought us to this lovely island instead of having a sea day and we couldn't have been happier. With about 10 hours of sleep in two days we decided to sleep in and when we arose to that we were already docked at the pier. Still unfamiliar with the whole ship, we decided to give La Veranda a try for breakfast and enjoyed a nice morning meal outside overlooking the sleepy town. Breakfast in La Veranda was very similar to Le Grill, but with a bit more of a formal atmosphere. Most people chose to dine indoors, but we fully enjoyed sipping our coffee out on the deck watching the town wake up below.
View of town from La Veranda
A stop in the boutique was enjoyed after our meal and we caught our first peek at the lovely black pearls (Tahia Collins). The shop was filled with PG souvenirs, small toiletrie items ($$$$ for sunscreen - bring it from home!), shirts, beach shoes, etc. Inquiring with the clerk about what was best to do in town she passionately said that she felt this was one of the most beautiful islands on the itinerary and that the best way to see it was to get out of the port area. As we had no excursion planned a quick detour to the travel desk was in order. Today the offerings were fairly limited, but we found room on the coach island tour excursion. I have to say that I'm not usually one for bus tours, but I also have to admit that this bus tour was a fantastic excursion! Summer (a San Diego transplant) was our extremely informative guide, a lovely, peaceful girl who married a Tahitian man and has made her life in Raiatea for the last 10 years. Her knowledge of the island was fascinating and she entertained us with stories of island culture and lore along with descriptions of daily island life. When compared with our San Diego average day, Raiatea life is very different, simpler in some ways and more wholesome, but in other ways not as fulfilling (in my opinion!)
Summer brought us to many lovely vistas and kindly stopped for us photobugs (me!) at extra locations to get those perfect shots. We visited another marae and Summer provided details of what life was like in ancient times.
Cyclone damage was abundant on this island. Summer had not been out much since the cyclone had hit one week prior and was surprised at the extent of the damage. Homes were missing roofs, pearl farms were missing (she said she had seen one get wiped out with a large wave; one second it was there, another it was gone), numerous trees were down and many areas of brown vegetation from the sea spray could be seen in many locations. Since much of the food people in Raiatea eat is grown locally and many gardens were wiped out there was a deficit of vegetables on the island and everyone was eagerly awaiting their newly planted gardens to produce.
Even with the cyclone damage the island was incredibly gorgeous! Raiatea quickly became my favorite islands of the itinerary with the colors being exactly what you think of when someone says the South Pacific... turquoise, greens, and blues, all so vivid that you almost can't believe what you are seeing.
Raiatea Beach Views
3/4 of the way through our tour, Summer stopped the bus at a local home where an array of local fruits and drink was provided. We sampled pineapple, papaya, coconut and pomello, along with coconut water (didn't like it...), water and a tropical juice. The home was just yards off the beach and I still think of these people waking up in the morning and looking out the window to this gorgeous view! Just like a dream, vivid colors, warm tropical breezes and sun shining through the swaying palms...
What a view to wake up to!
The return trip of the tour took an interior route through the mountain region. My geologic interest was met with stories and history of the volcanic origins of the island. The views were a striking contrast to the island beaches with equal, albeit different beauty.