Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fakarava – by Gary


Flung across our path between the high islands of the Marquesas and the Society Islands are the Tuamotus, a vast archipelago of low atolls; bizarre undernourished donuts of reef, sand and palm trees encircling calm turquoise lagoons. With our time running short in French Polynesia we only visited the one, Fakarava, entering via the northern pass and anchoring off the village of Rotoava for a couple of days.  Sailing down the length of the lagoon we then anchored overnight beside the southern pass, transiting through it and setting course to Tahiti the next day.  

Fakarava, with our path to and through the atoll showing up in red.

Absolute highlight of our visit was the snorkeling at the southern pass on a rising tide. Riding the incoming rush of crystal clear oceanic waters, we swept past coral walls, caverns and canyons populated by vast colourful, yet forever oppressed citizenry, victims of a grim patrolling army of Black Tipped Sharks.  We’ve done a lot of snorkeling, but this was surely the best (and perhaps scariest) we had ever done; but alas we’ve no photos.  So I’ll have to continue to our runner-up highlight – the church at Rotoava.

Churches have long been associated with peaks of civic design and artistic achievement: master architects, builders, stonemasons, sculptors, painters; on and on the list of big egos goes, often leaving little room for more humble artistic expression from within congregations.  But not this church – here the adoration and devotion of its members is given free expression.  We all just loved the results.

Approaching Rotoava across the lagoon the first thing clearly discernable is the spire of this simple but elegant structure.

Back of the church the graveyard assumes a dramatic feel as a squall passes through.

The church interior:  for my money the timber framed vaulted ceiling is a knockout; sky blue set against white walls.

The ceiling is richly decorated with criss-crossing strings of shell bead work ...

... and shell chandeliers of assorted design ...

.. intricately detailed.

Embroidered banners hang from walls.

Arrangements of freshly cut flowers in carved wooden bowls scent the air.

The rear of statuary niches feature mother of pearl – pearl farming being the dominant local industry.

The sanctuary is where it all comes together.

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