The arrival of the Waka Tapu canoes in French Polynesia
by Kavika Knight
In August of 2012 our va’a, Faafaite, having just arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, had the privilege of sailing for a short period of time with the waka Te Aurere and Ngahiraka mai Tawhiti as they begun their incredible journey across the Pacific ocean to the far reaches of the Polynesian triangle. Their journey took them over 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 km) with stops in Tubuai (Austral Islands), Mangareva (Gambier Islands), Rapa Nui (Easter Island), before stopping in Tahiti and Moorea on their return to Aotearoa. They navigated, as did our ancestors, following the stars, winds, currents and other elements of nature.
To honor and salute their extraordinary adventure, members of Faafaite and the Haururu Association met them on the ocean to the sounds of the pahu. Our Maori cousins, children of Te Moana Nui a Hiva, arrived off the shores of Tahiti on their waka after crossing from Rapa Nui. Welcomed in the Paofai Gardens under a gentle rain, and after immigration formalities were taken care of, they were treated to some fresh food (including requested hamburgers!). After a short night of rest all three va’a set sail for Moorea at dawn. Moorea was designated to organize a more traditional welcome and also as a more practical place to store the canoes for the remainder of the South Pacific hurricane season.
The va’a arrived outside of Pao Pao to the sounds of the toere (drums) and hundreds of well-wishers who had gathered on the shores for this special occasion. Were the gods and the spirits of our ancestors at the origin of a small problem on waka Ngahiraka mai Tawhiti at the entrance of Cook’s Bay? Or was it simply a moment of intimacy for “Hogni” and the waka? Who can say, as clouds burst from the eight mountains of Moorea much like the tentacles of the octopus, as a way of saluting their arrival…. e te tama e haere mai ra … haera mai Manava e ia ora …
The va’a of Waka Tapu and Faafaite were greeted by the children of the Pao Pao schools, their teachers, the Puna Reo Association who performed chants and dances and presented their âia in a simple and touching celebration (a big thank-you goes out to all who participated in this warm welcome). The festivities continued in the gardens of Pu Atitia with an excellent Tahitian feast with friends, families, and crew members.
Faafaite set sail for Tahiti in the afternoon while Te Aurere and Ngahiraka mai Tawhiti settled into their home for the next month or so. They will be anchored in Opunohu Bay and prepared to wait out the remainder of our hurricane season before setting sail for their journey home to Aotearoa.