We arrived in Rarotonga on Friday. They have not had any rain in 45 days. So, it rained Friday and Saturday! Whoa is me. Why do things always happen to me! I have this dark cloud over my head that follows me everywhere I go. I see myself as Pig Pen in the Peanuts comic strip. LOL. Rarotonga is a small island. It has about 6,000 full time residents.
The flight from Auckland was almost 4 hours or about 2000 miles. That is like flying Indy to Los Angeles for a couple of days on the beach; and it is raining. There is nothing else to do here, but lie on a beach, relax and snorkel. If it ever stops raining, we will take some photos for our blog. But right now, we can’t see the beach it is raining so hard.
In order to get here, we had to fly over the International Date Line. “Rita did you feel that bump! It was the IDL.” I had her going for a while. The IDL was established in 1884 and is an imaginary line that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole basically along the 180-degree longitude. When you cross it going eastward you subtract a day and going westward you add a day. It is an arbitrary imaginary line on the globe where the calendar date advances a day going westward and subtracts a day going eastward. So, we left Auckland on Saturday and arrived in Rarotonga on Friday. Weird, huh? Maybe I am a day younger now. That would be nice. I wonder if I crossed it 365 times, would I be a year younger?
We have very limited Wi-Fi on the island and cannot use it in our villa. We have to go to the common area and use it in the open-air lobby. I sat there in the lobby with my jacket on, drinking some wine, and complaining to Rita the entire time about the rain and how cold it was. She of course wanted to strangle me and kept telling me to quit buying all the MB’s… see you have to pay for your Wi-Fi by the MB, so if we even open FB, our 100 MB of Wi-Fi runs out in 5 to 10 minutes. Rita saved hers by shutting her Wi-Fi off and on when she uses it. Clever IT person, she is.
This island has had some interesting cultural history. First, there were cannibals in parts of these islands. They have great T Shirts for sale that say: “Send more tourists. The last lot was delicious!” I hope they are kidding. Secondly, 92% of the Cook Islanders are defined as obese. So, coming here at the end of our trip after eating 184 days of restaurant food was a good idea. Even though we have gained some weight, we both look REALLY small compared to Cook Islanders. Fat is a sign of wealth and beauty here. Boys and girls at puberty and again prior to marriage are sent away into seclusion for 3-5 days at a time to gorge themselves into more beautiful people. In the last few years, this obsession with fat has been changing as the result of better health education.
We are staying in a thatched roof hut over the beach. I guess I should pay attention to the tsunami evacuation route signs that are everywhere. The island is surrounded by a coral reef approximately a half-mile off the beach. Not to be confused with Jimmy Buffet’s band the Coral Reefers. The coral reef is where the waves crash, not on the beach. But, we can still hear, well Rita can, I, of course, can’t hear anything from our hut; the waves crash even though none of them ever reach the shoreline. Inside the coral reef, between it and the shoreline, is the lagoon. This is an area of still water, no waves, and so all the sand has settled out of the lagoon water so that it is crystal clear. You can stand in chest deep lagoon water and see your toes. The lagoon water is also warmer than the Pacific Ocean water because it is still water, not moving much, and thus the sun has a better chance to warm it. The lagoon water is also filled with all kinds of colorful fish and crabs. In fact, we ran into a crab on the beach last night on our walk before dinner. He was from Rhode Island, was here with his wife, and did not have anything good to say, just complained all the time. Damn curmudgeon.
On Sunday, yes you got it—more rain. It rained all day. So, we rented a car,
Rita drove a right hand drive car, on the left hand side of the road and we made a circumnavigation of the island, all 34 kilometers or 19 miles, in two hours. Since it was Sunday everything was closed. We did not see anything but rain and fog on the island tour. I think we took two photos on the drive.
When we got back to the hotel, we ate dinner at Vaima, a very good restaurant with live music by a male and female duet. When you look at the photo of the duet, can you tell which one has wealth and which one has beauty?
On Monday, we took a 23-passenger propeller airplane to another Cook Island called, Aitutaki. It is even more remote and quiet than the wild and crazy island we just left. The population of Aitutaki is only 2,000. Rita wasn’t sure she wanted to take such a small propeller plane, but decided to go when I waived goodbye to her at the jet way and they started to close the door on the airplane! As the plane lifted from the runway, we could see the bright sunshine come through the clouds and bask Rarotonga in all its glory. Don’t know where the sun had been for 3 days! But, it showed up the second we took off!!
Aitutaki means island of the Gods. A Tahitian, who left Tahiti in order to escape the tribal wars, named the island of Aitutaki. When the Tahitians were leaving, they came with all of their family, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives, children and on the way they were pursued by enemies, but escaped them when a storm kept the pursuers from catching up with them. The storm broke right on the edge of the lagoon. After the storm, the Tahitians saw the island of Aitutaki and made there way onto the beaches, which has many fruits and vegetables and no enemies. This is what the legend is around this island. I would like to believe a part of this and a part of the wiki story that says it was a God who discovered this island. There are these wooden statues all over this island and it is a “God”, of what we have no idea. I had my photo taken with a wooden statue of the original God so you could see him. What an intimidating experience to be photographed next to such a big God!
We are staying at the hotel Etu Moana whose name means blue starfish. We have blue starfish in the lagoon in front of our villa. We also have large clams in the lagoon and all kinds of other tropical fish. We also have too many sea cucumbers in our lagoon for our liking. They are black things, about 6 inches long that look like
poop and emit a white sticky substance when attacked by their predators. They also can expand to 20 to 30 percent of their size when attacked by a predator sort of the way silly putty expands. They are not harmful to humans, but they wash up on the shoreline and look like blobs of poop and you have to watch where you step in the water to avoid them so you don’t get sticky white stuff on your toes. The natives use the sea cucumbers as squirt guns!
This island is a lot like Rarotonga in that it is surrounded by a coral reef so the waves break offshore and the island has a lagoon of clear, warm water surrounding it. In fact, it is known for its lagoon and the clarity of the water in the lagoon. The lagoon is the primary reason tourists visit this island.
The first full day on Aitutaki we rented a car and drove the 4 miles around the long island. The car had 114,000 kilometers on the odometer and had no air conditioning. There are numerous wild roosters and hens on the island. They fly and roost in trees at night. We also saw two pigs along the side the road. We visited the local Supermarket and drove by the brand new reservation office for our airline company, Air Rarotonga. For dinner, we went to the Pacific Resort and sat on its beach to watch the sunset and have, what else, Cosmopolitans. The sunset that night was the most beautiful one we have seen on this trip, by far. On the way home, we saw large crabs scurrying across the road, but no “Crab Crossing” warning signs!
About 3 years ago, I bought a photograph at the Broad Ripple Art Fair of the perfect South Pacific Island with palm trees and surrounded by pure white sand and beautiful clear water. I asked the photographer where the photo was taken and he explained that it was taken on one of his trips to the Cook Islands. He explained that the island in the photo was used by the “locals” on Sunday for barbeques and had a post office on it, but he did not recall its name. So, when we were planning our trip across the South Pacific and saw that a somewhat straight line from New Zealand to Tahiti passed near the Cook Islands, we had to include the Cook Islands on our trip to see if we could find the island in my photograph. Our advance research led us to believe that One Foot Island in Aitutaki lagoon may be that island.
Our second full day, we took a tour of the Aitutaki Lagoon by boat and visited various motus, or small islands around the lagoon including Honeymoon Island and One Foot Island. Honeymoon Island got its name as the idyllic pure white sand island for Honeymooners of course. There was in fact a wedding performed on the island several years ago. One Foot Island got its name because it is shaped like a foot when viewed from above. But legend says that the islanders believe the island got its name because a tribe of warriors chased a boat to kill the male inhabitants. In the boat there was a boy and his father but the warriors didn’t know there were two people on the boat as they only saw the father. The father beached his boat on the island and told his boy to run and hide in the trees. The father then stepped in his son’s footsteps making it appear that only one person was on the boat. When the warriors got to the island, they followed the footprints, found the father and killed him. But the father saved his son because the warriors were unaware of his presence hiding in a tree. (or, as Norm believes, One Foot Island may have been the nickname for the original god that he had his photo taken with!) One Foot Island had a post office on it and we believe that it is the one in the photograph that I purchased at the Broad Ripple Art Fair.
We also donned snorkel and mask and checked out what was going on underneath the water in the lagoon. We were amazed at the number and color of the fish. We saw one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish!! We also saw a turtle, a stingray and a giant clam. Finally, we went to the islands where Survivor was filmed. We saw where they held their tribal council, and other tribal gatherings, as these have been left untouched since the filming. Upon seeing these uninhabited islands where they filmed this show, we can’t even imagine how they could find food to eat, let alone survive for however long they are kept there. There is nothing on these islands except coconuts, the local fruits that grow, and maybe a few chickens. Our boat driver told us that none of them (the peeps from survivor) could even catch the chickens. After the boat trip, we could truly appreciate why people come to this island.
We leave tomorrow for Tahiti. This will be our last stop on the trip. We plan to visit three Tahitian Islands, Moorea, Tahiti and Bora Bora.
Love you and miss you. We will be home in about 9 days. Norm & Rita
Aitutaki, Cook Islands…. BEAUTIFUL!!!
Here are some pictures from our boat tour of the lagoon area and the outer islands.
We got this close to Honeymoon Island and our boat driver stopped and said we’re snorkeling here! and this is the first fish we saw!
These are the pictures from “Survivor Island”. We stopped at two of these!
And off we go again!
Rarotonga, Cook Islands.. very nice despite the rain.