Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Okay, I am alive. Long long flight, made bearable by great drugs. Of course, scarily, my luggage did not make it to Rarotonga along with me. It is missing somewhere in transit and with only one flight every other day, it will be a while before I get it. ANZ provided a female overnight pack with toiletries and a long white t-shirt. They also offer NZ$100 for replacement clothing. That is very nice, but not so generous as things here are expensive. And, let’s face it- a zaftig 34DD isn’t likely to find many clothes on a tropical island that will fit! Especially a bathing suit. Hoping and praying that it shows up today, otherwise it will be quite an interesting time replacing everything in it, but I guess it will be an interesting experience in how little do I really need! Shoot, and I had all that insect repellent!
For a tropical island, it is incredibly noisy- birds chirping, roosters crowing, dogs barking. Sleep was intermittent at best. I am sure it will get better as I accustom myself to the various ambient surroundings!
Only 32km in circumference, there are buses that continuously circle the island. Lots of little self-contained places to stay in. My room has 3 twin beds, two together to form a king, a little kitchenette with burner and mini frig and contains all the comforts needed. No tv or phone thankfully. Food is pretty expensive since everything is shipped in, but oddly lamb and beef are cheaper than fish. Fruit is pretty cheap and you can pull papaya and cocnuts right off of the trees everywhere.
I plan to put my sweaty Loneliness t-shirt back on and take the bus into town to check it out. You can get a Cook Island drivers license and rent scooters- the preferred mode of transport, so I think that will work. First I will take the bus around the island and check out the whole thing.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Well, I must say yesterday was an extremely interesting day. On the plane over, I was chatting with a geologist from Calgary . There are a lot of Canadians here and most seem to be from either BC or Alberta . Anyway, Mark the geologist is my age and here with three other guys around the same age. They are renting a 4 bedroom house just up the road. As I was standing at the bus stop yesterday morning I ran into them. I took the bus into town with one of the guys and we went to get Cook Island Driver's Licenses. Since the power was out all over town, they gave us paper licenses instead of the official one with picture. It is very hot and humid here and I spent considerable time trying to find something that fit me. Trying to wiggle into bathing suits while coated with sweat is definately not fun. While shopping I ran into Peter who had rented a scooter. He gave me a ride back and we ended up circumnavigating the island. It is flat and easy ride. That evening I again ran into the boys as I left Vara's to find some dinner. We ended up at an Italian place where you sit outside and watch the geckos climb around. Most restaurants are outdoor seating.
Thursday morning I awoke early again and watched the sun rise. I am on the SE side of the island so the sunrises are spectacular. It rained for a bit. This is the rainy season and it is quite hot and humid. The rain comes down in torrents, but fortunately tends to be short lived bursts. Budget rental cars rented me a scooter- $75 for 4 days. Fortunately I am familiar and am having a gas tooling around all over the island. If nothing else, the breeze cools things down!
I rode over to the cultural center for their show and lunch. It is a bunch of huts where the history and cultural background of the Polynesians or Maori as they call themselves is explained. Interestingly, they affiliate with the Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans, NZ Maori, but not the Fijians. They think the Fijians came from a different direction. Historically, much the same though- a background of migrations, wars, cannibalism, and island culture where the coconut tree is the tree of life. One of the elders explained that they (he) believes they all originated from the Americas, either north or south and may be related to the American Indians and previous to that came from Jerusalem. Oookay! Must be the missionary influence, but who really knows?
The native attitude to the missionaries seems to be somewhat ambivalent. Gratitude for educating them but like so many native peoples, resentment toward them for trying to stamp out native traditions and cultures. There is a movement to try and bring back many of the skills and traditions and preserve their lifestyle. Many Maoris are leasing their land to foreigners, ( 60 year leasehold), but the catch is that they must buy back the asset after the lease expires. Since there are hotel developments on the property, this is beyond the reach of most people, fostering resentment. Look out Hilton! The Cook Islands are rapidly going the way of Hawaii and Fiji and the other tropical islands- developing so that rich foreigners can lie on the beach and dive and pretend to be environmentally conscious. There are 15 islands total and those in the north group are quite remote, hard to get to and undeveloped. Atui and Atutaki are the two other major attractions in the south. I could fly to either one for a day, but it is expensive and I haven’t decided yet. I thought about spending more time here, but I can only handle so much sun and water.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Okay, a catch up. Having the scooter has been fun. The snorkeling at Muri Beach is not very good. The lagoon is pretty barren and full of sea cucumbers. They are disgusting and squish if you step on them. It is shallow all the way out so that it is actually possible to wade to the smaller islands in the middle. The snorkeling is much better further south on Moana Beach and near Fruits of Raratonga and also at Black Rock near the golf course and airport on the northern side. More coral and fish to see. The coral inside the lagoon is not very colorful, but there is a nice assortment of fish to watch.
Thursday (I think- losing track) I went to the Staircase restaurant for an island dinner and show. The show was actually incredible. The dancers were phenomenal and I had a ringside seat to ogle the young sweaty bodies. The guys appear to work the hardest, their dance is a lot of knee knocking whereas the women have more hula hip action. They were actually wearing coconut shell bras! Glad I didn’t try that one! Stella- I have learned at least 3 more ways to tie a pareau. All you need for a wardrobe here is bathing suit and a length of material.
There are evidently big dance competitions between the islands. You can tell what island a person comes from by what color grass skirt or cloth they are wearing. One woman I was talking to explained that the kids from the outer islands come here to go to school. The dancing has evolved quite a bit with outside influences and the styles differ from island to island.
Had an excellent seafood curry at a restaurant called the Flame Tree just up the road. Yesterday was a great reminder that this is the rainy season. It poured almost the entire day. There is a Saturday market starting at 6am that I went and checked out. Drove over in the rain. Good thing nothing here is really very far. Mostly fruit and vegetable vendors. I bought stuff for dinner and got some lettuce to make a real salad. That is one thing that is hard to find and probably better to wash it yourself. The poke here is marinated in a coconut cream and I like the Hawaiian stuff better. The big market items are black pearls which are farmed on a couple of the islands. They carve them and of course make jewelry. There are also masks, but they are not actually a big part of the culture like in other areas, so I can give them a pass. All in all, the only thing I bought here was clothes and I will leave them behind for the next person that needs luggage!
After the quiet rainy day yesterday, today is hot and sunny. Snorkeled for a while in the morning and had a nice chat with my new neighbor Jo from London who has been traveling for a while. Many of the Europeans do the trip in reverse, going east and hit India, SE Asia, Australia, NZ her and then move on to LA, NY and home. They get the best of the US !
Heading out tomorrow for NZ. Final thoughts on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands- nice tropical paradise, although in my mind there are more interesting places for the travel time and money. Would be a good honeymoon place or get away if you didn’t want to do much. I think this would be much the same at the other islands. They are small and remote and there are no ferries. You must fly there and the more remote northern islands are actually a four hour flight. There are several larger resorts here but for the most part accommodations are all self-contained so you have cooking available. The swimming and snorkeling are better elsewhere. Definitely give Vara’s a pass unless you are young and want to party. Very noisy, not the cleanest or best equipped. For the same or slightly more money you can find someplace much nicer. Fiji has much more to offer. People here are very nice and friendly and quite helpful.