- Day 23: RARO SORROW
- Day 24: WIGGIN’ OUT
- Day 25: ROUGH SNORKELING
- Day 26: WORK DAY
- Day 27: GOOD FOR THE LOCALS
- Day 28: SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY
- Day 29: COMING TO AN END
Day 23: RARO SORROW
The day started off pretty uneventfully as we packed up and headed out of the City Centre Hotel in Auckland at a little after 7:30am. I was still struggling with staying awake (we awoke at 6am) as Julie was getting ready because I didn’t sleep until some time after midnight.
As we drove the twenty minutes to the airport, we did notice that the city did come alive somewhat with well-dressed Kiwis walking to work. I think this may have been the very first time all trip long that we witnessed something like this, and this could be an indication that people have just started returning to work.
As for the rest of the pre-flight formalities, there was no drama. That was until we were at the gate waiting for our flight. It was then that Julie looked through her confirmations and vouchers and said to me that her accommodation bookings and car hire didn’t account for the fact that Cook Islands was one day behind New Zealand. So it was possible that tonight, we might not be able to have a place to stay nor have our own transport.
So with that in mind, we knew we couldn’t really do anything about it now. We just had to proceed and play it by ear to see what happens next.
As for the plane ride, I just remembered sleeping on the plane in between watching both Zombieland and The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. When we de-planed, we got through passport control and then waited for quite a while before finally getting our checked luggage. The conveyor belt wasn’t very big so I’m sure the staff put luggages on the conveyor belt in tiers.
But when we finally got our belongings, we headed right for the Avis counter and were fortunate that there was a tiny Toyota Yaris available. So at least that part of the snafu went by ok.
And so we proceeded to drive to the other side of the island to our accommodation in the hopes that something would be available to us. We headed east and drove around the northeast part of the island at 50km/h (that was the speed limit throughout).
We were supposed to go to the Rarotonga Beach Bungalows since our original booking was there. But the lady made a snafu and booked us at the Little Polynesian. Still, we were asked to check in at the RBB before going to the Little Polynesian.
When we finally arrived at the accommodation at around 5:30pm, we saw a pair of backpackers waiting in front of the office. Unfortunately, there was no one at the office, and therefore, we were unable to meet up with the person that Julie had been corresponding with while we were at home.
So we ended up going straight to the Little Polynesian where we eventually spoke with the receptionist there and explained our situation. We later learned that the RBB correspondent had us checking in two days after today, which was yet another unexpected mistake.
Further compounding the situation was that Julie realized she left the LP Cook Islands book on the plane! It certainly wasn’t a good start to this trip.
Anyways, after a bit of waiting, we got the good news that we will have a room tonight and tomorrow night. So at least the international date line snafu wouldn’t put us in a bad spot. Meanwhile, the receptionist Teina was talking to us about the state of the Cook Islands industry. Apparently, they’re bracing for a tough 2010.
When we were finally checked into our room, we quickly got back into the car and returned to the airport. We didn’t get there until about 7pm. But the airport was pretty dead as everything was closed. We’d have to inquire about lost and found tomorrow. And that was fine since we had to go to the Police Station to replace our temporary license with a Cook Islands driving license anyways.
At 7:30pm, we had ourselves a dinner at the Little Polynesian in which most of the stuff was imported from New Zealand. Even the local stuff didn’t seem all that fresh, but the demi souffle dessert was quite good.
After the dinner, we walked over to the neighboring Paw Paw Patch Restaurant next door to the RBB. They seemed to have a more interesting menu consistenting of lots of local stuff, and we made it a point to come here to dine at some point later on in this trip.
By 9pm, we were back in our room to finally call it a day. We foresee an errand day tomorrow before we can get comfortable and settle into island time. But until then, we can consider the Cook Islands part of our last extended honeymoon trip as having just gotten underway…
Day 24: WIGGIN’ OUT
We awoke at 8am. Actually, I briefly got up at around 7am where I saw a little bit of a golden view of the beach and lagoon while the sun was rising. This was as I was looking towards our feet while in bed. But I just wanted to sleep in and get caught up on sleep so instead of getting up and trying to take photographs, I went back to sleep.
So we freshened up to a much brighter morning and not that warm glow I saw earlier. Then, we had a simple tropical breakfast (consisting of cereal and fresh fruits) that was complementary.
At 10am, we finally started the day. But our day initially consisted of running errands. First up was a return to the airport in the hopes of recovering our LP guidebook that we had left in the plane. And we managed to do just that as by 10:20am, we were fortunate to have recovered it from the Lost and Found.
Ten minutes later, we went to the supermarket to pick up some snacks, soy milk, and water. After the trauma of spending $5NZD for a 750mL bottle of water at the Little Polynesian Resort, we bought 3 1.5L bottles for that price at the market. I’m sure the upscale restaurants won’t like this, but we’re bringing our own water.
Then, 15 minutes later, we went to the Police Station to purchase drivers licenses. Even though at $20NZD per person for an annual license while a temporary license at $2.50NZD per day per person was possible (but only at the car rental place which required driving all the way to the other side of the island each day), we just went for the more expensive option thinking that perhaps the petrol waste for the daily temporary license procurement would more than make up for the initial hit in price.
Regardless, we both now have a souvenir from the Cook Islands as the license cards were kind of sturdy and nice, and not those flimsy cardboard things that you’re more likely to discard.
At a little after 11am, we left the police station and finally got started with our actual sightseeing. And for today, it was going to be the Wigmore’s Waterfall. It was the only waterfall we were going to see in the Cook Islands.
So by 11:45am, we made it to the end of the mostly sealed road (though it was full of potholes) to the Wigmore’s Waterfall. The turnoff to get here involved going west of the Vaima Restaurant and not going so far west so as to bypass the failed Sheraton property. The road initially was unsealed next to the ghostly dilapidated resort, but then was sealed the rest of the way to the falls.
The Sheraton resort was said to be a failure because of some scrupulous overseas players who didn’t fulfill or managed to squander the investment money needed to support the development of the property. The Cook Islands government was so duped that this project was said to be responsible for half of its current national debt.
Still, I wonder if this failed project was a blessing in disguise because there’s still yet to be a mega resort on Rarotonga or any of the other islands in the country. That has allowed the Cook Islands to retain a very rural and laid back feel where places like Tahiti and Fiji might seem more commercialized, though both of those countries are nothing like the mega-commercialism you see in Hawaii and The Caribbean.
Anyways, at the end of the road, there was a van as well as a handful of picnic tables. Unfortunately, the falls was nowhere to be seen except for some moisture on the wall. But there were some sounds of perturbed water somewhere above the falls suggesting there was some water here and should be coming down this wall as a waterfall (though it didn’t).
However, I noticed a pipe going across the top of the falls, and I guessed that the water has been diverted. Apparently, since we’re a month or so into the Cook Islands’ wet season, this had led me to believe that these falls only flows during or immediately after a sustained downpour. I guess this waterfall was kind of a downer of a way to celebrate the last waterfall of this trip.
Other Polynesians (I wasn’t sure if they’re locals or Polynesian visitors from other islands) came up in scooters as well as that van that was already here. I was surprised to see them just as disappointed and surprised as we were about the state of the falls. I figured they’d know the conditions better than anyone else, but their surprised reactions was a bit of a strange sight.
So we didn’t spend much time here. We left at 12pm and headed towards the Vaima Restaurant. But we learned that this was a dinner only place so we continued driving clockwise back towards the north of the island. I think this was now the third time we were going around this island by now.
By 12:55pm, we were back at sort of the busy part of Rarotonga called Avarua. We were looking for this place called Paulina’s, but now it’s replaced by some fried chicken place. So we ended up eating at this place called Trader Jack’s where we had our first try at Ika Mata, which was the local version of the Tahitian Poisson Cru, a type of raw tuna soaked in coconut and lime juice.
We also had some fish curry as well as a seared sesame crusted tuna as mains.
After the lunch, we walked around the area looking for internet, a local pareu (pronounced “paru”) shirt, and some ice cream or smoothies.
Eventually, at 3:55pm, we left and headed around the east side of the island. By 4:10pm, we were in front of this place called the Fruits of Rarotonga. There, we identified a decent snorkeling spot, which we’ll definitely be checking out either tomorrow or the day after.
However, the smoothie stand was closed. Another stand up the road was also out of fruits. I’m sure we’ll be back here tomorrow to try to beat the heat with some local fruit drinks.
We did kill some time around here checking out the Muri Beach and Lagoon area. Actually, the beach access wasn’t well signed (if at all), but the locals running one of the fruit stands encouraged us to walk down a nearby road to the beach.
And once we did that, we noticed where there was a little activity including some kayaking and swimming while the beaches were fronted by some cafes and restaurants. Further out on the reef, we saw some of the motus (islets) we noticed on some post cards. I’m sure we’ll be spending some more time here in the next couple of days.
At 5pm, we were back at our accommodation. We almost overnapped as we awoke at 5:40pm. So we had to quickly get into our cars and honor our 6pm dinner reservation at Tamarind House. Fortunately, we did make it, but we thought the food wasn’t better than Trader Jack’s. I guess this was one of those cases where people have hyped up this place, but it didn’t quite live up to the elevated expectations.
By 8pm, we were back at the Little Polynesian to call it a day.
Day 25: ROUGH SNORKELING
We once again slept in this morning as we didn’t get up until 9am. And we didn’t have our breakfast until 10am. We had noticed the weather was noticeably more overcast today. So Julie was debating whether to make today a workday or defer it to tomorrow.
It wasn’t until Julie walked over to the Moana Sands Resort to use their internet did she learn from the receptionist that the forecast for tomorrow was thundershowers. So given that, we decided to just go out and snorkel today, which we promptly did after 11:30am.
First up was snorkeling at the southeastern end of the island near the Fruits of Rarotonga stand. This was said to have the best snorkeling. So we went ahead and went right into the shallow lagoon looking for marine life.
Unfortunately, the waters were quite choppy and the visibility left much to be desired. This was due to the windy conditions and the overcast skies. The choppiness of the water made my head bob up and down quite vigorously and I started to get headaches from a bit of motion sickness.
I thought with our Maldives trip last time that perhaps I had gotten over seasickness while snorkeling, but this experience seemed to have caused me to regress.
We weren’t the only ones battling the rough waters to snorkel here. There were at least a half-dozen other parties and more were showing up. But we didn’t stay in the water long and decided to head out for a lunch.
So we drove around the southern end of the island looking for some decent spots to eat. But they either didn’t offer lunch or didn’t have anything fresh (trying the eke would’ve been nice, but the place we went to didn’t have it despite being on the menu).
So eventually we ended back at Muri Beach. The smoothie and milkshake stand didn’t have fresh mangoes (contrary to what we were told yesterday) so we just walked towards this place called the Sails Cafe.
There, we had a delicious fish bruschetta along with some seafood linguine. It hit the spot and wasn’t overeating.
Afterwards, we got our gear and waded across the lagoon towards the nearest motu right across from the Muri Beach Sands Resort.
While wading, the water never went beyond waist deep so we were able to bring Julie’s digital camera to the motu without a problem. But it was too bad the skies were so overcast and threatening rain because the view back towards the main Rarotonga Island was quite beautiful.
In a way, this was reminiscent of the motu excursion we had in Moorea except we didn’t have to boat to the motu this time around. Still, other tours were boated out to this motu then were treated to some BBQ and a coconut husking demonstration.
We didn’t partake in it, but we did manage to do a little snorkeling instead. And once again, the snorkeling was nothing compared to our Maldives experience, which we thought wasn’t quite as good as the Great Barrier Reef experience. So that kind of made us wonder if the Cook Islands was said to have good snorkeling, then what else have those folks seen in terms of snorkeling?
Anyways, when all was said and done, we were back at the car at 4pm. And when we got back to the Little Polynesian, we showered off the sand and put on some drier more comfortable clothing.
We had a 6pm dinner reservation at the Paw Paw Patch where we were looking forward to their more traditional-slanted menu. We were a little tired of Ika Mata after having had it twice yesterday. Plus, we had been having nothing but seafood so far, and I had to admit that we were getting a little tired of it. But how could we not have seafood when just about everything (especially the meats) were imported from New Zealand?
We’ll just play it by ear once again. Seems like that’s all you can do when your activities revolve around Mother Nature’s mood swings…
Day 26: WORK DAY
With last night’s rain which seemed to have carried on all the way until a few hours before dawn, we figured today would be as good a day as any to go to work. That meant Julie was going to do a series of site inspections so she can advise her clients about the Cook Islands. Meanwhile, I’d be working with organizing and labeling photos.
At 9am, Julie started on her work. And while all that was going on, I was busy on the computer every once in a while looking out the window to see if the sun had come out. And when it does, I’d go outside to take photos of the colorful lagoon right outside our bungalow.
By about 1pm, Julie returned to our bungalow. By this time, it was a pretty hot and sunny day despite dark clouds surrounding the island everywhere you look. We ended up going for a quick lunch from the Little Polynesian since someone had to be in the room so the key can keep the power going and Julie’s camera could be recharged.
Her site inspections consisted of some six resorts. She was already wearing the fatigue on her demeanor and her body language. I’m sure the heat and humidity didn’t help either.
By about 2pm, Julie was back out going on more site inspections. This time I joined her for at least the Pacific Resort, the Muri Beach Club Hotel, and the Muri Beachcomber. When we got back to our bungalow, Julie did one more at the Moana Sands next door to our resort.
It wasn’t until around 3:30pm when Julie returned and we decided to drive to the Wigmore’s Waterfall to see if last night’s rain revived it at all. But when we got there, it remained pretty much dry though the pool beneath the falls grew substantially. I guess you need a real downpour in order for this falls to flow.
We then went snorkeling at around 4:30pm in front of the Moana Sands Resort. The conditions were less than ideal as the skies remained overcast and the visibility was pretty poor. I guess we were spoiled by our experiences in the Great Barrier Reef and the Maldives. But so far the Cook Islands snorkeling left much to be desired.
By about 5:45pm, we left our bungalow and then proceeded to go to the Pacific Resort for dinner, which we had dinner reservations at 6pm. And when we got to the restaurant, the Muri Lagoon was quite calm. The restaurant was basically under a white canopy with tables under white tablecloth. We managed to get some happy hour drinks (still at $10NZD even though it’s half price) and then we treated ourselves to Te Ika Mata and Koromiri Scallops before having mains of fresh mahi mahi and pork osso bucco.
And despite these little black gnats swarming all over me because they seemed to be attracted to bright colors (and I was wearing a bright green “Sweet As” Kiwi shirt), we still enjoyed the food here and thought this might have been the best food we had so far in Raro. I guess the higher prices here were more or less warranted since this place seemed to be heads and shoulders above the rest we had tried so far. As for the swarming gnats, these little buggers were even after my cocktail drink which was a yellowish reddish color, and I think one or two even managed to swim in my drink. Funny they left Julie and just about everyone else alone.
By 7:15pm, we were back at our room, but I didn’t enter until I took off my shirt, patted out those annoying gnats, and then bolted into our room when we thought the gnats were mostly gone. And so ended this rather busy day. Tomorrow, we’re headed to Aitutaki for the last couple of nights on this trip. Hope the weather holds up. Beyond that, it’s back to reality…
Day 27: GOOD FOR THE LOCALS
It was around 6am when I awoke for some reason. But before I decided to go back to sleep for the last half-hour before the alarm would go off, I realized as I looked out the window that there was something purplish pink in the water. And that could only mean one thing – sunrise lighting!
So I bolted out of bed, grabbed my DSLR camera, and then stepped right out into the sand in front of our bungalow where I saw some funky cloud formations illuminated with purplish pink light. What made the scene even more alluring was that the lagoon was very calm and reflective.
So with this turn of events, I took as many photos as I could finding reasonable ways to compose this shot. In between shots, I had to fight the condensation as I went from a relatively dry air-conditioned bungalow to the typical tropical mugginess of the South Pacific in the Wet Season (i.e. their Summer).
I didn’t even worry whether there were mosquitoes around or not. And fortunately for me, I didn’t get bit while I was enjoying the silence.
There were even a handful of other males out and about at this time of day. Some did just as I did and took photos. Another was jogging along the beach with a pair of dogs.
Eventually, the lighting went from moody soft colors to loud bright yellow as the sun went high enough on the horizon. And instantly when that happened, the waters got ripply (hence the reflections went away), it got real hot (and I started to sweat), and the clouds turned whitish again. So that was enough photographing for me. Now, it’s time to return to our bungalow, where I’m sure outsiders could tell we’re using the AC because our window had lots of condensation on it, and it seemed we were the only ones from what I could visibly tell.
After we were done packing and getting ready for the day, we had breakfast in the familiar dining area by the infiniti pool. Funny how the weather now is nice and sunny with all the lagoon colors coming out when it’s a travel day, and we have to leave the resort. I can only hope this fine weather is also the case in Aitutaki.
It was about 8:45am when we were done with our complementary breakfast and drove around the eastern end of the island back to the airport. Julie needed some soy milk to bring to Aitutaki (thinking there wouldn’t be any over there) so we made a stop at the supermarket before returning to the airport at around 9:15am.
It turned out that we were a bit too early for both the Avis car hire and to check-in for our departure to Aitutaki so we were spending the time reading our LP about possible places to eat as well as figuring out how we should spend our time there.
Anyways, eventually we got to check in our luggage (with soy milk and all), and then had to wait for roughly another hour before we finally got to board our plane. During that time, the mosquitoes were having a field day with us, and it was stiflingly muggy and hot. Both of us were glistening with sweat and our clothes were sticking to us. So much for maintaining travel clothes, because on the day we return to LAX, we’re going to have to go through a similar ordeal but without the benefit of having a shower prior to our flight.
By around 11:30am, we landed in Aitutaki. We were on the left side of the plane hoping for that Bora Bora-like aerial view of Aitutaki. Unfortunately, it was quite cloudy and the plane flew a lower trajectory so we couldn’t get that nice aerial shot that I wanted.
We expected to be picked up by our car hire place at the airport, but apparently they weren’t around. So we ended up joining a transfer to the Pacific Resort, but they’d be dropping us off the Tamanu Beach Resort (where we were staying) en route.
After we picked up our luggage and before we got into the van, some guy was speaking to us saying he had seen us before at the Pacific Resort in Rarotonga. Julie and I weren’t sure if he had us confused with some other Asian folks, but he was insistent that we were there passing by and even visited. And when he explained that he’s the CEO of Pacific Resorts, then I think that kind of disarmed any suspiscion we might have had regarding his interest in us.
So we got into some small talk about the Cook Islands and the way Hawai’i was 50 years ago. We actually thought Raro was more of a quieter and smaller version of Moorea. And we were wondering if Aitutaki was going to be a smaller version and quieter version of Bora Bora.
Anyways, we checked into our Tamanu Beach bungalow shortly thereafter, got settled, and sweated it out as Julie was making calls trying to rectify the car hire situation while also trying to make some bookings. Meanwhile, I was taking photos, but I could see a squall coming in, and within a few minutes, it was pouring. This totally contrasted the nice fine weather we were leaving at Rarotonga.
The head of housekeeping managed to help Julie get through on the phone to the lobby and then the car hire company. She also talked to us about island life and doing things “island style.” It was interesting to hear her talk because it really reminded me of the way Hawaiians speak English. Maybe there’s something about the Polynesian language that lends itself to make English somehow sound like pidgin.
She also told us that the rain was very welcome because the last several days were real hot and without rain. She then conjectured that maybe we brought the rain with us. Now where have we heard that before? (oh yes, those folks in Blenheim who were enjoying several days of fine weather until we showed up)
In any case, she thought the rain was good for the locals. I’m sure for our own selfish reasons, we would’ve preferred the sunny and hot weather, but that’s the way it is sometimes. And like our visit to Nelson and Blenheim in New Zealand, which saw a lot of rain, I feared that our Aitutaki visit just happened to coincide with a break in fine weather in favor of tropical downpours.
After a few minutes, the weather calmed down. And of course the humidity returned.
From there, we were picked up by the car hire folks. Somehow they managed to ignore their own emails and confirmation notices, which explained why they weren’t even aware of our booking. Anyways, we finally got into a small 2-door vehicle where the AC was barely working (at least not enough to offset the intense tropical heat). We swore it was hotter here than it was in Rarotonga where it seemed like there was a consistent breeze making the temperature more manageable.
So now that we were free to move about the island, we first went to the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort. There, Julie tried to do a site inspection, but only managed to have a lunch there (not very good for a 5-star resort), admire the views of the extensive lagoon, check out the well-endowed Tangaroa Statue, and get eaten alive by mosquitoes while waiting out another heavy downpour. We’d have to come back tomorrow when rooms would be freed up for Julie to do a site inspection here.
Later, we drove back towards the western side of the island where we found Tauono’s and happened to meet up with one of the co-owners. However, we couldn’t make dinner plans there because one of the co-owners sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago. So we continued into Arutango for some much needed cold drinking water, and then headed back towards the Pacific Resort.
Once we got there, we walked around the premises even though the folks here said they didn’t have any free rooms for a site inspection until Saturday.
Then, we drove around the island looking for a lookout as suggested by one of the free maps provided at the information office at the Rarotonga airport. When we made it up to some water tank on the top of a hill, we could get glimpses of some of the lagoons and motus surrounding Aitutaki, but I’d reckon this view wasn’t quite what we had in our 4×4 excursions in Bora Bora. We did see an even taller hill in the distance, but further research indicated to us that we would have to hike some 30 minutes each way to summit that hill starting from somewhere near our resort. Maybe we’ll check it out when the weather turns out to be better than today.
By 6:30pm, we ate that the Cafe Tupuna. There, we got some reasonably priced (by Aitutaki standards) home-cooked meals consisting of an Ika Mata-like fish in lime juice and some chilis along with mains of a different type of seafood curry as well as some unique seafood dish called Tupuna’s Favorite.
When we left the restaurant at 7:30pm, we could see that we missed out on what would’ve been a pretty awesome sunset as we could see some of the clouds in the distance were in an orangish glow, but we were still too far inland. Oh well, maybe tomorrow, we might be fortunate enough to catch a sunset from our resort.
By 8pm, we were back in our room. We spent some time checking out Amazing Race on TV, which the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we were on a more remote island watching some choice programming when Raro had only one channel and pretty comical home-made ads and news from and about the Cook Islands. Even the reception here was better than there. Go figga.
By around 8:50pm, we heard the drums going, and we knew the Island Night show had just begun. So we quickly got out of our room and walked the few paces to the lit up tiki torches where a bunch of local Maori women were doing their version of hula dances with a bit of the face-paced energetic Polynesian flare as their hips were swaying quickly and wildly.
These were interspersed with Maori males doing more war dances, and at the end, several of them were twirling fire sticks. When all was said and done, we got back to our rooms under a suddenly star-filled night. I can only hope that fine weather returns tomorrow in our one and only full day in the island.
Day 28: SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY
At 7am we got up out of bed together. Actually, I had awoken at around 6:15am and noticed some purple and pink in the clouds again. So I got up as soon as I could, grabbed my camera, then went outside into the humid air.
Unfortunately, as I was done wiping the condensation (which kept coming back) from the lens, the photos I took lacked the color that I initially saw. To add insult to injury, some of the mozzies took pot shots at me on my calf.
So back into the room I went to sneak in another half-hour of sleep before we had to get up. Since Julie made a TeKing booking for a lagoon tour today (which pick-up was around 9-9:30am), we had to get our stuff together and then have the complementary breakfast. We heard some loud clattering noises from outside and it turned out that a squall was dumping its load over us. This didn’t bode well for our hopes of having fine weather during our tour today. But then again, I was hoping that with this being tropical weather, perhaps it would pass and the day would be dominated by good weather. I guess we’re about to find out what we’re in for.
Anyways, by 9am, we were waiting, and at around 9:15am, we were picked up in a van and were on our way. A few more people joined us at some other accommodation and it turned out that there was about 7 paying customers for this tour.
The boat we were on didn’t seem to have sufficient shade for where we were sitting (at the front). So we were already worried about possibly getting sun burnt even though we were going to slip, slop, and slap our sunscreen on ourselves frequently. But the time spent in the water snorkeling was sure to wash off most of that as well as any insect repellant we had on.
Well to make a long story short, we did manage to enjoy three snorkeling sessions, and each one of them had a fair bit of sun so visibility was good.
There were also plenty of fish and coral, and this was far better than any of the snorkeling we had done in Raro. This just confirmed our suspiscion that atolls are good for marine life, but larger islands with reefs surrounding them typically aren’t as pleasing marine life wise.
When we were taking a break, we did manage to discuss with TeKing (the tour guide who runs this operation) about flights. After all, it seemed natural to discuss duration of stays and flights when trying to break the ice with strangers.
And during this conversation, we brought up the issue about Sunday flights. Apparently, the Cook Islands government and Rarotonga were conducting local Sunday flights to and from Aitutaki. And many people of Aitutaki didn’t like it at all as it seemed most of them were Christian and quite a few of the locals posted very Hawaiian like signs (reminiscent of the A’ole La’au signs we saw on Moloka’i) saying the gov’t and Air Raro sold out to the almighty dollar and disrespected the Sabbath since Sunday was supposed to be a rest day.
Sometimes, I wondered why Cook Island Maoris embraced something as European as Christianity as opposed to something even more traditionally Polynesian. I guess the Missionaries that showed up here in the mid 1800s really did their job convincing the locals here to abandon their own beliefs.
TeKing chose to side with no one though he did confirm that the timing of the flights were done without the consultation of Aitutakians, which is pretty messed up when you think about it.
In addition to the snorkeling, we spent some time on Honeymoon Island and One Foot Island. Both islands were motus featuring extensive sandbars (almost Whitsundays like). Some of the sandbars formed isthmuses where you could wade in ankle-deep lagoon water while your feet rested on soft white sand. And all of this happened to be done in pretty fine weather where the sun brought out gorgeous lagoon colors as well as some reef colors such as some purple reefs as well as yellowish brain coral.
The snorkeling yielded views of impressive giant clams (brought over from Australia after the last mass coral bleaching event in 1989 due to a combination of El Nino, rising sea temperatures, Global Warming (the driving factor of the first two), and overharvesting), smaller more colorful native clams, and a plethora of reef fish including the plentiful parrot fish.
We also had a delicious traditional BBQ lunch on the adjacent island to Honeymoon Island called “Unfaithful Island.” Dunno the whole story to that, but the food consisted of grilled tuna, grilled chicken, grilled bananas (tasting like banana flambe), breadfruit salad, starfruits, papayas, mangos, bananas, banana pudding, taro, and bread. All pretty good stuff.
We eventually returned back to the Tamanu Beach Resort where we washed off all the sticky, salty reef water and got into cleaner clothes. But before I could get settled in and save time organizing and labeling photos while blogging, Julie interrupted me to drive her to her Aitutaki Lagoon site inspection.
I didn’t understand why she didn’t just drive herself to the ferry parking area and do the inspection herself because it wasn’t necessary for me to be there. Besides, I wasn’t going to take repeat photos from the photos taken yesterday.
So with me chauffeuring her to her site inspection, I tried to make the most out of this inconvenience by bringing along the computer, the camera, and all this other stuff while waiting for her.
Complicating matters were the swarm of mosquitoes taking pot shots at me while in the car. This occurred because I felt bad about wasting petrol and causing pollution leaving the car on to stay cool while waiting for her so I opened the windows and car doors to get the benefit of the breeze at the moment. And that was when the natural breeze apparently did jack to blow away the mosquitoes, and so I ended up trying to do work amidst the battalion of mozzies. I wasn’t feeling particularly happy about this turn of events especially since it wasn’t necessary, but at the same time, I didn’t feel like getting in a fight with Julie where I’m sure she thought she was in the right even in something as absurd as this.
So I ended up with a dozen bites from my toes to my arms as well as my lower leg area. I hope she can appreciate that taking me along for this wasn’t a smart move. For all this stuff I was doing could’ve been accomplished back at the room without the cost of all the wasted petrol and time. And I’m sure the locals and other tourists passing by were wondering why the car was still left running while parked, which further made me feel uncomfortable about doing this. Yet somehow I don’t think she’ll learn from this and we’ll probably have another one of those moments in the future where she can’t admit when she’s wrong and get in a fight to stubbornly think she’s right.
Anyways, this wasn’t a good way to end off an otherwise fine day of touring. But rather than endure a fight with Julie over this issue, I mind as well suck it up.
We finally left the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort Ferry area at 6pm. It couldn’t have been soon enough. The mood was a bit tense as we didn’t really talk to each other in the hour or so since this incident.
And afterwards, we ditched yet another dinner reservation at the Tamanu Beach for a dinner and the hope of catching a colorful sunset. Instead, we ate at the Boatshed Restaurant near the car hire place for something a little cheaper yet different. We did see Jason and Jules from the tour, but admittedly we weren’t real talkative since we were just coming off of a bit of drama from earlier.
Thus, we missed yet another Aitutakian sunset. I guess we didn’t put too much of a priority on it this time around.
And so ended our last full day in the Cook Islands. Tomorrow won’t be a real pleasant day as I’m sure we’ll be flying home late at night after a full day of sweating it out in the heat and humidity while wearing lots of DEET and sunscreen. The extra dozen mosquito bites from this afternoon also isn’t going to help with making things tolerable as we await our flight and the long haul itself. But at least we’ll be back at home by Sunday. I guess you could say homesickness had definitely kicked in by now.
Day 29: COMING TO AN END
We spent the majority of the morning getting packed up and ready for our flight home, which wasn’t until later this evening. We had to make a short flight back to Raro at 7pm, and then collect our bags for the long haul back home to LA, and that wasn’t until midnight.
So we had a late breakfast (fortunate that Tamanu Beach was gracious enough to let us have a late breakfast after the 10am closing time). Afterwards, I was busy killing time in the lobby area on the computer (fighting off mosquitoes as usual) while Julie was out and about doing her site inspections.
After Julie was done with her site inspections, we went for lunch at Pacific Resort. We wished we could’ve had dinner here last night, but it was Island night, and we didn’t feel like stuffing ourselves with a buffet. In hindsight, we should’ve booked for Cafe Tupuna’s last night instead of the night before and did the Pacific Resort a la carte dinner that first night. So lunch here would have to do, and we looked forward to eating here (especially given our dining experience at their sister property in Rarotonga). But it turned out that the lunch experience here was quite disappointing, and I guess our hunch that the excellent dinner in the sister property in Raro would carry over to here was a bad bet. We probably would’ve had a better lunch eating pizzas at Samade’s By The Beach…
The rest of the afternoon was spent vegging in the one free room that Mike at the Tamanu Beach graciously allowed guests to wait in for the flight tonight. There were two other couples chillin’ out here as well. And everyone was taking turns taking showers though the AC was only confined to the bedroom.
I had contemplated hiking to the very top of Aitutaki Island, but ended up not doing it because we were simply too lazy to ask around for directions to the start of the walk. Plus, we were also not in the mood to sweat it out considering we still had lots of flying to do later on tonight.
And so our extended honeymoon finale ended rather anti-climactically. On the bright side, maybe the whimper of an ending might be a sign that our travels and learning experiences don’t end here and might continue in ways we hadn’t anticipated.
Only time will tell…
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