Faux Romance in Paradise
Aitutaki Travel Blog› entry 8 of 52 › view all entries
Sorry The flight's delayed, the Pilot's finishing his lunch.
Rather endearingly, this was the explanation for our flight for Aitutaki leaving an hour later than scheduled. It was absolutely fine by Andrew & me because it just meant we could sunbathe on the grassy 'departure lounge' for an extra hour. The Cooks have an expression 'Coconut Time' which means 'don't worry too much about punctuality, things happen in thier own good time'.
The wait was worth it. Our flight had been overbooked and so 4 of us passengers had our own teeny bi-plane instead. There were 6 empty seats in the front half of the plane whilst the back half was stacked floor to ceiling with Goods. Once we'd all settled into our window seats (the only type available) The co-pilot, a smiling dude with an impressive afro and aviators, climbed through from the cockpit & told us
'That's the only way out' pointing at the door we'd just come through,
And 'that sign which you can't see says to buckle your seat belts.
After take off, in which the engine sounded like an accelerated lawn mower, we cruised along with the cockpit windows open, causing the pilots' shirtsleeves to flap in the wind.
This was, without a doubt, the best commercial flight I've ever taken.
The Doll House
We were greeted at Aitutaki's tiny airport by May who runs the guesthouse we'd booked into. May approached us with a broad grin and a crown of flowers for me. After kisses (!) hello she said:
'once you've collected your bags Uncle Willie will drive you home. We've upgraded you to the doll house, you're going love it!!'.
Andrew & I smiled kind of nervously at each other, we'd specifically booked a twin but 'The Doll's House' sounded decidedly more intimate.
Bag collection consisted of pullling your own bags from the back of a truck, afterwhich we joined Uncle Willie in in his large bus. Already I loved the place.
The Doll house is as cute as it sounds. Sitting right on the beach, there's only a palm tree and a strip of white sand between it and the turqouise water. The house itself is like an elevated shed: a big room standing on stilts, divided into a simple kitchen, bathroom & bedroom - with one double bed! The location was so beautiful and May seemed so excited at the idea of surprising this love-stuck couple with honeymoon quarters, that we couldn't begin to explain 'actually....'.
Once she'd gone I said to Andrew (rather ungraciously) 'Suppose we'll have to live with that.
"Well I can keep my hands off you, if you can keep your hands off me!" Andi says.
And so it was for the next four days, which was slightly wierd but heigh-ho.
Saturday night is Island Night at the Blue Nun by the harbour. Island Night is visited by locals and tourists alike. After a lavish buffet meal in which I had to pick meat & shellfish out of just about everything, plus continue the battle of declining wine & beer (I'm aware I'd make the worst dinner date ever) there was a show by one of the local Village Troupes.
The show is all about traditional dancing & singing to the beat of an intoxicating drum. The men & girls (don't ask why there's no women over 15 in the troupe) all wear traditional dress, which is a sort of leafy sporren & palm swathes around the lower legs for the blokes; For the girls it's a coconut shell bra & leafy skirt sitting low on the hips.
You get feeling of primitive sexuality which would make my dear Granny have a Victorian swoon in her grave!
Aitutaki itself is made up a a series of small islands contained by a large circluar reef, filled with miles and miles of bright blue water. Incidentally, whilst we were there 2 of the littler islands were off-limits whilst RDF were shooting the reality TV show Castaway. For a split second we thought 'how cool' to be on the show, but quickly realised it how awful it would be to be in paradise but unable to chill out; instead having to follow inane rules surrounded by egomaniacs day and night.
The Lagoon tour takes most of the day; as well as simply cruising through postcard scenery, you get to go snorkelling on a reef and exploring 'One Foot Island' which has no inhabitants but does have a postoffice where the boats' captain will stamp your passport with 'Aitutaki'
I'd never snorkelled before because of an irrational fear of suffocating, but once I was left on my own I got the hang of it & then spent hours face down in the sea. There were all sorts of tropical looking fish amidst the coral: black, yellow, zebra-striped, splodgey & rainbow patterned. It was an amazing experience getting eyeballed by a fish! I almost felt like one of them.
To complete the high, on the way back to the main island Andrew & I each spotted a large turtle diving by the boats' edge. Awesome.
It's customary for visitors to the island to join the Sunday morning service. A & I decided to go along, but I must confess to feeling quite uncomfortable about the whole thing; I'm quite anti-religion for reasons I won't bore you with, so doesn't this make me a raging hypocrite by visiting church....?or could my non-belief pollute the purity of the place in come whay?
The church itself is grand without being imposing. It's whitewashed inside & out. and there are big windows filled with blocks of bold primary colours. The simple wooden alter is festooned with flowers; an explosion of bright bulbs & spikey green leaves.
The service alternated between recitals and much raucous singing. The local lady behind Andrew and I had the sort of voice that could tip a sleeping cow with a single note. We literally had to hold on the pews, to stop from being blown up to the front, whilst she gustily gave it her all.
After the service the Priest told the visitors we had no choice but to visit the sunday school where a small feast had been laid on for us.
If you try & escape my police will drag you back! he joked.
Like everything here the spread was abudant: there were sandwiches, cakes, sliced fruit, fried fruit, salads, meats, juice, teas & coffees. We sat & ate with a young Sydney couple, the hospitality of the Islanders making us feel guilty because there's no way our respective countries would ever be so welcoming.
Andrew & I ended each night on Aitutaki lying on our backs on the balcony of the Doll House stargazing (we're still just friends I promise!) whilst listening to his I-pod through attachable speakers. The aim was to spot as many shooting stars as possible, but once you do see one, you can't say because it ruins the wish. This is quite hard because it's instictive to go 'OOOoooo!'.
In between shooters we'd make up shapes from star formations & succeessfuly discovered The Apple, The Guitar, The Eiffel Tower, The Crossbow & The Lear Jet.