November 24th, 2010 – by: Mezmerized
This is what I mean by coconut time!
OOooo now this was all rather exciting. I was flying across the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life and heading for.... well the middle of nowhere. Fifteen small paradise islands in the South Pacific make up the Cook Islands, home for approximately 20,000 people mostly of Maori ethnicity. This is where the Maori people left Polynesia in their canoes to colonise New Zealand, a couple of thousand miles away. I flew directly to Rarotonga, the most developed island in the Cook’s, from Auckland, seeing from the air how tiny this island is and so so remote. Rarotonga was originally formed from volcanic activity and is pretty hilly and uninhabited on the lush interior.
Most people live around the beautiful coastline, surrounded by reefs and lagoons. The peaky mountains really make for a stunning backdrop. I was also going BACK IN TIME, yes crossing the date line. I had two Sunday nights, one in Auckland and one on Rarotonga! I was so excited to arrive to this place, immediately feeling the warm tropical air and the laid back ambience of the island. I quickly learnt that this general lack of worry about time is known on the island as COCONUT TIME. Time to relax the body and empty the mind. Exactly what I needed....
So my days here were spent mostly, well as you can imagine, relaxing on the beach, relaxing by my apartment, strolling around the island and learning about canoes!! I didn’t realise before but my visit actually co-incided with a major annual canoe racing festival called ‘Vaka Eiva’.
People had come from all over Polynesia to join in and this made for a lively atmosphere. I take a walk into Avarua, the capital of the Cook islands but basically just a couple of streets busy with motorcycles. There is a lady selling pancakes on the street and guess where she is from? Yep, Ramsgate, about 15 miles from my home town!! She had married a Cook Islander and settled there. As we are talking, the heavens open, I mean it seriously chucks down, and I run for a bus shelter to finish my pancake. I get talking to three guys, all muscly, tanned and tattooed as they tended to be here! It turns out that these guys had just spent months and months sailing from New Zealand to Tahiti and then to the Cook’s for the canoe festival which they were helping to organise.
Two of them were originally from Rarotonga and the other from NZ. They were getting paid by Discovery Channel who were following their journey. WOW!! I sat chatting to them for a good couple of hours, telling them my story too, about my job, the car accident and the round the world travel. One of the guys said to me ‘You should write a book’!! ‘Are you serious? What you guys are doing is much more incredible’!! Well it was a bit of a mutual appreciation society and after this meet I kept seeing these guys everywhere it was quite funny!!
Right by where I was staying, I could sit by the ocean and watch the canoe racing while enjoying a beer. One day, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but right next to the racing canoes a humpback whale started breaching!! I watched this amazing show with a few of the canoeists who were staying at the same guest house.
Incredible to see this right off the beach! Apparently, the whales are sometimes attracted to canoes, finding them objects of entertainment or something! Other than enjoying the coconut time here, I also really enjoyed the local market in Avarua. Very vibrant market set around a square with live music and dancing. Great opportunity to mix with the locals. I want to mention the portion sizes here. I asked for a small chicken curry at the market and it was MASSIVE, I couldn’t finish it! This seemed to be the general theme here and, coupled with the fact that no-one seems to walk anywhere here (they thought i was nuts for wanting to!), they all have mopeds, it is not really surprising that Cook islanders are actually ranked the third most obese nation in the world!! I had no idea of this fact before i came here and it surprised me. Well anyway, if you look at my photos and think this is paradise, wait til you see my next blog entry......