Where two next?

Antipodean travelogue through the eyes of two - one textile and one building lover. It'll be hard to differentiate the two!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Rarotonga (Part 2)

As well as the sandy beaches there's also the interior of the island which has it's own beauty. Here's some pics taken along the main road that circles the island.

One thing that strikes you about the interior of the island is the many graves sites that are in people's gardens. I didn't take a pic but some of them are quite elaborate. The Cook Islander's have a similar, if not the same, belief system when it comes to land as the Maori's. They believe the land is not theirs to sell and belongs to the family. Our guide in Aitutaki explained that this was one of the main reasons the islands are largely underdeveloped as the land is not for sale. This tradition also means that the land is constantly getting subdivided with each new generation and as a consequence family's individual "holdings" (if that's the right word) are getting smaller and smaller. The deceased have to be buried on the families land so there are no central grave yards like we are used to.

I have just finished reading a book called Tikanga Maori (Living by Maori Values) by Hirini Moko Mead and in it he quotes the following to describe the Maori's view on land "land was not something that could be owned or traded. Maoris did not seek to own or possess anything, but to belong. One belonged to a family, that belonged to a hapu (sub tribe), that belonged to a tribe. One did not own the land. One belonged to the land"

Another amazing things about the Cook Islands is the multitude of flowers and associated scents. Here's a few pics of some of the local flora.

The last day I crossed over to one of the islands in Muri Beach lagoon called Oneroa and took a few pics from there looking back towards the mainland. The first pic gives you a good idea how hilly the country is which is not stereotypical of south pacific islands generally especially the likes of troubled Tuvalu.

The boat above was solar powered and belonged to the hotel we were staying at. I don't know who owns the dog but he was very fond of the boat to the point where anybody renting it had to put up with his company for the day!

We had a lovely time in the Cook Islands although the weather was very mixed. We had rain a lot of days but luckily the main storms seemed to pass over us at night. According to an old lonely planet book I found at the hotel it rains quite a bit in Raro and recommends you bring clothes suitable for the odd bout of precipitation! Although I think it is referring to showers you would associate with a tropical climate and high humidity. The week previous the weather was really nice and the weather forecast for the week after the same. So it would seem that we were unlucky! If you want to know the weather forecast all you need to do is stroll down Muri Beach to Tai's weather rock pictured below!

We had some great meals on the island. The best places for evening meals were probably the Paw Paw Patch at the Moana Sands Hotel (they dropped us home when I enquired about a taxi which was very nice), Sails restaurant in Muri Beach and Tamarind House just outside the capital Avarau. There's a lot of sea food which is great but also a lot of deep fat fried food! When you get sick of the ubiquitous french fries try out the Maire Nui Cafe & Gardens near the Moana Sands. It is only open during the day and specialises in organic food and in particular salads, breads and deserts. There is literally nothing else so if you don't like rabbit food stay away! You also need to bring cash as they do not accept credit cards.

The Lonely Planet Blue list suggests that everyone should visit the south pacific islands while they can and in particular places like Tuvalu which is in dire straits due to the affects of global warming. With the rise in sea levels and the increasing number of cyclones, to which the islands are prone, there is not much hope for some of the islands. I am not sure how the likes of Rarotonga and Aituaki will fair in the long run but at least Raro has some mountains associated with it's volcanic past.

The Cook Islander's speak Maori and the currency is the NZ dollar even though it is an independent country. It has strong connections with NZ due to its history and the fact that the Polynesian explorers that discovered Aotearoa (NZ) all set off from Rarotonga at some point.

The minute you get off the plane in Raro you start to relax, it is a unique island and the people are very friendly- apart from the odd narky bus driver! The pic above is the garden associated with the international departure area. There might not be a lot of shops but there's plenty of space to relax. I think that goes for the entire island!


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