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Journey to the Cook Islands

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Journey to the Cook Islands
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My South Pacific Isle!
...from the journals of CW Bryant (age 11)


August 4...
 
    In 13 hours I’ll be wiggling my toes in the sand on a beach from a speck in the South Pacific!  Just imagine... with all the huge land masses in the world--I’m headed for this tiny island hardly big enough to find on the globe.  Weird huh?  
    Rarotonga, sounds like a war chant, is the main island of a group called the Cook Islands.  It means “down south.”  We’ll also fly to Aitutaki, this name reminds me of a sushi dish.
    Think I’ll snooze for a while--time goes quicker that way!  Well... maybe after the movie.

August 5...
 
    This island is the greatest, what a sight from the plane.  Bluegreen to dark blue waters... and a reef circle an island of beaches and green mountains!  Kia orana  is Maori for “hi.”  It means may you live on...  
     At our hotel, we found our room and headed straight for the beach--arriving just as a humpback whale swam by... really close to shore... wow, can you believe that?  We followed it up the beach--now that’s a good sign!         
    The afternoon was spent hanging around the swimming pool and beach.  I didn’t see any more whales, but spied plenty of tropical fish like parrot, puffers, unicornfish, and moorish idol.    
    Around the corner from the motel is a small house and inside are open boxes stacked high in all the rooms... Mom chuckled, “It’s the  market!”  The milk looks weird, it’s not refrigerated but the juices are sure good.  Across the road from the hotel is a Rarotongan fast food restaurant--not bad!  Time for bed, I’m really tired...
 
August 6..

    The birds sang happily on our deck... early this morning! Papayas grow everywhere and we’ve eaten lots of them--yummy!
    We toured the island... by scooter!  That’s the best way and it’s fun too.  Although it seems sort of backwards--here you drive on the left side of the road.  We stopped at some real pretty beaches and snorkeled--saw the Crown of Thorns starfish which is killing the coral--it’s pretty bad.
    There are two roads around the island, a coastal road and Ara Metua, the ancient inland road made of coral blocks, some 1000 years ago--wow, and you can still drive on it!  Along this road we saw ruins like Pa’s Palace and Arai-te-tonga, the most sacred spot of the island--that’s where the chiefs became... well, chiefs.  It was fun to climb the stone blocks and imagine what it was like back then.  Another couple climbed along with us--the lady teaches school in Alaska!  I hope we see them again.
    The main town of Avarua started as an old trading post.  It now has souvenir stores, restaurants, banks, a post office, and oh ya, the police station, that’s where mom got her Rarotongan driver’s license... cool!  The vegetable stand along the water has a bunch of fruit and vegetables. Some I recognize, the others... I wasn’t so sure. “Let’s buy some and giv'em a taste, ok?” Mom said temptingly.  
    You know what... there’s a perfume factory here and they really make perfume... from  island flowers!  I bought some Rarotongan cologne and mom got some really nice smelling soap.  
    It was Hermit Crab Race night at the hotel. Some are gigantic!  
A big bucket full of hermit crabs is turned upside down on stage.  A finish line is drawn around  the bucket several feet out and... “Get ready, Get set... Go!” The bucket is removed and wow, the largest one (size of a coconut) fell out of his shell... but he kept going and... won the race!  I looked for the winner but he had escaped under the stage... I think he was looking for a bigger shell!

August 7...
 
    We rented horses and rode to Wigmore’s waterfalls.  Our guide was a very round, happy Rarotongan lady and... her two dogs.  She led us through the jungle to a neat waterfall and at the bottom was a clear pool with fish!  While the horses drank we swam... the dogs too.  It felt good--it was hot and the mosquitoes were attacking.  
    Our guide took us by a hotel--it’s half finished.  The people of the island don’t want this huge hotel to go in... First, it sunk into the ground because of the location and heavy concrete base, then the next owner embezzled all the money and now no one wants to invest. “There is a Tangaroa,”  Mom said smiling at the guide.  That’s the Rarotongan God!  
    Mata works at the hotel as a waiter--he’s fun and a good artist too!  You know what?   He can climb a coconut tree, grab a coco-nut and shimmy down in one min-ute?  Cool!  He taught me how to tie a cloth around my feet and jump up the tree.  I did it... but not in a minute or even two!  He then used his teeth to shuck the coconut and with one hit of the machete knife--it was ready to drink--yum!
           The Rarotongans are known to be the best dancers in the whole South Pacific.  Between their costumes and neat moves I can see why. I especially liked watching the men--they dance wild and fast.

August 8...

    A puddle hopper flew us to Aitutaki--an even smaller island than Rarotonga!  I can’t imagine a prettier island!  An old rickety van took us to the other side of the island to our hotel.  Hardly anyone lives here--I like it, my own Robinson Crusoe island.  
    Oops... the hotel didn’t have our reservation, even though we have our paid voucher!  And the few other hotels on the island are completely full too.  Mom kidded with the manager, “If you can’t find a place for us to stay these nights--we’ll just have to come home with you!  She reassured me later, “We can always sleep under the stars on the beach.. don’t worry, let’s enjoy our day!”  
    The lagoon in front of the hotel is super shallow.  You can walk out to the reef, but look where you step--sea slugs--everywhere!  They look like dark brown cucumbers just laying around going nowhere.  But if you pick one up, watch
out--they’ll squirt ya!      
    Geckos are everywhere too, on the beach, on rocks and in trees--they’re fast but not as fast as I am!
    I think mom’s kidding worked, the hotel had a cancellation for tonight; now I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the next two nights!  I’m headed out to search for geckos.  Oh ya, they have chickens too!

August 9...

    You can see Aitutaki Lagoon on lots of postcards.  I know, because I was there!  A small boat took us out to One Foot Island--it looks like a foot with 5 toes (islets). One of the guides is really fun, he kidded with me a lot.  On our way out we stopped to snorkel while the guides spear-gunned lunch... three huge fish!    
     I saw two lion fish, I was so excited for they’re hard to find and so neat looking--orange striped with a lot of lacy like fins.  But you have to stay far away--they’re very dangerous.  The fins have poisonous quills and if they strike you... ugghh, you’ll be very sore and sick.
    On One Foot Island, we had the best bar-b-que.  Yum, what a feast... lots of fresh fish, salad and fruit. I was back out finding sea slugs... love those guys!
    During our spare time on One Foot Island, mom and I explored.  Coming from down the beach we heard “Cody... Deb...  hi guys!”  It was Frenchy, the teacher from Alaska. She was with the only other boat on the island!      
    Heading back, our boat stopped at an atoll in the middle of the lagoon--great snorkeling!  
    “Let’s see if we can try some raw pahua!” Mom was excited!   Pahua... wavy-shelled clam is popular in the islands.  These clams are the size of a football, even bigger!  The edge of the shell is wavy and sticking out is a brightly colored clam of purple or aqua... so pretty!  With a knife, our guide happily dove for hors d’oeuvres, and while looking like sea otters-- mom and I dined on pahua sashimi.  It tastes great, we asked him to dive for more!
    I think the manager took mom serious about going home with him... all day he was busy asking people if they would share a room with a “hotel-less” mother and child!  It worked... Uli and Kiki, from Germany, offered us a spare room in their cabin.  They’re fun and really nice.  Uli helped me catch these totally fat, white geckos that crawl from the cracks to the lit porch lights and do nothing more than open their mouths to let dinner fly in!  We gave them a little exercise...



 

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