APRIL 25, 2003

Today we depart from New Zealand after 51 days of astounding beauty and memorable experiences.

We sorted through our luggage and disposed of anything no longer needed or anything we were unable to transfer to the Cook Islands.    

We had the car back to the rental company just after 10:00 and they took us to the airport before 10:30.  We checked our luggage, put the computer in a locker and found an array of things to do. 

We went up to the glassed-in viewing platform to watch some planes take off and land.  While there we had an opportunity to admire one of four Air New Zealand planes showing a Lord of the Rings scene.  

 

Another attraction at the airport was the juke box museum.  More than just juke boxes, the attractive displays remind us (those of us who remember) of a time when meeting your friends at the local cafe and sharing music (3 tunes for 25 cents) was a regular occurrence.
A display area at the airport was dedicated to Jean Batten - aviator extraordinaire - along with the De Havilland Gipsy 6 she used during her historic flight from England to New Zealand in 1936.  An except from her autobiography "My Life" reads "Well goodbye!" I shouted, smiling reassuringly at the sea of tense white faces.  "I'll come back one day."   Releasing the brakes, I gave the engine full throttle and the Gull roared along the flare path.  The bright line of flares flashed past the left wing and nearing the last one, I gently eased the aeroplane off the ground. 
 Swift as an arrow the Gull climbed through the darkness, circling the aerodrome to gain height, then setting off for Sydney.  I flashed my torch across the instrument panel: revs 2100, oil-pressure 42 lbs, altitude 1500ft, air speed 40 mph, etc.  All was well and I breathed a sigh of relief that at last I was on my way.  Leaving Richmond 4:37 am local time on October 16 1936 bound for New Zealand."

Soon we were in the air ourselves flying away from our time in New Zealand and looking forward to yet another new experience in Rarotonga  ... one of the Cook Islands. 
The New Zealand Airline flight was suppose to leave Auckland at 4:10pm but due to delays, it was a half hour late.  With travel time and two hours lost for time change, we arrived in Rarotonga about 10:30pm on April 24th local time (after gaining a day by crossing the International Dateline) and were greeted by ukulele music, Polynesian songs and a lei placed around our necks.   

In the quiet darkness we were shown to our room.  Before retiring we sought out the beach and while listening to the surf crash against the coral reef, we looked at the millions of stars and felt the tropical breeze as it played with the silhouetted palm trees. 

APRIL 25, 2003

A day worth repeating.

It is not often in one's life that we can repeat a day .... but when the international date line is crossed from the west to the east, that is what seems to happen.   

April 25th in New Zealand was ANZAC Day when the population honours it's service men (much like Canada's Remembrance Day) and so for most New Zealanders and Australians it was not a working day.   April 25th in the Cook Islands is also ANZAC Day ... so we repeated the experience of shops being closed and only a few restaurants open.  Water was the main event.  Snorkelling inside the reef and discovering a beautiful array of brightly coloured tropical fish.  After that some time was spent in the Rarotonga Sunset's pool.  We joined many of the motel's guests gathered to partake in "happy hour" at 5:30pm and became acquainted with some great people.

As the clock approached 6:30 someone called out "sunset!". Drinks were left on the table and cameras were grabbed as everyone flocked to the beach.  We were not disappointed.

APRIL 26, 2003

Saturday is market day on Rarotonga ... a chance for the local merchants to show off their wears to visitors and residents alike, an opportunity for farmers to sell an abundance of produce including paupaus (papayas), oranges, bananas, star fruit, kamura (red sweet potatoes), flower leis for neck and head, whole fresh fish, plus fresh picked vegetables; and vendors to entice everyone with succulent cooked dishes and for families and friends to gather for some socializing.  A very festive affair and one which touched each of our senses.

Shortly after noon on a Saturday the market and shops of Rarotonga close down.   Rarotongans like their sports .... particularly boating (both pleasure and racing), fishing and rugby ....  and since Sunday is a day for church and rest, Saturday afternoon they stop working and enjoy their sports.  One thing about the Cook Islanders ... they have their priorities straight.  We caught the bus back to our accommodations, but rather than going the short way from market, we caught the bus heading in the opposite direction and did a 31km (19 mile) circle tour of the island.  Another spectacular sunset announced the evening before we walked to a nearby restaurant for a delicious fish dinner.

APRIL 27, 2003

Sunday.   

The thing to do on Rarotonga on a Sunday is go to church.   So that's just what we did.  We had heard about the traditional Maori church singing and today there was an extra bonus which made our skin dance with goose bumps.  The church we went to was holding a ladies' conference .   Small groups of ladies representing each of the Cook Islands had gathered and were attending church services where their voices joined with the regular congregation in joyful praise.  It is hard to describe the sounds; the richness of male voices being answered by the harmonies of the women's voices.  The experience was inspiring and in hearty agreement we encourage any who go to the Cook Islands to celebrate Sunday with a Maori congregation. 

Terry, full of inspiration and energy, took an extended walk down the beach past resorts and private homes ... a four kilometre extended walk.  From the beach he went up a creek bed to the main road which encircles the island and ran the full 4k back to Rarotonga Sunset.   As he passed the church we had attended earlier in the day, the ladies - all in white dresses - and the minister were making their way back to the church.  Slowing down some, Terry thanked the minister for his sermon and bid the ladies a good day then continued his run back as the church bells began to ring.
When in Rome do as the Romans do .... or better yet .... when on the Islands, do what the Islanders' do ... appreciate a day of rest.

We snorkeled and rested and read and rested and cooled down in the pool and rested and then had a glass of wine.  The bartender looked at Terry with some astonishment and asked, "Weren't you the one I saw earlier today running barefoot along the road?"   Yes ... it had been .... Terry had ran the 4k back along the road in his bare feet!

In the evening we joined others for an evening bar-b-que and rested again until it was time to go to bed. 

Ahhhh .... 

APRIL 28, 2003

It was just a Cook Island sort of a day ....  "no hurries .... no worries" as Sherrie's Saltspring Island Uncle Bob would say.  Maybe it is just an "island" thing.   Either way .... we embraced it.  Snorkeling was most rewarding.  It was like viewing a nature film of reef life .... but this wasn't a film ... it was right there at our feet  and with a little piece of bread the fish literally ate from our hands.  

"Island Time" ~ "it's a good thing."

 

APRIL 29, 2003

What a day !

By 11:00 we had both rented motor-scooters.  Terry had a standard shift while Sherrie's was an automatic.  Sherrie had never ridden before and the experience was unnerving.  While Terry rode his scooter into town to get the required Cook Island driver's license, Sherrie took her scooter into a field adjoining the motel and drove around and around and around.  She, in fact, drove around during the entire time Terry was away ..... about one and a half hours.  By the time Terry was back from getting his license, Sherrie was confident enough to ride into town with Terry encouraging and coaching her from his bike riding behind her. 

While we waited for Sherrie's driver's license to be processed we went into the grocery store and purchased some tuna steaks for dinner.   

Terry, Gerhard and Brigette (Gerhard and Brigette being the guests dressed in white in the picture above right) had made plans to trek over the centre of the island tomorrow, so Terry thought it would be good if we, on our bikes, found a place where they could leave the bikes at a trail end.  With that in mind and both licenses in hand, we went on some of the back roads and discovered more of this enchanting island.  

The road did not seem to be going the right way to become the trail head, so Terry asked a lady.  "You are off course, deary," she said and began giving directions.   Meanwhile, Sherrie pulled over and began talking to another lady.   We could hear a deep rhythmic drum beat coming from across a field and up a hill and could see a few people milling about on what appeared to be a rock foundation.  Sherrie asked what happening.  

The lady struggled for an English word.  

Trying to be helpful, Sherrie asked it was a celebration for a new home foundation.  "No ... it is for," she began to search for the English word again, "an investiture of a king ... a chief."  

Terry thanked the other lady for her directions and joined Sherrie and the second lady.  Sherrie quickly told him what was happening up across the field and we began asking further questions.  The lady's name was Tere and she told us with pride for the one she loved,  her husband, was to be invested as chief.   

Tere

She explained that it had been over a hundred and seventy years since this ceremony had been performed in their family.  Today the family members now on the island (with more coming in the next two days) would gather for a rehearsal. 

"Would you like to watch?" she asked.

"Oh, yes!  Very much!"  and then after some niceties Sherrie inquired, "May I bring a camera?" 

"Yes.  Take as many pictures as you like." 

The ceremonies would take place on a foundation of stones in the shape of a triangle.   The foundation had tiers which represented the different stations of support with the highest top point of the triangle for the seat of the chief.  Around the perimeter of the triangle would stand the guards.

The ceremony would begin with the soon-to-be   chief's grandson and an older boy sounding a conch. 

The grandson, whose name is Tangaroa, would then call out loudly in the Cook Island dialect of Maori for his family to come to the meeting place.  His call would be answered by the leader of the procession  (large man  in turquoise shirt and holding staff) as the family members began their trek from the bottom of the field.  

Again, Tangaroa, would call out and again his call would be answered with the procession leader yelling words of encouragement to his followers which included the future chief (in stripped shirt and ball cap).  

Once they reached the edge of the triangle shaped meeting place the conches would be sounded again as each level was filled with participants in the ceremonies.

Tere filled us in as to how the family felt a need to have a chief who could lead them through the on-going pressures of land settlements and disputes as well as other joint family decisions.  The family, which is spread over a number of countries, had voted for her fifty-four year old husband, Amoa More, to be their chief - a title and position he will hold until his death.  On a second tier of importance the new chief would have two immediate supporters - one would act like an attorney-general, while the second would be a spokesperson  somewhat like a governor-general.  Another tier would have thirteen Warriors as had been tradition for centuries. They would act as his inner circle counsel always with the family's best interest in mind.
Twice they practiced the march up, the taking of places, the movements of the crowned chief and the appointing of his council and warriors.

We had an opportunity to meet the future chief after most people had departed, and thanked him for the opportunity to witness such a rare occurrence.  

With the hospitality of so many Rarotongans, the future chief invited us to join the festivities which would be punctuated by a big feast on Friday night.   

We were most grateful for such a generous invitation but sadly explained that our flight left on Thursday night.  "What time?" he asked.  When our response was that our ride to the airport left at 9:30, he asked if we would like to attend on Thursday when he would be invested as chief even though we could not be here to join the feast on Friday.  We thanked him for his invitation and gratefully accepted.  "Might I be allowed to take pictures?" Sherrie asked.  

Tere asked if we would like to join the family for dinner tonight.  With thanks we declined .... it was getting late and it being the first day of scooter riding and Sherrie still not totally comfortable, it was time to head back to the Rarotonga Sunset.

With Terry leading the way down the gravel road .... it wasn't far before Sherrie called out for him to stop.  She had spotted some people in a taro field. 

"

Hello," Sherrie called out to them.  "May we come into your field and talk with you?"

"Sure," the answer was called back which was followed closely  by Terry's quiet voice saying "ask if you can bring the camera."

"May I bring our camera?"  

With an affirmative answer, we flipped out the kickstands on the scooters and made our way into the field.   

Again the warm hospitality of these Island people came to the fore and the gentlemen took time to give us a quick education on growing this main starch staple of most Polynesian Islands. 
Taro grown in wet rice-paddy type fields is the same variety that is grown in dryer conditions.  Taro grown in wet conditions, explained the man (middle picture) who did most of the talking, tastes better but working the fields is harder.  

Once the tuber is the right size it is pulled from the ground using the strong stocks as handles to wiggle and pull it from the earth.  With the loose dirt shaken off, small delicate roots around the bottom of the stock are scraped off using a machete and the taro bulb is severed just below the stock and bagged (the job of eleven year old Gary).  Again the machete is used to cut the leaves from the stock leaving about  46cm (18 inches) which will then be planted to produce another crop of Taro.   We thanked them all for their time and kindness, left them to their work and continued on our way.

We were pleased to share our day's events with other guests at happy hour.   Just as it began to rain, we snuggled into our room and cooked our delicious tuna steaks. 

What a day !

April 30, 2003

 

It rained .... it rained some more .... and then it rained harder .... but it was warm ... standing in the shower type warm.

We gave in to the day and spent it relaxing, reading and doing some genealogy work on the computer.   Oh ... don't think of us cooped up in some little hotel room .... oh no ... not on Rarotonga  ... let it rain!

 

May 1, 2003

Our last day.  The warm mist and sometimes rain came in waves.  

Sherrie was waiting at the bus stand when a local taxi driver, Mii, came by, as he had done before. She along with another couple from the Rarotonga Sunset took his taxi into town while Terry returned Sherrie's rented scooter and took the bus into town.

We did some shopping and purchased some gifts for the folks back home.  By the time we returned to the motel the rain had stopped so we doubled on Terry's bike to the site of the chiefs investiture.  This time, it wasn't a rehearsal.  What we witnessed was awesome. 

Again we were welcomed with warmth and given permission to take as many pictures as we wished.  Sherrie kept the camera busy.

A

After 170 years a chief is crowned .... an honour to witness.  ... and  ...  

an incredible climax to an unforgettable vacation.