Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Kia Orana! Good day to you and yours.
I have just returned from a twelve-day adventure on the largest of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga. A place I'll admit I never even knew existed until coming to another Pacific island- New Zealand. And how extremely fortunate for me to be able to discover this haven. Rarotonga is, like most of the Pacific Islands, of volcanic origin- leaving the landscape scattered with jagged mountains and the fauna of the island either avian or domesticated animals. The people are still true subsistence farmers whose diet and livelihood depends on 5 major crops: bananas, taro, nu (coconut), manioc and fish. Beautiful family gardens are squeezed alongside every road and between all houses. Between the rows of taro plants, banana leaves are left on the ground to keep the soil moist and to provide a beautifully designed walking path that keeps your feet above the soggy ground (sorry no photo).
Their are plenty of large and small fish surrounding the island, I believe the main export industry is fishing. Other than that the island is pristine and pure- slowly developing a tourism industry, but not sold out to corporate resorts or foreign investments. Nothing about the country is tainted (unlike many places I've seen before- there was no evident signs of social problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse, obesity, filth, etc...)
There is a law that a building can be no taller than a palm tree, leaving the beach resorts no more than two stories tall and always under the shade and protection of trees.
The general attitude of Cook Islanders is happiness, satisfaction and generosity.
About 20 years ago Hilton Hotels began building a 400 room resort, but rumors have it the private money that was invested in the project was laundered money from some European mafia... so the development was abandoned at the final stages in the project. The water still runs, all rooms have electricity, some which haven't been fully looted have sinks, beds and drawers that are now covered in a layer of plant growth and dust. We walked around this property, through the would-be reception area, absorbing the eeriness of the situation. Some of my favorite photos from the trip were through the cracked windows of the abandoned paradise.
John and I spent our days hiking through the jagged mountains. I found it quite funny that people frequently paid guides to take them up the mountains... that is until we attempted the "Ikarangi Trek", which left my legs cut and scraped from the overgrown fern foliage and the bottom of my pants covered in dirt from falling down the hills so frequently. We had a good time attempting to reach the Ikarangi summit, but turned around early.
We rented a beautiful, simple one bedroom home on the island which came equipped with BBQ, Kayaks and snorkel gear. Once arriving to the island we didn't really need to worry about what to do because we were completely set up. We spent as much time as we could on the beach, absorbing UV Rays and snorkeling. I saw loads of big and little neon fish, a really strange fish that looked like a samurai sword and hung out just below the surface of the water rendering it almost invisible and ultra-creepy. The islands are completely surrounded by a tropical aquamarine lagoon, that is incredibly safe and fun to play in.
Below are two photos of the same house, our neighbor really. It was a stunning building, splattered with 10 shades of pastel paint. We spent one night sipping whiskey under the moon and attempting to capture glorious night-time images. There was a lot of wind, but this one turned out pretty good.
My two favorite flowers: Hibiscus and Frangipani