Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rarotonga - Hanging Out in Titikaveka

February 16

Just because.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Kia orana!

There was a big rainstorm during the night, and it wiped out Bob's carefully crafted “Rarotonga 2011” beach art. No worries, though. He did another one this evening. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The pawpaw (papaya) here is really good. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's the best I've ever tasted. Which isn't too much of a limb, really. All the papaya I've ever tasted before made me want to retch. But this! This is smooth and buttery and just flavorful enough to not be overpowering. Yum! I've got a new fruit to love. We haven't found any fresh pineapple anywhere, though, which seems so odd to me. Perhaps it isn't the season? But it's summer here. I don't know. It's a mystery. Maybe they don't grow it, and it's stupid expensive to import? Other fruit is plentiful, though: crunchy starfruit of gargantuan proportions, passion fruit (which I've never had fresh before...and another new love is found!), very tasty bananas, big and meaty and rich and delicious avocados. It's just amazing. But no mangoes, either. Perhaps not the season for those, either.

Breadfruit bears all the time.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
I imagine you could live off the land here without too much problem, and there's plenty of fish to catch, apparently. Everyone seems to have a bunch of coconut palms in the yard, and also breadfruit and bananas and probably a bunch of other things. One of those other things seems to be their ancestors, with the tombs well-tended and cared for. 

Okay. Let's rewind. For breakfast, I had yogurt (very good and creamy and yummy) and cereal. It was interesting to pick out something that looked like it might be granola or not too sweet. But it worked out fine. Go figure!

The milk, by the way, if you prefer your cereal that way, is outrageously expensive if you buy it “fresh,” so the economical thing to do is to get a box of milk on the shelf. No, not powdered milk. Actual milk, but in a carton on the shelf. It tastes just the same as fresh. Honest.

They're everywhere.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
For lunch, lots of fruit, cheese, peanut butter and jelly. Yes. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A particular favorite of Bob's. We've been decorating our food plates with hibiscus blossoms from around the property. It makes us feel like we're on vacation or something!

For dinner, wahoo (a kind of fish) with fruit salsa, salad, boiled taro (sliced), and mashed breadfruit (which tasted a lot like mashed ripe plantain, surprisingly, but was sort of sticky and pasty). I liked the breadfruit enough to have seconds. There will be no losing weight on this trip, apparently.

Backtrack. Snorkeling in the morning was outstanding! My personal highlight: A lovely coral head housing thousands of damsels of different colors, with the sunlight filtering through. Beautiful, beautiful. And cute at the same time.

Karen making some purchases at the fruit stand.
Isn't the owner beautiful? And so sweet, too.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
After snorkeling, we went to the grocery store and the fish market for dinner stuff, and then we walked to the little fruit stand that's about a block from the house, on the other side of the street. We watched a guy spearing octopus on the reef, came back to the house, and went snorkeling again. The water was a little more stirred up than this morning, but still clearer than yesterday. Yay!

So, then we cooked dinner and ate and did dishes. Poor Karen! She's been BBQing every night and melting in the heat, while Jo and I have been making side dishes. Karen loves to BBQ...but not every night. Today, I thought to myself, “We're camping in a really nice house in the South Pacific!” I had to laugh at that thought. Still...there are nice restaurants here...just sayin'.

Doing our own cooking is helping to make the trip more affordable. Dinners out will be expensive, but I'm looking forward to one. The guys are at least saying, “This is great!” when we serve up the food. But I think they mean, “Island life is awesome,” as opposed to, “The food is fabulous.” Perhaps they'll do some slicing and dicing and dishes and sweeping. I can hope. Not complaining! Well, maybe a little. I'll get over it.

Pink skies at sunset. A perfect time for a walk on the beach.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
There were amazingly pink skies at sunset. There's no breeze yet tonight (ergo, the above...), but the fans move the air around in the house wonderfully well. No worries.

How the water is here when it's "not that clear."
Makes you laugh, no?
Photo by Bob Hampton. All rights reserved.
Karen is an awesome “snorkel master,” staying with Jo and me and encouraging us, pointing out blue starfish and spotted groupers and convict fish (They wear striped suits, yellow and black) and parrot fish and blue damsels and so on and so on. There are so many different kinds to see!

Harry seems to be relaxing and enjoying himself. The first couple of days were interesting, what with travel fatigue, anxiety, and so on. He operates best in routine, and we're starting to get there. It has been a good day. It has been a very good day.

Our place.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
The water inside the reef is refreshing but not cold. You can snorkel for a long while without shivering. Every time a cloud goes by or the angle of the sun changes or the wind blows or stops blowing, the blues and aquas in the lagoon intensify or soften. You could take a million pictures, and each one would look different. On the afternoon snorkel, we went out quite a way towards the reef, and I turned around to check our position relative to the house. The sun was casting long shadows, and the skies had lifted their mist to reveal the mountain peaks. It seemed that you could see the entire island from the water. It looked just like an amazing postcard. I hope Bob took a picture! [Note:  No. Sigh. But there will hopefully be other opportunities.]

This is the life. I'm ruined forever.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Rarotongans have a New Zealand-like accent and are very laid back and friendly (at least, they seem so, so far). Rarotongan young people are well educated, and many attend university in New Zealand. 

You have to be a Cook Islander to own property here, but, if you can find someone who's willing, you can lease a piece of property for years and build a place on it. Of course, when the lease is over, so is your place. But, who cares? You'll be dead by then, probably. It's good that the island hasn't been overrun and the islanders disenfranchised. This is their place, and they welcome you as a guest.

“The Rock” is a Kiwi vacation spot, and there are lots of Kiwis here. I've heard that New Zealand provides lots of the funds for the Cook Islands infrastructure and so on, and that they aren't too keen to continue that. Politics. Who wants to think about politics here? Not I!

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