Friday, January 13, 2012

Rarotonga - The Last Dance

March 1

Photo by Chris. All rights reserved
February 26 was a hot, sticky, tropical kind of day, the steamiest of our trip. It was our last day in Raro, and nobody wanted to leave. The prospect loomed large over us, and tempers wore a bit thin. I think it was the combination of uncomfortable humidity partnered with the general moroseness one quite naturally feels when facing a separation of thousands of miles from this amazingly beautiful, calm, peaceful place.

This guy poses in the 4 directions.
Here, I'm doing my best to cover his bits...
We started our packing while waiting for a couple of us to come back from a walkabout, and then we went to market in Avarua, it being Saturday morning. And, as you'll remember, going to market is what one does on Saturday mornings. We were all sweating profusely. I'm sorry to be indelicate, but facts are facts. There's no other way to put it.

I mentioned to one of the shopkeepers that it was an awfully hot day, and she smiled and said, “Well, that's what you came here for, isn't it?” Actually, no. But I suppose, generally, she does have a point. Most people would be here to escape winter weather. But the winter weather where I live is not of the sub-freezing, blizzardy variety.

Marumaru Atua, the Cook Islands vaka.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We walked along the waterfront in Avarua, and guess what we saw? The vaka! There it was, at full sail, just outside the reef. It was making its way into the harbor, with a whole bunch of people on board. We watched (in the shade) as it approached the dock by Captain Jack's, and then we walked on over to have a closer look. I tried to imagine crossing the ocean on this vessel, but I couldn't quite picture myself doing it. Especially in high seas. The Voyagers are a brave and adventurous bunch!

Marumaru Atua at Treasure Island
(near San Francisco)
We visited, as promised. Can you spot Brown?
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We took some pictures and then tried to think of something to take home to cook for dinner. Everything pretty much closes at 1 or 2 on Saturday afternoon so everyone can get ready for Sunday, except a few of the pricier places, and we needed to think about what we still had left to do in order to be ready to leave on time. Frankly, I thought I'd rather miss the plane, but then there would be the small problem of no money and no place to stay. Not a happy prospect, eh? But surely there's something an enthusiastic and vivacious person such as myself could do to earn a small but sufficient living here? Anyway, we had just eaten at the market, and nothing sounded good. So, we went home empty-handed, a development we would come to rue.

We went for our last snorkel, always sort of a sad and melancholy thing. Goodbye, big, beautiful fishes and other serene sea creatures. Goodbye, lovely coral heads teeming with itsy bitsy fishies of many colors and shapes. Goodbye, refreshing and clear lagoon. Goodbye, coral reef off in the distance, breaking up the thunderous waves that come crashing upon you. If you have tears in your eyes, well, so did I.

The light from the flash reflecting from the sky's tears.
A torrential downpour on our last evening in Raro.
Looks like snow, but it's huge raindrops!
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Bob took the car back to the rental agency, and so now we had no transportation but our feet. So, we thought we might walk over to the PawPaw Patch for dinner. It was dark, but the PawPaw is an easy distance from the Coral Villa. Except that the skies opened up and started crying because we were leaving soon. I mean, buckets of tears. A torrent of emotion that kept on going, and going, and going. There was just no relief for the deep sorrow the island was experiencing. The downpour continued and did not stop. Somehow, I was able to draw solace from the fact that Raro was going to miss me just as much as I was going to miss Raro. And the rain continued. We were unable to go get dinner.

So, we finished packing and chatted while awaiting the shuttle to the airport. Such sad times! Rongo (the manager) came to bid us farewell and wanted to hear all about our adventures, which lightened the mood a bit. She is experienced at such things, and it showed. Thank you, Rongo, for making us feel so sure that we would indeed be back again, and soon.

Rongo and a friend on a
sunnier day.
Thank you, Rongo!
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
The shuttle arrived, we loaded up our bags, and we said our goodbyes to Rongo. It was so kind of her to stay with us until the bitter end. In retrospect, though, she probably needed to make sure we were actually vacating the premises! But she never let us think that at the time, not even for a second. The air conditioning in the shuttle was going full blast, and it was just freezing in there. Or so it seemed to me. I hadn't really experienced a whole lot of air conditioning while in Raro, preferring the sea breezes.

We got to the airport in plenty of time to check out the souvenir shops after checking in (a long line of dejected people, hating to leave). Harry got a Cook Islands Police hat, which he has since given to a guy at the VA [military veterans' clinic] who thought it was cool. Just sharing the love.

I purchased one last flat white, even though it's a hot drink and the temperature in the terminal was quite warm (no air conditioning there).

On the plane, I was seated next to a Rarotongan young man who works at the Rarotongan resort. We chatted about slow internet speeds and so on, and he talked about property fights and loose women and STDs and unwed mothers and lazy was interesting, for sure, to hear his perspective on things. It certainly wasn't the picture I'd painted in my head and didn't match my experiences at all. Then again, I'd only been there two weeks. I wonder. At any rate, it just goes to show, there's always more to a story than meets the eye. And I still want to go back. So there.

Arriving in Los Angeles. There's snow on the mountains.
Feeling sad...
Photo taken by my Rarotongan friend with my camera.
He had the window seat.
When we were landing in Los Angeles (where the TSA people just about ruined our whole vacation, but I won't discuss that here), the mountains were snow-capped. My new friend had a hard time wrapping his head around that! “Is that SNOW?!” he asked incredulously; and, “I'm going to freeze!” he declared. I'm sure the friends he is visiting will be able to provide him with cold weather gear, if he needs it. Just because there's snow on the mountain tops doesn't mean it's cold down below at all. It's LA. Swimming pools. Movie stars.

Leaving Rarotonga was so hard. There's nothing new there. I seem to fall in love with every place we visit. The cultures, the foods, the views, and, of course, the people, all have their own charm and value. All so different, yet, in a strange way, all the same. The family of man. The children of God. Aere ra, goodbye, until we meet again.

The five of us on the beach. Happy times.
Photo by the neighbors from New Zealand. Thank you!

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