Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rarotonga - A Wedding and Captain Tama's Lagoon Cruize

February 25

Kia Orana! The weather is gone, and it's a glorious day for the island wedding down the beach, which we're keeping an eye on from afar so as to give the wedding party and assembled guests the benefit of the privacy we've ourselves been enjoying here in Rarotonga. The wedding is taking place behind the fellowship hall of the church, which faces the street and backs up to the beach. There's an arch that's been prepared, and it's covered with greenery and beautiful flowers. The native bride is radiant, her lovely skin a dark tan, in sharp (and very attractive) contrast to the snow-white flounces of her long wedding gown, which traces a smooth finish in the sand as she walks slowly towards her Prince Charming...oh, sorry...I got carried away with myself. It is a very romantic scene, to be sure, and all of us down the beach send them our very best wishes and most hearty congratulations as they exchange their timeless vows. May theirs be a marriage that lasts a lifetime and brings them and their families every happiness.

Photo by Bob. All rights reserved.
The sore throat has been greatly helped by the Hall's that Bob found, and the ibuprofen has done the trick. Also the Pepto Bismol. I guess I caught whatever virus Karen had. So, I didn't feel 100% this morning, but I decided to join the group for the glass-bottom boat lagoon cruise at Muri, Captain Tama's ( Am I ever glad I did!

Our “cruise director,” Brown Apera, aka Captain Chocolate, aka Brown Island Boy, aka just plain Brown, was simply incomparable. He's full of energy, very charismatic, supremely knowledgeable about marine life (whale research) as well as island life.

Fun times at Captain Tama's.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
While we waited at Muri Beach for the outing to begin, “the boys” entertained us with drumming, ukelele tunes, jokes, and “get acquainted” moments such as the “dance lesson” for a hapless man and woman in the crowd. This part is all designed to relax and please, and it succeeds on every count.

Once we were all loaded up into the boats and the count had carefully been made – one wouldn't wish to be lost in transit – “the boys” took us snorkeling “at the giant clams” at Fruits of Rarotonga. Now, I'd seen some largish clams on our other snorkels, but these ones were much, much larger. And instead of being tightly closed, with just the bright, purplish blue border showing, these ones were wide open, the membrane/muscle/diaphragm stretched out. I could see the clams “breathing” in and out rhythmically. It was absolutely mesmerizing, something I'd never seen, a wonderful and beautiful display. I was thrilled.

Cooking for us. Yum!
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
After that, we motored over to one of the little islands in the lagoon for a BBQ prepared just for us. The guys cooked a really tasty meal of yellow-tail tuna and bananas and onion and potato salad (with coconut cream...come on!) and cole slaw (with coconut cream again) and pawpaw and “coconut rice” (grated coconut, freshly done right there in front of us in record time) and starfruit and watermelon. It was all served buffet-style. Help yourself, but please eat it all. Remember: This could be your last meal!

I naturally was drawn to the “kitchen” area during the preparation, because I love to observe men at work. But I was told to “get out of my kitchen, woman!” Okay, fine. Just put down the big knife you're pointing at me, dude.

Grating the coconut.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Again, grace was said before the meal. So, the luau the other night wasn't a fluke. And then, after lunch, “Chocolate” demonstrated opening and grating the coconut and making coconut cream, which he put on the arms of the ladies – to very good effect, I must say! It makes your skin so soft, and it smells amazing. Naturally, all of this was done in his enthusiastic, humorous way with informative running commentary.

Next, we were shown about a dozen different ways to tie a pareu, using two young and beautiful tourist ladies. There was a “costume malfunction” when one of the ties didn't quite withstand a tug. I guess that's why there was an admonition to wear a bikini under the pareu at all times. Oops!

Nice tats, eh?
Photo by Bob. All rights reserved.
Several of the guys have the most beautiful Polynesian tattoos. Brown especially. His are amazing, done the traditional way. And the fact that he wears them so well certainly does no harm. The nipple piercings with the black pearls were are maybe a bit over the top, but what do I know? I'm not up on these things.

There's a vaka (a Polynesian sailing vessel that looks sort of like a catamaran) joining other Pacific Voyagers sailing from New Zealand and Tonga and picking up more along the way through Tahiti and the Marquesas to Pearl Harbor to peacefully and respectfully ask the Navy to stop sonar experiments, because it harms the whales. After that, they'll come on a good will/cultural exchange/ecology education mission to San Francisco, from where they'll head south along the California coast, then make their way back to their individual islands. Brown plans to participate. We said we would see him in California. [Note: He did participate. We eagerly followed the voyagers' progress through the Pacific Voyagers website and Facebook page, and I watched online as the “canoes” came under the Golden Gate Bridge last summer. What a sight it was! We went to Treasure Island for the “meet and greet,” and we spied Brown charming the people on the vaka out in the water, where they were getting a ride. It made us smile.]

So, when you visit Raro, be sure to go to Muri Beach to hang out with Captain Tama's Boys. We all considered this outing to be a wonderful bargain as well as a highlight of our visit to the Rock. Don't miss it. You won't be disappointed.

And to remind you of another attraction you won't be disappointed to check out, here's a video taken by Jo (all rights reserved) of some of the amazing dancing at Te Vara Nui Village. 

Interesting factoid: The cigarette packs down here have the most graphic and gorey pictures of various cancers caused by smoking. Ick. Jo is collecting them to show to folks back home, and the Aussie kids in the Hibiscus smoke. So, they're saving the packs for her. I guess the images don't really encourage people to stop smoking.

Hint: Don't park under a coconut tree. I heard that's how you can tell the tourists from the natives, but I'm sure that's a joke. Although, natives would know that sort of thing. And tourists would soon figure it out. Coconuts make nasty dents in roofs and hoods. No, not ours.

Another hint: Look to the right-left-right before crossing the road, instead of left-right-left, or you could easily be hit when stepping into traffic. And remember not to drive on the right, or you'll hit someone head-on. No, not us. Traffic out for those.

Harry and I on the beach at sunset. With Jack,
the three-legged dog.
Photo by Bob. All rights reserved.
Tonight, we went to a burger stand for a burger and fries (very good fries). I asked for the Palace burger for Harry (2 meat patties, cheese, eggs, bacon...the kitchen sink). But they were out. How can that be? So, I asked for the next burger down the menu. Sorry, not making it. Why would they take the time to describe it to you, only to then tell you they don't have it?! So, we ended up with Hawaiian burgers and chips. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Oh! Paper products are very expensive here, and there isn't a lot of space for a county dump. You might have to ask for a napkin. You will get one small paper napkin. One. A small one. Try to make do with it.

It's our last night in Rarotonga, and it's hard to believe we've been here nearly two weeks. The time has flown by, and I'm not ready to go home. Today has been a great day. Tomorrow is going to be hard for me.  

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