Rarotonga, Cook Islands

The view of this island from the ship was spectacular as we sailed in and anchored outside the lagoon at the capital Avarua (photo).  It is believed that the Cook Islanders migrated from the Society Islands in French Polynesia around 500 AD.  Legend has it that it is from Ngatanglia Harbour in Rarotonga that the great migration of Maori canoes left for New Zealand in 1350 AD (photo).   While Captain James Cook passed through the region in 1773 and 1777, the first European, Philip Goodenough, did not land in Rarotonga until 1814, followed soon after by the first missionaries in 1821.  I have an photo of a limestone and coral church which is typical on the island.  Early on, the island was divided among six families each headed by a high chief (Ariki) and the system of communal property holding by these families continues until today.  No outsider can buy property on the island. They can only lease it.  The members of the six families who own the land communally follow the tradition that I have seen in Samoa, of burying their family members beside their homes.  New Zealand annexed all fifteen of the Cook Islands by 1901 but they became self-governing in 1965.  New Zealand has a strong influence as the islanders are all citizens of New Zealand and the New Zealand dollar is the local currency.  I took a tour in an open jeep.  We had a very jovial and informative driver-guide who called himself Mr. Hopeless.  There are two parallel roads that ring the island.  One, called the Ara Metua,  was built in the 11th century of slabs of coral and lava rock.  The road is still used but has been paved over.  There are two bus routes on the island.  One is the Clockwise bus and the other the Counter clockwise bus.  Not too difficult to figure out.  We travelled around the island as well as up into the interior.  Some other sights we saw were a rock formation called the Needle (photo),  a beautiful beach (photo), the island’s only waterfall (photo) and the Arai te Tonga Marae (photo).  This latter was a sacred meeting place of the ancients where investitures of the high chiefs (Ariki) and annual festivals would be held.  After the tour, I walked around the town and then went to the market which was holding a special day for our arrival complete with Polynesian dancing girls (photo). This island really is paradise, with lots of beaches for snorkelling.  It has about 10 flights per week from New Zealand and one each from Los Angeles and Sydney if you wanted to visit.  Our next stop is Wednesday at Raiatea in French Polynesia. We have turned north east and are on our way back to San Diego.

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One Response to Rarotonga, Cook Islands

  1. daviddapaget says:

    Wow – this place DOES look like a little paradise. What a beach! And glad your pix are showing people – even dancing girls!

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