“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” –St. Augustine

The Cook Islands were high up on our list of places we wanted to visit and one of the reasons we decided to sail across the Pacific. We would be spending a week in Aitutaki which we heard was “the next Bora Bora.” Besides being absolutely beautiful, thankfully this did not seem to be true and I hope in the future that it’s able retain its charm and culture.

We seemed to be hitting all the islands at the perfect time for festivals. Aitutaki was no different, it was their week of Independence. A solid week of singing, dancing, parades and plentiful food. (There was a woman who sold the most amazing looking cake. Each night I would go to her stand and wait patiently in line for a slice of perfection, and each night she sold her last piece to the person in front if me. I was so disappointed the last night I thought I would cry.) There was a good turnout at all the events and it was fun watching the older generation take pride in the youth carrying on their culture and customs. Watching the dancing made me feel a little melancholy. I wished I were Polynesian and could wear a grass skirt and beautiful feathers too.

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For such a small island population there were a disproportionate amount of churches, they take their faith seriously. Forget about doing anything on Sunday (there’s not much to do anyway) because everyone goes to church and hangs out with family. All over the island you see signs protesting flights to the island on Sundays. We visited a church that we’d read had really great singing and the congregation wears white the first Sunday of the month. We didn’t understand the service (it was spoken in Maori) but the singing was incredible. Their voices were so loud, haunting is the only way to describe it. Ezra laughs when I say this, but its true. We were invited to watch the singing competition later that night and thought why not. It was a lively event and we got to chat with some guys from the winning choir. On our walk back to the boat everyone who drove by yelled “goodnight, goodnight” to us.

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They were the friendliest people and so relaxed. The guy in immigration came aboard to clear Happy and stayed to chat awhile. He told us they take pride in their island and their friendliness. The people in the capital Raro (Rarotanga) are too stressed out, there’s too much traffic and people aren’t nice. Rarotanga has about 13,000 people and is also a beautiful island in the South Pacific. How stressed out can they be? But this tells you how special Aitutaki is.

One day we rented a scooter and circled the island. I managed to forget what we were doing and put my foot down as we were rounding a corner- almost ripping off my toe in the process. This is why Ez doesn’t take me on his motorcycle I’m sure). We saw the old spiritual houses or Maraes, picked mangos and papayas (Ezra scolded me when I went for one at a Marae. Did I want to piss off any lost spirits still wandering about? Why take chances, fair enough.), treated ourselves to a coffee and splashed in a beautiful lagoon. Another day we drove the dingy out to Maina and Honeymoon islands. (We heard maybe we weren’t suppose to go out into the lagoon unless on a tour. This was not clear though so we took our chances, although it made me a bit nervous, ever the rebel that I am. Ha ha.) Two small perfect little islands that are surrounded by what I think rivals the most beautiful water in the world (or at least what I’ve been lucky to see).

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There weren’t many sailors here because the passage through the reef was narrow and shallow and therefore more difficult to navigate. While I like the sailing community its was nice to be the only boat around, and to meet people where sailing was not the main topic of conversation all the time. It was a wonderful week and we hope to come back to the Cooks someday and do more exploring. Maybe even check out the stressed out island of Raro.

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