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Pareu Shirts and Coconuts

2010 September 10
by rob

March 20, 2009

After yesterdays’s numerous great adventures, I definitely wanted today to be a nothing day. I went with Verena into the village for a while, though. It took about an hour to walk there. We were able to go part of the way along the beach itself. We saw the supply ship anchored outside of the reef with a barge ferrying stuff back and forth to shore. The ship was supposed to be here days ago, but was delayed by cyclones. Looking at Wikipedia, I think these were tropical cyclones Ken and Joni, which I both narrowly missed. At least Aituaki was going to have petrol again! I wonder how long it will be until some other commodity is in short supply?

Verena wanted to stay on Aitutaki for another week since she was enjoying it so much. She needed to make some phone calls from the post office and talk to the people at Air Rarotonga in order to reschedule her returning flights. We also stopped off at the grocery store so she could buy food. I bought some ice cream and a lovely pareu shirt. A pareu shirt is something like a Hawaiin shirt, except… pareu shirts come from the Cook Islands and Hawaiian shirts come from Hawaii. Mainly, I was tagging along but Verena kept getting distracted by stuff and was taking forever. The weather was very hot. I had to get a milkshake from Heineken in order to make it back. I might not have survived, otherwise.

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon sitting on the deck at Vaikoa reading and chatting with Verena, Mama, and Fred (the Canadian man who was managing a nearby resort). I learned that there was a large volcanic eruption in Tonga: the next country over. It was less than a thousand miles away from us. There were tsunami warnings for several days, but it was the first I heard of it. In my mind I had I couple picture a huge wave washing over the whole island. No one seemed to care much. News traveled very slowly on these sleepy Pacific islands.

I also practiced my coconut husking and opening skills using a sharpened iron spike on the lawn. I was getting quite good at this. I had left my coconut in my refrigerator overnight so the water inside was very cool and refreshing:

Coconut and Pareu Shirt

Coconut and Pareu Shirt

Verena had scored a breadfruit for dinner so he went to go cook it before sunset. In the meanwhile, I sat on the beach and watched the sunset over the waters of the Pacific. As I was sitting there enjoying the serenity, I looked to my right and could see a wall of rain advancing down the beach toward me. I ran back to my hut before I was engulfed in an onslaught of rain drops! It shortly passed and I met up with Verena in her motel room. We mixed the breadfruit with some coconut meat, mixed veggies from the supermarket, and some superhot red chilies that were growing on a tree right outside. It was a pretty tasty, if ad hoc, concoction. I was definitely overloaded on breadfruit for now. I had so much in the past week!

After chatting for a bit, It wasn’t much longer before I was super tired and went to bed. I think the heat sucked out most of my energy.

March 21, 2009

I woke up around 7 AM and had my last shower in my own private space. I had breakfast and said good bye to Verena and Mama. I got a lift to the airport from one of Mama’s daughters, I think, in order to catch my 9 AM flight back to Rarotonga. Compared to the airplane that took me to Atiu and to Aitutaki, this next airplane was huge! It seated like 25 people! It had beverage service! Clearly the Rarotonga to Aitutaki route was Air Rarotonga’s principal route.

After I landed at the airport, it was clear that my ride had forgotten to pick me up again. I was able to bum a ride to the Rarotonga Backpackers from a van full of Americans going to some other resort. No more private rooms for me. I got a bed in a five-room share dorm for NZ$20/night (CA$14/night). It wasn’t the classiest or cleanest backpackers I’d ever been to. I guess you get what you pay for.

The island of Rarotonga is approximately circular. There was a highway going all around the circumference of the island. There’s two bus routes that go all the way around the island: one in each direction (the “clockwise bus” and the “anticlockwise bus”). It takes almost an hour for the buses to circumnavigate the whole island. They meet and pause at the only official bus stop: in the main town of Avarua.

I had already missed the 10:30 clockwise bus to Avarua. I wanted to go to the market, so I set out on foot. I stopped at the ATM, some nearby shops and caught the next bus to take me the rest of the way. Sadly, I arrived at the market just as many of the stalls were cleaning up, but I still managed to pick up a bunch of tasty little bananas and some lunch.

Avarua is a small place and I would be able to walk anywhere I needed to go. I strolled over to the supermarket to buy sustenance for the next few days until I flew away. I heard some people speaking Polish outside of the supermarket so I chatted with them for a while. They said my Polish was quite good (although I think they were just being polite). They were an older couple, Edward and Donata whom lived in Wrocław half of the year and in Sydney the other half. Many months later, they sent me a postcard for Christmas. Yay!

I continued on to look for some postcards to buy, but almost all the shops were closed, even though it was only 1 PM. It was Saturday afternoon on a Pacific Island and everything was closing down for the weekend. It was time for me to go back. I misread the bus schedule and missed the anticlockwise bus that would take me to the backpackers, so I had to wait a while for the clockwise bus that would take me the long way back — all the way around the island. I bought some ice cream at a gas station to tide me over while I was waiting.

Upon arriving at the hostel, I proceeded to slack off for the afternoon. Not much was accomplished. I sat on the beach and watched the waves.

For dinner I walked to the classy Windjammer restaurant. I had blue marlin on a kumara mash for dinner. I had never eaten one of the big game fish before, but it was AMAZING! The fish was so thick and meaty that it felt like steak. It had a mild flavour — not fishy or stinky at all. For dessert I had bananas and a Mars bar in a springroll wrapper deep fried and topped with homemade coconut ice cream and chocolate syrup. I washed it all down with a couple locally brewed Matutu beers. What a great dinner! I still think of it fondly.

I walked back in the dark. It was very intimidating. The road had no sidewalk and cars and scooters kept flashing me with their headlights, making it very challenging to see. Dogs kept barking at me from behind bushes. I missed the calm and quiet of Atiu, or even Aitutaki. Rarotonga was so busy!

At the backpackers, people were watching a movie on the TV, but it must have been unremarkable since I don’t remember what it was. Sleep was very hard since the room was HOT and the ceiling fan didn’t seem very effective. Le sigh.


Rob Szumlakowski
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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