Rarotonga, Cook Islands – April 19, 2009

Avarua Harbour, Rarotonga
Avarua Harbour, Rarotonga

One day is just enough to get a taste of the main island among the fifteen Cook Islands. On a steamy day, that taste is also enough to understand why islanders have the reputation of being relaxed, of taking time. It’s too hot to do anything else.

Father and son in Muri Lagoon
Father and son in Muri Lagoon

We saw several examples of island time. One was a father playing in Muri Lagoon with his son. During the whole time we were there, the father barely moved. His young son sat on his back, paddled around him or floated. About the only muscles the father moved were the ones that repeatedly stretched into a smile for his offspring.

Another was the man who sat on his bicycle, enjoying the sea breeze. We had toured the island via local bus, with a stop in Muri. Returning full circle, we started the fifteen-minute walk back to the ship. At that point I had only $6 New Zealand left, enough for two small treats (in lieu of lunch). We opted for ice cream cones. Choosing flavours was easy. There was only one – vanilla.

That left a dollar coin in my pocket and a melting cone in my hand. We retreated to a shaded park bench to enjoy our ice cream, with a cooling breeze capping our pleasure. Right behind us was a fellow sitting on his bike. That’s what he did the whole time we sat there and what he was doing when we left. Our pace was unhurried. His was without measure.

Utu tree
Poisonous fruit of the utu tree

He’s the one who told us about the utu tree, whose strange fruits are in the photo below. They look a bit like giant figs, but our motionless companion told us they are used to poison fish. Just how one poisons fish without poisoning the people who later eat it is beyond me, but I shouldn’t be skeptical. After all, isn’t that what the chemical companies have been selling us for decades?

While we contentedly licked our cones, we watched a one-clawed chicken make her way among the bits of trash left by locals and tourists. In spite of her missing claw, she looked healthy enough. She had learned to hop on one leg, using the other as a sort of balancing rudder. She could hop a curb but had probably figured out that road crossing was something to save for times when traffic was infrequent.

This one-legged chicken is obviously a gritty survivor
This one-legged chicken is obviously a gritty survivor

She hopped close to us, eyeing us as potential providers. Unfortunately, we had nothing to give her so she wandered off, leaving us with the lesson of a gritty survivor. If I lost a foot, I’d spend some time feeling mighty sorry for myself. She just healed and got on with life.

Robin enjoying a cool rest on a hot day
Robin enjoying a cool rest on a hot day

At the end of a hot day in Rarotonga, the ship looked very inviting. We caught the tender and motored back to our floating home, where Robin crashed just long enough to re-set his energy button. We went to the dining room and found our four Americans had abandoned us. So Danilo, our waiter, and Anand, the head waiter, found us a table where we could enjoy some company. We ended up with two couples plus the granddaughter of one, and three children of the other – and had a ball.

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