10 June 2018 | Avatiu Harbor, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Yesterday, Saturday, was market day at the local and wonderful Punanga Nui Market, a 3-minute walk away. The market is very large and items as diverse as mango-wood ukuleles and fresh fruit smoothies are for sale, along with locally made clothing, and foods, and lots of black pearls.
The aft berth (the "after berth", as we call it) is our garage and when just Conni and I are aboard, all sorts of items are stowed there: blue boxes of engine lubrications and water maker parts, extra lines: all manner of things. When we have crew or guests, that stuff must be stowed elsewhere, sometimes a challenging task. We've been stripping the boat of rarely-used items for several years, so we were able to find homes for the stuff pretty easily, but she still has the 4-person life raft as a bed mate. We had fabricated a small holder for the raft, but a 70-pound, 3-foot-long cylinder, could still provide an unwelcomed awakening if it moved freely.
With that necessary task complete, we headed to the market, our first stop being the booth where the best smoothie that either of us has ever consumed is made. The big Maori guy lops the top off of coconuts with a large cutlass right, holing the coconut in his bare hand, sloshes the milk into two blenders, and adds banana and such for one blender, and passion fruit for the other blender and homogenizes away. When done, the slush from each blender is poured in layers into a big cup, a star fruit with straw punched through it goes in the top, and it's in your clutching hands. Man! Banana plus on bottom, passion fruit plus on top, it's a rich and refreshing drink to sample as one walks around the market. And judging from the number of other market-goes who are holding similar cups, we're not alone in that enjoyment.
The small stage has local children in age and gender groups displaying their growing mastery of local dances. Some of the younger girls are obviously so stage-shy that little hip gyration is visible and they seem more apt to burst into tears, than shimmies, but some are taking to the opportunity enthusiasticly, and are impressive. The young boys then go on stage, with the same (of course) range of comfort. Still, the master of ceremonies tells the assembled crowd that the kids do get to travel to many countries and that if they (the audience) don't pony up the donations, there will be no Macdonald's burgers for the kids. The general laughter is telling about the burger's ubiquity. Is giving money right or wrong?
We do buy some fruit and bread for the boat, then rush back to close hatches for a sudden squall. After the squall subsides, we return, but at noon the market simply disappears, the vendors pack and depart, and we wander an empty parking lot. Sheesh!
On to fetch our crew mate. We arrive early, even after an interesting conversation with a local marine purveyor, Keith. Keith owns a second-hand yard, full of old boats and boat parts. He buys cheaply and sells less so. Usually, people who decide that cruising is not for them, for one reason or another, determine this further east, and French Polynesia and Papeete, the capital, is full of abandoned boats that were simply left there by disconsolate or now-divorced owners. It is not uncommon at all. Last year, Keith bought a 50-footer, fully outfitted for cruising, for US$3000! The owner arrived, his now-ex-wife departed, and the owner dawdled right up to his Cook Island Immigration-forced departure from the country. Keith had offered $50,000 a few weeks earlier, but the owner had declined. When the owner suddenly agreed to the price, being broke and days away from forced departure, Keith had dropped the amount to, basically, airfare and a few night's hotel stay. Ouch! He who hesitates is lost. It's not a pleasant story for the ex-owner, but a wonderful parable about cruising. As Hendrix said, "Castles made of sand slip into the sea, eventually."
Since we were still a bit early, we took the opportunity to stop for a drink at a hotel bar just across the street from the airport. We figured that, as close as we were, we'd hear the plane land, as indeed we did. After a short wait, we saw Julia with her enormous and heavy duffle exit the Arrival gate. To be able to manage this kind of meeting, all from locations remote from each other, is fairly amazing, although boats and crews join and split all the time.
After arrival back at Wings, and waiting out a rain squall or two, we walked down to Trader Jack's restaurant and bar and enjoyed the late afternoon with a pitcher of beer and lots of talk. A slow walk back to the boat, the short dinghy ride to the boat from the quay, and we settled for the evening.
So, it's tasks this morning in preparation for our departure on Tuesday or Wednesday. Tomorrow, we plan on taking the around-the-island bus.