Tourists No More
10 July 2009 | Aitutaki, Cook Islands
"Come use the pool anytime you'd like! My kids are attending high school in Australia and it's awfully quiet around here," says Annie, the owner of Bishops Tours and Propane. "Come back to the bank tomorrow morning, I'll bring in some paw-paws for you," smiles Moanna from behind the teller desk in the bank in the center of town. "Don't worry about bringing the scooters back to the office, just leave them at the main pier with the key under the mat. We'll get them soon enough," soothes Quinton from the scooter rental shop. The Aitutakians say once you arrive on their island you are no longer a visitor, but rather, a native. They must take that to heart because after 9 days here, we feel like we are departing family members. Sure, it may be part of their heritage and desire to welcome tourists, but damn, they are good. They also say to eat as much of the local food as possible because they have not only outlawed dogs, but also calories. Grin! Needless to say Zen obeys the guilt-free rules, calories be damned.
Thursday night topped off our stay here with the best "island night" dance and fire performance we've seen to-date. Our kids were invited up to dance and proceeded to shake their hips and knock their knees. Guess they did it right, because locals stopped us in the grocery store the next day, inviting them to join an island troupe! But alas, after checking weather reports and the calendar, we knew it was time to detach ourselves from this hospitable lagoon and sail north to Suwarrow. Our friends on s/v Flashback emailed us details of Suwarrow, focusing on the local family inhabiting the island as the Park Rangers. It's standard procedure for them to run low on supplies and for cruisers to bring food and anything else helpful. At this point, they are out of cooking propane. Ahhhhh, let's see if Annie could sell us a bottle from her propane company. After a quick call on the VHF radio, she assured me that although Aitutaki is running low on propane for the next 8 days until the supply ship comes in, she'd find us something to bring to the rangers. She found a bottle filled it, delivered it to us at the harbor along with a free stalk of about 50 bananas.
After spending 3 months in French Polynesia it's hard not to make comparisons between the Cooks and FPoly. They sure are different. For us, the heritage, legends, and mostly the hospitality granted to us by everyone here is in a category of their own. The islands of French Polynesia are legendary, but the Cooks hold a special place in Zen's heart. Kia Orana, Aitutaki!