2011 January 30 – Day 26 – Avatiu, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

About 1,300 people live on the island of Rarotonga.   The archipelago of the Cook Islands is comprised of 15 islands.  Captain James Cook charted the remote group in 1770.  The islands are spead across 768,800 sq miles (2,000,000 sq km) of open sea, so Cook did very well to locate and map them all.  The capital is Avarua, which is not too far from the dock at Avatiu Harbour where the tenders ran between ship and shore all day.

The Cook Islands were once a New Zealand dependancy and is now a nation in its own right.  They do however still mainly use New Zealand currency.  There is Cook Island currency but it has no international value so if you have change it cannot be turned back into US or Cdn dollars. The Cook Islands have, so far, been fairly unaffected by the rise in international tourism.  There are no large hotels or resorts, no beach buggies, no traffic jams.  This also meant that there were no shore excursions offered.  We arrived on another rough sea day so our plans to hire a boat with friends and go snorkeling had to be shelved.  The 10′-12′ swells made the tender ride and docking process pretty exciting.  It was also Sunday and since the majority of the island people are very devout Christians everything was closed.

This tree is in the center of a round-about.  It is the Seven-in-one-Coconut Trees.  Depending on who you talk to it is either a single plant with seven shoots, or seven separate coconut palms.

Once again lovely tropical flowers were everywhere. Tiare Maori – the national flower

 Barringtonia – the blossoms are all over the ground in the mornings. We decided to go to church so we walked about a mile into town to find one.  Services at this church were held at 5:30 am, 10 am and 7 pm.  We were about a half hour early for the 10 am service so we wandered through the cemetery and a Peace Garden across the road. We heard what we thought was the choir rehearsing so went in to listen only to find that there was just a handful of people; but they sounded like an entire choir they sang so beautifully.  By 10 the floor space and the balcony were packed.  The entire one and a half hour service, including all the hymns – with no instrumental accompaniment, was done in Maori (native New Zealand language) so we didn’t understand a word but it was joyous and uplifting and the muli-part, harmonized singing was magnificent!

After church we went to a bus stop and took the bus around the island.  There are two roads that parallel each other; one on the coast and one inland about a half-mile.  Various side roads connect them here and there.  The buses run clockwise on the hour and counter clockwise on the half hour. It took two hours to circle the island on the clockwise bus. The sky was still overcast and the ocean was still heaving so, once again, the tender ride was an adventure.  The fellows that steer these tenders are very skilled at coming alongside a pier, and more risky most of the time, the ship’s landing platform. The water around these small islands is the most beautiful colors.

Sail away was delayed because one of the winches broke that are used to bring the tenders back up and we had to wait for it to be repaired.  Due to the rough seas two crew members were tossed into the water during the day’s tendering operations.  One was just fine and kept on working after he was grabbed by the life jacket and hauled back onto the platform.  The other fellow landed between the ship and the tender so it took awhile to navigate the boat away from the platform so he would not get crushed.  He went to the infirmary after inhaling some water but will fine.  There were also three guests off-loaded to hospital for various reasons.  By this time on the cruise we had already had two deaths and people have been taken off for illness or injury at several ports.  These cruise ships are like small towns and on the longer voyages injury, illness, and deaths are not uncommon; just as would happen over a several month period in a small town. After the winch was repaired and the tender brought aboard the captain ordered the anchor be hauled in and we set sail for Alofi, Niue where we will once again anchor offshore.  We had a day at sea to relax and be lazy before we reached Niue.

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