Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Cook Islands: Niue & Rarotonga

Alofi, Niue

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.” 
                                          ~ Hans Christian Andersen

I’m floating in water so blue it makes lapis boring. The French language has a special word
for the blue color of the South Pacific Ocean and even that would not accurately describe the hypnotic deep blue water that lured me from the rocky coral shores of Opaahi Beach into its waves.

As I float on my back in a cove where the famed Captain Cook was ominously greeted by the natives with fiercely painted red lips. The sun glistens on the water as I stare up at the high cliffs, into which the elements appear to have carved eyes and a mouth, resembling a large totem face. Looking down into the clear water, corals of vibrant purples compete for my attention. Despite the brisk temperature of the water, I feel embraced by the gentle waves, like reuniting with a long-lost friend.

 This feeling and the picturesque scenery of rugged cliffs, caves, and tide pools follow me as I stop at several spots along the coast in Alofi, Niue in the Cook Islands. Niue has endless adventures for snorkelers, kayakers, and divers, as well as hiking and biking trails. From the main road around the island you see signs for a beach trek that will take you down to a little nook. The paths even have a fresh water shower to rinse off after taking a dip. Although equipped with all the modern amenities, it embodies the relaxed energy you would expect of an island chain located halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii.

 And if you are lucky, you might even spot a crazy uga—a coconut crab hanging out with its mid-day snack.


The first Polynesian explorers to view the volcanic island of Rarotonga came by powerful double-hulled canoes [vakas] and navigated by the stars.

This emerald island must have enchanted those early inhabitants as much as it does the visitors today.

The island provides an abundance of food for those who live here. Besides the bounty of the sea, the rich volcanic soil supports the terraces planted with bananas, coconuts, paw paw, noni, and pineapples as well as the swampy flats filled with taro.  As you circumnavigate the island, every little inlet has the postcard vista of blue water against the palm-studded beaches, and an anchored boat lazily bobbing against its tether. The backdrop of this scenery contains lush-green cragged pinnacles of the mountains at the center of the island.

Visiting the day market, my senses are treated to the beautiful
colors of tropical fruits, flowers, and fabrics. The women, adorned with frangipani head-bands, greet everyone with the welcoming, “Kia Orana.” The papaya has such a rich, fragrant taste as it melts in my mouth and blends perfectly with the fresh young coconut milk another vendor offers me.

I spent half the day with a local “shaman” at his ‘eco ranch’ as he touted the healing properties of the local herbs and fruits. Adorned with the sacred ti leaves, he offered us some fermented noni and freshly ground kava kava to drink.  As I walked
the property, the breeze gently rustled through the papaya and hibiscus as if orchestrating a little dance, harmonizing with the ocean waves. This wisdom of nature from the islands—the flow and rhythm—became a theme throughout my South Pacific adventure.