10/16/2007 - 10/20/2007
This is the life! A group of us from the backpackers went sailing on Tuesday, the 16th. Paul, the owner of the backpackers, knows the boat owner, so we got a deal and paid half as much as everyone else on the trip! We just had a quick sail out a few miles, sailed back to the reef for some snorkeling and then actually came back to the dock and had some drinks and snacks. I assume in better weather that would have been done out at the reef, but it was pretty choppy and had actually drizzled a bit so we were glad to get back in to the safety of the harbor.
On Wednesday, Ross, Mary, Nicky and I hiked to the top of the Needle, about a four hour climb that crossed the island from north to south. It's not that high (about 1400 feet) but the trail up got quite steep and I was glad I was wearing my boots. Some people tried to do it later in flipflops and had a pretty bad time.
Ross, Mary and Nicky at the top of the Needle
Triumphant at the top of the Needle
The views from the top were pretty amazing. You could basically see water in three directions, only the west was cut off by a higher mountain.
View to the north
View to the south
Thursday I went to rent a scooter for the rest of my stay because it's kinda tough to rely on people to get around. I went into town to get one and we ended up watching a dance performance in honor of the 50th anniversary of a community center. We got dragged into the tent by one of the locals who insisted that we eat. I think he would have been insulted if we didn't, so we dug in. There was so much food it was absolutely ridiculous. Tables and tables full of dishes, only about 8 different things, and everyone was filling heaping plates with their hands. Even the stuff thats really tough to serve with your hands, like potato salad and noodles. No utensils anywhere.
I had to go the Police Station to get a Cook Islands driver's license. The driving test consisted of driving around the block with a policeman following you, making sure to stop at the one stop sign in town. Needless to say, I passed, but the machine that makes the licenses was broken so I got a paper one and will go back on Monday to get a really one. I think it's a pretty cool souvenir. And if I get pulled over at home I can flash that and see if it works! we went down to the beach and did some snorkeling that afternoon. The lagoon is so shallow and clear and we saw some amazing fish. Giant clams, trumpetfish, rays, parrotfish and lots of others that I don't know the name of.
Friday we went back down to the same beach and did some more snorkeling in the morning, then came back to the backpackers for lunch and afterwards Paul took me and one other guy out to the reef to go spearfishing. I didn't catch anything, but Brock and Paul caught a couple, so we had freash fish for dinner. While we were trying to get off the reef through the surf, I got knocked down by a wave and ended up landing on a sea urchin, so I now have some nice spikes in my pinky and it's a bit swollen. Not exactly the souvenir I wanted, but it will go down in few days. Last night, a group of us went out in town, the first night I had done so, which was a lot of fun. everything is so cheap and we had a lot of fun dancing and bar-hopping. There actually wasn't much of a point in bar-hopping, because all the bars had the same music, a playlist that consisted of Bon Jovi, Guns n Roses, Michael Jackson, and a few techno-fied traditional Cook Islands songs thrown in as well. We were at a place called the Staircase, which was a beautiful deck overlooking the ocean, and what came on but "Dragostea din Tei". I have to say, I didn't think I would ever be dancing to Romanian pop at a bar in the middle of the South Pacific!
This morning we went to the local market. We walked around some and I ended up getting flying fish for dinner, so I'll be throwing those on the grill later. There were some neat woodcarvings and such, but I'm going to hold off for now.
Vegetable stall at market
I decided not to go to Aitutaki, one of the other islands, and I'm just going to spend my time here. There's enough to do to keep busy and still a lot of places I haven't explored yet. The thing I love about the people here is how friendly they are, with no expectation of anything in return. Everyone says hello and smiles when they see you, you get invited to join in anything and people are just happy to see you. I'm finally getting over my travelers wariness where everything is a potential scam and enjoying it. People come up to you on the beach or in the street just to ask you how you're enjoying your stay, and not to tell you to come to "my uncle's pearl shop" or "my cousin's restaurant". Really nice.