… not Roto-Rooter
February 24, 2020, Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
A shipmate was asking the confused woman behind the excursion desk about tours on Roto-Rooter. Finally, the light went on, “You mean Rarotonga.” Now I can’t unhear it.
Avarua is the capital of the Cook Islands, a Freely Associated state of New Zealand. Avarua is on the island of Rarotonga. The island has a good public transit system so we got bus day-passes and were off. Having seen many of the “sights” on the past visit, I wanted to go swimming. There are several beaches to choose from. But the drive around the island on the bus to reach the beaches is interesting in itself. Islanders believe in keeping their ancestors close so while the government, and church, for that matter, are trying to encourage people to bury their loved ones in a proper cemetery or churchyard most Rarotongans think the proper place to place their loved ones is at home, in the front yard. We saw many front yard cemeteries from one or two graves to generations of a family together at home. Folks can step outside for a word with grandma or to share a drink with grandpa. It keeps the family close. Many of the grave stones have flower or shell leis draped over them. This all may make a home difficult to sell, but when I asked, I got the reply “why move?” (There are lots of churches on Rarotonga, my favorite church name was “The Upper Room,” in a one-story building.)
We had every type of weather (well no snow or ice) in one day. It was relatively cool, only about 82 degrees but the humidity made it look like rain dripping down our windows and when I went outside the camera lens completely fogged up. We had a downpour at around 3 PM. Afterward outside was like a sauna. It’s a good thing that we did our exploring early.
Rarotonga is a new island in geologic terms, about a million years old. It’s volcanic with protective coral reef. As the coral dies it forms limestone that covers the basalt at sea level. Waves grind the limestone into fine sand. We choose Muri Lagoon for our swim. The beach is protected by a reef and 4 islands, three coral with sand beaches, and one of volcanic with no beach to speak of. The beach sand leads to the lagoon’s limestone bottom, with its combination of rocks, sea plants and a little living coral. We saw only a few fish. As we swam several glass-bottomed boats went by carrying some Amsterdam shipmates on a Holland America tour. The boats had drummers who played us a nice counterpoint to our swim. Afterwards some friends from the ship waved us to their table at a beachside restaurant featuring seafood and Middle Eastern fare. Suzi and I shared a plate of hummus and olives.
The lagoon water is clear because it’s nutrient poor. There are the plants corals and the fish I mentioned, but not a lot else. Further from the island the water is even more nutrient poor. That’s why it’s such a hypnotizing blue, a blue I can’t describe or photograph. Possibly I could replicate with a good photo program but you wouldn’t believe it. And while looking into the deep blue sea from the deck is beautiful, the color up close from the tender platform is spooky breathtaking. It’s so different from the nutrient rich sea color off Sitka. One woman said she wished she could take a jar of it home to have that blue on her kitchen shelf, but, of course, in a jar it’s perfectly clear. The combination of sky, light and depth make it, well, I really don’t have the words.
Our tendering back to the ship was delayed by the need to keep the harbor clear for a military boat bringing a medevac patient to Avarua from one of the outlying Cook Islands.