Friday, November 27, 2015

Days 128 through 131 - Barefoot Dreams

This morning we had to adjust to Cook Island time: our hosts came half an hour late. But I used this time “wisely” by trying out our rental scooter by myself. I drove several rounds through our garden, and then even on the streets. How fun this is! It’s like sitting on a bicycle but without the effort.

When our hosts came we drove by “Queen Express” to four different places for shopping, because we had to bring all our food and drinks for four days onto the island: First to our usual supermarket for most of the stuff (including the only cereal on the island), to another supermarket to buy 18 liters of water - the first supermarket wanted to charge us 18 dollars per 4 liters, at the other one it was half of that prize. The next stops were the fruit and veggie market to buy capsicum and a papaya for a few NZ dollars, and finally the gas station to fill up a canister for the island’s generator and to buy a pineapple and a watermelon. Phu! That’s a lot of stuff. But if it was too few we would have to be hungry.

At the port we packed all our things into the boat (notice that our hosts are both 69 years old), and got some help from the housekeeper. The boat ride on this turquoise water was wonderful, but our host had to be careful to not hit a sandbank or a coral. Nearer and nearer we could see our destination come, and the excitement rose.

At the beach we were greeted immediately by a swarm of mosquitoes that didn’t want to get off. Pretty embarrassing for me to see the others watch my desperate mosquito dance. Even when I wanted to take out the anti-mosquito spray, I was being hunted. How horrible, I thought, if it was like this the entire five days.

We took a walk over a jungle path to reach our island’s East coast. It was so stormy there! Not far from there was already the end of the atoll, where the waves break. We saw several crabs fleeing from us, and some crab skeletons that were picked by birds. Around the beach area you find many of these hermit crabs in various forms of shells crawling around. They’re about 1-2cm long, but the real monsters you only find in the twilight or at night: tarantula like red hairy 15-20cm long things that cannot even hide in their shell because it’s too small for them.
The kitchen

Also other animals are cool to observe, for example black heron birds collecting stuff to build a nest. They are smart enough to pick dry needles, drop them in the calm waters of the lagoon, and pick them up later when they are smoother to build their nest. Besides of mosquitos, crabs and birds, of course the most important fauna is reef fish that we watched closely when snorkeling between our and its neighbor motu (uninhabited island). I saw some things for the first time in my life, for instance huge blue sea stars, huge sea cucumbers, sea urchins, goatfish, or breathing and living mussels (blue and green Elongate Clams). I caught two air bubbles coming out of the mussel! So cool. Another scene happened between a fish that wanted to protect his coral area and my GoPro on a stick: the fish was fighting my camera. I think it wouldn’t have dared this with me... Too giant ;-)

The jungle way to the snorkeling bay

Last but not least: on this island (fortunately on the last evening, otherwise I wouldn’t have slept well again) I saw the most gigantic spider ever. Better: my father, a spider phobic, saw it first, when he grabbed for his towel in the shower. In its normal position it would probably size about 10cm, the body alone about 4 x 2 cm... I understand that he was completely terrified, and he actually had the horror written in his face when he told me that we “had quite a problem”. In the end we could get rid of it, with our blood completely filled with adrenaline.

We never had a better sunset than on the first evening. Randomly my dad looked out of the window when the sky was burning red. Unfortunately a camp fire still doesn’t shy away the mosquitoes... So we spent the evenings inside, with nothing but our kitchen light, and outside the pitch black night. Not really pitch black, to be honest, we had the support of the moonlight :-) but it still was creepy, walking around alone. And yet there’s another thing: beware of falling coconuts. Probably more people living in the tropical areas die of falling coconuts than of accidents.

Our "Dining Room" window in the pitch black
Although it is quite difficult to keep the balance when doing Yoga standing in the lagoon water and on loose and sharp sand, it is also wonderfully beautiful and relaxing! Every time you open your eyes you see a wonder world in front of you. Just some spontaneous stuff, but nevertheless.

A last activity worth to mention is kayaking. Actually, we wanted to kayak to the “One Foot” motu but it was too windy. The wind picked up during our stay on the motu, reaching levels where it is not wise to venture out too far. So we just kayaked in the wind shade of our own Akaiami motu which was already challenging enough.

And if you’re not motivated to do either of these things (walking around, snorkeling, kayaking, even reading), there is still enough to watch, mainly around lunch time, when the “Lagoon Cruise” boats arrive. It is fun when small boatloads of tourists arrive, people run around taking pictures like crazy, and then are ordered back on their boat to head to their next stop. Even by doing nothing you’ve got your activity: spoiling other persons’ holiday pictures, which is a lot of fun. Or you just talk to passengers or boat staff members - this is how we met “Nga”.

In the end we used about 50 liters of petrol during our four days. And we didn’t even use it the entire day. From breakfast until lunch (because of the heat we needed the ventilator inside), and from shortly before sunset until bedtime. The thing was, you had to control your own electricity and water: there was a wooden building in which a generator stood, with a water container on top. My dad was “responsible” for those things (even on his birthday, because I’m just not willing to stand for ten minutes in a mosquito area that the world hasn’t ever seen, it was really bad). Before refueling the generator (two to three times daily), we had to fill the gas from big containers into small, 2-3 liter containers that are easier to control. And while the generator was re-starting, the water had to be pumped up from the well to the water container on the roof, using a car battery... Everything very creative, though. Thanks to a solid infrastructure provided by our hosts and their instruction, both the electricity and the water supply worked well on our island.

I have to say I truly enjoyed this stay on Akaiami, I enjoyed the isolation and the not-being-connected-all-the-time feeling – even as we had a few “guests” from tour boats for 15-20 minutes, and a couple rented a cabin on the other side of the motu on our last night. You’ve got so much more time for thinking, relaxing, enjoying. I would do it again, with my loved ones, to spend some time with them, because you have plenty of time there. It's simply and absolutely the European imagination of tropical holiday islands per se. Lucky me!

Our breakfast table

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