Monday, 17 April 2017

Back to Roratonga! Exploring the spiritual heritage of the island

PHIL: Day 66/20 April.

Only as we leave do I realise that the language of the Cooks is a version of Maori, and accounts for the close association between New Zealand and these islands which was re-inforced when they became a protectorate of NZ early in the 20th century. 
A close link between the Cooks and New Zealand
All Cook Islanders have automatic NZ citizenship and most of the businesses in the islands are run by Kiwis. Even the currency is mostly NZ, though there are some curiously-shaped coins (including a triangular $2 piece) peculiar to the Cooks.Another south Pacific oddity is the proliferation of churches – especially the evangelistic strains. 

Every other building on the island seems to be a place of worship.The LMS certainly started something when they first reached this fertile territory in the early 19th century.

It is raining unseasonally as we touch down in Rarotonga but we elect nevertheless to hire a rusty open-topped Daihatsu (which in Kiwi style we christen the ‘Silver Shitter’) to drive round the island during our 20 hour transit, into which Allie fits her obligatory swim whilst I sit on the sand with a Hawaiian beer. 

Later we ran into the San Francisco aged hippie lady who encouraged us to go to an island dancing competition in Avarua later in the evening.

When we reached the venue, however, the lady with the lei on the door said the start would be delayed because not all the teams had arrived. 45 minutes later we were still waiting and so decided to cut-and-run  to get some sleep before our 0300 wake-up for the flight to Tahiti via Auckland. A night of wild weather and I wonder if our flight might be delayed.

ALLIE: DAY 66: Friday, 20th of April
Return to Rarotonga, a scenic drive around the island and fare-well to the Cooks

on our way back to Roratonga
We try again to board the Saab 340 to fly back to Rarotonga and this time we are on the list! Great. Land exactly after 40min but in drizzle. What sort of a Polynesian weather is this? 

It had rained heavily all during the night in Aitutaki and now here as well? Anyway, we hire a little jeep (it’s silver and so we name it the ‘silver shitter’ just as Andy Nicholson had named his old car!).
But it does it’s job and we drive back to our previous hotel, the Paradise Inn.

After searching town for more efficient internet cafes (which indeed there are) we do a drive around tour of the island. It’s only 30 km round-trip and even with stopping at churches, beaches (a quick but wonderful dip), a little waterfall, a coffee and the airport for Phil to take pictures it only takes us 2 hours.

It’s incredible how many churches there are. There must be at least 30 churches of all denominations on this little tiny island. 

There are the seven-day Adventist, the church of the latter day saints, the evangelistic churches, the Catholics and God knows who else. People really seem to be very religious. As I enter a shop to buy some drinks a local walks in and greets the shopkeeper with “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, Amen!”.

Some of the churches date back the 19th century. They have thick white stone walls and are surrounded by large cemeteries. Actually the whole island and every household is full with graves. There are some really interesting ones with hand-painted decorations, heart-shaped and full with plastic flowers (a bit of a strange thing in a tropical country, but maybe the real flowers don’t keep long enough here).

A huge cruise ship has docked at Avarua harbour and the little town is flooded with fat Americans. “Darling, do you think we have enough time to look into this souvenir shop? I’d love to have some of those gorgeous black pearls, aren’t they wonderful, love?”

I escape by walking along the back lanes of the town finding the memorial stone of the first missionary preaching the gospel here (dating 1848) and a cinema starring ‘Casino Royal’ (James Bond),’ The Invincibles’ (about American football) and a kid’s movie called ‘The Invisibles’. That’s it.

Back to our room and the patio to work on some more writing and watching the hideous cruise ship leaving. Later on we are back to ‘our’ pub, the Traders Jack. It’s heaving with expats starting their night out at the bar. We hear that next door at the dolphin’s club there is the final dancing competition of the senior dancers of Rarotonga. We are very tempted to cut our night short and watch, but then the dances haven’t yet turned up even though the show is already 40minutes late and we decide to hit our pillows. It’s a very early start tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment