When Rarotonga first comes into sight out of the plane window, your first thought is “How the heck are we landing on that!” The question is soon answered after going into what can only be described as a dive bomb, hard landing at the edge of water and then a deafening roar of brakes and engines. After a screeching halt at the very end of the runway, you have arrived on one of the smallest dots sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Rarotonga is the most populous of the Cook Islands, hosting 13 095 out of a total Cook Island population of 17 794. The Cook Islands consists of 15 small islands with a combined area of 240 square KM, to put this into perspective, Toronto covers an area of about 630 square kilometres, however the total area of Ocean the Cook Islands are spread over covers 2.2 Millions square KM, and to put that in perspective, Ontario covers about 1.1 Million square KM.
The Cook Islands is believed to have first been settled in the 6th Centurey AD (or CE depending on you view), how anyone found these floating dots is anyones guess, but the Maori settled the land and eventually moved from here to populate New Zealand as well. The Islands were first sighted by Europeans, (the Spanish), in 1595 and the first Europeans are recorded as setting foot on them in 1606, again the Spanish. The famous Captain Cook came to the Islands in 1773 and 1777, naming them the Hervey Islands, before moving on to meet his maker courtesy of some testy natives in Hawani. Ironically, and rather randomly, the group of Islands now called the Cook Islands were named by the Russian’s in the 1820’s. Of course, whenever it seemed the European’s found new land, hot on the explorer’s heels where the missionaries. The missionaries first arrived in the Cook Islands in 1778 and quickly set about building churches, suppressing pre-christian beliefs…and addressing the sticky issue of cannibalism. Despite the repression of beliefs, there remains on the island a passionately mixed belief set of Christianity and traditional beliefs that now seem harmoniously embraced by the people. Marcin and I took part in both aspects of Island culture while we were there, attending one of the liveliest church services we have been to, albeit we didn’t understand much, as well as attending a traditional Island night.
The Island of Rarotonga was beautiful, the waters were crystal clear, calm – as the island is surrounded and subsequently protected by a reef, which allowed us to snorkel, kayak and swim easily. Our scooter allowed us to get around easily, and with only 34 KM of road, running in a ring around the island, it was impossible to get lost. They have 2 buses on the island if you want to take Public Transit – one says clockwise, the other, counter clockwise! Our resort was beautiful, less of a resort and more like a rental property, which suited us fine as we were able to cook our own food and we basically had the place to ourselves. The lack of snow and cold made for a very different feeling Christmas, actually it didn’t feel very Christmas-ish at all, but we made the best of it. We literally made our tree – yes MADE our tree – there seems to be a lack of Christmas Trees in the Cook’s. Utilizing items we had and combined with found items we constructed what we thought was a pretty fine Christmas Tree – which you will see in the video. We have complied some short clips into a 6-ish minute video below, enjoy.