I thought about staying. I noticed that I had not gained this much peace ever in my life. Could I just send for my kids? Robb and I saw white kids here taking the bus home from school one day. Well, my kids were only half white. Aw, too much thinking to enjoy the rest of my real relaxing trip so on with our day.
I think it was the idea that we might see sea turtles so we started our adventures by heading over to Tikioki (Fruits of Rarotonga) to snorkel. We had been passing by on the bus one day and people were spotting sea turtles there. This was also the place to see them along with eels and small white tip reef sharks. But our luck was not in our favor at the time. We ended up just seeing some fish that didn’t seem too spectacular. The slight disappointment was combated later with chocolate cake with crème sauce at the Fruits of Raro food spot. Chocolate cures a lot in my book.
We took advantage of the island’s rewards as much as we could since we were leaving. I took a swim in our pool since I didn’t have that luxury to do alone back home. And then there was a bucket list item of Robb’s to climb a coconut tree. He gave it an old college try…well maybe lower classmen. I mean what was I doing making fun of him? Like I could climb that tree. What I made fun of was his mandals mostly. Yes, mandals. These ugly (in my opinion and I bet I could find others that would agree) sandal strapped foot devices that were not attractive. But in Robb’s defense, who gives a shit because these things were useful especially in the regions we conquered. Robb definitely gave a good try at climbing that tree for his amateur status but we all know he was no Piri Puruto III, coconut tree climbing legend of the island aka our two time chauffer.
Tonight was the night we were going to Vaima’s for dinner where Kana invited us out. Turns out it was more of a - we are going to give Kana’s brother’s restaurant more money - invite. That was okay. We weren’t expecting any freebies. I guess we saved money here and there from the islands’ policy not to tip anyway. I had a great dinner. I had garlic bread, the tuna steak stack and a “Sand of Vaima” drink. Then we moved to the bar. The bar had two sides to it. One side was from the inside of the restaurant and the other side was from the outside. Robb and I were inside the restaurant and across the way some attractive surfing travelers from other parts of the country. While we were there we met Kana’s friend, an American from Oceanside, CA that lived on the island. Meeting Kana’s friend kind of made the world smaller since she could relate to us in a way. We talked to her for a bit and even took a picture with her to show our American encounter. It was a horrible photo of me. Kana was talking about what was going on that night on the island and thoughts of possibly going out to a dance club. I was in to get my dance on. We kind of left it an open casual thing where maybe we’ll see you tonight possibly. So we said our goodbyes and headed outside to the scooter to get back to our hillside apartment. Instead of us hopping on the scooter and speeding off back to our place, the scooter would not start. We were there for so long while Robb frustratingly tried to get that thing to start. Robb was on the edge of losing his cool. Finally out of nowhere, Robb succeeded and I think that made him done for the night. We got back to our place and I asked him about going to the bars with me. He declined. So I took the bus by myself to Avarua where the bars/dance clubs were.
The first place I went to was called Whatever Bar & Grill. I bought a Bacardi & Diet and surveyed the scene. I was like whatever and left. Plus I didn’t see Kana or any people from Vaima’s restaurant. Then I went to Rehab where I paid a $2 entry fee. It seemed off the hook for this chill island. I bought a Vodka & Redbull to drink while I was searching for some people with good dance moves. I found a younger local guy that took me up on dancing and seemed to know what he was doing with some confidence. He asked me my name and where I was from. I gave him the information. He seemed happy to find a Southern California beach girl. He asked how long I was staying. I told him I leave tomorrow. That’s where he saw his window of opportunity and invited me to spend some “island time” with him before I left. I was flattered but not easy so I thankfully turned him down and headed out on a mission to get back to the apartment. I spotted Kana’s American friend and said a short goodbye as I walked.
I had to catch the bus back because I had no other secure ride and the busses stopped running at a certain time. I felt relieved to arrive at the bus stop in time. It was there that I met Tutu. Tutu and I spoke of life, experience and perspective. Tutu was another person I would meet in life and never see again most likely. But he was someone I needed. So many people come and go in a person’s lifetime and their life builds on those encounters, moments, looks and conversations. Tutu along with a number of people on this trip were unconsciously useful strangers in the wind.
I took that bus ride, walked up the hill and made it back safely.
If I had a compass with me, I could confidently verify that Robb and I were moving on up to the Eastside; and to add, a deluxe apartment on the hillside. The Jeffersons had nothing on us. The lovely people at Vara’s moved us from our modest studio dwelling close to the beach to a one bedroom pad in the upper island paradise jungle complete with a T.V. and DVD player which we had not had the entire trip. We also had not had a luxurious bathroom sink art decoed with naked women and to top it off, our own deck overlooking a pool and BBQ area. It was safe to say that we modest travelers, were impressed.
After surveying and moving into our new digs, Robb gave me a ride down the hillside to mail my postcards and purchase some more. While we were out, we ate lunch at Kaikai Time. Smoked fish and a good smoothie hit the spot. And then we were back at our apartment relaxing until our planned outing at Island Night. I laid out by our pool and got sunburned; story of my life as a white girl. We also met Conrad, the son of the owner, Vara. Nice good looking gentleman with a good looking family – isn’t it ironic?
Our traveling intentions were ones of not to be the typical tourists and do all touristy type things. We wanted to get in with the people, experience the real deal. Well, safely of course. So Island Night seemed like a touristy type of thing to do which was a show of local dancers. But really, this was a cultural thing so it wasn’t too touristy. And there is it was again - all the suggestiveness of dancing and skin showing attire. This went along with other things going on at these islands such as the church sermon, the totem carvings and our bathroom sink but I wasn’t complaining. The show did give both Robb and I eye candy in a way since both men and women were dancing and shaking everything appealing. $5 to get in was worth it to experience. Even regular people in the audience were called upon to dance with the pros.
And speaking of shaking, Robb and I stuck around to dance afterwards. The DJ was playing some familiar music that I knew of in the U.S. so I got the idea to request a song specifically for Robb. As soon as “Fire Burning” from Sean Kingston played, Robb and I had to get up and dance to his favorite song. And then somehow among the dancing, and drinking, oh yes, we had been drinking since we arrived at Island Night, Robb started dancing with other ladies on the dance floor. They started forming circles around him while he busted moves. This was very entertaining and amusing to me because the females were looking at Robb and me like who is this guy and then right away gave looks like, whatever, he’s fun, he can dance with us. But it seemed like that didn’t last long and then we were ready to get out and catch a ride back to our paradise hills apartment. While we were waiting for a bus, I could still hear the music from inside so I danced outside by restaurant signs and dark corners. I didn’t realize Robb was snapping photo evidence at first and then I caught on and posed for some more pics.
And then out of nowhere except the extreme darkness not lit up by the light of the moon comes our knight in shining armor in his topless Mazda Miata similarity to come swoop us up. It was Piri. The famous coconut tree climber guy we had gotten a ride from the second day of our trip. Even though it seemed like we might be unforgettable, he did not remember us. Since he thought we were a newly married couple in love, he wanted to make us a present. We went along with his error of observation and Robb expressed how he had ran out of options and I was the last one he could get. So Piri pulled up to the side of the road, I got out and ripped my dress on the back of Piri’s seat while stairing up in amazement as Piri climbed a palm tree and brought branches down. He went to work fast weaving the branches and wala! A breakfast bowl was made for our fruits and whatever else the next morning.
After Piri drops us off, we get ready to play some Gin Rummy. And that’s when I discovered Robb had a new hat. He was wearing the breakfast bowl on his head. This decorative piece did not serve as good luck because I won. And from there the good night was topped off with watching the thriller movie “The Canyon”. I think I fell asleep because I don’t even remember much about that movie.
Today is my son’s 12th birthday. Exactly five months ago, I had no idea I was going on this trip much less would be missing my son’s birthday. But the ticket was bought for me and I couldn’t change it. I was given for some, and probably me, a once in a lifetime opportunity that I had to take advantage of. The way my son is, I knew he would understand. He had his other siblings back in the U.S. to help him celebrate today and I could celebrate again with him in just a few days when I got home. But he was in my thoughts all along as well as my other children. Robb could testify to that. I spoke of my children while on the trip a number of times. I have said with truth, I am a very fortunate mom.
After ten days, it was about time to wash some of our laundry. Robb found a $12 service that would wash, dry and fold his laundry for him. I thought it to be smart and money saving to hand-wash my own laundry and save the money but after it was taking forever for everything to hang dry, I was thinking that Robb may have chosen the wiser route.
I rode the scooter with Robb to check out some ancient sites. Turned out there wasn’t much to see as far as ancient sites go. And not much in the way of photos or video was taken today. Ended up at the Dockside and I had a Bananarama health shake. I thought I couldn’t go wrong with another place having the name Bananarama after having my favorite drink in Aitutaki. My logic lead me to make an excellent choice and I enjoyed a different Banarama. I could now say I had a Bananarama on two different Cook Islands. I wonder if there are other slightly altered versions of the Bananarama on the other Cook Islands. I may never know.
Since I had not traveled for years and this seemed to be a one of a kind special trip, I thought a perfect souvenir would be a tattoo. After getting earlier recommendations on where to go for a local tattoo, I made the choice to check out Polynesian Tattoo. Robb scootered (new hip word) me over there so I could inquire. I met Kane and we had a little conversation about my idea of getting a tattoo and the cost. Turned out it was going to cost $150. That was expensive to me since I was relying on every cent I had to fund every cost of this trip. But I decided it was worth it. It would be meaningful and commemorative. I decided that I should definitely get the tattoo on our last day at the Cooks so I could continue to go in the water anytime before then.
After my tattoo decision, Robb drove us back to Vara’s. I thought I’d take a little walk over to the corner souvenir shop to pick up some postcards. I got to conversing with the store clerk, Ruakana. She went by “Kana”. It was awesome yet sad to finally befriend a local. The sadness was that we were leaving soon and couldn’t really hang out that much since she lived there and had to work. But the awesome thing was that she invited me and Robb Friday night to Vaima restaurant for drinks. Her brother owned the restaurant and she worked there also. While I was in the store, Kana’s partner stopped by. Partner was the local word for boyfriend. Kana introduced me and told him that Robb and I would be hanging out with them Friday night.
I went back to Vara’s and told Robb about the invite. He was happy about it because agreeably it was something else to do and cool to get in with the locals. And the rest of the night was spent with me filling out postcards and suckering Robb for his money. Yes, that is correct. Robb bet me 10 $.20 cent pieces that equaled $2 in New Zealand money that I could not win. But thanks to my new strategy, Robb had to hand over the dough.
Tonight we enjoyed our familiar room at Vara’s close to the beach, for tomorrow they were moving us away from the beach and we didn’t know what to expect.
I awoke early and had the urge to get out of Bungalow#1 and do a walk/jog. I do workouts but I’m a sprinter, not a long distance runner. So actually I would normally do an RJW aka Run, Jog, Walk. But this morning, a walk/jog would do just fine. I needed to get some exercise somehow.
So I did a walk/jog along the paved road all the way to Inano Beach and back and across the street caught the sunrise by the airport. It was one beautiful site to match another – sunset last night and sunrise this morning. It turned out to be a very clear day since we had been there. Unfortunately, we had to leave today and fly back to Rarotonga.
We had breakfast as usual. I noticed how we had accumulated so many mosquito bites. No matter what repellant we tried to use, it seemed that the foreign mosquitoes liked the taste of our American blood. I say that also because I have racked up a lot of other mosquito bites when I was away from the U.S. on other foreign land in the past.
Being a person that can express myself better on paper, I decided to write a note to leave for Adrianne (Adi), the part owner of Samade on the Beach. Robb was still not telling me what happened the night before between him and Adi. But that was fine. It was none of my business anyway. I wish I had made a copy of that note before I left it because I don’t really remember exactly what it said. But I’m pretty sure it had an emotional edge to it. Basically I thanked her for everything and told her how unique of an experience it was for me and that I would never see her again. I was sure I wouldn’t come back because I assumed that I would try to travel to other places and experience those if I gained the time and funds again. Plus anyway, I wanted this experience to be the one I remembered about the Cook Islands and it would just not be the same if I came back in a different time with a different person perhaps. It might not be as wonderful. I couldn’t find Adi to give her the note so I left it with a staff person. But just as we were leaving to go to the airport, I got to see Adi and thank her in person and let her know about the note. I had left my contact information in the note, but probably due to what I had said, she would never contact me. It was probably better that way.
Our vacation was not over but driving back to the airport on Aitutaki, it was so sad to leave. I’m sure eventually if I were to stay on that island, even though it was an amazing site, I would get island fever and have to leave anyway. But flying away, seeing the island from overhead and watching it disappear, was still a saddening site. And it looked so beautiful from afar leaving it like a lover you have to get away from and only watch them walk away.
We came back as lost travelers to Rarotonga. After all the planning we had done before, we finally became spontaneous. We had no place to stay. So we decided we would store our luggage in an airport locker while we rented a scooter and looked for a place to stay for the rest of our vacation. We were leaving in four more days back to the U.S.
After putting all of our baggage in the airport locker, there was a ticket to hold on to when coming back and claiming our belongings. Robb held on to that ticket. We rented one scooter and with Robb driving and me on the back, we rode around checking out backpacker places to see what our lodging options were. Nothing seemed to be to our satisfaction. Either the look of the place or the price they were asking was not what we wanted. So we decided to check back at our old reliable place that we started off originally – Vara’s. We were lucky enough to get the exact room back for a couple of nights until they were going to move us. Satisfied and comfortable to be back at Vara’s, we decided to take the bus back to the airport and retrieve our luggage from the locker.
We arrive at the airport locker and what do you know? Robb had lost the claim ticket! Now, maybe this was my influence. I originally started off the whole losing act towards the beginning of our trip. But my loss turned out to be false because thankfully, my belongings happened to be where they were the whole time. But Robb, he actually left his backpack at the bus stop days ago and now he loses the locker ticket. Was he always this carefree on his vacations but didn’t want to let me in on it? Because he seemed to be the more responsible of us two but come to find out, I was looking like I had it together a little more.
There were instructions to call Customer Service just in case and we thought it to be a joke that the Customer Service number was #54321. That was an ordeal. I think it took forever for Robb to get a hold of someone and I also think the number was incorrect. After finally speaking to Customer Service and having them agree to come out and open our locker, there was a long time to wait. While we were waiting, I saw a good looking dark skinned guy from afar that looked like he was a local. He had a number of tattoos on his body so I decided I was going to approach him. I walked over and politely asked where he could recommend that I get a tattoo on the island.
Finally a customer service rep arrives and opens our locker for us. We get our belongings and ride the bus back to Vara’s. The bus ride was a nice out of the ordinary voyage this time since the driver took a bit of a different route and we got to see and experience new sights. I also asked the driver about the island dancer practice and he filled me in on another place for a tattoo.
After getting our belongings safely into our room at Vara’s, I rode with Robb to the local store to get groceries. The day started to wind down as I got a tasty Lychee flavored Vodka Cruiser while we were out. And I brought back a 2008 Semillon Chardonnay from Banrock station. It was no real loss to me that Robb won Gin Rummy that night. We were still on the Cooks. We were still having a good time. Our vacation wasn’t over yet.
Every day Samade on the Beach had a free continental breakfast but for some reason this morning it seemed especially good. I’m not sure exactly what it was - maybe it was the fruit that seemed fresher. I sat by myself on the beach rocks right outside the big clubhouse cabana and drank my tea and watched the clear white striped fish swim in the lagoon water. It was probably one of the most peaceful times of my existence.
Just like we accomplished reaching the highest point of Rarotonga, today we were determined to reach the highest point of Aitutaki. We rode our own scooters on a trail leading to the highest point and eventually had to park them and walk the rest of the way. It must had been my drinking the night before that had me breathing more heavily than usual as I walked the rest of the way up. We finally get to the top and it was a lower version of the Rarotonga scene but we could see more since there wasn’t really high hills blocking our view. It was beautiful! All green below and a cruise ship docked from afar. Robb wrote our names on a board surrounding an electrical base along with the other writing that had been accumulated there from people.
After taking a number of photos we made our way back to our scooters to continue some island exploring. Even though I had already scootered my way to church in the rain with no helmet, I was still nervous riding the scooter on my own. I trailed Robb but slowly. He waited when needed for me. Robb was on a mission to find a big footprint at Marae rocks. We had no luck finding it. Maybe it was just a legend. So we continued to scooter around the island and did something backwards. Our backwards act was finally getting a drivers license. Robb had drove the van for Samade at the beach already plus we had both been scootering around already without licenses. We were bad. We were not the usual outstanding law abiding citizens we were usually acting like in our country. Well, even though I would like to think we were living on the edge, most likely the residents of the islands we were visiting were actually doing the same thing as us. So actually, we were fitting in with the locals. That same stop to obtain our drivers licenses also lead to us walking down to a little store where I purchased some postcards, postage, a magnet (my usual travel keepsake) and a brush. I had been without a brush all week. My hair is long so I had to use a lot of conditioner and make sure I was somewhat acceptable without a brush the whole time.
We then carried on with more scootering and rain started to come down. We stopped at Tamanu Beach Resort for lunch - a good looking place with average good looking visitors. I settled on Ike Mata – which was raw fish marinated in coconut cream. It was so-so. Now I know how that tastes and I can do without it. After our lunch break we went back into the on and off rain, scootering to fill up with Petrol at the gas station. We ended up getting soaked with the rain and returned our scooters back to the Boat Shed for good since we were leaving tomorrow to fly back to Rarotonga. The Boat Shed had hammocks close by so we took some hammock photos. Robb has a thing for hammocks.
We went back to Bungalow #1 to do our usual which was play cards. That seemed plain and boring and sad for our last night on Aitutaki until…by accident, it seemed, I saw an orange light coming through our window. Turns out it was our first real sunset we had seen on Aitutaki after days and nights of rain. We were excited to rush outside and see the sunset up close and personal and then pause…, it got real. See, Robb has his own tradition that he does on all his travels. He brings a bandana and the bandana gets worn and gets to participate in certain functions during the travels of Robb. People that know Robb have seen a number of photos and videos of the bandana’s experience. But I sort of screwed that all up. Way back when, about four months before we went on this trip to the Cook Islands, I opened my birthday card with a printout of my travel itinerary and then I opened the real package that sealed the deal. The deal, that I, lucky me, would be actually traveling with Robb. I opened this FedEx or UPS package from Robb and inside was a bandana and a note saying something along the lines of “You’ll be needing this”. I screamed some words like “Hell yeah!” or something and everyone at my birthday celebration looked at me confused. But I knew the code and so what if no one else knew. I knew it was going to be a trip of a lifetime. So when I got to the Cooks, after all that I could have forgotten to bring, I forget the bandana Robb sent me. But Robb, brought a back-up. I think we were supposed to wear them together at syncing moments or something but again, I messed that up.
But not to despair, I think Robb forgave me and put on that bandana like the Karate Kid or Rambo – I’m not sure which and we could then proceed outside down by the water. We celebrated with numerous pictures and excitement. I mean you would think we had never seen a sunset before in our lives. Well, but we hadn’t – at least not here and then the natural thing to do after all that was to make our way to the bar inside the big clubhouse cabana. Come on. We know what we’re doing when it’s time to party. We ordered a Mai Tai and started chatting it up with our hostess, Adi. Adi was the same lady that half owned the place and had picked us up and let Robb drive from the Aitutaki airport. Above the bar were a number of hats that travelers had signed and left as a marking of their stay at Samade. But Robb had to do what was more natural for us. He took the bandana, signed our recognitions and had it hung amongst all the hats.
All three of us were chatting at first – Me, Robb and Adi and then it started to be a little flirtatious between Robb and Adi. I started to feel a little like a third wheel so I said good night and left the two of them at the bar. Robb was gone for two hours. I started over thinking when I got back to Bungalow #1. I started thinking, yeah, I’m Robb’s sidekick but he also had mentioned to me that he might meet his future love here on the Cooks and bring her back to the states. I couldn’t be getting in the way of that. If I kept hanging out with Robb, I would mess up his plans because people would get the wrong idea thinking that we were a couple that came on a romantic vacation together. It didn’t necessarily have to be Adi that would be his future love. Well she was a bit older than Robb, well almost cougaring it. And she was divorced with her husband that was part owner with her on the resort. She had a nice house in back of the resort that she and Robb could spend some time together in. I started to get almost jealous because how come Robb gets to find his love of his life while my boyfriend shipped me off? How come it didn’t come that easy for me? So I’m laying in the dark thinking I’m going to ditch Robb on the trip, when he staggers into the room finally. I ask him what happened with him and Adi. He laughed and said he wouldn’t tell me. He was sworn to secrecy or something. I asked him if he went back to her house. He said she tried to get him to go back there with her but he wouldn’t give me any info. I told him that he was gone an awful long time and I suspect something must have went on and then I tell him my plan of how we could go our separate ways after this, I could venture off on my own. It was merely a suggestion really. Robb did not like that idea at all. I mean he didn’t want to travel the rest of the time alone and we got along pretty well for the most part. The whole point of me going on this trip with him was so he could have a friend to hang out with. I didn’t know he would get so upset so I apologized and promised not to leave him for the rest of the trip and we went to sleep that last night on Aitutaki.