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Looking for unspoiled: Cook Islands

Author: Canadian
Date of Trip: February 2007

My husband and I have done a lot of travelling. We may be somewhat jaded in our tastes by now, but the last few years we’ve been looking for some simpler places where you can swim in clear waters, walk on natural surfaces, bicycle, snorkel or dive, relax in a hammock, cook your own meals or just picnic. We found the Cook Islands. There are many islands but the easiest to reach are Rarotonga and Aitutaki, where a recent “Survivors” episode was filmed. But if simplicity is what you’re looking for better hurry up and visit these islands because Western influences are rapidly advancing and it will soon be just as money-grubbing and tinsel-coated as most beach resorts.

On Rarotonga we rented a studio size bungalow in a small resort of about a dozen similar cottages. We were across the two lane road from the lagoon and used complementary snorkel equipment to look at the wonderful ocean-life there daily. Late afternoons found us swimming in the pool a few feet from our place. There was no restaurant, but several large barbeques supplemented the small kitchen we had. Joining our neighbors in grilling some fish, chicken or lamb was often preferable to cooking in our cabin. There was no air conditioning, but windows open on all sides allowed us to appreciate the sea breeze. We met people from such far places as Vancouver and California who regularly spent the winter in this spot. Some even brought food and flea powder for the colony of cats who showed up regularly on any friendly doorstep.

An island breakfast was served every morning: toast, tea, coffee, cereal, milk and lots of tropical fruit. A great time for socializing. Often a neighbor would invite us to go along on a jaunt to a nearby beach or into town for groceries. We found that with the bus service we really didn’t need a car and were happy not to add to the pollution of the world.

Aitutaki was much simpler yet. It is an island frequented by divers and during the very hot months tourism numbers tend to be lower. Our four cabin resort there had a wonderful and inexpensive restaurant where we ate meals every few days. As it is such a small island, supplies of meat tend to be limited, and that mostly frozen. So our home cooking was limited to fruit, some local vegetables, cheese, pasta, bread, cereal, tinned or dry soups. In a climate so hot we found this met our needs very satisfactorily.

On both islands we availed ourselves of tours which showed us much about the history of the area. It is Polynesian, once belonging to New Zealand, and English is spoken as well as Maori. We had boat trips taking us outside of the lagoon to swim and snorkel, barbecuing feasts on a deserted beach. Island nights at nearby resorts provided the opportunity to taste dishes prepared in the local fashion, some steamed underground in the Maorian way. There was no tv, no need for world newspapers, nothing really but local radio. It was an escape into innocence.

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