Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Was I Actually There? (Aitutaki) pt. 6

Every major hotel in The Cooks hosts a weekly 'Island Night'. I'd go every night if I could. I'd hate to choose which I liked best, but if you held a gun to my head I'd have to say I preferred the show at the 'looser' (but wonderful) Aitutaki Lagoon Resort (www.aitutakilagoonresort.com), sister property to venerable and (fun) Rarotongan Resort. Reached by a small ferry across a narrow channel, the resort's sandy lanes, huts on stilts (all the modern conveniences) and torch light evokes a longed-after Polynesia surpassing any pre-1964-5 World's Fair preconceptions. And again, for any Americans (who still have any money left to spend), the resort, like everything in The Cooks, is an amazing deal for what you get. At Island Night you sit around (too bad not on mats -idea guys, idea) feasting on fresh fish, including 'ika mata' (pretty much the national dish -hunks of raw tuna or mahimahi, marinated in lime juice, onions and coconut milk like the 'poisson cru' of French Polynesia), roast pig and New Zealand lamb while enjoying hip-shaking dancing girls and chanting guys in grass skirts accompanied by explosive drumming punctuated with shouts. Exciting stuff. It's not to hard to perceive echos of less peaceful times. These guys must have been pretty tough customers in the old days. It's fashionable (mandatory?) these days to mock the efforts of the missionaries, but I wouldn't have wanted to be the 'guest of honor' at a Cook Islands luau before their embracing of the Good Book. Now tourists are plucked out of the audience to demonstrate how lame we are at rapid-fire hip gyrations. "You've got to relax" counseled my impromptu instructor as she massaged my almost fused shoulders. Sometimes you just can't cut loose. Now Elvis, or Duke Mitchell, would have done a lot better. They would have cued the band to some hip number and put themselves in control of all the moves. That's how the so-called white man operates.

That night on the drive back to our hotel, we swerved to avoid the land crabs and a body stretched across the road. Carefully backing up, we checked for signs of life but it didn't look good. Unexpectedly, the guy stirred. He apologetically explained he was waiting for a lift and had decided to get comfortable. Back in Rarotonga, our guide said his island was 'so safe you can sleep in the road". Now here was a place where people actually did sleep in the road, or at least pass out on it. The man thanked us for the lift, and catching a second wind, realized he was an old acquaintance of Papatua ( the Cook Islands representative who accompanied us). They carried on the night's proceedings, most likely at The Aitutaki Fisherman's Club near the Government Wharf. Night-birds can also hit the disco/dancehall across the road where a late night food van usually parks.

Early the next morning, hours before the resort's shops opened, we left to catch our plane back to Rarotonga. As I rushed out of the terminal and started across the tarmac to the waiting plane, someone came running, shouting for me to stop. WTF was this all about? He handed me a package. Inside was the ceramic fish.

-Peter Zaremba

more info: http://www.cookislands.travel/

The return of Mr. Pro

Thanks again to Ken Fox, Mr. Pro has made a come back, to shore up The Fleshtones foothold in the glamorous world of fine apparel. Available where ever The Fleshtones can be found, black only.

Next: Rarotonga -Mysterious Island of the Black Pearl. Also: Grenada -Where the rum is from (or at least some of it); and Island Routes is launched in Jamaica.