September 20, 2009 - Aitutaki, Cook Islands
There was a big stone church located conveniently close to the harbor, so we went to the church service to hear the singing; most of the other cruisers & several tourists were also there. The church was pretty full. Most of the women wore fancy hand-made palm or pandanus hats with hand-woven bands. The hats all have a little oval plastic window in the top of them, which I figure must be used to simplify the beginning of the weaving process.
Most of the singing was just too loud for my taste, but it was certainly very powerful. Unfortunately, as often seems to be the case, there was one woman determined to sing louder than anyone else, very high pitched & shrill. But one quiet hymn was really beautiful, & the traditional hymn with men singing a completely different part than the women was very nice. There was a guest choir from NZ who sang the closing hymn beautifully. Most of the service was in Cookie (as Carine from Avel Mad calls the local language), but the minister took time to welcome the tourists & yachties in English & asked us to please be careful on the scooters (since they drive on the left here) & when swimming. None of us thought to ask what religion it was, but it was not Catholic - a noticeable change since that was the predominant religion throughout French Polynesia.
Since BB cut his foot yesterday, he couldn't go on the planned snorkel trip with Avel Mad, but only 3 people in their dinghy made it a much faster trip out to Honeymoon Island to re-visit the giant clams that BB & I saw when we took the lagoon tour. It was wonderful to be able to spend all the time I wanted snorkeling, since we had been on a schedule on the tour. And I was able to get more pictures (I had forgotten the chip in the underwater camera when we were here on Friday, so only got a few photos).
The Aitutaki lagoon is very beautiful, & we had a nice sunny day accentuating the lovely white sand that gives the water such a nice color. The lagoon is spotted with bubble gum coral heads & the way the motus are more scattered rather than all in a line adds more depth to the scenery. Ben, Carine & I snorkeled in the area with the amazing giant clams for a good long time. Some of them are sitting right on the sand; some are embedded in the coral. When they get big, they seem to only be shades of brown with a blue edge - do they lose the bright colors or are the colorful ones a different kind? I donít know. There are wire boxes underwater in which they are breeding the clams. Apparently the locals like to eat them, so it's difficult to keep them around for the tourists to see. When I tried one raw in the Tuamotus, it tasted just like you'd expect: slimy & salty.
As on Friday, I was surprised I didn't see any sharks. There must not be very many here. I wonder if the locals eat those too... We're so used to seeing them now that I almost miss them!
I was looking all over for a blue starfish that is pictured in many of the brochures for Aitutaki; finally Carine found one, then we found a few others. They're pretty neat. Very blue.
After snorkeling we dinghied to Honeymoon Island for our picnic lunch. There were no kiteboaders today; we had it all to ourselves. Only one other boat came while we were there; it was a whole different experience with no other tourists around (no tours on Sundays).
The red-tailed tropic birds were out in profusion, & we found many juveniles hiding in the bushes. No nest - they just sit on the sand.
After lunch we snorkeled along the edge of a shallow ledge where the water seemed a little clearer & there were more fish. We found a pipefish - the first I've seen. It looks like a skinny seahore that's been stretched out straight.
BB had invited Pura Vida & Anima for a potluck on Migration. Pura Vida offered to make burritos. Yum. We sure miss Mexican food. BB made pizza on the bbq, which is always a big hit. It was a perfect night for sitting on deck, & when Martin & Dallas decided to go get their guitars, they didn't have far to go, since we were all right next to each other in this tight little harbor. Lauren & I suggested songs & sang along with Martin, who is one of those very solid guitar players who knows all the good classics, & can manage the chords even when he doesnít know the song. Good fun, good food, & so nice to enjoy being out under the stars in this very calm & protected place.