I found myself in Raro on a Friday night and what else was there to do other than hit the bar scene with my newfound friends. After some milling about and an executive decision to leave the overly drunk and obnoxious birthday girl back at the hostel, we decided to check out Whatever Bar before heading over to Rehab. What we didn’t know is that a dance competition for a bar tab was awaiting us when we walked into Whatever Bar.
What I knew before we hit the bar was that 2 out of the 3 of us liked to boogie. It was the Aussie with his bright white shoes gleaming in the night that I wouldn’t have taken as a dancer even after he started to grind up the dance floor. At first I thought he was doing it to impress us and then I thought it might be for free booze for the night. Then it dawned on me – HE LIKES TO DANCE!
The dance competition lasted for what felt like hours and he was committed. My Aussie friend hopped around the dance floor like it was on fire and he was in the middle of having a seizure. All I can say is what he lacked in rhythm, he most definitely made up with heart. It was as though his awkward moves turned to magic in the midnight air and soon, everyone in the bar was rooting him on. It goes without saying that this dancing machine not only won over the crowd but the judges adored him as well. The moral of this story is no rhythm…no problem as that won’t stop you from winning a bar tab for you and all your friends!
I arrived on Atiu on a plane that was small enough that it had the ability to boast that every seat is a window seat. Looking at the size of the plane, I was thinking that I was going to the smallest of the three islands on my tour de Cook Islands but I was wrong. Atiu is actually quite a large island to navigate despite the fact it has no ATM or stable power source. The lack of an ATM gave me a minor heart attack as I arrived on the island with only $30 to my name and a loaded for travel VISA. Thankfully, the artist extraordinaire running the B&B where I was staying was willing to loan me cash I needed to survive/tour and I could square up with her husband upon my arrival back in Raro. PHEW…and so much for VISA being expected everywhere!
After settling the first issue, I was off to see the island with the other couple staying at the B&B with me. During this tour, I was exposed to the jungles, harbour, fishing spots, grottoes, white sandy beaches, and history that make up Atiu. All of it was interesting but what stuck out in my mind was the makatea (aka raised coral). What haunts me about the makatea is it’s uneven and sharp surface that crumbles under every step that makes walking on it impossible and yet I couldn’t help but to keep trying as the fossils that can be seen in the makatea are outstanding.
I could tell right from the start that Atiu was going to be a very different island experience from the other two that I was on. I was thankful that I was staying at a place at felt like a home away from home that was run by 2 ladies that were proud of the island they called home. On their advice (and loaned money) I started my exploration of what Atiu was all about.
The thing to do in Aitutaki is the lagoon cruise and as I was waiting to be picked up to head off on mine, “please don’t be all couples…please don’t be all couples,” kept repeating in my head. My prayers must have been heard as I was on a cruise with nearly all singles on an island full of honeymooners – amazing, I know!
We were seated on an immensely small boat with girls in the front and boys in the back as we set off to explore the lagoon. The first stop was to go snorkelling with the fish. OH NO, before I could control it, the panic snorkeler in me struck again! I was looking at the size of the fish and saying, mmm, maybe I’ll sit this one out and give it a go at the next location. Amazingly, Te King, our fearless leader/tour guide, was having none of my drama and the next thing I knew, the flippers were on my feet, the mask was secured to my face, and he was pushing me off the boat. With a death grip, I clung to the boat for dear life as the biggest fish of the bunch rushed me from below. This guy was bigger than me, the ugliest one of them all, and if Disney has taught me anything it’s that this guy was built to be mean! I may have whimpered something along the lines of “OMG, the big one is going to get me,” but Te King was having none of it as he repeatedly told me it was all in my head while unlocking my death grip on the boat with ease.
I would like to say that it was smooth sailing from this point onwards but it sadly, it wasn’t. I think that bloody giant/ugly fish was circling me like pray in the water but thankfully nothing happened. I may have been panicky and not hiding it well but I got into the water long enough to have a decent poke around and swim with the fishies. Yes, I may have shut my eyes every once in a while to regain composure but give me a break, nobody’s perfect.
Other than my high maintenance drama queen moment – the day was spectacular. I was out with a bunch of singles supportive of my panicky snorkeler ways and it’s just what the doctor ordered. We stopped at other snorkelling destinations as my new-found friends took turns holding my hand and offering words of encouragement to put me at ease. Aside from all the intense snorkeling, we found ourselves on some of the islands for history lessons, a lunch, and just some free time to muck about and explore. I made new friends and we all had a good laugh over a sunset dinner where we rehashed the moments on the lagoon as well as complained about our aching sunburnt bodies. As for me and my desire to become a confident snorkeler, it’s still a work in progress but it was a nice ego boost when Te King and then rest of the group told me how proud they were of me to get out of my head and into the water.