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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Stuck in Paradise or Cooked in the Cook Islands!

November 23, 2003

Note the basket on the handlebars  no more than 3 beers!
It's my third day on Aitutaki and I am still trying to figure out how to drive my motor scooter but I manage to get from place to place (so far). I learned an important lesson yesterday when I went into town (which comprises of about two stores) to buy some beer. Don’t put more than a six pack in the basket on the handlebars (see picture).  If you do it becomes difficult to steer with the extra weight.  There was only one solution: I had to stop and drink a couple for safety’s sake.  No one, and I mean no one wears helmets here. I don't think they even have helmets.

Aitutaki must be what Hawaii was like in the 1930's, quiet and laid back where everyone waves at you and has a moment to chat. The neighborhood kids come by to visit, and despite my first impressions about what I got myself into, I've come to love this island. If you really want to see the South Seas like they used to exist, this is as good as it gets. The moped lady paid me a visit today.  I thought it might be to give me a stern warning about my acrobatics but she didn’t come over to criticize my driving but to invite me to a wedding.  I had noticed they were building a big bandstand. I tell her unfortunately I’ll be heading home the night of the big event. She seems truly disappointed.

She tells me her brother is going reef fishing later if I want to tag along - I do and we catch a whole bunch of fish.

That night at dinner the local people put on a song and dance show - just for the heck of it - and it’s unbelievably good for such a small place.

I’m scheduled to leave tomorrow night. The locals are pretty insistent about me staying and going to the wedding.  They tell me they’ll be serving a “traditional dinner.” I'm getting nervous about making my connecting flights, but it wouldn't take much to keep me here longer.

On My Way to Aitutaki

On my way to the Aitutaki International Airport and Golf Club I observe the Moped Lady’s sons dragging a huge squealing pig by the back legs toward the kitchen and a big black pot. The pig stares at me accusingly – like maybe he has moved up a notch on the menu since I won’t be available.

Stuck in Lodi...  er Rarotonga - Again!

I’m supposed to be on my way home now, but that didn’t work
out. I’m stuck in Rarotonga. I arrived back from Aitutaki around 6:00pm last night and headed into town for a late dinner. When I headed back I found the airport closed – even the lights were off! Around midnight a night watchman arrives and tells me there’ll be no Aloha flight tonight. He tells me the plane didn't arrive - second time in two weeks! Not enough passengers to make it worthwhile.  There might be another one in three days – maybe.  They put the full fare passengers on an earlier Air New Zealand flight.  Since I’m a standby passenger they don’t feel any obligation to do the same for me.  As I would find out later, dead dogs have more priority on airlines than standby customers.

So here I am, stuck at the airport at 1:00am. I decide rather than hyperventilate I'll make the best of the situation. The night watchman tells me has a brother who runs a small hotel in Rarotonga. He’ll drive me over, wake him up, and tell him to put me up until I could figure out how to get home.   He tells me it’s a nice place - good value for the money.

As soon as I got to the hotel I called the head guy at Rarotonga Air that handles Aloha and he assures me I'll get as far as Honolulu - after that, who knows? The flight on Sunday looks full to Vancouver. And of course, the plane may not come in at all. He didn’t sound too pleased about being awakened at one in the morning.

The place names in Rarotonga seem to be in direct contradiction to what they actually are. For Instance, the hotel I’m staying in is called The Paradise Inn – it’s old but clean and close to town.  It used to be a dance hall in the 1940s and still has a lot of charm.   The owners are friendly and the price is reasonable considering I don't know how long might be here! One of the nice thing about the less expensive places is you meet people who have checked in to stay 4 or 5 weeks or longer.

Since I gave up my car when I left Rarotonga for Aitutaki, I’m now without transportation, but I'm only a five-minute walk to town so I don't think I'm going to bother with a moped, motorcycle, or car. I consider I've had a long run of luck with driving here, and don't want to push it.

I walk into town to get an update on the flight situation - I carefully avoid the Avis lot - in case they had an APB out on me regarding the side mirror which I had sort of wedged back into position with a stick.

I walk into the travel agency and ask them to check the status on the Aloha Flight to Hawaii on Sunday.
"It's Full,” she replies.
Break out the brown paper bag again! I begin Hyperventilating. Am I ever going to get out of this hellhole?????

I head back to the Paradise Inn and call the head guy at Rarotonga Air again.
"She doesn’t know what she’s talking about the flight to Hawaii is empty,” he said.
"But she said it was full!"
"Who are you going to believe? A travel agent or the guy who looks after the flight?"
"I'll tell you when I get on the plane," I reply.

Making the Best of a forced Layover in Rarotonga

Thursday night is “Island Night" at "The Staircase Bar. The floor show is not nearly as spontaneous as the one on Aitutaki.    I discovered that the show here is part of a  a franchise operation. Once you've seen one, you've seen them all. If there are variations between the different groups it's beyond me. The other thing that hit home was “Hey I’m the oldest guy in the room!"   They were congratulating folks on 18 years of marriage (I'm old enough to be their parents!). As soon as the floor show mercifully ended I asked for my bill and walker and left.

I’ve decided to make the best of my extra days in Paradise:  I plan  to spend the next couple of days on the deck in front of the motel with a book- maybe even try scuba diving.

[Note from Future Jeff here in 2014 – at this point I hadn't taken up Scuba Diving… now back to Past Jeff]

I tried scuba diving today – it’s what they call an “introductory dive” It was an interesting experience. I couldn't quite get the buoyancy thing right. Either I was floating on the surface like a cork, or was scraping my belly on the coral. Don't think scuba is my thing. 

[Future Jeff again – boy, was Past Jeff wrong about the Scuba diving thing]
If I'm not home in a week, take up a collection for a ticket!!!


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