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Sunday, April 6, 2014

I Finally Escape from Paradise - heading out of the Cook Islands

This morning I woke up to the strains of Island music- again. Music I initially found novel and refreshing sounds like Sonny and Cher's "I've Got You, Babe" from Groundhog Day. And just when you think it can't get worse, the Island’s one ATM machine is down. I’m trapped on a tropical Island with no ATM! Am I going to be forced to forage for food? I’m revisiting the Cook Island pig laws – now if I can wrestle the gun away from Alberta Rose…

But there is some good news! Last night I heard the Aloha plane land. Depending on whom I want to believe, the plane is either totally full or totally empty. I guess I won't find out until I get to the airport tonight. It’s going to be really iffy about getting all the way through to Vancouver - what with it being American Thanksgiving and all!

I decided to walk into town earlier today and check out the weekend town fair.  Evidently New Zealand's Governor General was supposed to be there – maybe she needed to buy some melons. I don't want to say security was lax, but there was one Rarotonga Police guy there who had an earphone trying to look very official - except it wasn't attached to anything! The rest were still in the office selling driver's licenses to the tourists. 

I ran into the Governor General while she was looking at local handicrafts and got her to pose for two pictures with me. Imagine trying to get our Governor General to pose for pics. He’d probably charge me a hundred bucks a photo!

I spent rest of the day sitting around the deck shooting the breeze with folks I'd met during my enforced stay. Finally it was time to head to the airport - again. This time it was open and there was an Aloha plane on the ground.

Check-in at the airport is novel here. First there are no computers and only ONE check-in counter My stand-by status caused much head scratching, looking at all sorts of lists and numerous trips to the corner office for consultations with the supervisor. After 20 minutes I was finally issued my boarding pass and headed over to security.

My Palm Pilot mystified them. Evidentially they'd never seen one before.
"What does it do?" the security guy asked?
I explained to him all the marvelous things it could do.
"Can't you just use a pad and paper for most of that?" He asked.

A short 3 hours later (it took them that long to check in the 20 people on the flight) we were on our way to Honolulu. The plane was so empty nearly everyone had their own row. 

[New Jeff- which is why Aloha dropped the route soon after I returned and shortly thereafter ceased to exit]

Once we landed in Honolulu the adrenalin really started running. Would I get on the rest of the way home? I hadn't really thought this out when I was planning this tip.  I was traveling on American Thanksgiving Sunday - the busiest travel day of the year.

I cleared American Customs and had to drag my bags about a block to the Aloha terminal. Once I got there I went to the ticket wicket and did my best to shmooze the ticket agent. I must have done a great job, because she gave took my ticket and gave me a standby boarding pass and told me to go to the gate and check there about availability. I must have really impressed her because she also circled the highest security alert on my ticket, which resulted in me being taken out of line by two large security guards wearing rubber gloves and given a thorough, and I mean thorough checking. (Incidentally my shoes have been x-rayed so many times on this trip that they glow in the dark). However, there were four no shows on the full flight and I did squeeze on.
I guess I've done it all during this trip - except get home on schedule. It was very hot and humid in the Cook Islands the last few days so even Vancouver rain was inviting – at least for a day or so. Now that it's all over, people ask me if I'd change anything if I had it to do over again. You know what? I don't think I'd change a thing.

So where to next?? I’m thinking maybe Guam and Saipan.

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