Kia Orana*

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This morning I was quite disgruntled. Eighteen hours after leaving San Francisco, I landed in what is quite possibly the most gorgeous place on Earth, and woe is me, I’m tired! And my phone doesn’t work! And I have no Internet access! (In my defense, if SVV weren’t so much a worrier and I didn’t have a guidebook due in just, gulp, two weeks, I would be thrilled with this total respite from technology.) But then! I found a connection in a little pocket of the hotel lobby and was flooded with Twitters and e-mails and blog comments saying that I had won the Bloggie for Best Travel Blog at SXSW! Little ‘ol me! I am humbled and deeply appreciative for all the votes, especially up against very deserving opponents like Travellious and Traveling Mamas, and for those of you who didn’t vote for me, well, I hope you’ll stick around long enough for me to convince that I’m worthy of such an honor. (Put away the Kleenex; cheesy Oscar-worthy speech over.)

So to be perfectly honest, I’m not really sure what day or time it is at the moment. When you’re on the road as often as I am, you learn to accept this and allow other people to worry about such frivolities (that’s exactly why someone came up with this handy concept of wake-up calls). But I can tell you that I touched down in the lovely country of Cook Islands this morning and was fully planning on using my guest bloggers for the duration of the trip (which I will in due time), but figured I should actually write something myself for those of you first time visitors steered here from the Bloggie site. This trip came about months ago when a good friend in New York sent me an e-mail to the effect of “Cook Islands. You. Now.” (I think it was probably a bit more eloquent, but that’s what I got out of it.) And um, well you don’t have to tell me twice, as the Cooks have been high on my list ever since I adopted diving as an obsession, not to mention, I’ve never before been to the South Pacific. And woo boy, I’ll probably never be able to come back, as I’m sure Fiji and Tahiti come nowhere near as awesome in comparison. To be frank, the trip over is pretty painless—particularly if you’re based on the West Coast. After a 45-minute Virgin America flight to LA, I met up with a few others in the Air New Zealand lounge, as the flight was only half full and they upgraded us (success! I haven’t flown business class in a loooong time), and it was a direct overnight flight from LAX to Rarotonga, the main island in the Cooks. So a viewing of Doubt and one Ambien later, and I was sleeping peacefully until we landed in paradise just nine hours later.

I’m always happy to find a new airline I love—especially when most seem to disappoint more often than not—and it took Air New Zealand a single flight to rise straight to the top of my list. The food was delicious (best airline meal I’ve ever had), the service couldn’t have been better, the entertainment systerm was quite posh and the flight attendants were just as friendly as they come. The seats could have reclined a bit more, but I was just so happy to have ample feet room and no one sitting next to me that I would have slept standing up.

Our guide for the week, Papatua Papatua—his real name, no lie; guess his parents were feeling particularly creative when he popped out the womb—came to collect and lei us, and we were off to the Crown Beach Resort (one word: AMAZING; I have my own pool! Which, it’s not looking like I won’t be able to use. thanks to my BFF Mother Nature…but still!). Those of you regulars will not be surprised to hear that I landed in the midst of another cyclone. At this point, it’s really to be expected; where Kristin goes, the precipitation follows. I mean, just since October alone, there was the monsoon and flood that lasted 15 of my 16 days in Central America; the two weeks of uncharacteristic 15-degree weather in Tennessee over Christmas; the tropical storm that plagued my trip to Barbados; the cyclone that touched down in the Great Barrier Reef the day after we arrived—I’d be pretty insane to expect decent weather at this point in my travel career. Still it’s so untainted and verdant here, you can almost, almost overlook the heavy rains (that said, do a little anti-rain dance for me and hope it clears up by tomorrow**).

For the first trip in a long time, we were actually given a couples hours of free time to rest up before an afternoon at the Highland Paradise Culture Centre in which Maunaloakokohanatatibanla—or um, something like that (I chose to call him Mike for the sake of brevity)—gave us a very in-depth overview of Cook history, previous cannibalism and sacrificial rituals. Then, he took us to the very site of sacrifice, so I tried to be  on my extra best behavior, as I wasn’t really looking forward to having my head cracked open by a boulder and all my blood drained out at this stage in my trip. Give me a little time to enjoy my surroundings first, will ya?

The rain just continued to mount the longer Mike talked to us out in the bushy, and we were not a pretty sight by the time we returned to the hotel to change for our progressive dinner. (You can see how soaked I was, below, despite being completely cloaked by a pretty sturdy poncho.)(SVV, try not to be jealous of my new boyfriend; I’ll be bringing him home with me.)

Still, you know it’s a pretty awesome place if you’ll overlook torrential downpours and already eagerly anticipate your next trip back. More to come as the trip progresses…

*That’s “welcome” or “live a full life” in Maori.

**It’s not tomorrow and the rain has not abated—in fact, it’s much worse. Dance harder, people!

***Islands in the Stream is playing on repeat in the hotel lobby as I write. How appropriate is that?! A little more so than the MmmBop and Karma Chameleon that were on previously…

****This took me approximately an hour to post when already written, so forgive me if I don’t blog more about my trip until I return. Photo uploading in the South Pacific is a bitch!

COMMENTS
  • March 17, 2009

    Are you going to New Zealand as well? Because, by golly, I’ll be as jealous as can be if you do!

  • March 17, 2009

    Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh, I am so jealous! Upgraded to Business Class! Your own pool! Information on real-life cannibalism! All my dreams just folded into one!

  • March 17, 2009

    wow, despite the rain, that looks like the trip of a lifetime. enjoy! can’t wait to hear more about it…

    and CONGRATS on the Bloggie award!! that’s fantastic!

  • March 17, 2009

    SOUNDS AWESOME!

    I am a dancing fool over here! I hope the rain stops!

    Congrats again on the award!

  • March 17, 2009

    Beautiful portrait of “mike” I will do a little dance for you as long as you promise many more photos when you get back. Im thinking a really long photo friday. Also – PANTS! You had on pants!

  • March 17, 2009

    Even with the rain… looks beautiful! Hope it clears up soon! Have fun! Can’t wait to see more pictures.

  • March 17, 2009

    That is so awesome Kristin, can’t wait to see more photos. Damn you rain!!!

  • March 17, 2009

    First of all CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR BLOGGIE. You can’t forget about all the little people now.

    And this trip looks fabulous. I love how all my friends are visiting places where Survivor has been filmed.

  • March 17, 2009

    I was bragging to Taylor about your Bloggie last night. He was ridiculously impressed.:) Okay, maybe he doesn’t understand the internets world, but he did say he was going to start reading blog that were featured on wired.com. Perhaps I’ll just tuck some of my suggestions in.:)

  • March 17, 2009

    Sounds amazing – even in the downpour. I didn’t realize how easy it is to get to the Cook Island’s from the West Coast. Hum, I’ll have to remember that. Second, Congrats on your award – you deserve it.

  • March 17, 2009

    Congrats on the award! I hope the rain lets up (all that rain reminds me of Sewanee)!

  • March 17, 2009
    Bethany

    Congrats on the Bloggie!
    As everyone else has said, it looks beautiful there, even with all the rain.

  • March 17, 2009

    Big Congratulations to you, Kristin! Way to go!

    Arohanui, or something like that…

    Terry

  • March 17, 2009

    Congrats on the bloggie, Kristin! Looks like so much fun! I want to be like Mike too! Safe travels!!!

  • March 17, 2009
    Rachel

    I LOVE Air New Zealand! Even in coach they’re FANTASTIC! I wanted to go to Rarotonga but didn’t have the chance: enjoy!

  • March 17, 2009
    SVV

    You need to tell Mike that there’s a whole LOTTA people elsewhere in the world that want to be like Mike too, myself included. The grass skirt and net sweater look so comfortable. Seriously.. And btw, was that a Michael-Jordan-Gatorade-commercial reference from our new buddy?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mp_A4rPnZNA&NR=1

    Music seems appropriate anyway

  • March 17, 2009

    YAY!!!! For winning. YOU SO DESERVE IT.

    Remember me when you’re famous, ‘mmkay?

  • March 17, 2009
    joan

    yipppeeee! I knew you would win, your blog is the best ever, as well as the best travel blog. I’m glad you are getting the recognition you deserve, it’s the result of a huge amount of brains, work, grit and stamina that isn’t apparent to the casual reader. I am so proud of you! I hope the rain lets up; is it cold, or is it a warm rain? If it’s a warm rain, I’d be tempted to find an isolated (very) spot and do some au natural rain dancing of my own. Love your uberpolysyllabicly named guide, he has a sweet smile, but not as sweet as SVV’s of course.
    See you soon, you are so inspiring maybe I’ll try a post from Germany
    Love
    Joan

  • March 17, 2009

    Remind me not to travel with you again cyclone girl! Even with the cyclone, I’m still jealous!

  • March 17, 2009
    Samantha MacInnis

    Congrats!!! I started reading your site after first seeing it on the Bloggies website, and instantly loved it! I’ve spent more then a few hours at work reading past posts (it was either that or work, and you won hands down in a fight between the two). I love the style – its like one of your very well-traveled girlfriends describing her latest trip. Keep it up!

  • March 17, 2009

    Congrats on the award! I hope the weather clears up for you.

  • March 17, 2009

    I was so thrilled! to hear you won the bloggie. Super awesome. And that first picture is my favorite. I love! a good rain.

  • March 17, 2009

    I kind of hate you right now…

  • March 18, 2009

    Congrats on winning the bloggie!
    Your trip sounds amazing, despite all the rain and hopefully it will clear up enough for you to use your own! private! pool!
    Enjoy!!!

  • March 18, 2009
    Kasia

    Jealous. I’m looking for honeymoon destinations, you like? I will have to research more on the Cook Islands.

  • March 18, 2009

    Kia Orana to you! This is definitely way better than Israel, no??
    Are you with a whole bunch of bloggers also? Have fun and keep us all posted…literally!!!

  • March 18, 2009

    I was quite tickled when I found out that you won best travel blog, and that you were traveling when the announcement was made. Seemed fitting.

    Congrats!

  • March 18, 2009

    Congratulations! So happy for you and that the Bloggies let us “meet.” We are buying you a drink(s) the next time we’re down in San Fran to celebrate!

  • March 18, 2009

    Congrats on your bloggie award! You totally deserve it. Can’t wait to hear more about the Cook Islands!

  • March 18, 2009

    Congrats on the award! Sad rain seems to follow you – I can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

  • March 18, 2009
    Walter & Kit's Dad

    Hi K. Congrats on the Bloggie!! Enjoy your trip.
    J

  • March 19, 2009

    Sigh….yesterday a friend left for two weeks in Argentina, and now I read about your trip to the Cook Islands. I feel so left out!!

  • March 19, 2009

    Congratulations!!! 🙂 I am so proud. Hope the weather gets better soon!

  • March 19, 2009

    Dancing, dancing,dancing! (Though I bring the rain with me too so perhaps I should stop!)
    Despite the rain, your trip is looking amazing so far. Can’t wait to see the rest of your photos!

  • March 19, 2009

    CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR WELL-DESERVED AWARD! I hope I already sent that to you, but honestly I’m not sure. Things keep going missing this week.

    Can’t wait to see your photos and be introduced to your new man. You’ll have your own harem! Maybe SVV can borrow his grass skirts.

  • March 20, 2009

    I can’t wait to read more about your trip to the Cook Islands. I hope the Monsoon subsides! I just returned from the Dominican Republic http://lifeatbuttercupfarm.com/tropical/ and can empathize about how long it takes to upload photos/write on the blog. I did have to wait until I returned. I’ll be checking back soon as a fellow person who LOVES to travel. I found you through the bloggies!

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