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!