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A Year Around The World

They Don’t Play Hockey on Aitutaki (at least as far as I know).

COOK ISLANDS | Monday, 12 January 2015 | Views [606]

I’m a fairly assiduous travel researcher. Prior to a trip, I digest guidebooks, read Trip Advisor reviews and Google images of the destination. As people I’ve travelled with would tell you, part of the reason I do this is that I’m a bit of a travel control freak. I want to know what I’ll be doing and seeing before I go. I’ve never felt comfortable with just just winging it. I’m too afraid that I’ll miss something. Yet, despite my best efforts, the vision of a place I develop through research very seldom matches the reality of a place. Destinations are almost always different than I expected. Sometimes they are far better, sometimes they are far worse, but they almost never match my preconceptions.  


I’m happy to report that Aitutaki is an exception to this rule. When I researched Aitutaki, I developed a notion in my mind of an unspoiled island of swaying coconut trees, deserted beaches and a mind blowing blue lagoon. A dot of pristine beauty in an unending sea. An uncommercialized island haven, where the pace is slow, safe and relaxing.  Aitutaki is exactly that. 


Just a 45 minute prop plane flight from Rarotonga (right next door by Pacific Ocean standards), Aitutaki is like Raro’s younger, prettier (albeit less refined) little sister. Aitutaki’s massive lagoon, fringed with a dozen sandy islands is the envy of this part of the Pacific. We spent the better part of a day exploring the lagoon and its mini-islands via small boat, a real highlight of the trip thus far. 


Aitutaki has a population of roughy 1,800. That’s down about 600 people from the census taken about ten years ago. Residents apparently flee Aitutaki (and the rest of the Cooks)  for economic opportunities in New Zealand and Australia. Leaving paradise for jobs. It’s a tale told again and again in the developing world. It’s understandable but also sad.  


There are no big resorts in Aitutaki. No international franchises. No t-shirt shops. No night life to speak of. In fact, there are few shops to even buy groceries. Which is why I found myself biking several kilometers in the rain just to buy a bottle of hot sauce, only to drop and shatter it within seconds of getting it back to my hotel room. A small price to pay to visit a truly unspoiled place that matches your expectations.


One final note, I’ve gathered some decent photos in the Cooks, but the internet connection here is too slow to upload anything. Keep checking back to my photography website: www.billarmstrong.photography. I’ll get some images up when I have a (hopefully) faster internet connection in New Zealand.

Tags: aitutaki, beach, cooks, lagoon, travel, unspoiled


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