Monday, September 30, 2013

All the Pretty Pictures

It is not uncommon for my family to travel with no less than five cameras.  Yes, that says five.

Did I mention that there are only three people in our family?  That math makes it 1.6 cameras per person (I teach math - oh, and I used a calculator).

This means on a recent trip to the South Pacific we took a total of 4,156 photos between us (and two cameras bit the dust during the trip, lowering what that number could have been).

That's okay, though, because, after spending a ton of money to get to our dream vacation location, we have something to remember that trip by.  Without those images, we would not have the image burned into our memories of the little gold Toyota Vitz that made it across the island of Aitutaki and that white-lined "road" (see the story THIS is a Road?).

Taking five cameras may sound like overkill.  But one of them swam away with the tide (ended up getting wrapped in a towel as we swam and subsequently left at the beach - it was waterproof but not that waterproof) and another just stopped working (could have had a little something to do with the fact it rested in a pool of saltwater in a kayak for a bit of a ride).  Mathmatically now we have three (I told you, I teach math - yes this will be part of a lesson).

Regardless, each person, with a different camera, takes a different photo.  For example, when we were invited to Highland Paradise on a private tour, we each took a camera and went our separate direction.

The image I took
The image my teenager got

My husband hiked the hill to get this shot
Everyone has a different perspective.  Trust your offspring and hand over the camera  every once in a while.  While this does take a small amount of trust, it will be worth it.

My daughter was bored during a dinner and got this shot.

After we ate at this little dinky roadside burger place, I quick ran out in the street to get a photo of it.  I didn't think anything of it except that I knew it was a record of our trip (we're not so good at writing stuff down).  The rest of the trip, the locals kept telling us "you gotta try Palace Takeout".  We kept telling them we missed that one, but would get it the next time we visited.

Apparently we did eat at Palace Takeaway because this was the image I took.

My teenage daughter hates having her picture taken.  So I give her a camera, she is occupied taking photos of stuff and I take a photo of her.  Click, she didn't even know.  Yes it is the back of her head, but we still have proof that she was on the trip.

So now what do you do with 4,156 images?  I'll go into several ideas in the next post.  In the meantime, get out your camera and start shooting.

Monday, September 16, 2013

There Are No Words

Okay, yeah, well, there's a few words.  But I promise to keep it short because the pictures do all the talking.

Since we did not do a snorkel cruise in Rarotonga, we chose to do one in Aitutaki.  There are a few to pick from so you have to know what you want out of the cruise prior to choosing.

The two that stood out on Trip Advisor and forums that we read were Teking Lagoon Cruise and Bishop Cruise.  Teking takes you to three snorkeling spots and five motus (islands).  Bishop took you to one or two snorkeling locations, but more time on the islands.  For our specific purpose, we wanted more time in the drink.  Also, the only day we had available to do the cruise was on a Saturday.  Bishop does not operate on Saturdays.

Made the decision easier.

Speaking of the Saturday....  (I know I said less talking, more pictures, so scroll down to the pictures then come back.  I'll wait.)


Welcome back.

Saturday.  Most flights back to the United States are Saturday night.  Well sort of.  Is Midnight night or morning?  Irregardless.  11:59 PM.  Midnight.  So what do you do when you have to check out of your resort at 11:00 am and hang around until midnight?  Well, we booked our full day snorkel cruise at 9:00 am to get back early afternoon.  If you are lucky (we were VERY lucky) your resort will let you pay for a half day (or it will be included in your package).  We stayed at Tamanu Beach and they were AWESOME about letting us use one of the units to leisurely shower and change for the flight out of Aitutaki.   It is called late check out and it is something you should look into while booking your trip to the Cook Islands.  

Okay, Lagoon Cruise.

The van arrived to pick us up and then picked up other passengers.  We went to a small park-like area where we paid (credit cards are fine; they are done with a manual machine) and sized up our snorkel and fins.  Once we had all that, we got on the boat and were off.

The actual boat we were on.

(This is where you get all the pictures and less of the words)

When we first started out we could see the coral underneath the surface of the water.  While we knew with a canoe/vaka that you could glide over them.  I wasn't sure how it was going to work with a bigger boat with a motor.

Turned out, not so different.  Teking knew the way and knew which coral to go between and which to scootch over (although it was pretty discerning thinking you were going to bottom out the boat).

This was literally the view.  While we did have a nice DSLR camera, you didn't need that big of a camera to get these shots.  None of these photos are adjusted all that much - no HD, no PhotoShop, just the true color that we saw.

After our second (or third) snorkel location, we had to make the long trek to our food.

Looks like a miserable walk, eh?

Love the serving bowls - giant clam shells.

Again, I'm not a fish eater, but this stuff was AWESOME!

We got a chance to wander the island.  I think this is about the spot where I began digging my heels into the sand, telling anyone who would listen (nobody was) that I wasn't leaving.

Although it is a little primitive.

The snorkeling was FANTASTIC!  We've been all over the world snorkeling and I can honestly say that this was the best I've seen.  The water was crystal clear and you could see forever.

The iconic One Foot Island.
Home of the smallest Post Office.  Be sure to bring your passport so you can get it stamped.
The Best Bar EVER!
Despite my announcement that I wasn't leaving, I did have to leave (still weeping).  If I could offer any words of wisdom, it would be this:

  • Take Sunscreen - Holy Batcave, sunburns HURT when you are flying home that night.  Crap.
  • Take your own water or know that you are going to pay $4 each.  You will go through a couple.
  • You don't need to bring your own towels or snorkel equipment.
  • Take a camera, but know that you are in and out of the water.  Put it in a ziplock or waterproof bag if you are worried about it.
  • Arrive at the meeting spot at your resort ON TIME or you (and your fellow now-pissed-off) cruisers will have less time in the water.
  • Know if you want more time on the boat floating around or more time in the water snorkeling - it will determine which cruise line you should go with.
  • Be prepared to EAT!  The food is fantastic.
  • Apply the sunscreen you brought.  Did I mention how much it hurts to have to sit on a plane for 9 hours with a sunburned back?
  • There are no bathroom facilities ( saw the picture).  
  • Have fun and enjoy your day.

If you've got a better spot to snorkel, let me know and I'll put it on my bucket-list.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

THIS is a Road?

Aitutaki is not that big - less than 7,000 square miles.  You could do it without a car, but we are car people.  With three of us and enough camera gear for five of us, we need that backseat for storage.  Just as in Rarotonga, the cars are small subcompacts that would not survive on Interstate 5 in Downtown Seattle.  Coconuts are still objects to be avoided as are chickens, but dogs are not.  Dogs are illegal on Aitutaki.  

There is a main road that goes around the island and a few that go across the island.  The road the rental cars suggest you travel on are yellow.  They prefer you to not travel on the roads that are white.  There's a reason. (Not that we paid any attention to the reason, but we'll get there.)

The yellow road are paved and wide enough for two cars.  They are in good condition (except for the random coconut).  There are no road signs, though.  You're kind of just winging it.  "Okay, we passed the hospital and it was on the right so we must be on this road."  Yeah, like that. 

Then there are the white-lined roads.  As indicated in the picture below, it's nothing more than compacted dirt (this one was actually one of the yellow-line roads).  We didn't get a photo of the road that was literally - grass.  Some of it was a little bent over so we knew it was a road.  Still, at one spot I was so worried about the road that I did a 15-point turnaround in the middle of a hill with eight inch deep water run-off ruts.     

Still, having a rental car was totally worth it.  We got a lot of pictures we wouldn't have if we didn't have easy access to travel.

And we would have missed views like this.

Serious dream house.  As a matter of fact, when searching stock sites, we found this exact house.  In some places on the island, you could look West and East and see both sides of the ocean.

This is the water storage tank for the entire island.

If you look to the left of the building, you will see the ocean.  Notice that there are no windows on the house.  That is because the house was abandoned.  Houses like this are abandoned all over the island because residents of Cook Islands hold dual citizanship with New Zealand.  Many leave the small islands and move to New Zealand because wages are better and there are more opportunities.  Because you can't purchase property (it has to be donated), the property has been handed down the generations and there is little risk losing it.  So many are left to rot.  It was so different to see this because waterfront/ocean view properties are at an absolute premium in the States.  

The sunset we went to photograph was not as spectacular as in Black Rock in Rarotonga, but that was a hard act to follow.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Game On!

Word around the island was this rugby game between the rival Rarotonga Bears and Aitutaki Tigers.  Since we are great fans of rugby (meaning we've never seen a game in our lives), we hi-ho on over to the field to see this game.

We follow car after car after scooter containing kids, parents, lawn chairs, blankets... wait scooters carrying lawn chairs.  Unhugh, yup.  Couldn't get a photo of it, but we did see a lot of this...

We are still getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road and not wearing seat belts!

Not knowing what the tar we are doing, but knowing we are in the right spot judging by the gathering of the entire population of the island, we mosey on over to the palm tree side of the field.

Where the players are coming out of the palm trees pulling up their pants.  Oookkaaaayyyy.  No outhouses 'round these parts.  Got it.  We're learning.

We find a spot where there isn't anyone and chose to stand and watch the game.  (After all our lawn chairs didn't fit in carry-on).  A family comes next to us, not in our space, but next to us and unfolds a blanket, getting settled with their cooler, snacks and several kids on the blanket.  They then looked at us, patted the blanket and invited us to settle down with them.  We did.  What was I going to do, say no?  

We began taking pictures, my husband standing, me on the blanket.  

Is this a good thing?  Never did quite know.

We had no idea what the rules were but clapped when everyone else clapped and yelled when everyone else did.  I think we were rooting for Aitutaki.  I only know this because the little girls, who thought my camera was fascinating, kept pointing to their dad - out on the field.  So I would take a picture, zoom it up on the LCD screen on the back of the camera and they would find him and point him out.  

They had no interest in the game!

I still don't know the rules of the game.  Come to think of it, didn't matter.  We had a blast and would do it again in a heartbeat.

More images can always be found on our website:  JC Imagery

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Invitation to the Races

Vaka races that is.

What the hecks a vaka?

A canoe with one arm.  Leg.  Rudder.  Thing-on-the-side-so-it-doesn't-tip-over.  I'm sure there's a term for it and you are welcome to google it and then get back to me.

This is a vaka.

This particular race was the entire school of Araura College.  During our visit to the school, we were invited to the wharf where the entire school would be attending.  Our teenage daughter was even invited to participate.

When we arrived at 9:00 in the morning, we weren't sure what to expect, but I know it wasn't this.  It was the ENTIRE school of 150 students, the teachers and the principals.

It was a day full of encouragement, rivalry, and camaraderie (sounds like an oxymoron, but I call it like I see it).  Each team was a color: red vs. green vs. blue vs. yellow.

Rooting for your team.

The prize?  Cake of course.  And juice.

Getting ready to launch.

One boat down.  Just off screen is a motorboat ready to help any student.  While it looks bad, everyone was fine.

One of the teachers celebrating with the students.

They took this competition very seriously (must have been good cake).  So serious that our daughter was not comfortable being in a canoe, not knowing what to do and possibly putting the boat at risk for losing.  In hindsight, though, I think she'd probably do it if offered again.  After all, how many times do you get that option?

This barge was trying to bring supplies in from outside the reef.  Everything had to be very
choreographed to make sure neither the racers nor the barge were in each others way.
For more information on adopting a school or the Vaka Races themselves go here (it's the Vaka Eiva site).