Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cook Islands 2014


We arrived on the Cook Islands March 22, 2014 and met the rest of our party 
at Kura's Kabana's, in Muri Beach, our home base for our stay.

It was Saturday morning so once settled in we headed out to explore the Punanga Nui Market in Avarua and enjoyed a Nutella & Cream from the Waffle Shack for breakfast!

The wonderful folks at Island Car Hire generously offered us two vans for transporting our  14 person group around this beautiful island. 

Once we were all fed and had explored the market we loaded into the vans and 
headed out to tour the island with Pastor B.

The Pastor shared with us the rich history of the islands, took us to see it's historic sites
and showed us up close the details of it's beauty!

 After a long day of adventuring we headed off in search of dinner and were happy to find the folks at Trader Jack's able to accommodate our large group for a delicious dinner. We dined on pizza, fish & chips and seafood as tropical rains emptied from the heavens around us, a near nightly occurrence here at the end of their wet season.

Sunday morning we headed off to Pastor B's church service where the quartet was invited to perform for his congregation.

After the service we enjoyed a lovely morning tea of sandwiches, lemon cake 
and papaya with the warm welcoming congregation.

The generous Pastor then treated us to a beach side lunch at The Aquarius. 
As we waited for the amazing feast of pizzas to arrive at our table the quartet sang several songs much to the delight of fellow patrons. As it happens the table beside was occupied by the owner of another restaurant on the island, who invited the group to perform later in the week in exchange for a lovely dinner. Pizza after pizza arrived along with the most amazing fresh fruit juices until none of us could manage another bite!

After spending the rest of the day swimming, paddle boarding and snorkeling the quartet met for rehearsal and we shared a lovely dinner made at one of our villas. 

Monday morning when we arrived at the Avarua school we were immediately transfixed by the amazing sound of over 400 children singing with such beauty and with enough enthusiasm the curtains vibrated before us. 
A sound that travels right to a person's soul I tell you!

 A "volunteer" (or a drafted) faculty member at each school was invited to dance 
as the quartet sang Only you, much to the delight of the students.

After the performance we were delighted to spend morning tea 
with the children on the playground!

After being filled up with papaya, joy and laughter we headed off to 
our next show at Te Uki Ou

After the quartet's performance we were delightfully treated to the boys of the class
performing a traditional Haka dance! And if that was enough then a lovely young lady come forward and performed a beautiful dance as the rest of the children sang for us.

After that we hopped back in our vans and down the narrow island road to our 
last school of the day, Imanuela Aketemia. 

After the performance the quartet presented the children with letters and 
gifts from school children in the United States.

After our performances we headed back to the best dining location on the island,
the BBQ deck at Kura's where we were staying. We feasted on grilled fresh albacore with the most amazing papaya, pawpaw, mango chutney.

Tuesday morning we loaded back into our vans and around the island to the Avatea & Nikao school performance. Once the children were seated our group was met by a young man calling and gesturing a traditional Maori invitation call. The group was presented with beautiful beaded necklaces and seated at the front of the auditorium and treated to a concert of songs by the children.

After the quartet finished performing we were once again treated to a wonderful display of cultural song and dance as the children performed both 
a seated hat dance and a Hura dance.

After their performances they presented the quartet with the handwoven hats and we enjoyed a refreshment of frozen papaya juice treat with the children.

We left the school and headed for Tereora College where the quartet
was invited to teach a music class. The shared with the class the origins of Barbershop harmony, discussed song writing, performing comedy and taught the class to sing a tag.

We spent the afternoon enjoying some relaxation on Muri beach and in the lagoon, including having a tropical drink with our toes in the sand. 

We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the LBV, Le Bon Vivant and were informed while we were settling up that the quartet had made the front page! 

Wednesday morning we headed out to Arorangi and the wonderful Pastor B made arrangements to combine some of the remaining schools so 
the Rutaki school also joined for this performance. Three shows a day in
full chicken suits & tights is no easy task we quickly learned! 
Many thanks to the Pastor!

Upon arriving we were welcomed and presented with the most fragrant and beautiful ei's (Cook Island Lei's)

After the laughter filled performance we were treated to the most 
impressive and colorful morning tea of fresh fruits and other Cook Island delights!
Fresh papaya with shaved coconut, guava, mangoes, bananas, coconut rolls, sour mangoes, oranges, watermelon, passion fruit and star fruit! 
My mouth waters with the memory as I type these words! Plus they sent us 
baskets of fruit that filled the back of our vans.

 We enjoyed a sunset dinner at the Crown Beach Resort with Pastor B, which 
included a lovely salad bar and wonderful culinary delights! 
After dinner the Quartet performed for the other patrons in exchange for our meal.

 Thursday morning we loaded into the vans and went just up the road to Takitumu school. 


Once again we loaded into the vans and made our escape to our next stop, 
another combined show, with Nukutere College and St Joseph's school.

Once again we were each presented with an amazing ei and fresh fruit display and the conclusion of the performance! As well as so many baskets of fresh fruit to take with us.

After the show we stopped by Island Car Hire to thank them for the use of the vans. 

then headed to The Mooring for some amazingly delicious sandwiches!

and as if that wasn't enough eating after more beach and lagoon time we finished the day with another BBQ of fresh fish on the deck back at Kura's.

Friday morning we loaded into the vans for our last day of performances on the Island and headed to Papaaroa school & Titikaveka College

 After a lovely morning tea we enjoyed some football with the children.

The quartet made one last appearance on the Cook Islands at the
local school fund raising food fair in Avarua.

That night we were treated such a special treat as Kura and her amazing crew prepared for us a Umukai, a traditional feast; Pork, Kumara (sweet potatoes), Rukau (cooked taro leaves) and Banana Poke (like a banana pudding) buried in an underground oven of hot rocks covered with banana leaves and left to cook all day. Along with Ika Mata a dish of raw tuna marinated in lime with coconut cream and a pawpaw curry dish.

The Cook Islanders were the most warm, gracious and welcoming people, and their children a joyous delight, and the beaches were breathtaking, the snorkeling and other water activities an easy way to enjoy a day, the food delicious and plentiful, friendly stray dogs to enjoy the companionship of, and the scenery was simply spectacular! 


The quartet took advantage of a long lay over in New Zealand by zipping off to 
fit in one more school performance between flights! 

Thank you to the wonderful people of Rarotonga for inviting us to your beautiful island! We will forever have a song in our heart for you.