Acting Prime Minister Teariki Heather delivered a meaningful welcome address that captured the Polynesian spirit of oneness welcoming home the voyagers aboard Hawaiian canoes Hōkūle'a and Hikianalia, as well as the escort vaka Faafaite from Tahiti.
Vaka Faafaite and her crew reached Rarotonga on a wet Wednesday afternoon and were escorted into Avatiu harbour by Cook Islands vaka Marumaru Atua.
Hōkūle'a and Hikianalia arrived into Avatiu harbour on Thursday morning after a nine-island tour through French Polynesia before passing the Cooks’ Nga Pu Toru islands of Mauke, Mitiaro and Atiu on their way to Rarotonga.
The canoes and her crew were greeted by pulsating Cook Islands drums.
Hokulea Master navigator Kālepa Baybayan reported 16-foot waves and winds of 60 miles per hour en route to Rarotonga, and crew members kept the canoes going at a very slow pace to prevent stress on the vessels.
Also on board Hokulea was the Cook Islands’ very own traditional master navigator, Tua Pittman, who received the warmest welcome home with much jiving between him and emcee for the day – Secretary of Cultural Development Sonny Williams.
Before stepping off the canoes, a traditional chant and welcome was made by land owners of the Avatiu harbour area.
The crew from both canoes then formed a circle, holding hands for a final prayer of gratitude for their safe arrival before stepping on to Rarotonga. They were adorned with ei and welcomed by family and friends.
Before arriving in Rarotonga, the canoes made a stop in Mitiaro to allow two crew members to catch a flight to Rarotonga for medical treatment.
An education day is being planned for this Saturday at the Avatiu harbour to promote Malama Honua – care for our earth as the world wide voyage is a learning journey and cultural exchange to run right through to 2017.