An official farewell will be held at Avatiu harbour at 10am today before the two vessels depart, escorted by Cook Islands Vaka Marumaru Atua and Tahiti Vaka Faafaite.
Faafaite will return to Tahiti, while Hokulea and Hikianalia will map a course to Aitutaki and Suwarrow – a leg of the course seen as a way for the crew members of the two canoes to express their gratitude to local leaders for the recent creation of the Cook Islands Marine Park.
The crew are set to make their way to Samoa where the United Nations Small Island Developing States Conference in Apia will highlight the importance of sustainability efforts in islands and oceans throughout the world.
At a lunch hosted by Prime Minister Henry Puna yesterday the voyagers honoured Puna, calling him a warrior for his leadership in the creation of the Cook Islands Marine Park.
Hawaiian traditional master navigator Kalepa Babayan firstly paid homage to Tua Pittman for his leadership in traditional navigation before thanking Puna for his commitment and leadership in the area of marine protection.
“I commend you for being the warrior you are and making the Cook Islands an example of marine protection,” commented Babayan.
He then presented Puna with a Hawaiian feathered Kaili – a gift for leaders of high distinction.
In response, Puna said the gathering was more than just about spreading the message but was a day of exalting traditional navigators.
“I commend you. Instead of catching a flight to spread the message, we are doing it our way,” said Puna.
Babayan presented Cook Islands Voyaging Society president Ian Karika with a carved hook, which he said symbolised leadership as well as being a symbol of sustainable living.
In accepting the hook, Karika said the gift was not for him alone but for all who have a hand in keeping ocean navigation alive and protecting our environment.
During the presentations, Pittman challenged Puna to be at the World Protected Parks Congress organised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to be held in Sydney, Australia form November 12 to 19.
“I am asking you on behalf of the people of the Cook Islands and our voyaging friends to be at the forum in Australia. We want to see you there. We want our leader to be there – a warrior at our side,” said Pittman.
Today the Cook Islands will farewell the voyaging warriors who, after a few days on land, are itching to get back on Te Moana Nui a Kiva.