Many recalled the shattering fire that damaged the vaka in 2017; many spoke of the generations-old memories raised with the sails of this traditional Polynesian sailing canoe.
Prime Minister Henry Puna said the fire had threatened to burn away a key part of the Cook Islands’ connection to the moana.
But the vaka and its deep significance had prevailed.
It was rebuilt in New Zealand, Puna said, with the assistance of many people, organisations, and philanthropists from around the world who shared a resolve to see the vaka brought home – better then she was before.
Travelling through the seas from New Zealand to Cook Islands was a challenging task in some rough weather. But Puna said the crew had proved how important the vaka was for the people by arriving earlier than expected.
The vaka was more than canoe, he explained. It was a symbol, a link to a cultural past and the country’s expression of hopes and dreams for the future.
It has sailed more than 20,000 nautical miles through the Pacific, under the leadership of captain John-Reid Willison and his crew of 13.
The crew is expected to be staying at a hostel for the next three days, and are seeking support or more donations of dry goods, groceries, fruit, vegetables, or monetary contributions towards their daily meals on Rarotonga. Supporter t-shirts are selling for $30 each. =