To be fair, Avarua is no Honolulu or Gold Coast with towering skyscrapers – but even Rarotonga looks built up compared to Mauke.
Max Heuze, 12, says he loved his visit to Mauke because the people are so friendly, so inspiring, and have good manners.
This was the first time he visited Mauke, he says, and now he hopes to visit the island with his family one day.
Max and other year 7 and 8 students were given an opportunity to visit Mauke earlier this month to experience the cultural lifestyle of the outer islands.
His classmate, 11-year-old Grace Newman-Holt, says she loved the kindness and amazing hospitality of the Mauke community.
“I loved their environment, they have different plants and trees and it was beautiful. There weren’t any huge buildings and I love the way they preserved their environment.”
It was peaceful and reminded her “of what the Cook Islands should be”.
The Te Uki Ou students visited their counterparts at Apii Mauke. Newman-Holt says the students there are so proud of their culture and when they sing, they have happiness in their voices. “You can tell they enjoy and love their culture,” she adds.
School principal Mark Harris says the visit to the outer islands is organised every two years as a cultural exchange programme.
The students fundraise with their families for two years and they go to one of the Southern Group islands. “Two years ago we went to Mangaia and two years before that we went to Atiu.”
The programme is only for the year 7 and 8 students, senior students who are on the verge of becoming young adults. “No parents come on camp, it is a chance for students to be away from their families for the first time and experience the real culture of the Cook Islands,” he adds.