A group of 40 family members and friends of the Apolo Orometua Kopu Tangata family recently travelled to the northern Cook Islands to unveil the ancestral gravestones of Apolo Orometua and his two sons’ Banaba Orometua and Abela Orometua, which had previously been destroyed in a tsunami. It was a very emotional journey and then a warm reception for many who had not seen their family members for up to 50 years.
To get to their destinations, the islands of Manihiki and Rakahanga, the group travelled on a barge, the MV Layar Mas 291, operated by the Cook Islands Towage company, which is owned by Malcom Sword. The barge supplies the islands with various necessities of life including building materials, freezers, gas bottles, food and other essentials. It arrives every two to three months. The barge voyage turned out to be a true adventure on the high seas. The trip took three-and-a-half days there and three-and-a-half days back. The ocean view was 360 degrees of deep blue sea, like a big round plate filled with unruly, white-tipped blue water. We spotted the odd whale and flying fish, but otherwise we were all alone.
We had two chefs onboard, who prepared three meals a day of excellent, natural, fresh, home-cooked food, including dessert – the standard was comparable to a multi-star hotel. We even had a BBQ one afternoon. Tea, coffee, water and biscuits were available on demand and we also had movie afternoons to waste the time away.
Sleeping arrangements varied from air-conditioned cabins to container accommodation and outdoor camping under the stars, all with bedding supplied. There were toilets and warm showers available.
The voyage provided plenty of opportunities to catch up with family and old friends and get to know your fellow travellers while waiting to reach the destination.
The outer island shops do not have a lot of variety, so it is important to bring everything you need – especially toiletries, sunscreen, insect repellent, hats and jandals.
The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience. It is suitable for the reasonably fit and healthy. The trip can be very straining, especially if the sea is rough – and medical help on the outer islands is limited to the most basic needs.
Our sincere thanks go to the captain and the crew of the Layar Mas – captain Sigalolo Vakaroroto, chief officer Russels Savoli, chief engineer Isireli Vakayatu, second engineer Clinton Pickering, electrician and third engineer Jayalath Boslin Joslia Jisaipeli, able seaman Rokoqiqi Caucau, ordinary seaman Anare Luveni, and finally the chefs Aisake Jemesa and Paula Ravono. All of the crew were very friendly and helpful with all our needs.
Thank you also to the barge owner, Malcolm Sword, and his secretary, Tekau Anguna, who were both instrumental in organising and arranging our entire trip.
Meitaki Maata Te Atua te Aroa.