Friendliest island in the world

Tuesday September 03, 2013 Published in Letters to the Editor

My wife and I recently spent four beautiful weeks in Rarotonga.

I just wanted to write and mention the following (Please note we are working mature couple and I have travelled extensively throughout the world. I undertake a corporate, white collar job in Australia.)

I found the time spent in the Cook Islands was an inspiration to mankind and how people from other countries are lucky enough to share the warmth and hospitality of the local people.

From the time you arrive and hear the music of the ukulele player at the airport you know you are starting an adventure in Paradise.

We encountered the following situations and meeting that gave me belief in the honesty, genuineness, friendliness and thoughtfulness of Cook Island people.

On arrival at the airport just after midnight our contact did not arrive due to a mix up in dates of arrival, a lovely local lady enquired if we were okay as I was walking around a little lost. I explained the situation and she called on her mobile phone to the person that we were staying with and arranged for us to be picked up. Where in the world would that happen?

From then on it just got better.

I have a torn cartilage in my left knee and while attending the Chillis Bar to watch the All Blacks playing Australia I was limping to the bar and trying to find a spot near the TV. The bar was full to capacity with locals and while looking around for a spot, a local came up to me and said, “I noticed you were limping do you want a stool to sit on?”

He retrieved the stool and placed it against the wall where I could sit comfortably. He then enquired if I was a visitor and spoke about the island and its people. After the game I thanked him for his hospitality and he stated as I was leaving...‘anytime’.

We got to know some locals quite well, learning a lot about families and the traditions that go with the land and ‘family ways’. One couple had been the ‘feeding parents’ to an intellectually impaired 40-year-old man for many years as his family could not cope. They had taken care of him with accommodation and food in return for yard cleaning duties. This would not usually happen in Australia where we ship people like that into nursing homes, hostels and/or retirement villages (unless in an Aboriginal family). I purchased some doughnuts and coconuts from a local road vendor just out of Muri and I gave the young lady $5.50 for the items; however, she raced to the car as I was leaving mentioning that I had given her too much and gave me a dollar back...now that would never happen anywhere else in the world!

Being entertained on one of Captain Tama’s boats was a day in itself, not just with the cultural awareness, but to be laughing all day and seeing the smiles on people’s faces from all over the world, there was no corporate stress on that boat.

The ladies at The Bond Store were so helpful, I wanted to buy a specific bottle of Pinot Noir but did not have enough money and they mentioned it was popular and it would go the next day or so. I felt disappointed but the two ladies on duty said”We can hide it in the Manager’s office so when you come back it will be here”.

Two days later I was passing by and thought about the wine and I popped into see if it was still available, there was none on the floor but to their word the ladies had put two bottles away in the manager’s office and gave it to me with a big smile. I became a ‘temporary local’ and every day I went into the store it was, “Kia Orana Wayne, want some Pinot Noir...Ha Ha...” the name of the bottle. On leaving for the airport I popped into say good bye and one of the ladies gave me a big kiss good bye and said hope to see you again.

My local stop during the day was the Sailing Club at Muri where my wife would drop me off and go off to do a few things of her own. I would read my books (first time I had read a book for 20 years), swim and watch the gentle waves lap the beaches while ‘sunbaking’ and drinking my gin and tonics. The corporate world was so many, many miles away and I did not even give one thought to what I had left. I met a number of the waiting staff and one lady called me her friend every time I came in, it wasn’t until the last day that I realised that she called everyone her friend and that’s how it was...the friendliest little island in the world...

I loved my stay and will return.

Wayne Johanson

Gold Coast, Queensland

Australia

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