Polynesian Hospitality

On the 4th of August the Cook Islands celebrate their Consitution day followed by a week of cultural festivals. Every 2 to 3 years the government provides free transport by ship to all people from outer islands to Rarotonga (the capital) to participate in the celebrations.

Today 130 people from Tongareva returned after more than a month down in Rarotonga. After some fabulous day in the southern corner of the atoll with crystal clear water, nice snorkeling and more birdwatching we sailed across the lagoon this morning (dodging bommies all the way…) to the main village Omoka just in time to see the barges with the people come in–there were tearful reuinions, lots of flower bouquets and of course lots of goods from Rarotonga the villagers brought with them. While watching the hubbub on the dock we were invited to join the reception later, so we walked to the meeting where choirs and a huge buffet with traditional food (most interesting, some unfortunately protected) welcomed the homecomers.

We started talking to the former mayor who proved to be an interesting source of information and promptly invited us to his home in the evening. Searching for his house we walked through a few backyards asking for directions and were invited each time to stay and sit down for a chat. We have become used to Polynesian hospitality in remote places, but Tongareva surpasses all previous experiences. Of course the fact that English is an official language here (next to Cook Islands Maori) makes things much easier for us…

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