Cook Islands


Day 4

Cultural Show

Today was exam day! I rode down to the police station to do the motorcycle test. They explained that there was a written text and a practical test, walked me into the middle of the station where there was a table and chairs, gave me the test and left me to complete it.

Unfortunately I failed the written test! While they said the rules are basically the same as Australia, but there were a few that were quite different! Reading the Road Code book (instead of just winging it like me) is recommended! I took some notes on where I went wrong and booked a retest tomorrow at 8:30am.
After this somewhat disappointing event, I stopped at a cafe for brunch and had a really nice muesli, fruit and yogurt.

From there I headed home, but I stopped past the hire place to try to get a replacement scooter. I explained the problem and they swapped it straight away.

Back at the hotel, I asked Rangi for a recommendation for what to do tonight, she suggested the Highland Paradise show and booked it for me, except due to a cancelled flight all the buses were really busy so one of the organisers said she would drive to the hotel especially to pick me up! Very kind!

This is the kind of thing that makes me love the island way of life. Because the population here is comparatively much smaller than the cities I’m used to, there is a sense of community and friendliness that is pretty nice.

I read my book by the pool until it was time to be picked up. Around 5:00pm my lift arrived and we drove up the mountain to about 500 meters above sea level. The view from there was spectacular! You got a wide view of the jungle, the beach and the ocean!
We arrived there a little early so I walked around, took some photos and looked through the museum until the other buses arrived.

The groups started pouring out of the buses and we all went inside and were handed a welcome cocktail. There was an introductory speech and then we headed back out the door for a tour of the village grounds.

I learned a ‘Vaka’ was a long catamaran that was used to go from island to island and could go about 20 knots. Expert navigators used to use the stars as a guide for direction to get around. The site had a look out formed from tall rocks that the people used to use to keep watch for invaders.
Cooking was done in an ‘umu’ which was a hole in the ground with banana leaves and heated volcanic rocks. The food would be put in the hole with the hot rocks and covered up. Cooking would usually take about four hours, plus prep time.
The ‘marai’ is a place of worship and the villages meeting place.
A ceremony was performed as part of our tour but no photos were allowed out of respect. Each level of steps at the ‘marai’ was for different levels of generals, the king, parliament, etc.
There was a rock at the top of the mountain that points to a particular star, this was one of the first things captain’s would learn to read the stars for navigation before going out to the sea.

We headed back inside for dinner, a massive feast with big variety of food that was cooked in the underground umu’s was waiting for us and it smelled amazing!

I also tried the local beer, Matatu. They have a pale ale (what I had, pretty good) and a lager.

The performances involved traditional dancers and percussionists using the traditional wooden drums to tell stories of their history. Missionaries arrived and introduced Christianity to the island which changed the culture of the people on the island. This Christianity is still a big part of the culture today. This change also made the dances less provocative, the women would wear longer dresses that would start higher up their waist to hide more skin.
Even the savage, cannibal king converted to Christianity and this made the culture become more civilized over time.

The host of the show was very entertaining and pretty funny which made the whole experience quite entertaining. The band and dancers were good and one of the drummers was Mr. Hopeless, the bus driver! (That’s what he called himself on the bus, a very funny guy). Also, I could be wrong, but it looked like the two kids from the tourism commercials were also in the band!