Friday, October 23, 2009


Another tedious assignment. I was to present myself as Reporter for Ye Wilde Tomatoe at The South Pacific Mini Games Sailing Competition taking place on the atoll of Aitutaki. As usual, my editor, Mister Jack Martin, Esq. would cover the tariff for the trip.

So, with no understanding of things nautical, I packed the Speedo and put on my best front.

I can’t figure out to whom the finger of blame should be pointed at just yet but, the international dateline and also daylight savings were happening at the moment of our departure. It was like being propelled through Time’s Microwave. As a result, we were late getting to the airport and some "special handling" was required as the plane was already backing up. Someone in our party did one of those “eye roll” things when we finally were buckled in.

On landing, more peril struck. The Aitutaki Golf Club apparently shares a few holes with the airport road. Without warning, our limo was bombarded by extremely worn golf balls, so useless a kiwi golfer would only spend 10 minutes searching for one in the rough. To protect my fellow holiday makers, I had the chauffeur stop. Donning a protective snorkel mask and venturing out for a look-see, I spied the dreary golf course where the locals were simply poor strikers. Hastening my retreat, I screamed for the driver to step on it, advising him to not spare the horses.

Wild Tomato had set us up at the Tamanu Beach Resort, with a self catering unit. The ubiquitous white sand and wavelety lagoon beckoned at the doorstep.

It felt like being inside Nature’s paintbrush.

The lagoon is pure turquoise, warm as a child’s bath, and swarming with thousands of fish just waiting to be ogled.

Tamanu Resort also boasts one of the only restaurants on Aitutaki. The cuisine is high quality and there’s a well stocked bar for serious imbibers of addictive drink.

I performed my customary reconnaissance and was soon accosted by the official greeter. This was a colourful rooster with an unusual gait, reminding one of a Monty Python spoof concerning “silly walks”. However, as his sauntering was indeed, silly, it was at the same time… dare I say, “Cocky”?

On closer inspection, I saw that the poor fellow had but a single claw.

It's not often you see a one foot cock.

Eventually, at the well stocked tavern, I sat with a Hobie coach to get the low down on the race which I already forgot I was covering.

It was a lot of blah, blah, blah. All the same, I liked the cut of his jib. He was there with his partner, whose jib was a cut a few notches above his, if you catch my drift.

Motor bikes cost 25$NZ. In a day, one can cover all the roads including everyone’s driveway. We stopped near the flash Aitutaki Lagoon Resort. Not in Esquire’s budget but a short trek along the sand gets to their beach where you can charge drinks to someone else’s room.

The best place to eat around there is the Koru Café.

Owned by young Kiwis, they have delicious, creative meals. Items can be spilt between two people, but get your own milkshake. Trust me.

I would be remiss were I not to mention the sand flies and mosquitoes. They’re everywhere and have a sweet tooth for Jews. I purchased a huge tub of a product called Bushman’s Plus. Containing 80% DEET, there were warnings about not getting it in the eye. Within minutes, some got in the eye. What followed was yelping, rinsing, and mockery.
They say, “On Aitutaki, you don’t do, you be.” But Being became boring.

Then we discovered the best activity on the island – Capt. Puna’s Aitutaki Adventures. For reasonable cost, Puna takes you on a lagoon cruise. There’s heaps of food and breaks on idyllic islands. Snorkel gear is included and the views contain all the usual suspects, plus giant clams.

We had tea on a former Survivor tribe location. Somehow, during an impromptu ballot, I was voted off the island. I was totally blindsided. Apparently, my partner formed an allegiance with Captain Puna. Plus, I nearly drowned during the wading challenge.

Later another rest on famous One Foot Island where they will stamp your passport for a small fee. Oddly, all the roosters on One Foot Island had the required number of appendages.

Finally race day arrived.
Unfortunately, we showed up 3 hours late.
Luckily, there were lounge chairs and a well stocked bar close by.

Had I ever gotten around to witnessing the competition, my story would have ended something like this:

“It was a tight race for second in light weather but beautiful conditions at Aitutaki lagoon yesterday as Cook Island’s Taua Henry jockeyed for the wind with New Caledonia’s Jessee Benso and Jerome Esplass. The Cook’s Junior Charlie crossed the line with room to spare.

There’s already been an outright winner declared in the sailing regatta – Aitutaki lagoon. Everyone involved was in absolute awe of the picture postcard setting for the eight days of sailing.”

On leaving, the picture postcard Cook Islands make everyone pay a departure fee, $55 each.

I’m confident Mr. Martin will reimburse.


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