Aitutaki, The Cook Islands

On Tuesday June 13, we decided to leave Bora Bora and make our way to Maupiti as a possible stop on our way to Aitutaki. Only when we got there around 4PM the swell from the south was about 2M and breaking waves across the pass made it, in our opinion, too dangerous to enter. Once entered we also were not sure how easy it would be to leave Maupiti again and we wanted to get to the Cooks. So we continued sailing… The sea became very rollly during the night and with waves of about 3M, winds of 15KTS I was getting sea sick. My body was not used to this anymore. I had not taken anything because I was sure I would be able to do without. I guess not. After being really sick I decided to take one of the pills just before going for my 3HR sleep and sure enough I woke up feeling much better. I continued to take them every 12hours till we got to Aitutaki and felt fine. Hopefully I can get to Palmerston without one.

“waiting” for the wind to pick up in Bora Bora Kai Mai Marina with free wifi…
Enjoying the “waiting” in Bora with Happy Hour
Lunch at Bloody Mary in Bora. Another celebrity name they can add to their list!
The captain getting diesel, 310L at .78cents (tax free). Still 240EUR though.

We arrived after 4 days of sailing on Saturday morning around 8AM but had to “heave to” twice during our trip so we would not arrive in the dark at the pass. We were not sure if we should enter right away since we knew it was low tide and the water was leaving the lagoon at a rapid pace. The Captain did not want to wait another couple hours so I went upfront ready to drop the anchor in case it was needed and we pushed Sanuk against the current of 5KTS into the lagoon. Our depth meter said “0”, a good thing Stefan did not mention this while going in or I would have flipped! We are now anchored  in the little harbour of Arutanga in a depth of 2M and tied to 2 palm trees. We have been here a week and no other yacht has arrived here. This is definitely not an easy pass to navigate through.

Sanuk anchored in 2M deep water in the little harbour of Arutanga, the main village on Aitutaki. About 2000 people live on the island.

Aitutaki is an “exclusive” tourist spot mainly for Australians and New Zealanders looking for a winter break. In June 2010 the island was nominated “the world’s most beautiful island” by the founder of the Lonely Planet Guides. Unfortunately this week the weather has been grey and rainy till thursday. Not fun when you are only here for the week in an expensive hotel.
Most of the Cook Islands (15) were discovered by Captain Cook, hence the name but the first European to set foot in Aitutaki was Captain Bligh in 1789 with the Bounty, just a couple weeks before the mutiny. The Cook Islanders are polynesian and the main language is Cook Island Maori but they all speak english with a heavy NZ accent. The Cooks islands are independent since 1965 but affiliated with New Zealand for defense, foreign affairs and finances. Cook Islanders are NZ citizens.

Aerial view of Aitutaki. Picture from internet. We are on the far side in the middle
We hiked to the highest point on the island, 124M, Maunga Pu, to enjoy the beautiful view on the lagoon.
There are about 15motus in the lagoon. Kite surfing is very popular on the island.
We visited the Aitutaki Marine research centre, they protect the colourful clams from the lagoon.They are eaten by humans, some fish and turtles.
The Cook islands Christian church is the oldest one in the Cook Islands and was built in 1828.
No dogs allowed on the islands but pigs everywhere.
No cemetary on the island but graves along the road and in the gardens.
Enjoying a very good evening dinner at Cafe Tipuna with our feet in the sand. We got there by bicycle after being lost for 15min in the complete dark. No streetlights or moon…
View from the pass with Sanuk on the right and the first Cook islands Christian Church on the left.

While the weather was not so great we enjoyed walking and bicycling around the island. We even had to wear a sweater during the evenings. Yesterday we took out Fiipper to tour the lagoon but the wind and cold water (only 22 degrees) made us turn around. Tomorrow we have booked a lagoon cruise with a barbecue on “One Foot Island”. It looks like it will be a sunny day.
We have checked out today (Friday) since there are no custom officials working during the WE. We paid 220NZD (about 140USD) departure tax and anchorage fee of 5NZD per day included. In French Polynesia, part of the EU, we did not pay anything…