We have actually found "Bali Hai"! We have always had a fantasy of a true tropical escape - and that includes no other guests next door, no maids trying to get in to clean or turn down the bed, no loud music or people, and no hassle for food and dinners. It also includes the ocean, roaring surf, palm trees swaying in the breeze, and warm water to swim in.
To our great surprise, the outer island of Mauke in the Cook Islands, and the Tiare Holiday Cottages with its beautiful "O Kiva" cottage, fits that description beyond anything we could have imagined. It is run by Teata and Tangata (Ta), and Teata's parents. They make dinner if we want (and we do - delicious local home cooking), and equip the cottage with breakfast and cooking facilities, so we are alone unless they ring the "gong" (actually a wooden slit drum called a "pare", where the "e" is pronounced like the letter "A") to announce dinner or a need to talk to us. The cottage is one room with a bathroom and kitchenette, comfortable double bed, lots of cooling breezes blowing through, and the constant sound of the surf outside. There is a patio with chaises behind the cottage, and a path leads through landscaped coral to a table with umbrella, then to a double hammock, and finally to a thatched open-sided viewpoint right on the cliff over the sea. The sunsets are spectacular right there, and humpback whales swim by.
Teata and Ta lived in New Zealand for thirty years before coming back here to Mauke, and they are fascinating and wonderful people. They took us on a motorbike tour of the island yesterday which had some "Indiana Jones" bushwhacking as well as beautiful beaches and archeological sites. Everyone on the island is very friendly, and the population is only about 300. The island is a raised coral atoll, and the outer edge is mostly very rough, old, and sometimes fossilized, coral called "makatea", upliffted from the sea over eons. The island is fringed with a coral reef surrounding a narrow, shallow lagoon.
On our second full day, we braved a little motorbike ride of our own. Ta gave Tom a lesson on starting, accelerating, braking and shifting before he turned the Kawasaki over to us. Anne climbed on back and we were off toward the north end of the island. We passed the wharf where a barge is used to unload the supply boat which anchors off the reef. Outside supplies are hard to come by and Ta said it took 4 months to get a car battery! We continued on along past the airstrip and then inland to the second village on the island. Along the way, we saw goats and pigs and chickens. Tom got more confidence with the bike and shifted into 3rd gear for some of the flat, straight parts of the dirt road. We were back at the Tiara Cottages sooner than we expected. The island is really small!
About the most activity we tackled was the writing of this journal and electronic "processing" of photographs. Otherwise, we just sat around and did nothing. Great life! We sadly left Mauke on Friday, and flew back to Rarotonga where we met our Global Volunteers group on Saturday - more about that later.