Cook Islands

Going on a holiday can be experienced even before actually arriving at the destination. I say this because there is so much of information about the destination that one can be there even before embarking on a plane to go anywhere.  Lonely Planet, the book, reads like a manual of what to expect down to some obvious details, which in any case will be apparent when one reaches there, such as ‘how to get there’. Now you have web sites churning out information and then there are blogs and forums to give you more information.

This takes something out of the whole experience and the holiday is a matter of expecting what you already know, making it less of an experience and more of a temporary relocation, uninterrupted by calls and emails, only if you so choose.

Tourism is an industry and many countries measure their GDP through it. Whatever be it, a holiday is a holiday and as a visitor you contribute to their economy.

So I visited the Cook Islands. No I am not going to add to the plethora of information nor recount any experiences and steal your thrill away, if you plan to go there. However, I will make some comparisons that brought some memories of life before the internet and mobile phones.

Cook Islands to me looked like Agartala, where I served for some years. Only they didn’t have bamboo and pineapples. What they had and didn’t publicize much was vegetarian food, because the focus of guests who arrive there is seafood and booze.  I hardly saw any cattle but some pigs and many friendly dogs, some of them can catch fish.

Most visitors are from New Zealand and the next from Australia and Europe. This is the New Zealander’s play ground and has it take care of its defense. Most of the Cook Islanders have had a stint in Australia or New Zealand. Quite a lot form Mangere and Otara and we had an instant connect being south Aucklanders ourselves.

The place is beautiful and can do with more visitors from around the world, which will be good for the economy. Getting visas is one of the issues. A transit visa to New Zealand is required which may not be easy for travelers from Asian countries.

The islanders are great and seem to have it all figured out. After their work life overseas, they come back to their own land and family. Outsiders cannot buy, but can only lease land. To me the place looked self sufficient for food and with abundant fish, fertile land and with a great partying spirit what can go wrong!

There is still a need to work and I suspect employment opportunities on the island aren’t enough to keep the younger generation at home. So we did notice the absence of young people and the presence of many Western Union shops. There is a demand for girls who can dance and there has been a recent one for dance troupes to visit China and some other countries. Only the costume colours are changed to meet local tastes.

There is a huge hotel complex that was never completed and now looks like a bombed out ghost town. Perhaps jinxed, because the builders demolished a marae (place of worship). Sounds familiar?

Nice place to holiday. Will go again!


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