“Aitutaki´s stunning lagoon, brimming with marine life and ringed by 15 palm-covered islands, is one of the treasures of the South Pacific” (Excerpt from the Lonely Planet Travel Guide). We agree. My wife and I rated it as one of the most beautiful places we have experienced.
Approx. 120.000 visitors come to the Cook Islands, approx. 25.000 fly on to Aitutaki during their stay, yet only 1.200 visitors a year make it to Atiu. That´s a little more than 20 people on a weekly basis. Want something truly off the beaten track? Go to Atiu! A geological adventure place, a bird haven and local coffee are three good reasons to visit!
Anatakitaki caves is a must see, when you are on Atiu. Embedded in tropical rainforest, this limestone cave with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites is untouched by any human infrastructure or safety measures. It also contains an underground pool, in which you can take a candlelit swim and is home to an absolutely unique bird (please go to the next blog entry).
Unique to Atiu, unique in its features: the Kopeka (Atiu swiftlet). This little bird, not weighing more than 13 grams, has some serious technical features. While it´s got perfect sight to find its way when there is light, it also is equipped with sonar. It lives in the Anatakitaki cave – where it is mostly dark – and navigates by issuing click-sounds, which reflect of the cave walls and structures. And please remember, we are talking about a bird here, not a bat!
Atiu has a couple of institutions, George Mateariki is one of them! We joined him on a day tour to learn about the islands flora and fauna, specifically the birds. George is an absolute expert in his field and is managing bird life on Atiu. That means making sure the reintroduced Rimatara Lorekeet is doing fine as well as the rare Rarotongan Flycatcher. In September he will share his experience in Hawaii, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress.
Coffee was introduced in the early 19th century to Atiu. The early export success slowly faded and coffee production came to a halt. A German who moved to the island in the 1980s saw the potential and re-established coffee growing and production. Certainly a gift for the island. As he recently passed away, Mata is the only remaining coffee producer on Atiu. She stands in the long tradition of her family making coffee since the 1950s and is very modest about her central role in the Atiuan coffee industry. A special twist to her coffee: the beans get roasted in coconut cream!
Australia. Sydney. What a contrast to Atiu. From a remote island with 400 inhabitants to the largest metropolitan area of Australia! We have scheduled a little more than 2 weeks in the area, but there is not too much time for sightseeing. We need to get organized for our journey through Australia, which includes purchasing a 4WD. But of course we make time for the obligatory. And we have good luck. Vivid Sydney is on. A spectacular light show illuminating the city in creative and beautiful ways.
What we were able to organise and get accomplished in Sydney within 2 weeks wouldn´t have been possible without good friends. Thank you Philip and Marylin, Tony and Karen and Gordon! Also thank you Brandon and Maria as well as Michael and Heather and all the others! Your warm welcome, your hospitality and your support is something we appreciate and value a lot! Couldn´t have done it without you!
Our first stop approx. 4 hours to the North of Sydney is Diamond Head in Crowdy Bay National Park. During the night serious wind gusts of up to 55km/h keep shaking at our tent. First a massive noise builds up in the treetops and 2 seconds later it feels like the tent gets blown away. We don´t get much sleep. As a small compensation we see Kangaroos literally 5m away from the tent when we crawl out in the morning. As it seems, they also didn´t sleep too well.