Friday, August 20th, 2010
I stumbled onto the tarmac at 5:30 am, steadying myself and blinking. Sweet smoke hung in the air -mingling with the scent of ripe fruit – papayas and mangoes and breadfruit… The sun was scraping the horizon, arriving just in time to fuel my excitement. We were here! Eight of us will meet the Picton Castle here in Rarotonga when she arrives. Frankie, Megan, Alison and Robert were already on island and three of us just arrived on this flight from LAX. Paulina will arrive next week- ready to jump into her watch on board.
I could see Vicky and Stein ahead of me in line as I entered the customs line. All around me uniformed officials each wearing a Tiare (flower) in their hair greeted me warmly -despite the early hour- and live ukelele music filled the room.
So far we have all resisted sleep on our first morning. Everything seeming too alive and yet too surreal to allow for it right away. It is almost painfully beautiful here. The sort of place where one cannot help but exclaim in amazement every few minutes, “We truly are here-in the middle of the South Pacific”-or something more profound than that. The sunlight sparkles off the water and lulls you into a relaxed state. Whales breach on the edge of the reef. The lagoons offer ideal locations for snorkeling and scuba diving. The beach bars a wonderful place for an afternoon cocktail or a late night dance party. The locals are friendly and welcoming. The towns have everything you could need and more.
Everyone has been enjoying what this island has to offer. Frankie and Alison have done the cross island hike. Stein hiked to the needle-an imposing peak on one of the mountains. We have all rented bicycles and have taken advantage of the relatively flat roads round the island. Vicky, Alison, Megan and Frankie all rode the 32 km circumference one afternoon, stopping to have a swim and snorkel to cool off. While it is technically winter here in Rarotonga they are having a bit of warm spell and the temperatures are averaging 28 C in the afternoons. Robert-being a world music master student-has discovered the music scene on the island – recording local string bands and church choirs with a gismo he brought with him for this very purpose. We are all soaking in the climate, the culture, the people, the food, the activities and the music.
We’ve managed to meet up for a night of dancing and a BBQ since we have been here. All strangers brought together by a common passion -to sail the world on a tall ship. To sail the seas on the Picton Castle.
And while we spend the days (rising at 8 am to a breakfast of fresh squeezed juices, cereal and coffee on the veranda of our hostel before embarking on the excursions of the day) happily, contentedly even -there is an undercurrent of anticipation. Our ship is coming. Is she sailing now or -still lacking the unpredictably illusive south pacific trade winds -motoring along? What will be our place on the ship? What will we need to know right away and what can we learn with time and the patient teaching our crew and trainees? Will we be good shipmates? We wait, happily and anxiously, for our new home to sail into the harbour. And however we greet her – be it on a canoe or in a traditional vaka or sitting by the dock refreshments in hand -we will greet her with joy and great cheer. Kia Orana and welcome to Rarotonga.