June, 2000: I originally planned to go to Fiji, then to circle to Tonga and Samoa, but in May there was a coup in Suva, the capital of Fiji. The governments of Australia and New Zealand, as well as the American consular advice site, all recommended avoiding Fiji, so I changed my reservation with Air New Zealand (A VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED AIRLINE!) to Rarotonga. I did get to Fiji, too, but meanwhile, here's a bit of my visit to Rarotonga, which is a very small, quiet island about 2 hours flight time west of the Society Islands (Tahiti, Bora Bora, etc.).
(All of these pictures can be seen enlarged by clicking on them.)
|As it happened on this quiet little island, this was the year of the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, and the torch was being carried to every island. I was in Rarotong when it arrived there, and it was a BIG CELEBRATION! It was carried around the island (32 miles all together) in relays. The picture on the left, above, is the end of the "followers" when it was leaving the capital city of Avarua. I had rented a car that day, and wanted to move around the island a little faster than the runners were obviously going, so I skirted the "crowd" and ended up on another road a bit inland. There I discovered a group waiting for the torch to pass, and realized it wasn't going to go the main road all the way around the island. There were photographers from the local press, and from overseas, and from the dress of the people waiting, this must have been a somewhat special section of the relay. Of course I waited, too, and caught the above shots with my pocket camera.
|A little later on, on another back road, I came across a group practicing for their performance in the stadium that night. It was probably the best local dancing I saw. I had heard that the dancing was not to be missed. I went to the stadium for the big show, and saw lots of dancers there, but I was so far away that I couldn't get any good pictures, and the best dancing was after dark. (The pictures are for recollection only - for me, and for anyone else who chances upon them and has seen the real thing. There is NO way that these photos can convey the actual dancing.) The drums accompany the dancing. I have a student who is a drummer, and I took the photo for her. On the right is a view in the stadium.
The flight I was taking from Rarotonga to Fiji (see below) was late at night, so I found a restaurant with a "floor show" for tourists, made a reservation, and had a mediocre dinner, accompanied by dancing by the youngsters to the left. They were good, but obviously too young to really perform the sensual, sexy attitudes and movements that older dancers seem to have perfected! This is dancing that has to be seen to be believed!
|I had assumed I could easily get from Rarotonga to Tonga or Samoa, and finally to Fiji to take my scheduled flight home. (I was already holding a circle ticket to Tonga and Samoa from Fiji.) I also assumed that by the time I was ready to return, the coup would have been settled enough to make Fiji easy to visit! It didn't turn out that way. The only way to get anywhere else was either via Fiji or New Zealand! I had to go to Fiji to use my circle ticket, but timing didn't work out, so I missed Tonga. I was told there was only one flight to Fiji from Rarotonga on Pacific Air (the Fijian National Airline, and the airline I had my circle ticket on), and as it turned out, it was the inaugural flight for that service! The coup situation in Fiji had shown no improvement (George Speight was still holding 27 hostages in the Parliament building, and he actually held them for over two months), and thus tourists were staying away in droves. I was one of two passengers on the plane! And it probably held a couple of hundred.
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