Traditional ukeleles made from coconut shells are a feature of island music, as played by this musician on Atiu Island. Much of the music of the Cook Island has been heavily influenced by the Christian missionaries, with singing in strong harmonies an important part of church services.
Cook Islands – Been There

Far away from the worries of the world

Photo by Sergi Reboredo

Cook Islands – Been There Far away from the worries of the world

After a short hop on the domestic carrier to Atiu, Cook Islands, I am greeted at the airport with a flower necklace.

Sergi Reboredo
Sergi Reboredo Travel Photographer

With its 569 inhabitants, the third largest of the Cook Islands is the Polynesia of yesteryear. Captain Cook never made it as far as Rarotonga or Aitutaki, stumbling instead on Atiu when he was lost on his way home from Tahiti, and it is tempting to think little has changed since then. The island is a vision of tropical birds, reefs, fisherfolk, thick tropical forests and gardens of taro.

I am staying at a small guesthouse run by New Zealander Roger Malcolm. He was working as a research student in Rarotonga when he met a girl from Atiu. They married in New Zealand but came here in 1978 when the airport opened to begin a new life catering to tourism.

“What I like about living here is that there are few regulations and few rules,” he says. “The only real rule is to make sure that you are not offending your family and neighbors. The people are very friendly and you are far away from the worries of the rest of the world.”

While encouraging tourism may risk spoiling this paradise, it is also a vital source of income. “More and more Cook Islanders are leaving to seek an easier life abroad,” says German-born artist Andrea Eimke, who has lived on the northern island of Atiu for the last 30 years. “Our difficulty lies in the remoteness of the islands and the decline in tourism. Many visitors think the islands should be a cheap destination because it is a third world country.”

“The nicest thing about the Cook Islands is that our people still care about others,” she continues. “They have time for you and treasure you as their guest and human being rather than just as a source of income.”

After her husband reveals the secrets of a good cup of coffee, Andrea sells me some of her jewelry creations in silver to take home. “The best thing about living here is the quietness you still find, especially on the sister islands,” she says. “The people are friendly and caring, and openly welcome visitors. They are happy to include you in their activities, especially their celebrations. And there’s always a reason to celebrate here.”

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