Sunday, November 28, 2010

Garden Of The Islands

Mauke - Gardens of the Islands

Mauke is the most easterly of the islands, about half the size of the main island Rarotonga, in circumference, and 18 kilometres or (11¼ miles) in size.

Air Rarotonga flights to the island is thrice a week, in other words it is three times a week.
If you are visiting the island for the first time, it is recommended that you take enough cash with you as there are no ATM's on the island.
Mauke consists of a central volcanic plateau which climbs to a maximum height of about 30 metres. It is surrounded by a raised, fossilised coral reef called the 'makatea' – which ranges from about 100 metres from the shoreline to about 1000 metres inland, and like Atiu and Mangaia, it has numerous limestone caves. It's best known is the Motuanga Cave or the 'Cave of 100 Rooms' which is entered on land and extends out under the sea. There are no rivers, so rainwater which falls inland drains into swamps on the inner rim of the 'makatea' and thence underground to the lagoon, similar to Mangaia. The lagoon is very short and you get a good close-up of spectacular waves smashing against the surrounding reef.
The central south area of Mauke is quite open. If it were not for the occasional coconut palm, the landscape could almost be rural European. The old airstrip was in the interior and the tropical hardwoods which previously flourished there were cleared to make way for the runway.

There are no sealed roads; they are topped with crushed coral sand, much like Rarotonga's roads in the 1950s. As of March 2009 the road still remains the same.

Accommodation Tiare Holiday Cottages
You have the choice of an O'kiva Cottage at $135NZD a night Single/Double or, The Garden Units at $70NZD a night Single, $75NZD a night Double. These accommodations have solar water heaters.
Video of Mauke taken in April 2009

Wild pigs in Mauke are prolific, and on the odd occasions gets hunted to control the number. Pigs roam the islands interior, but can be spotted when riding on the outskirts of the islands road. The locals also keep their goats tied up next to the road, so drive carefully.

Mauke is well known for being a 'Garden Island', extremely verdant and fertile with magnificent hardwood trees in its interior. These forests are where the 'maire' bush is found growing wild. Maire leaf is the source of a thriving export industry to Hawai'i, (as well as Mangaia) where the leaves are used to make welcoming (ei's) or 'leis' – garlands.
Each week, the island gets an order from Hawaii and the women head into the interior to pick enough 'maire' leaves to be airfreighted to Rarotonga, and then it is freighted to it's final destination.
The island also boasts the largest banyan tree in the world - a fact verified by a professor from Leeds University in England who is one of the world's leading experts on the banyan.
The village roads are tidy and well-maintained with low white coral walls at the front boundary of the houses. The first village you encounter as you arrive from the airport is Kimiangatau. Just before the small hospital lies the derelict house of Robert Julian Dashwood (a.k.a. Rakau), the flamboyant English writer who arrived in the Cook Islands in the 1930s. He worked in Mangaia and Manihiki and eventually moved to Mauke where he married a local girl and ran a store.

Kimiangatau is located on the northwest coast, with the administration building which contains the Cook Islands Bank. Other settlements are Ngatiarua (central area) and Areora/Makatea (northeast). Oiretumu is the location of the church between Areora and Ngatiarua.

Mauke has four divisional districts, two of which are further subdivided into tapere-
  • Ngatiarua (north, subdivided into 5 or 6 tapere)
  • Vaimutu (east, no further subdivision)
  • Areora (south, subdivided into 3 tapere)
  • Makatea (west, no further subdivision)
Mauke has an impressive history, for example there are at least 11 sites which could be described as 'marae', or sacred ground (tapu). This word though has a different meaning to its Maori counterpart in New Zealand.

In Mauke the 'marae' refers to a ceremonial structure similar to those found in eastern Polynesia. It applies to sites associated with ancestors. However, the people did not build the same type of large stone structures found elsewhere in the southern Cook Islands, or in Tahiti, or in the Society Islands.
Mauke is named after a settler from Avaiki called Uke or Uki - hence Mauke or Mauki which means "Land of Uke (Uki)". Before the arrival of Europeans, the Maukeans were under the domination of neighbouring Atiu. Raiding parties went over from time to time for food and women. The three main ariki or chiefs, Samuela, Tararo and Teau Ariki, of which only Samuela and Teau ariki are direct descendants of Uke. Maukeans especially Maukean women are noted throughout the Cook Islands as being the most beautiful in the Pacific.

Mauke became a member of the Cook Islands Federation until it was annexed to New Zealand in 1901, when the population was recorded at 370.

At the junction of Ngatiarua village and Areora village, is the huge Ziona church, Mauke's largest structure. It's called the 'divided church' because it was built as a place of worship to be shared between two villages. At the front of the pulpit, which is in a low railed enclosure, are embedded eight silver Chilean coins, and one silver Peruvian coin, which were common currency in the central Pacific in the nineteenth century. The eight Chilean pesos are dated between 1870 and 1881. The ninth coin is a silver Peruvian coin named 'sol' with the inscription: 'Firme y Feliz por la Union', state motto from Peru.

Mauke has a special atmosphere. Its people cleave to the old customs of hospitality – the 'ui tupuna' – and are very friendly as all Cook Islanders are. Visitors to Mauke just needs to adjust to a different pace and lifestyle.

Shops are few and are often closed, and the range of goods on offer is limited.

Probably the best way to explore Mauke is by rented bicycle, but I prefer the old scooter. The coral roads are deserted and peaceful. A day spent cycling slowly round the island is an absolute delight. The road curves gently through the coconut palms and hardwood trees. Every so often a small, sandy beach cove comes into sight bordered by rocky outcrops. You cannot say that you could almost own a beach cove all to yourself, because you can, hardly anyone ever goes down to the beach.

In the vegetation bordering the track you will find growing wild the 'noni' tree, whose fruit is now the darling of the health food industry in the USA, and is being touted as a cure-all for every imaginable ailment. Also called the Indian mulberry, it is an ancient Cook Islands herbal medicine. Its botanical name is Morinda citrifolia.
The island has power 24 hours a day, but that depends on the availability of diesel to run the islands generator.

The adventurous will find a swim in some of the underground caves both refreshing and spectacular.

You can swim at three of the beaches on the island or you could just join the local children at their favorite swimming pool - the harbour.