Our flight from Rarotonga to Aitutaki
was very short, only 20 minutes. We got there early in the morning
so we had a very nice view from the plane. The travel package
from NZ included transportation between the airport and the hotel.
So we thought that we would not need to rent a scooter again,
but even though the island is very small, we still had to carry
all our diving gear, so we rented again.
Our room fronted the beach -- and
what a beach! Blue water, very promising. We unpacked and went
snorkeling right away. The water was a bit nicer here than in
Rarotonga, many coral heads and some nice shells. The only thing
we hadn't expected was the absence of a diving center willing
to rent lead belts, so we used a very thick coat of sunblock and
went snorkeling wearing shorts and T-shirts. Our skin is very
white, and the idea of getting sunburned after many days of snorkeling
was not appealing. But that was the only way to collect since
our wet suits without lead belts made us too buoyant.
The outer reef was about 600 meters
from the beach, but I swam all the way there to see if I could
find something nice. The waves and the current were very strong,
but I did find some nice small shells: Trivia, Columbellidae,
Cymatiums, Cypraeas. On the way back I found some beautiful Haminoea
cymbalum -- I had never seen this species before and I took
several pictures of it. Incidentally, I used my underwater Casio
camera a lot; I regret that I didn't have it on previous trips.
We had a quick lunch and took a
nap so that we would have extra energy for snorkeling at night.
At night, the water was a bit cooler, but not so bad that we couldn't
stay for a few hours. I was thinking about our sunburn problem
and started to look for something heavy to attach to my belt so
that I could use my wetsuit in the next day.
Luckily I found a heavy metal piece
of engine of some sort, which I might somehow attach to my weight
belt. I went to show Carlos and when I looked down, guess what
I found? A 3-kilo piece of diving weight! I thought that a genie
had given me magic power and wished to find a similar sized piece
of gold. But I had used up my one wish on lead.... well, in this
case the lead was like gold for me (kinda), and I was able to
wear my wetsuit the next several days. Carlos used a lot of sunscreen;
hey, what can I do if he doesn't have my magic power?
We still had the same weight restrictions
for traveling back to New Zealand and those huge Tectus niloticus
were very tempting. Although I’m a shell dealer, I still
love to collect beautiful shells and those monsters were very
attractive. I couldn't resist and took one, which is sitting next
to my desk right now.
One curiosity about the island is
that there are no dogs, and no one is allowed to bring one to
the island. They say they killed all dogs in the 19th century
when they had a leprosy outbreak and blamed the dogs for it. So,
leave Rex home in case you travel there!
We found some nice Cypraea maculifera
scindata, large Cypraea caputserpentis, turrids and
other small shells. Again, we saw many beautiful Tridacna
all over the place. Someone told us to visit the Ministry of Marine
Resources where they raise them. They had specimens from very
small to medium size, which they release around the island from
time to time; they seem successful considering the quantity of
Tridacnas we saw.
It was time to go back to Rarotonga
and we were concerned about our weight limit. We had left two
pieces of luggage in New Zealand; two pieces in Rarotonga; and
we had two more with us. Our major problem would be passing through
Auckland customs with all those smelly shells -- what would they
do? Confiscate again? Well, I guess I still had one wish left:
when I was checking my luggage in Rarotonga, I asked if they could
tag our luggage through to our flight to Brazil which was 12 hours
after arriving in Auckland. They did it, so we passed through
customs with just two backpacks, no shells inside! Better yet,
we had to do another check-in with the two bags left in the airport
and they did not have access to the other pieces so we did not
have to pay overweight! Then I wished for a free upgrade to business
class but again I had used up my only wish.
We left Aitutaki on Monday afternoon,
arrived at Rarotonga and took a flight to Auckland at 3:00 a.m.
Tuesday. We arrived in Auckland on Wednesday (we lost a day) and
our flight to Brazil was at 5:00 p.m. Fourteen hours later, we
arrived in Brazil on Wednesday at 9:00 p.m.! Confusing? Yes, I
am glad I don't have to work in a travel agency near the international
Thanks to John and Jeanette Wolff
for the translation from Archaic English to Readable English .
Visit their shell club Cenn Penn Beachcombers at http://mysite.verizon.net/vze7m3zq/CENPEN/p2.html