2002 - ZK1

After our two weeks' stay on Lord Howe Island we headed to the Cook Islands for a further two weeks. The Cooks comprise of 15 tiny islands scattered over 2 million square km. of ocean N-E of New Zealand and, for radio purposes, are divided into North and South Cook, the latter being the easier to reach so that's where we went. We were met at the airport in Rarotonga (at 1 am) by the main local ham, Vic, ZK1CG, who was loaded down with beautifully smelling gardenia leis for each of us. A very nice welcome.

The following morning we flew to the island of Aitutaki about 200 km. north of Rarotonga. Half the group stayed at Gina's Garden Lodges which is run by the only amateur on the island, Des, ZK1DD, and his XYL, Queen Manarangi, whilst Mio and I stayed at the Maina Sunset Motel on the edge of the lagoon. Both places were very receptive to radio amateurs. Sitting under a thatched roof shelter and being served breakfast of tropical fruit while gazing at the lagoon with fish jumping out of the water and crabs chasing each other acrosss the clean, white sand, was a life I could easily have become accustomed to! Well, apart from the mosquitos! We erected our various antennas and proceeded to give the world a fairly rare IOTA using the callsign ZK1XYL and making a total of 3,241 QSOs in spite of experiencing one of the worst and prolonged disturbances so far in Cycle 23.

It was interesting to drive through the interior of the island dodging chooks, goats and pigs, all of which seemed to run wild. There were a lot of derelict houses and most families had their ancestors "planted" in their front garden, some with most elaborate shrines. The Supermarket in the township was a very busy place and a great meeting spot for the locals who buzzed up and down the main street on their motor scooters. We, of course, had hired a car again! Doug and June went snorkelling on the reef and were thrilled with the experience. Some days it was extremely hot - nice to feel warm again. After a week of this idyllic existence, we hopped on the plane again and headed back to Rarotonga for another week of fun.

This time our shacks were set up near Vic's QTH at The Reefcomber and Nappa Beach Apartments right on the edge of the lagoon which surrounds the island and where there were lots of coconut trees for our antennas. Our arrival broke the drought and it rained and rained, so much that we had to buy umbrellas. A far cry from what one expected from a South Pacific island - hi! Raro was a bustling metropolis compared to Aitutaki with lots of souvenir shops, restaurants, motor scooters for hire and, everywhere you looked, shops selling locally dyed sarongs and the famous black pearls. June and Doug hired a motor scooter but Elizabeth, Mio and I travelled round on the local bus or hitched a ride with Vic.

Again the world was waiting for us and we had lots of dogpiles to deal with. Elizabeth's keyer (functional again) worked overtime whilst the rest of us ended up with hoarse voices. At times the pile-ups sounded just like a band of white noise and it was extremely difficult to pick out even one letter of a callsign. However, we managed to work another 4,075 contacts and made quite a few people happy. Back to Melbourne for me and a deluge of QSL cards to answer!

Welcome to Raro airport

Aitutaki - Elizabeth, DYL, Mio and June

Lagoon view

Local family graves


Aitutaki's Internet Cafe.
NZ$2.80 for ONE minute!

Rarotonga market - sarongs

Raro sunrise
(Photo courtesy VE7YL)

June and Doug

A typical DXer's case
(radio gear and a clean shirt)

June's Buddypole

Farewell Cook Islands

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