4. Island Night
site sponsored by
Cook Islands Television
There are a number of marae's situated at various points around the island.
If you see a formation of rocks in a circle or, semicircle surrounded by a wall of
rocks, then you are looking at it. Many of the original marae's were destroyed by
the missionaries, so most of what you see are restored marae's. However, there are a
few original ones left, such as the one at Highland Paradise in Arorangi. In ancient
Cook Islands, marae's were used as burial grounds, for investitures (appointing chiefs and
subchiefs) and as meeting places for a tribe. Arai-Te-Tonga is frequently visited by
The missionaries influence in the Cook Islands is clearly obvious as you drive around the
island. Some of the biggest buildings in the Cook Islands are coral limestone
churches built in the early 1800's. There are 5 of these churches on Rarotonga, one
in each village and one or two on each of the other islands. The Titikaveka CICC Church
was the first to be built. Cunningham an English planter/builder was responsible for
the construction. Limestone for the church was quarried from a 2km stretch of beach
and handpassed along a human chain to the church site. The blocks are a meter (3
feet) deep. The timber used came from the mountains in Titikaveka and Arorangi,
these were soaked in mud on the Titikaveka rugby field for preservation purposes and to
make the wood bitter, so that borers wouldn't attack it. The original church had 3
roofs but this was later combined into one (traces of the old roof is still visible).
The church is square to symbolise the equality of all men in its presence.
The smal altar at the front came from a tree which a young princess use to swing from. Her
admirers in order to win her heart would push her. However, every time she would reach the
highest point of her ascent she would look out to sea and her boyfriend would be watching
her from outside the reef. He couldn't visit her via the land for fear he would be
attacked. Once her admirers discovered what she was doing they cut the tree down. If you
are interested in learning more about this church, ask the preacher who lives across the
road to explain its history to you or you can visit the local TV station and ask them to
make you a copy of the documentary on it (the documentary explains all these things I have
mentioned above and more, its not a religious video, it only contains the history of the
building). For more information regarding the documentary contact: Cook Islands Television.
In Avarua (town), opposite the T-Shirt Factory there are 6 coconut trees that came from a
single coconut. There was originally 7 but one fell during a cyclone some years ago. And
if you are wondering why there is big vacant lot of prime real estate right next to these
trees, well, this used to be where the old colonial court house use to be which was
destroyed in a fire in 1991. The land has been reserved ever since, but the country hasn't
enough money to replace the building. In the meantime, all court sessions are held in a
warehouse turned court house. There are a lot of old photo's of the old courthouse around
the place, it also features in the movie "The Other Side of Paradise" which
stars Jason Connery.
Ara Nui O Toi
The "great road of Toi" is the inland road that is referred to as the
"backroad" encircling Rarotonga. Toi, is the warrior who constructed parts of
this road in 1000AD.
Takamoa Theological College
The Theological College is also reminescent of the missionary days. And was built in much
the same way as the CICC Churches.
These rocks adorn a portion of Nikao beach and was the departing point of souls as
believed by ancient Cook Islanders. They believed that when they died there sould
would jump off black rock and make their way back to Avaiki, the homeland.
On the face of the Needle is a face, although it is weathered and hard to see. To
see this face, you can either take a round Rarotonga scenic flight or, hike the
The Polynesians who settled New Zealand in the 900-1000AD, departed from Avana harbour
leaving 7 stones to commemorate their stopover. They originally came from islands
which now belong to French Polynesia.
There are a number of caves on Rarotonga. There is one in Matavera, which is visible
from the backroad. It was a burial ground and contains 12 skeletons. Another
cave in the town area, was that of Katikatia, a witch who ate little children.
This mountain is easy to spot. When driving in Arorangi, look for a mountain with a
flat-top. This according to ancient legends was once the tallest mountain on
Rarotonga, until one night some giant Aitutakians cut it in half and took the top back to
Just outside the reef at Trader Jacks is a boiler which is the remains of the Matai.