Monday, November 29, 2010

Land Of Birds

Atiu - Enua Manu (Land of Birds)

Air Rarotonga is your service airline to the island of Atiu. You can also book flights either Rarotonga-Atiu-Aitutaki-and then return to Rarotonga, or vise-versa.

Atiu sits at 116 miles or 187km's to the northeast of Rarotonga. It is a raised volcanic island surrounded by a reef from which rises 6-m cliffs of fossilized coral called the (makatea).

Video of Atiu taken in March 2009

This coral cliff forms a mile-wide ring round the island, forming a virtual plateau. Erosion at the innerside of the ring has formed dip of about 30-m into fertile land, which gradually rises again to a central 70-m flat-topped hill. Atiu is 11 million years old and it is still rising from the sea, or growing. This makes Atiu very different from your normal tropical island, but the rise is only at a rate of 0.2 mm per year.

These are the traditional villages of Atiu...

* Teenui Village (Te-Kuru-Kava-Nui)
* Mapumai Village (Mapumai-Nui-O-Ruavari) residence of the Mayor
* Ngatiarua Village (Mokoero-Nui-O-Tautipa)
* Areora Village (Areora-Nui-Te-Are-O-Tangaroa)
* Tengatangi Village (Taturoa-I-Te-Puta-Marama)

The whole population lives in these five villages that radiate out from the center of the island, (which gives the appearance of a human figure from the air). The villages have essentially grown together into one, since 1823. They represent the tapere subdivisions prior to European contact.

Administratively, Takutea is considered part of Atiu, a tiny coral cay island 20 km's north west of Atiu.

The first recorded European to arrive to Atiu was Captain Cook in 1777.

Atiuans trace their ancestry from Tangaroa, the principal god of Atiu and universally recognised in Polynesia as tutelary God of the Sea. The low swampy land consists of taro plantations, marshes and a lake, Te Roto. This fertile area also grows bananas, citrus fruits, pawpaws, breadfruit and coconuts.

Lake Tiroto

The ancient name of the island was Enuamanu, meaning the island of insects and animals, although there is some dispute over whether 'animals' includes 'insects'. The Atiuans understand it as meaning there were no previous inhabitants. The Atiuans call themselves 'worms of Enuamanu' because they were born on Atiu and hope to be buried there. This is the origin of the Atiuan saying: "We come from the land and go back to the land." The Atiuans were a fierce, warrior people and before the arrival of the missionaries, busied themselves with making war on their neighbors on Mauke and Mitiaro, slaughtering and eating significant numbers of them.

Captain Cook sighted the island on March 31, 1777 and made tentative contact with some of the people over the next few days. In common with most islands in the southern group, Atiu has only a small, shallow lagoon. It compensates, however, with many picturesque, sandy beaches. As is usual with the makatea islands of the southern group, the fossilised coral limestone abounds with caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites. One in particular, the Anatakitaki Cave, is inhabited by tiny kopeka birds which navigate in the dark using sonar, like bats.

100% Atiu Coffee

Atiu has a long history in growing coffee. The early missionaries established it commercially in the early 19th century. By 1865 already, annual exports of coffee from the Cook Islands amounted to 30,000 pounds. The islands' ariki (high chiefs) controlled the land used for planting and received most of the returns. The commoners often saw little if any reward for their labour. In the late 1890s, Rarotongan coffee production suffered due to a blight that affected the plants. Coffee production declined and had to rely more on crops from the outer islands Atiu, Mauke and Mangaia. World Wars I and II resulted in a further export reduction and eventually a standstill.

In the 1950s the co-operative movement in the Cook Islands resulted in the re-establishment of coffee as a cash crop. On Atiu, under the supervision of New Zealand Resident Agent Ron Thorby and the Cook Islands Agriculture Department, new coffee plantations were established. The raw coffee was destined for export to New Zealand where it was processed and marketed. The coffee of Atiu had it's own distinctive flavour as it flourished and developed in the makatea with it's calciam and phosphorus rich lowland soil.

In 1983, the coffee industry had collapsed. Government stepped back and left the plantations to their landowners. The poor financial return from selling their coffee to a Rarotongan company for processing had prompted the farmers to stop production except for their own private use. In 1988 a local woman started processing her own beans by hand and roasting them over an open fire in the traditional way and thus produced 'Atiu Island Coffee'.

Atiu Coffee has survived until today in the form of 100% Arabica, which is organically grown. The beans are fermented, sundried, roasted and packaged on the island. 'Atiu Island Coffee' is 100% pure Atiu coffee. This pure brand is hand picked, processed and roasted over an open fire in Coconut cream. The wood smoke, varying dark and mild roast beans and the coconut cream give this brand a distinctive taste. Mata Arai is the woman behind this traditional business and works out of Ezra store in Mapumai village. She also offers a tour, showing you how to process coffee by hand in the traditional Atiu way and you end up drinking cups of fresh fire roasted coffee, pikelets and coconut cream. Ph (+682) 33 088

Super Brown is your store, takeaway and bike rentals all rolled up under one roof...

Of special interest to tourists are the Kopeka caves situated deep in the makatea, the Atiuan 'jungle'. It is within Anatakitaki cave that the Atiu Swiftlet makes its nests.