Monday, 4 August 2014

Sun, Sea, Sand and Surf

Floral Coral
Travelling Sustainably.  Well, talk of carbon miles and green footprints, and none of us should travel!  So my beloved and I like to offset that by a few little sustainable travel tips.  We like to think we can contribute in the smallest way, to the place we have traveled to.  So our trip to Raro tonga saw us filling a 23kg suitcase with second hand educational games Mike had sourced from Opp Shops (second hand stuff - recycling at it's best!).  Our friend on Raro works with 3 special needs children; and resources in the school are far and few between.  She appreciated our contribution - saying that even the other children in the class benefit from the educational games.   That makes us happy. 
Being a tropical location, everything we needed was economically honed down to fit into a 7kg cabin backpack each.  Several repacking sessions were needed!  But apart from not having any warm clothes for the chilly night-time temperatures (we wouldn't have thought of that even if we had filled the suitcase with our gear, anyway), we had enough clothes and travel essentials for our week of tropical bliss.  That even included our Sunlight soap bar, stretchy home-crafted washing line with hooks, coffee, plunger, salt and powdered milk (no fresh milk available, only tetra-paks of longlife milk).  
Ephemeral art on the beach
I love the golden vanilla sands of Rarotonga - it feels like playing with instant pudding!  I borrowed the resort's rake for some beach play and created patterns on the sand, for fun! Such is the demented folly of a holiday maker with too much time on her hands!

Tropical Vanilla Sands

I loved that the beach in front of the bungalow was deserted.  The "swimming, snorkeling" beaches are cheek-to-jowl with holiday makers, but in our 8 days, we saw 3 beach-goers walk passed.  Yay, for Tropical Sands!

Sand Exfoliation for Feet
The deserted, private beach.
"Our" beach is littered with hundreds and hundreds of pieces of dead sea coral.  Not Dead Sea coral, but sea coral that is dead!  Like bleached bones and fossils, they lie discarded by the sea, some of it piled up in artistic human-designed coves and patterns.  The sizes and patterns of coral range from small and fine, to large and cone-shaped.  I loved to study each piece, marveling in the wonders of our planet!  I will never be one to don a mask and head off into the azure seas to check out the live under-seas world.  Am just not an adventurous water person.  So, I appreciate the beauty of the bleached, beached coral (even though it reminds me of the fragility of nature in the mercy of man's rape-and-pillage policy of living).  

Below, I've taken an exerpt from  to understand how this global disaster is taking place under the sea.

                                  Causes of Coral Reef Degradation
From the International Coral Reef Initiative Report to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development

Man-made Stresses

Natural Stresses
-pressure from population increase (including migration and intensified uses)-Crown of Thorns (Starfish) predator outbreaks
-depletion of fish stocks-tropical storm damage
-destructive fishing methods, such as dynamite blasting and poisons (cyanide)-warmer ocean temperature fluctuations resulting in coral bleaching
-excessive non-point source pollution, e.g. from agricultural runoff and contamination of aquifers-earthquakes
-ship-based pollution; including oil, plastics and bilge water-wave action
-mangrove harvesting or displacement for aqua culture products-flooding
-increased sedimentation as a result of deforestation and poor land use-flooding and surface water run-off
-coral and coral sand mining-Natural Diseases
-unplanned tourism-including inadequate wasted water treatment, unregulated construction, collection of corals and ornamental reef species, spear fishing, etc.
Black-Band Disease
Black-Band Disease

-land based and urban construction activities including dredging, filling, and increased siltation

Below is my Dead Sea Coral Gallery

Volcanic Eruption (upside down coral dome)

The beach is littered with pieces of coral.
The other scary fact about coral on Rarotonga, is that several churches built by the early missionaries, are built out of huge blocks of hewn-off coral!  Not a very sustainable practice, given that it takes a long, long time for coral to be created!  It is thought that coral grows between 0.8 to 80mm per year, though no-one can be sure!!

Frangipani by the Sea.  Behind are these cone-shaped shells which can be found on
Tropical Sands beach, often borrowed by local industrious recyclers, the Hermit Crabs.

In support of coral reefs, let's ditch the chemical-rich sunscreens that are adding to the chemical burden the seas are coping with.  Make your own!  It's the Green thing to do! We took my home-crafted sunscreen and tested it in the tropical sun and it worked very well!  Try this chemical-free sunscreen recipe.  Saves you money, saves the environment and saves you from developing skin cancer from chemical overload!

The surf just out from the reef.

I tend to be this kind of surfer; a good book, some shade and a view to die for!!
Early morning sunshine, coffee on the deck.

Surfing is for the more adventurous souls.

This is more like my surfing spirit!  Embodied by this Island cat!

Waking occasionally to see if lunch is served.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie in Paradise.
A Rotweiler/Alsatian/Daschund cross, big-dog body, little-dog legs!
A crowded, cheek-to-jowl Raro beach at Fruits of Rarotonga!
The eis (garland of flowers) we were greeted with at the airport.
Heady floral delights of Rarotongan gardenia

In love with tropical flowers!
Another little island project we had, was taking the $100 our kindergarten had fund-raised from a hamper of Ceres product, to CICI (Cook Islands Conservation Initiative).  Mike and I contributed another $100 to the good cause - saving turtles!  Amazing what you can do, robbing your weekly groceries bill of $20 for 5 weeks prior to departure.  That would just have been top-of-the-shelf stuff anyhow; chips, chocolate, gourmet cheese etc.  Not healthy stuff, anyway.  Kinda like a 5 week lent.  Lent to the Turtles.  
Cone shells

Local gal in full traditional island performance gear.

I try not to be a snap-happy tourist who takes photos of locals without their consent or approval (though I do get sneaky behind-the-scenes shots).  I know I would hate people snapping my pic as I walk along my street or move around our village.  I would feel like I have been exploited or taken advantage of.  I am also careful of not taking pictures of children without consent of adult around.  For the same reason - thinking first of how one would feel if the shoe was on the other foot (or camera in the other hand)!  You can still get great travel pics this way, with a clear conscience!  When I have asked people in the past, if I could take their photo, I always show them the image (the magic of the digital age) and almost always have had them show an expression of delight!

Interesting island coins.  Currency is NZ dollars.

Island market fare.  Fruit, fruit and more fruit.

Even island birds like to venture onto the beach to munch on coconuts!!
When we travel, we also try to remember to take re-usable shopping bags, it was great to refuse the "bio-degradable" plastic bags (just because they take slightly less time to break down - the earth still has to digest it!!).  We also take a plastic "take-aways" container to use, so we can decline the polystyrene take-away receptacle they offer for the proverbial doggie bag, which we can use over and over again. 

I still think tourist destinations should charge tourists an environmental surcharge fee to deal with all the extra burden we make on infrastructure.  We support the local trade, but never give a thought to the environmental upkeep.  Hmmm, bet most people wouldn't like that!  But we pay an airport duty tax at the airport, for the upkeep of the airport!  Then why not an environment tax to the country of destination, for upkeep of what draws us there in the first place?  Makes you think huh?

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