MAU​​​​K​E

Garden of the Islands

Photo: Marcel Teraimana Tua

     277 kms/172 mls East North East of Rarotonga
Access: Flights from Rarotonga
Population: 297    67.1 sq.kms/25.9 sq. ​mls


ABOUT MAUKE
The most easterly of the Cook Islands, Mauke is half the size of Rarotonga in circumfrence (18 kms, 11.25 miles), but it's a world away in landscape and lifestyle. Its central volcanic plateau is surrounded by a ring of jagged, razor-sharp fossilised coral or makatea which reaches up to 1,000 metres inland. But the volcanic origins mean the soil is rich and this is justifiably called the garden of the islands.

GETTING THERE

Mauke is about 45 minutes flying time from Rarotonga. Air Rarotonga have flights on Monday and Friday, at 1330 and 1440. The earlier (1330) flight goes on to Mitiaro before returning to Rarotonga. And there always seem to be plenty of the island's youngsters around to greet the twice weekly flight. Tourism is still in its infancy and accommodation is limited to rooms for just 40 visitors

WHAT TO EXPECT

Plants and flowers seem to be everywhere thriving in the rich soil.  ​The island is divided into four districts - Ngatiarua, Vaimutu, Areora and Makatea - two of which are split into their own sub-districts. But walking or cycling around the island, you'd be hard pressed to work out where one ends and another begins. Wherever you go though, you can expect great warmth and hospitality - 'ui tupuna' as islanders call it

THE STRANGE STORY OF THE DIVIDED CHURCH

The centre of the island is dominated by a large white church with two separate concrete paths and two entrance archways. One is for the village of Ngatiarua and the other for the neighbouring village of Areroa. The two villages got together and agreed on the design and the builder, but the trouble began after the walls were completed

Neither could agree on the design of the interior, with the result that a wall was built across the middle of the church cutting it into two squares. Each village then completed its side to its own design. The pulpit, meanwhile, was placed against the middle wall and the seating.  And to this day it has has a clear line down the middle of its platform and the speaker is expected to have one foot on each side of the line!  But the warfare went on.  When one village worshipped, the other played loud games on the field outside. 

Finally, a new pastor convinced the two villages that they should worship under one roof at the same time. The centre wall came down, but two distinct interior designs remained. One side was white, yellow and red, and the other, pink, yellow and white with white diagrams and circles   

Sadly, this was all painted over in pale blue and white in the 1990s but amazing work by islanders and their families and friends has now restored the church to its former colourful glory as you can see from these pictures.  

A close-up of the colourful pain​twork

The rainbow colours also feature in the stained glass windows

Nine silver coins from Chile are embedded in front of the pulpit. Eight are pesos dated between 1870 and 1881. The ninth is an unidentified "sol". Chilean coins were common currency in the Pacific in the 19th century, but I haven't been able to find out why they were put there in the first place.

A close up of the colourful paintwork

Nine silver coins from Chile are embedded in front of the pulpit. Eight are pesos dated between 1870 and 1881. The ninth is an unidentified "sol". Chilean coins were common currency in the Pacific in the 19th century, but I haven't been able to find out why they were put there in the first place.

The magnificent rainbow colours also feature in the windows

Small Island...BIG tree

Hidden deep in the interior of the island is world's largest banyan tree. It's thought to cover more than a quarter of an acre - some say a full acre - and it's still spreading

A professor from Leeds University in England, who's an expert on the trees, has seen it and he says its the biggest!

MAUKE'S WHALE RIDER LOVE STORY 

High on the cliffs above Araiti Cove, legend says that the beautiful Kea watched while her husband, Paikea fished beyond the reef. Paikea was a great fisherman, but one day as he was about to head for home, he was swept up in a hurricane which carried him out to sea. He ended up alive on Mangaia, but Kea died on the rock. She was convinced her beloved husband was dead and she cried so much for him that she couldn't eat. Maori legend talks of Paikea riding a whale to safety - as in the film "Whale Rider" - but Mauke legend doesn't mention this. Kea's remains were uncovered in 2003 in the same spot where legend says she waited. Her grave is another of Mauke's "hidden secrets" and a sacred site

Find out more about what makes Mauke magical.
Discover underground caves, learn the huge hidden "secret" at the heart of the island, and see where you can stay

Click here to carry on exploring Mauke

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