This island is VERY different from Rarotonga and Aitutaki: here, we finally had that feeling of really being on a remote Pacific Island and not just another tourist destination. On a speck of land, 27 square kilometers in size, in the middle of the Pacific with 630 inhabitants, we are among the seven tourists presently on the island! According to our host, more than in the past few months which had been very quiet, with almost no tourists coming to Atiu.
Together with Thomas, a young man from Munich, we shared the pleasant facilities of Are Manuiri, a guesthouse in the center of the main village. We occupied two of the three bedrooms, a communal kitchen and a living room with a porch onto the main road. And we loved it! Within one afternoon, two cars passed and all the children walking home on their way from school dropped by to say hello.
On our first evening in one to the two restaurants on the island, the Terangi-Nui Café and Craft, we had the privilege to witness a very unusual event. In the midst of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, a couple was celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary, all adorned in colorful “ei”. We later were told by our hostess that they have 12 (!!!) Children, but most had moved away to New Zealand, as so many islanders do.
All the adults gave speeches after the big meal; the celebrating couple was presented what seemed to be a gift by each speaker, a little “something” in an airmail envelope. Most amazing was the behavior of the 12 children seated on their own table: their manners were impeccable – no shoving, no fighting over this and that.
After the party had left, the owner of the restaurant told us her family story. Her German great-grand father shipwrecked in French Polynesia and stayed after he married a local woman. She proudly showed us a sketch of Henry Wichmann, her grand father. Next year the whole clan, about 600 people, including the branch still living French Polynesia, will met in Rarotonga.