Spanish Virgins Islands- January 8th, 2016

The Spanish Virgins Islands:

Culebrita, Culebra, Tamarindo, Louis de Pena, and Soldado.

Written By Ioannis Pashakis

The second day at sea on the research boat started early with the boat docked at Puerto Manglar, Culebra. Guides and interns alike took a morning snorkel in waters quite different from what they are going to see for the rest of the trip. We took our dingy from the sail boat to an island surrounded by mangrove trees. Snorkeling close to the mangroves proved difficult. With the water shallow at the roots of the mangroves, the team snorkeled in water less than three feet deep. It was successful however when we had emerged back into open water to see a stingray, sea anemones and jellyfish.

Boarding back on the sail boat, the ship made its way to Bahia de Soldado in Culebra and the three groups of interns steeled themselves for a full day of research.  Joey, Courtney and Eric, the interns mapping out trails in GIS, planned to hike trails to Flamenco beach. Emily and Chloe are studying marine life and sailed with guides Kyle and Caylan to prime snorkeling spots. Emily however, feeling sea sickness from the long journey, joined Yanni, Molly and their guide Stefanie in exploring Dewey: the only town in Culebra. 

The interns hiking the trails of Culebra stumbled upon a murky lagoon covered in a dense forest of trees and learned that the orange tags along certain trails were warnings of unexploded ordinances from Culebra’s past as a Navy base, beyond the trail.

Emily, Stefanie, Molly and Yanni talked up the locals in Dewey, finding a place to eat and a delicious candy shop on the way. The French-Canadian couple who own Sweet and Naughty will satisfy your sweet tooth. “It’s a Regional concept with fresh baked donuts,” says Simon, co-owner. Their best dessert is the light, coconut and banana filled “monkey balls.”

Chloe, the only intern studying marine life for the day, sailed along with Kyle and Caylan from Bahia de Soldado, to the south side of Tamarindo point. “It’s the best snorkeling in the Spanish Virgin Islands,” said Kyle. “But make sure you know it is a nude beach.” 

While snorkeling, Chloe found that there was coral restoration underway in Bahia de Soldado. Although there was restoration underway in Bahio de Soldado and the hard coral showed evidence of bleaching, the snorkelers found plenty of vibrant sea life elsewhere. “It was really sick to see soft coral and it was vibrant and healthy,” said Chloe.

From Tamarindo point, the ship sailed completely around Cayo de Luis Penak, an island off the coast of Culebra, to the northern bay of Tamarindo point, then sailed to Dewey to pick up Emily, Yanni, Molly and Stefanie, and finally tied to a mooring ball for the night at Bahio de Soldado. 

Rarotonga- Ariki Day

Ariki Day

By: Lauren M. 

Ariki Day is finally here! We are heading into Avarua around 9am to join the festivities. Jake and Chris had an earlier start to the day because they went scuba diving! Some other members of the adventure squad left Ariki Day early because they had snorkeling appointments.

From what they tell me the snorkeling was amazing! Everyone that went saw a lot of cool fish. They also swam with sea turtles and far below them were small sharks. Swimming with turtles and sharks, an amazing adventure, and one you can find with Global Treks and Adventures.

Ariki Day was also an interesting adventure for those of us who stayed for the entire thing. The ceremony started at 9am and we all hurried into the auditorium to watch the ceremony commence. The majority of the ceremony was spoken in Maori, so we could not understand, but nonetheless it was a cool to experience authentic local culture. 

After the ceremony there was food and entertainment. There was not enough food for everyone, but the six of us left managed to snag two baskets with the help of a local woman who insisted that we try the food. She was in front of us in line and when she saw the food was running out she quickly rushed us forward saying we could not miss out! This is not the first time our team has experienced this type of compassion from the locals, and I assure you all reading, it will not be the last.

The baskets were filled with chicken, pork, and potatoes. It was amazing! The woman who helped us get the food sat down with us and we had a nice conversation with her.

After our Ariki Day, snorkeling, and scuba diving adventures, we all met back at the house and had a few moments to relax before dinner. Some of us went to the beach, others played pool, and even more of us worked on developing our outlines, which are due tonight.

The same routine followed: with dinner, and eating out under the stars. We always have great conversations no matter what. We have gotten into some serious debates, but they always end in compromise and understanding. 

Tomorrow is our last day. Some of us are staying a little later on the Island, but for most of us, our flight leaves at 11pm. All in all, this was an amazing adventure. We developed long lasting relationships with people who live on the Island. We made memories that will live on forever. But most importantly, we connected with each other and now have friendships with people we never would have met but not for this trip. I believe this is the most valuable thing gained from this trip. Of course we all have amazing resume boosters, and our research will be published. But the friendship, the laughs, the inside jokes, and the conversations these are all priceless. These are what make the trip worth it.

On behalf of the entire Rarotonga team, we would all like to thank our four incredible guides! Jen, Kyle, Steph, and Brett, without you four, this trip would not have been possible, and we all never would have met to experience such a remarkable adventure together. Again, thank you, or as the Cook Islanders would say Meitaki!


Rarotonga- Culture, Culture, and more Culture

Culture, Culture, and more Culture

By: Lauren M.

The first half of today was the same old, same old: research and great conversations with locals. We know our way around town pretty well now, which is nice. We also did some last minute souvenir shopping because the shops will not be open tomorrow because of Ariki Day.

We partnered up and went off and did our own thing, and then met back for check in at 1pm. After check in some of us went to the beach and others hung out at the house. Once we all reconvened, the event of the day began! We piled up in the van and headed down to the Cultural Center. 

You are not going to believe me when I tell you, maybe you are because it happens all the time, but we met a grey dog while waiting for the tour to start. We have to stick with tradition, of course, and dubbed the dog street dog.

The tour was amazing! I feel like I have been using the word “amazing” too much, but truly everything on this island is an experience none of us have had before. We were directed into different huts throughout the makeshift village they built for the tour. The first stop a man told us about a sacred spot called marae where the Chiefs of the Island met. The second stop a woman gave us some background on how the Islands came to be called the Cook Islands. She also gave us a sneak peak at some of the weapons the Islands ancestors used before and after the Mercenaries came. 

Something I think is important to make clear, and something us adventurers were even corrected on, the Mercenaries came to the Cook Islands to convert the local people into Christians. Our first thought was that they invaded, but in actuality when they came all the Islands were at war and when Christianity became the main religion, peace was brought throughout the many Islands.

The third stop was a fun stop. The man told us about the different types of oysters and fishing tools, but it was his energy that brought the information to life. He was funny and enthusiastic about what he was teaching us, not that everyone else was dull, but you could tell this man was having fun. Which made learning what he was teaching us all the more valuable. 

The fourth stop, and here I would like to give another shout out to adventurer Melissa, involved teaching us about the different materials to weave baskets, clothes, and traditional costumes. A shout out goes to Melissa because she happily volunteered to try on a grass skirt and coconut bra to model for us. There may have also been dancing, what am I kidding, there is always dancing!

Our fifth and final stop consisted of many things because it brought the close to our tour. We were fortunate enough to watch a local man open up a coconut with a sharp stick, and an added bonus because he climbed a coconut tree all the way to the top!

Once the tour came to a close, we hustled back to the van, ready to go home and eat dinner. Jake, Sabrina, Jamie, Brett, and I stayed behind because we wanted to check out the Night Market. We happily ordered some food, and listened to the live music, before heading back to the house to meet everyone else for dinner.

Tomorrow is the long awaited Ariki Day! Most of us will attend because tomorrow morning a couple of our adventurers are going scuba diving for the first time, and even more adventurers are going snorkeling! I will keep you all posted on their adventures in tomorrow’s post, but for now enjoy the pictures taken by Jamie while we were waiting for the cultural tour to begin.


Rarotonga- Kia Orana

Kia Orana

By: Lauren M. 

Our native friend Pa led the medicinal herb hike this morning. He was an eccentric man that was full of life! At age 77, he is still built to last 150 years. He told the hikers stories about his life and he filled the group with laughter. One of the stories was about how he has climbed every peak on the mountain. Another was about how Hilary Clinton came to visit him to do a nature hike and at the end she gave him $200, which he still has in his fanny pack today.

While some adventurers were hiking, others were off preparing a pig with a local named Apii. They rubbed sand on the pig, and then they put it in boiling water, all to get the pig’s hair off. Any remaining hair was shaved off with small razors. Once all the hair was removed, Apii cut the pig open and removed all the insides. The pig was then hung by a rope and washed, and prepped to be put in the oven. An added bonus of this adventure was that adventurer Melissa Geisel helped Apii and his family identify some rocks that they had had in their family for many generations!

The rest of the adventure family was back out in Avarua to explore and do more research. We leave in a few days and we have to buckle down and get work done. But I am not going to lie; it is difficult when the ocean and the sun are calling you to relax on the beach.

At this point we have all settled in and look forward to our family dinners out on the patio while the sunsets. Tonight we had burgers! Augie and I were lucky enough to snag the two Juicy Lucy burgers.

The night ended the way it normally does. Our daily meetings to talk about what we accomplished and next steps, followed by playing pool in the game room or cards in the living room. There is also a theater connected to the game room, and some of us hung out in there to watch a movie.

Tomorrow it is back to Avarua for us because tomorrow will be the last day we can do extensive research. Everything is closed this Friday because it is Ariki Day on the Island! Ariki Day is a celebration of the Cook Islands where all the Paramount Chiefs of the Island come together to celebrate their fellow brothers and sisters. There is a ceremony, dancing, music, and food!

After Avarua we are going on a Cultural Tour of the Island! Everyone is excited to go, hoping this adventure will open up new avenues for our research! 

Meet the Family

Melissa Geisel. Geology Field Team Intern. She is studying the geology of Rarotonga, how the Island formed, what processes have altered the Island, and what is present today.

Rarotonga- The Drought

The Drought

By: Lauren M. 

Today’s hike was breath taking! We climbed to the top of one of the peaks on the island, and, well…WOW. The view was incredible, just look at these pictures:

We sat atop the peak for about a half hour and joked about how we wished we could have a one room hut up there so when we woke up in the morning we would always see that amazing view. As we ventured down, we followed the stream and came to a waterfall. It is dry season here, so the waterfall was not actually falling, but at the water hole we met Water Dog! He followed us for about a mile until we reached the van that would take us to the rest of the team. We have an affinity for stray dogs and I do not think anyone is mad about it.

On the hike as well, Allen Padgett was able to collect a wealth of plant pictures that will benefit him in his research.

The snorkeling was an adventure as well. Adventurer Jason Scoggins snorkeled for the first time, which was fortunate because he was not feeling well for the better part of today. When we got to the beach we met Sun Dog. I think we are all starting to see a pattern here. The water is crystal clear and there were all different kinds off fish. We should be doing the same snorkel tomorrow!

I learned that while some of us were hiking, Adventurers Sabrina Alvarez, Jamie Rule, Kelsey Ribordy, and Talia Weiss meet a lovely lady who worked in the archives. This lady’s name is April, born in the month of April, and the four adventurers had an amazing conversation with her. As Kelsey reports, they learned useful life advice. It is these kind of connections that make this trip magical. 

If you liked April’s story, let me tell you about another! Andy and Jake went on quite the adventure today. When the two made it to the island, the taxi driver that took them to our home base gave them his number in case they ever wanted to meet up again. Today Andy and Jake spent the entire day with him, cutting open coconuts, making coconut oil, and eating fresh fish. They are going back tomorrow, possibly to partake in a pig roast. Ah what a day!

Our cultural engagement for the evening was a drum and dance lesson where was got to learn some cultural drum beats and dance moves. We competed to see who was the best dancer and then split up into groups and competed to see which group had the best rhythm. It was an amazing time and at the end the floor opened up so we could ask our native teachers about their time on the island.

Dinner was the next thing on the agenda and let me just say this…Taco Tuesday! Yum! And lurking in the refrigerator was two special treats for the birthday boy Andy! He turned twenty-one today and we celebrated by having chocolate and carrot cake. We sang, we laughed, and we indulged ourselves with cake. It was really nice for all of us to have the chance to spend today with him.

Tomorrow some of us are partaking in a Medicinal Herb Hike and others are heading to the library for more research related adventures. We are halfway through our week, but there will be many more opportunities for adventures I assure you. 

Meet the Family

Allen Padgett. Biological Field Intern. He is studying the plants and birds of the island and he will be taking photographs for identification purposes. He is also writing a physical/cultural feature/description of the organisms.

Jason Scoggins. Culture Field Guide Intern. He is studying the economy of the island with a focus on the large impact of tourism.

Sabrina Alvarez. Anthropology Intern. She is studying every day life on the island as well as how tradition and Māori culture plays into everyday activities.

Kelsey Ribordy. Anthropology/Cultural Intern. She is creating insight on Rarotonga Māori legends, language, and tradition. She is also documenting the experience and culture of the island in photography and video. 

Rarotonga- Goodnight Ocean

Goodnight Ocean

By: Lauren M. 

Today was busy! But in the fun way where you go to bed exhausted with a smile on your face. Our first stop was at the Cook Island Marine Park. We met with Kevin Iro who founded the Park and started the sustainability movement on the Island. Yes, to all you Rugby fans out there. The Kevin Iro of the All Blacks Rugby Team. We sat down in front of computers and listened to Kevin discuss the efforts Rarotonga is undertaking to conserve the marina around the island. We took notes and asked questions, as studious adventurers should.

Our second stop was at the Whale and Wildlife Center, and this adventure has been dubbed the highlight of the day. Sheryl gave us an in depth tour off all the different things at the center. We held whalebones and sperm. Believe it or not, whale calves bones are very light. The ones we were holding were about the weight of an unused sponge, as opposed to the adult whale bones, which were as heavy as rocks.

But why was the Whale Center the highlight of our day? Because of two adventurers, one of which you have already met. Adventurer Jamie Rule read to us the book Goodnight Ocean, while Chris acted out the book with toy marine animals. They found the book and the toys in the free-for-all toys for children at the café connected to the Center. Yes my friends, she read, he acted, out in public and it was amazing. This is what it is like to be a Global Treks and Adventures family member. We learn a lot, but we also create memories worth keeping.

What else can I say about this day? We spent the rest of the day in Avarua, some of the places we wished to venture were closed, but regardless we made the best of it. Back at home base we had burgers for dinner, played more card games, and had our daily family meeting of what we would try to accomplish the next day. The perfect balance of work and play was today.

Many of us live in the city, or in other places where there is a lot of light pollution, but today we are in a place were light pollution is minimal and seeing the stars is beyond possible. We all huddled outside to look up at the Milky Way shinning bright in the sky. We also saw the Southern Cross. A view like this is certainly something I have never experienced before, and it is absolutely breathtaking. We turned off all the lights in the house to get a better view of the world around us.

Lastly, I am sorry to report that Rain Dog is no longer with us; I understand he was a fan favorite, but sometimes-unforeseeable things happen. Don’t worry she did not die! The pool maintenance people chased her off and we saw her chasing the goats this morning.

Tomorrow the field research team is off on a cross-island hike while the rest of the adventure family will snorkel and peruse the library for useful information on their specific research topics. I will keep you posted with another post about tomorrow because I can guarantee it is going to be a blast!

Meet The Family

 Jamie Rule. Anthropology Intern. She is studying art history, focusing on Māori traditional art. She is also taking photos and seeing how traditions carry into modern art.

Talia Weiss. Cultural/Archaeological Site Guide and Maori Tattoo Culture. She is studying the history, culture, and importance surrounding Maori tattoos. She will also create a guide to the archaeological sites and sites of cultural significance around the island.

Ben Waranowski. Geography/GIS Intern. He is studying the geographic history, climate, and current geography of Rarotonga. He is also producing maps of Raro for various categories of study in the field guide.

A Rarotonga Expedition Begins: Rain Dog

Welcome to the Global Treks Rarotonga Expedition! The majestic mountain-covered island in the South Pacific where insect-eating geckos climb on the walls, crystal clear waters align the island's main road, roosters say hello in the morning, dogs happily accompany you on your way home from the beach, and most importantly, you eat dinner and make friends with your Rarotongan Adventure Family.

Today, those of us researchers who arrived early had the first half of the day to ourselves as we eagerly awaited the rest of the adventure team's arrival. A couple of us went to the gym, some of us relaxed at home, and the rest of us went to the beach.

At the beach researchers Kayalin, Chris, Augie, Jake, Camila, Andrew, and I went snorkeling. We had great conversation, laughed, lost Andrew’s Frisbee, and brought home Rain Dog. Rain Dog is a cute light-brown pup that suddenly appeared on the beach to say hello and hang out. By “cute” I mean she dug a hole in the sand and seemed to enjoy repeatedly rolling around in it. When we left the beach she followed us back home. At first we did not think anything of it, but little did we know that we were not allowed to encourage animals to come onto the property. Which makes sense, because by the time the entire team went to bed she was still laying outside against one of the doors waiting to play.

While waiting the final hour before the rest of the team arrived, we hung out by the pool for a bit. Rain Dog wanted to join us, but she was too dirty to allow in for a swim. Instead, she wagged her tail the whole time at the gate. After some lunch, we played the card game Jess, named after adventurer Jessica M. It is a fun game with no name, and therefore is named after the person who teaches it to you.

Then, the hour arrived and the Research Team was officially complete! Once they settled in, the work began, but I assure you there is still more fun to be had. The adventure guides introduced us to the island giving us pointers for what we should do while we were out exploring, and gave us a brief orientation about the job we are to do while we are here. There are two teams: the field guide team and the cultural guide team. All of us will be working separately on the jobs that we were tasked with, but because of the wealth of knowledge and the growth that comes along with collaboration, we will also be helping each other out along the way any time we can. We are a family after all.

Tomorrow we will trek off to the Cook Islands Marine Park and the Whale and Wildlife Center. There are many adventures to be had on this trip and today is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more updates on this wild ride!

Blog submitted June 26, 2016 by Lauren Murphy (Team Rarotonga)