|Like the other raised
atolls, Mitiaro has a close reef, no large beaches, a ring of
makatea and a centre of more fertile land. At just 250, its
population is one of the smallest in the Cook Islands.
Every island is in some way distinctive, however, and in Mitiaro's
case its singularity lies within the two lakes - Rotonui (Big
Lake) and Rotoiti (Small Lake) - which are a little way inland
on the eastern side of the island. These are the only sizeable
freshwater lakes in the Cook Islands.
The lakes are home to prawns and eels, both a delicacy, but
particularly the eels, which are called itiki. The edges of
the lakes are sedgy and uninviting, the water brown and brackish,
but the eels which are caught in the water are delicious, their
flesh pink and full of flavour.
Itiki is like caviar to the Cook Islanders.
Eels always return
to the sea to spawn, so it can be assumed that the itiki of
Mitiaro find their way to the surrounding sea through subterranean
channels. Not even an eel could negotiate the razor-sharp
rock of the makatea without grievous injury to itself.
Mitiaro eels, like eels everywhere, move in mysterious ways.
But whatever the route they take,
the itiki elvers return eventually to the twin lakes of Mitiaro,
to fatten there and be harvested for consumption.
Two flights per week from Rarotonga and small guest lodges
make visits to Mitiaro possible for tourists.
from the Air