25.07.2010 - 31.07.2010 35 °C
We stepped off the fully packed Air New Zealand plane, into the brilliant sunshine of Rarotonga with a Kia Orana welcome. Kia Orana means may you live long. Not that there were no clouds. It's just that everything was bright and lucid, but relaxed at the same time. Smiling faces and glowing skin. As we queued up through immigration, I noticed the pretty bright flower the women at the desk wore behind their ears. Apparantly if it is behind the left ear, you are taken and behind the right ear you are available.
It was funny thing, which I cannot really get my head around. Basically travelling around the world we had gradually lost a day somehow and now we had just crossed the dateline so gained back the day.
Standing within the curve of the baggage conveyor, was an elderly guy with a hawaiin flower shirt, garland of flowers around his weaved hat, big glasses, singing and playing the ukele. Absolutely brilliant !
90% of the tourists were kiwis or ozzies. And I would say a good 65% seemed to be very chatty OAPs ! The rest were couples around our age and 90% of them were honeymooners. We stayed in a mid-range resort called Edgewater Resort. Not our usual thing, so we didn't know what to expect. It was not a cool place but a very comfortable place and we had a great view of the sea through the gardens, and got 6 nights for the price of 4. Because of the gained day and generally lethargy we got all confused about whether we needed to extended for another night.
The first couple of days, we just adjusted to island life with a little bit of snorkelling close to the hotel. We dragged our lazy feet up the palm lined, black lava stone crested white sandy beaches. Clams with gaping mouths set in lava for eternity. Seashell cornets housing hermits scrambling around under your feet. The only disconcerting element were the stray dobermen crosses. Growing up in the 80s, watching programs like Magnum, I have always been scared to death of dobermens. They were always the guard dog with super sharp teeth practically frothing at the mouth at the sight of anyone but their owner. However this doberman just trotted over to me and started to gently lick my hand with a smile. Just such an adorable friendly dog. She followed us for a good half a mile, pushing her head under our hands for a pat or cuddle, even jumping into the sea with us.
The surf crashed onto the reef edge, 200 metres away from the main beach. The sea was quite refreshingly cold in the blistering heat, and visibility through our snorkelling goggles near the hotel was pretty cloudy; but a little further out, we saw In the coral reefs, saw electric blue star fish, tonnes of black and brown sea cucumbers, moray eels, long thin white fish with big eyes which stopped to look back at me, shoals of multicoloured parrot fish.
Over the 5 days in the Cook Islands, I would say, we didn't do much at all. Our routine was get up wash etc, go for the huge buffet breakfast, get our things, wait for the hourly hop on hop off bus, find a spot to get off and go snorkelling, then get the bus again to go into town and get something to eat, then stroll around, may be read, go back to the hotel for a rest, watch a silly movie in the room and repeat all in the evening.
It was relaxing and just what we needed.... and yes..... there were times when we were bored. What a great feeling.
A few highlights :
Walk Across the Island - We did an 8km walk over the hill through the forest from one side of the island to the other. Actually we did it the wrong way round as recommended by the book and then got totally lost and walked around the hill high up off-piste scaled some boulders and back down again waded through slippery streams and muddy paths for 4hrs. It was a pretty cool adventure.
Trader Jack's - amazing restaurant we frequented. Totally recommend the fish tacos and dukka sauce on parrot fish.
Local Dance Show - our hotel had quite a good one, and some teams for a competition were staying at the hotel, so we watched them practice.
Aitutaki Day Trip - Unbelievably amazing.
It is not an ambition of mine to find paradise, probably because I have always been suspicious of the word. Many years ago, my cousins lived in the Seychelles and I spent a few weeks dossing around there. It was beautiful for sure and what I thought was 'Paradise'.
Aitutaki took the word 'Paradise' to a whole new level.
We had bought a day trip with Air Rarotonga, which was not cheap : $429 per person. At 7.15am, they picked us for the short 45minute flight. Aitutaki airport was literally a hut. We were picked up to be taken to the second highest point on the island. In February a cyclone had ripped up – news story"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTS2Wmq2iRU".
The driver pointed out to some islets on the horizon and said "When we locals get stressed the whole family take a boat and stay on one of those for the weekend, with some tents and supplies", a kiwi from our hotel asked "What do you guys get stressed about ?", he answered "When things get too boring".
He then drove us to the jetty, where there was a catamaran called "Land Luvas" waiting for us. We looked onto the beach, and the neighbouring islands. It was stunning. Crystal clear waters in between all the islands, just lagoon after lagoon. The weather was just perfect. We stood up top for most of the time. Down on the lower deck, the boat driver was playing the guitar and telling cultural stories. I didn't really listen.
We first went to a lagoon for a swim. We had a little walk around the islet and then got back on the boat towards honeymoon island. A spectacular peice of beach with only the 10 other tourists on our boat. It allowed us to wade knee deep through the water for about 300 metres over some sand banks to one-foot island. It was just beautiful.
The crew caught some fish and barbequed it up for us with an array of salads and grilled veggies.
We could see that the unspoilt waters teamed seacreatures. The water was flowing down, so we walked up to the north of the island and tiptoed around the sea slugs washed up on the beach and jumped in to snorkle. All this crytal clear water snorkelling, led to Julian burning the top of his feet so he had to sleep with wet towels on his steaming feet but he did not complain one bit. Aitutaki was literally the most beautiful place we had ever been.
I can't even describe it because it was too amazing.
We were transported back to the airport all content around 4.30 and back in Rarotonga airport around 5. As we sat in the mini bus back to the hotel, reflecting on the lovely day, just when we thought our day could not get better, a humpbacked whale jumped out of the sea and then from under the sea started to spurt out water like a ghyzer.
All in all, Rarotonga was fabulous - in a very very relaxed way.
At Raro airport, while waiting for the flight to Tahiti, the ukelele man started to set up - the same guy we saw as we came into this wonderful island. He clocked me looking at him and walked over and sat next to me and started telling me his life story. He was so open and frank and rather blunt. It turned out he was born and bred in Rarotonga but was an MBE. He had travelled a bit as a rugby player and he used to be an airport security guard and had met the queen when she came to open the new airport at Rarotonga in 1976. He also mentionned that never trust anyone from Solomon Islands. He mentionned that there were lots of types of christianity on the island though a few years ago these religious paradigms had been reduced to 4. He pointed out trouble-makers on the island and generally gossipped about his life and people.
As we steped out onto the tarmac, he gave me a huge wave from this stage.