A Travellerspoint blog

Cook Islands

Kia Orana / Hello Cook Islands

Tupapa, Rarotonga

sunny 26 °C
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Even though we had left French Polynesia, we had another two and a half hours to enjoy Air Tahiti’s service – together with about thirty other passengers of which at least 50% seemed to be German speaking.

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Contrary to previous flights with Air Tahiti of which the longest had been just 35min, this time Sam was lucky: he asked if he could go to the cockpit during the flight and the pilot gave his ok. Once Sam had gotten all his questions about the planes, pilot education and risky situations answered, he left and Max and I were allowed in the cockpit to have a peek as well. Really nice!

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We had already seen a couple of other islands of the southern group of the Cook Islands before finally descending into the main island of Rarotonga. At the airport, we were greeted by nice ukulele music. Immigration was fairly easy and customs clearance more straight forward than expected.

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To get to our accommodation, we had planned to just take the clockwise island bus. As we mentally prepared ourselves for a 40min wait, suddenly a lady stopped next to us and asked us if we needed any help. We explained that we waited for the bus and where we wanted to go and miraculously she offered to give us a lift. Once we were in the car with Angela, we realized that she lived west of the airport and we had to go about 7km east. Out of pure kindness she took such a detour. We were amazed – what a lovely welcome to the Cook Islands. And we were thrilled: being in the Commonwealth, English would be sufficient again to get around easily.

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Kylie, the manager of the ‘Ariana Bungalows’ welcomed us, showed us our new home for the next five nights, the pool and the games room. And she had lots of advice for us on what to do and plan for the next days.

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Max was quite tired, so Sam headed off on his own to go shopping and soon enough returned stocked with typical NZ / Australian food and beer. It is fun seeing how easily the connection to the mother country can be detected, not only via the food. Just like in New Zealand, traffic on the Cook Islands is on the left side of the road. And already when we arrived in our bungalow, we had noticed one more thing that is hard to find outside of Commonwealth countries, the typical English faucets: one for hot and one for cold water. To wash your face with warm water, you need to fill the sink with the provided plug.
The next day we took it easy and spent the day on the terrace of our bungalow and in the tropical garden with its pool.

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Kylie’s husband Marshall husked a couple of green coconuts for us and we enjoyed the light coconut water and their soft flesh. For tea time, we had banana bread to go with our black tea / hot chocolate. A good start into our stay at the Cook Islands.

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The next day we took the bus into Avarua to visit the Saturday market. It was a fabulous place for people watching, for eating at the various food stalls, and for shopping of souvenirs as well as fresh produce.

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We even got treated to a typical Polynesian drum and dance performance. It was fun seeing the girls perform their dances so proudly. And the sound of the drums was the perfect way to get accustomed to the local music.

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As we were in town already, we used the opportunity to get a couple of other things done before taking the clockwise bus back home. Given the nice weather and bright sunshine, the pool was the perfect place to be for the remainder of the day. The only interruption was for tea time and eventually for getting the ‘barbie’ / BBQ ready for dinner.

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The next day, we took a hike to one of the most important marae / temples on the island. From there we continued a hike up the ‘Ikurangi mountain. It had been clear from the start that we would not make the 4-5 hour round trip up to the top, so we did not feel bad about turning around eventually and heading home and taking a plunge in the pool.

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Sam did make a serious attempt to hike the ‘Ikurangi alone the following day. This time he was fully equipped with proper hiking gear. Even though, the route proved to be extremely tough and though thickets of fern and other plants. It did not seem that lots of people are hiking there. While he was able to find the way up, eventually he decided to turn around anyhow: it just seemed a bit too risky to balance along a slippery ledge with significant drops on both sides and no one around to get help in case needed. Still, he liked the hike, the jungle feeling along the way and the beautiful views from the mountain.

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The other nice thing about our hikes were the insights in local life. Seeing the houses along the way, very often with attached decorated grave houses (which seem to be preferred over regular graveyards), the chicken, pigs and dogs and the local fruit trees.

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While we spent the last couple of days a bit of time with writing blog entries and editing photos, we don’t have internet, so we cannot upload anything. That left us with lots of time to read (‘Flight of the intruder’ for Sam and ‘The King’s speech’ for me) and to play Monopoly in the NZ version we found in the game room. Island life as it should be!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:19 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged temple bus mountain market pool hike chicken coconut bungalow Comments (2)

The friendly Cook Islanders

Arorangi, Rarotonga

overcast 29 °C
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It was time to pack again. After five nights in the north-east of Rarotonga, we had booked another place for the rest of our stay at the west coast. It proved to be a bit challenging to take the public bus with all of our stuff – three big pieces of luggage, three smaller backpacks and a car seat. One thing is clear: should we spend some time doing proper backpacking towards the end of our trip vs. doing road trips in a vehicle, we’d need to significantly size down our baggage.
The bus trip itself was enjoyable and we got to see some parts of the island we had not seen before. The Tree House B&B with its big garden. proved to be lovely as well. Nestled between enormous tropical trees, we now have a place for our own just two minutes from the beach.
And the beach is where we went. We were almost blinded by the white sand and it did not help that we had left our sunglasses at home. We had a long stretch of beach for ourselves and were happy not to stay at one of two rather large resort hotels to the north and south. This was even more true at sunset, when seeing a number of rather drunk presumably Australian and Kiwi tourists on the beach displaying lots of sun-burnt skin.

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When going into town the next day waiting for the bus, we were lucky to be taken by a German / Dutch couple who emigrated to the Cook Islands. We love the kindness of the locals here! And we also loved the conversations we had with them about vacation destinations in South East Asia specifically Vietnam and Laos.
They dropped us at the harbour where we wanted to get burgers from the local favorite ‘Palace Burgers’. Our disappointment was sizable when we were told that we’d need to wait for about 1.5 hours to get our burgers. After all, it was happy hour with all burgers just costing 3.5 NZ$ - a real bargain considering the otherwise high prices – and consequently they had huge orders in line to be prepared. So, we ordered anyhow and took a stroll in the meantime.
Passing by the end of the marina basin, we passed a small cemetery and then watched a couple of young men doing somersaults and other fun jumps into the water – visibly having lots of fun. When Sam asked if they’d let him take a couple of pictures, he was told off by a bystander. He explained that the men were actually inmates of the local prison. They seemed to be treated nicely and to have fun - better than in many other countries!

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It was worth waiting for the burgers, they tasted really well. With the wait, we ended up just missing the anti-clockwise bus. Hoping for the kindness of the islanders, we just positioned ourselves along the road. And once more, we were more than overwhelmed: already the first car passing us, stopped and asked where we needed to go. And despite the fact that it was a detour for them, they dropped us at our place.
Why? Well, they saw that we had Max with us and having kids themselves, they just stopped and took us. And once more we had lovely conversations: about her home in Aitutaki, about his home Island of Samoa, her brother living in Dresden, their life now in Australia, etc... We just enjoyed and were amazed. Just imagine the average German or Austrian stopping when seeing a foreign looking family standing next to the road. We could probably learn our share of kindness and hospitality from the Polynesians.
Still, as nice as it is here, there at least one thing is rather frustrating: getting an internet connection without paying a huge price tag is nearly impossible. That’s when you realize in retrospect how good of an internet connection we had on all of the French Polynesian islands. Or how cheap it is in Germany to get a flat rate for data volume.
For Thursday, there was no plan at all. Well, breakfast, some snorkeling at the beach just in front of our house. Due to the heavy clouds, the colors did not come out very nicely, but in return we got rewarded with seeing lots of fish, nice purple starfish and some pink sea urchins.

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A nice and relaxing day and also a calm evening, watching a movie and playing a couple of rounds of dice.
That Friday we wanted to go and see Day 2 of the ‘Sevens in Heaven’ rugby tournament. Already the second car which passed, stopped for us. Marny, a kind lady from Papua New Guinea and former physiotherapist of one of the rugby teams, takes us right to the stadium – even though it’s a detour for her. And talking about PNG, she says that people would not nearly be as welcoming there. According to her, there people would rather take blonde ones like us for ransom. Having just watched the kidnapping drama ‘Proof of Life’, this does put a significant damper on our enthusiasm for PNG, even though Marny confirms that the forests are purely wonderful there.
At the rugby tournament, we found ourselves in the middle of a crowd of locals who mostly seem to have one team they are cheering for.

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We cheered for all teams and had to focus anyhow first on more or less understanding the rules. We soon realized how quickly the game is happening. Much faster than American football and much more exciting with lots more action and touchdowns vs. soccer.

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After five men’s matches, it was the ladies’ turn. And wow – that was pure excitement, even more fun than the matches before and an atmosphere at the boiling point.

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But even better than the rugby itself was the fantastic atmosphere amidst the locals. We simply enjoyed being there and seeing the people around us.

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Once the men took over again, it started raining heavily and we were happy that the stands were covered such that we were protected. But once the heavy rain subsided and it was merely trickling anymore, we left to go home. The only bus that passed us would have gone to our place, but only after circling the island clockwise. We decided to rather take our bets at hitchhiking and after about five minutes a lady from Fiji took us home. As usual, the seat belts were nowhere to be found and she had her two-year-old daughter jumping around on the passenger seat. Yes, the maximum speed limit on the island is 50 km/h, but even at those relatively low speeds, this seemed just a bit too relaxed and rather dangerous. We’d probably need to spend years on a small island and would still not feel comfortable running these kinds of risks.
The next day marked already our last day on the Cook Islands. We spent the day snorkeling and at the beach. While we were sitting there, we were contemplating about the South Pacific and when we’ll be back. Most likely that will not happen too soon. After all, from Europe the South Pacific is just so far away and the long flights and the twelve-hour jet-lag make it really hard to reach for just a ‘normal’ three-week vacation. So except if we opt to stop once more in the South Pacific on our way home from this round the world trip, it will be a while. And in case we really would like to experience island life, there are so many other islands we have not seen that are much more accessible and while different, hopefully also nice – no matter if in the Caribbean, Seychelles, Maldives, Thailand or Philippines.

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In the evening, we tried to get a bit of sleep before heading off in the middle of the night towards the airport. After five weeks of island life, we were just looking forward to the empty spaces and distances of Western Australia.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:52 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged beach house harbor snorkel rugby internet burger Comments (2)

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