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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)

Time to relax for a couple of days

York, Perth

sunny 34 °C
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From the quaint town of Wagin we got to drive through some more nice undulating fields and hills before reaching York at the banks of Swan River. York had been settled just a few years after Perth and features historical buildings bundled with a small-town ambiance. We had lunch in the park by the river before continuing the last stretch to reach Perth.

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We had booked a campground for five nights in a row. That is rather unusual compared to our normal style of traveling, but after eight weeks of traveling all along the coast of Western Australia, we wanted to have a couple of days to relax. For that reason, we had also booked a very well rated place at Karrinyup Waters Resort and that proved to be an excellent choice. We got a really nice spot right next to the lake and in line of sight to the nearby playground. With all the different birds around – ibis, ducks, black swans, grebes – it felt more like staying in the middle of a big zoo vs. in the Northern suburbs of Perth.

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Over the five days we were there, we enjoyed all features the campground offered. First and foremost, the pool which could have been located in a five-star hotel just as well. But also, the bouncing pillow and the playground were getting all the attention they deserved.
One day we ventured out to take a tour of the Swan Valley. From the small town of Guildford we drove through the vineyards to one of the wineries, the Mandoon Estate which is co-located with the Homestead Craft Brewery. While Max was keen on a serve of French fries, Sam ordered the beer tasting with four different beers and a cider. While I stuck to water being the designated driver for today. I did try a zip of each of Sam’s beers and of the cider and I agreed with Sam that of the four beers we did not like a single one whereas the cider was really nice.

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We did also try the wines at winery. While two of the reds from a vineyard in Margaret River were quite nice, the whites did not meet our taste at all. After all, the Swan River Valley is more known for its scenic location close to Perth than necessarily for the quality of its wines.

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After the more adult oriented activities of the morning, the afternoon was dedicated to giving Max another chance to ride his Star Wars bike before we’d leave it in Western Australia. He enjoyed it a lot and was even lucky to have some older bikers to watch and copy some moves from. And in fact, it was his last real ride. Two days later we sold it to Marie from La Reunion who amused us from there on riding continuous rounds on the bike all over the campground. And knowing that we had already secured a bike for him in New Zealand, Max did not mind.
We were back at the campground just in time for Max to join the kid’s program. After all, he had been looking forward to the water slide all day and was in fact the only kid that had the energy to go on until it closed. The day after, there was bull riding organized for the kids and Max was probably the kid on the campground that went for most rounds.
And we also celebrated my birthday one of these days. I had specifically wanted just to hang out at the campground. It was a great day in fact: good food and lots of talks on the phone with friends and family. Most amusing was the fact that I was told that the new owner of my previous mobile phone number seems to have been swamped with greeting messages. But I hope most people who wanted to get in touch knew how to reach me via email or WhatsApp.
The best birthday present of all - well along with Max' painting of a bald eagle - was getting to do some more travel planning. Having agreed with Sam on a rough cut plan for the last bit of our trip in Asia, I got to research flights and tour options for our time there. And I really enjoy doing that!
Last but not least, we used the days at the campground to get our stuff sorted and the car back into a somewhat clean state. After eight weeks of spreading our things all over, it proved to be a rather tedious task to get everything packed again.
Even though we could have also opted to return our car and then take a flight out of Perth the same day, we rather went for a more relaxed option and spent two more nights in a motel downtown. And once more we were very happy with the service that Drive Beyond offered. We dropped off the car and one of their employees took us for a last ride in our car all the way to our motel in East Perth. After eight weeks of staying exclusively in our roof top tent, we were looking forward to staying in a room with a real bed again for a change.
It was a really hot day in Perth and we opted to rather take a plunge into the pool before hitting the streets and getting a first impression of the city. In the late afternoon, the temperatures were much more bearable and we had a pleasant walk along the Swan River in the last light of the day before returning via the Cathedral.

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Thanks to the little kitchen in our room, we were able to use up some more of our remaining food supplies and then were just looking forward to the soft bed. No wonder that we all slept really long the next morning!
Being very close to the center of town, we were able to take advantage of the free buses in Central Perth. At the square opposite of the railway station the ladies of the local netball pro team ‚West Coast Fever’ were just passing out autographs and we got the chance to talk to a couple of them while Max tried to score some baskets. Not having any clue about netball and its rules, it did help to get the quick summary of the rules. We concluded that it is sort of basketball with less body contact and rather complex rules on which areas each player is allowed to play.

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After another bus ride to the Museum of Western Australia, we were a bit disappointed to see that it is closed for renovation until 2020. At least the public library next door offered a small display to substitute for the children’s discovery center. Max found the exhibits very interesting and also we did find the presentation of the various subjects very entertaining.

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Back in the center of town we had a nice break on the main town square - very quiet and relaxing, as Max headed off into the crowd of other kids to cool off in the water features. Back at the hotel we all got a break from the heat by jumping into the pool.

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That last night, we had finally used up all of our food supplies and after his evening run Sam treated us to excellent Fish and Chips.

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As our flight only left in the late afternoon, we could take our time the next morning to get our bags packed and to check out. We had two more hours in the park next door before our taxi brought us to the airport where we checked in and soon boarded our plane to Sydney.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 16:04 Archived in Australia Tagged birds park bus museum room bed bike winery downtown brewery netball Comments (1)

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