This wasn’t on my original itinerary but I figured that whilst I’m in this part of the world, I might as well go and see another Pacific Island.
Rarotonga is the main island in the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands are a self-governing part of New Zealand, and a 3-and-a-half-to-4-hour flight from Auckland. The Cook Islands are also across the date line from New Zealand, so despite leaving Auckland on Monday morning, I arrived in Rarotonga on Sunday afternoon.
I had booked into a self catering bungalow about a kilometre outside of Muri, on the east side of the island. A nice change from dorm shares.
As I arrived late afternoon, I went to the local shop for a few essential supplies (wine, cheese, crisps), and then went to Muri, to the local night market for food. The night market is on 4 days a week, and has lots of different food stalls selling hot meals. That was dinner sorted for several evenings!
The next day I went and sat on the beach at Muri lagoon. Rarotonga is surrounded by a reef, and so a lot of the shore line is dangerous for swimming. The lagoon, however, is sheltered and perfect for swimming, snorkelling, paddle boarding, and kayaking.
I spent most days at the lagoon, chilling out on the beach. I’m not normally one for sitting on a beach all day, especially not in the last few years, and I didn’t have enough to keep me entertained on the first day. But I sorted myself out on the second day and took books, magazines, earphones and a crossword book which kept me entertained on the other days.
On the third evening in Rarotonga, I went to an ‘Island Night’ at Te Vara Nui. This is like a Cook Islands ‘village experience’. We had a 2 hour tour of the ‘village’ (several huts each with different themes) and learnt about the history of the Cook Islands, how it relates to the New Zealand Maori, about traditional foods and medicines, and traditional methods of fishing. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences to both New Zealand, and to Fiji as another Pacific Island.
After the tour, we had a buffet of both traditional Cook Islands food, and western food. I wasn’t keen on the paw paw salad, but everything else was nice, including spinach in coconut cream which I’d also enjoyed in Fiji.
After the food, it was time for the show. This was quite similar to shows I’d seen in Fiji, with dancing and more fire dancing.
I didn’t spend every day on the beach either. I caught the round-island public bus one day. The buses are really easy to use. There’s basically one road all the way around the island, and one bus that goes clockwise, and one that goes anti-clockwise. They will pick up and drop off anywhere. You just have to signal the driver. I got on a clockwise bus, and went the long way round to Avarua, the capital. There was a camera crew filming the bus driver. I may well end up in a tourist video promoting the Cook Islands!
A had a walk around Avarua, and some lunch before getting back on the bus and completing the loop.
After another couple of days lounging around, it was time to head back to Auckland for the long journey to New York.
I had a lovely, relaxing few days on Rarotonga. It’s very laid back, a different vibe to Fiji, and I’m glad I decided to go.