Monday, August 31, 2009

Kia Orana from Rarotonga!

Greetings from the Cook Islands! Actually we're back now, but I really wanted to share the native greeting along with some photos from our trip. To offer bit of reference, here's a map and some info about these tiny South Pacific islands.

  • 16 islands spread over an area the size of India
  • Total population is around 16,000
  • Annual tourists number around 100,000
  • The Cooks have their own language and government, and use NZ currency
  • We visited Rarotonga, the biggest and most populated island, which is 20 miles (32km) in circumference
It was a struggle for me to adjust to the new time zone. The Cook Islands are only two hours different from NZ (same time zone as Hawaii) but over the international date line from us. The flight's only three hours, but you add a day going there and lose a day coming back. Good thing Jake was there -- I never had any idea what day it was.

Check out this awesome pic Jake took of the palms at our resort. We chose the Cooks because his company asked him to go there for two days' work. Pretty awesome! He worked for a couple days and then we stayed for a long weekend. My first assignment upon arrival was to rent a scooter and get my Cook Islands driver's license because you can't drive there without one. So while he was at work, I headed to the Rarotonga police department. After showing my US license (still don't have an NZ one), handing over $20 and performing a 15-second skills test (which involved the Budget Rental Car lady standing in the parking lot watching me drive my scooter "down around that tree and back"), I was official.

I wondered if this was just a way to raise money from tourists, but that's okay. They handed me my license along with a coupon for free coffee down the road.

And on the flip side was a coupon for a local pub in case you failed. :)

Here's a shot of the first thing I saw upon walking out of the police station with my new license. This poor gal's getting a ticket for going over the 40 kph limit. I felt kind of bad taking her photo but did it anyway. And now some pics of the island.

Rarotonga is surrounded by a lagoon that is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

Lots of beautiful palms and fern trees. The weather was really mild, since it's still winter and it's not so far north as to be tropical, and it was overcast on some of our days, but we loved it!

We did some snorkeling on both sides of the island, and saw a lot of cool fish. We even had a chance to go out during the resort's daily fish feeding, where you hold out pieces of bread while you're snorkeling and the fish swarm you and eat out of your hand! The fish have adapted to this daily ritual and come in droves.

We didn't have an underwater camera, but this little fishy was close enough to the shore for us to shoot him.

I was pretty excited that this was the first time I've actually snorkeled without any floatation assistance -- usually I use a life jacket or something because I've never been really confident in the water. It may sound silly, but this was a real personal accomplishment for me! It was amazing!

Saturday was market day with lots of produce, crafts, souvenirs and live performances.

I think one of the local specialties is called tivaevae -- a type of quilting that's very colorful and used for bedspreads, pillows, etc.

Our resort was pretty nice without being a really fancy, high-dollar place. We enjoyed many a cocktail under these cabanas.

And here's a couple pics of the inland. We weren't able to explore much on our own as the inland trails are unmarked and they recommend you hire a guide to show you around. Apparently it only takes about four hours to hike over the hills from one side of the island to the other.

I can't help it -- 40 k's an hour on a scooter can give you a wild hairdo.

Enjoyed some really nice restaurants and of course some tasty cocktails.

What a gorgeous, relaxing, lovely place. It seems strange to find this little piece of paradise out in the middle of nowhere. We'll miss you Rarotonga. Hope we meet again.


Juli Ryan said...

I am so jealous. I have been wanting to go to Rarotonga for years.

For me, it would be a real personal achievement to ride around on a scooter. I'm scared to death of them.

Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos!

HereBeDragons said...

I just read another blog post about the Cook Island yesterday. It sounds like a really lovely place. A co-worker from Wellington once relocated there a couple years ago. She and her family may still be there!

I'm guessing the license thing IS a money-maker, but you get a new and different souvenier!

Corey said...

Living the dream...

By the way...basement is finished. Let the K-State football watching commence.

Dave said...

You two are now officially my favorite island junkies.... (actually, you're the only island junkies i know)

Yer Mum said...

Island junkies, that's great! Wow, those pics are beautiful. Nice photo of you both among them. I just looked over picture after picture, smiling. What a lovely couple you are and how happy I am for both of you! Miss you so both so much.

Katherine said...

I gotta stop reading this blog. Intense jealousy is so unbecoming.

Anonymous said...

What u call Paradise on earth.
cheers, a local but living n aus...