We have fallen in love with Rarotonga. Every time we take a trip we say that but this time we mean it. We have totally taken the Caribbean off our list of places to go back to and probably Hawaii, too, for the most part. The Cook Islands are comprised of 15 main islands with many little islets near some of the larger islands. It is hard to describe the main island of Rarotonga. I can give statistics – like it is approximately 20 miles in circumference and it is surrounded by a reef. The middle of the island is mountainous with a peak called The Needle. It is lush with beautiful gardens. I could tell you about the roads (there are just a few), the stop lights (none), the population is about 20,000 and English and Maori are the main languages. None of this tells you about the friendly people who live here. Everyone seems to work and enjoy their work. The island is very clean. Most of the visitors are from New Zealand and Australia but we are getting pretty good about telling their accents apart. While not overly prosperous we have seen decent living, no begging, no homeless and no public intoxication. Homes are modest and clean. We rarely seen someone using a cell phone in public and have seen very few smokers – even at the resorts. The food has been fabulous, especially our last dinner on the island at the Windjammer restaurant. It is a great Italian restaurant and Gar had rack of lamb, I had mushroom risotto and there was the most incredible chocolate dessert! I am not a big dessert person so I usually have a bite or two of Garry’s but this was sooooo good I was arm wrestling him for more bites.
Our resort on Raro ( that is what everyone calls it ) has one tv channel that is on a few hours a day. It is Australia TV. There is one radio station but I never found it. We have been enjoying the iPod with music I downloaded. I am guessing that the resort does not use satellite TV but that is available, because that is what we have on our 2nd island.
Which brings us to Aitutaki. We took a 40 minute flight on Thursday from Raro to Aitutaki and were met with fresh leis and a coconut drink. Garry asked what was in it and they guy told us ‘coconut’…. Then we saw it. It was a coconut with a straw in it and was straight coconut milk. It actually was pretty good.
Our resort, the Aitutaki Resort and Spa is actually on an islet off of Aitutaki. I did not realize that until our shuttle pulled up and we got in a small boat/barge/landing craft to take us the 2 minutes across the lagoon to our Resort. This resort is the only thing on this little islet.
If we thought Raro was quiet and laid back Aitutaki is even more so. It is extremely popular for weddings because of the huge lagoon and gorgeous views. The population is about 2000 people and it is starting to be their slow season so the resort is getting emptier every day. There is no public transportation so it is motor bike or rent a car or sign up for a tour where they pick you up.
We are still getting used to this resort and how it all works, but so far we like our first place better. We have a beach front deluxe room on the small lagoon. We have an outdoor shower which is kinda cool and very private, but this morning (our first morning here) I had no hot water so the maintenance guy had to come. It was a blown breaker so that was a quick fix. So, there I am outside showering along with a friendly gecko and it is pretty windy so when a gust of wind comes through the water blows away and you are kind of ducking and weaving to find the water to get rinsed off.
We rented a car for one day to drive around the island and take pictures and check out other resorts. There are a couple resorts on the main island that we walked around and got prices from the front desk. And speaking of prices – the Cook Island prices for most staples are very high, and on Aitutaki about 20% to 30% higher than Raro. We wanted some orange juice for our room and no one had any at any of the tiny little stores. They said it would probably be in on Monday when the boat with supplies arrives. Fortunately we found a bar that sold us some.
Last night was the weekly manager’s beach reception with rum punch, snacks and crab races. You pay $2 to ‘buy’ a crab and they are numbered on their shells. They are put in the middle of a circle and the first one to get to the edge of the circle wins the pot. We didn’t win and in fact, I don’t think I saw Garry’s crab #7 ever let the beginning spot.
There was also a little dance demonstration. No woman would volunteer but we got Garry to volunteer. He had just enough rum punch in him. It was pretty funny. Everyone was laughing with and at “Garry with 2 R’s” as they all started calling him. He was a great sport.
Today is beach time here and turn the car in. Tomorrow (Saturday) we have an all day boat tour of the lagoon. We hit 3 islands, snorkel, have lunch… it is touristy but the boats are almost empty right now and everyone we have talked to said we must do a lagoon tour and snorkel trip. Except for resort things pretty much everything is closed on Sunday so that is going to be our kayaking day of adventure. If the winds die some we can get a picnic lunch a kayak to one of the private islets. Today is too windy to make it there, though.