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02 December 2016

November 2016 - trip to Rarotonga

Well I should have written this weeks ago but things have been pretty busy, with the house, with work, and with the earthquake disrupting pretty much everything.

So, to go back a whole month, at the start of November we went to Rarotonga. My first trip outside of NZ in three years and my first visit to a tropical island. We arrived at night and the owner of the apartment we were booked into picked us up at the airport. She was an old German lady, very chatty but a little hard to follow. She had a lei for each of us, made with fresh flowers - they smelled really good. The place we stayed was nothing fancy, one of a few bungalow style units just outside of the main town, and not on the beach. If we go again I will sort out the accommodation out earlier and get somewhere right on the beach. It was fine though, we had a wee deck looking out onto the garden and we never intended to spend much time hanging around there anyway. Instead we hired a scooter and got about the island on that.

On our first day I was determined to see the island and go swimming and drink out of a coconut. The day started off great but it clouded over and started to rain. Of course, by the time it seriously started to rain we were that far round the island that we couldn't tell if it was worthwhile going back or just waiting it out. We got pretty cold and wet - Nathan more so because he was driving and I was sheltered by him as I rode on the back of the bike. We finally stopped and took shelter at a minigolf course that had a restaurant and bar. The rain eased up and I wanted to go to the beach (which was just over the road) but it hadn't really stopped raining and we were cold so I had to concede that we better go back. We got soaked again. But then the rain cleared so we got changed and went back out, to see the other half of the island. We took jumpers this time. Once again, as soon as we were a decent distance from the town the rain started. And then got heavier. Before we knew it we were pretty wet again. We stopped again for a drink but the rain kept on so we just had to go out in it again and get wet. We did make it all the way around the island though - it's only 30k or so.

So we gave up on the outdoors and opened a bottle of rum, and played monopoly cards on the porch till it go dark. And finally the rain really cleared! Only it was 9pm already and when we headed out in search of food we found most places were closed or not serving food. Finally we found somewhere with the kitchen still open and ordered a pizza. I got my cocktail in a coconut and it was really nice. A band started up but we found we were too tired to hang around until the place really got going, which is apparently around midnight. So that was my first birthday, but Rarotonga is a day behind NZ so it was my birthday again the next day.

For my birthday in Rarotonga time the sun was shining and we started the day by going to the market. It was very touristy, as you might expect, and I wanted to buy everything. We got a drinking coconut to share, they are the young ones that are full of coconut water. It was OK, slightly weird tasting and quite filling. Nathan didn't like how the market was so targeted towards separating tourists from their money so we went on our way and found a beach. It was sunny and the water was far warmer than here, but still cooler than the air, which was good because it was really bloody hot. We swam and I found some pretty seashells to take home. We both got sunburnt, we had sunscreen but between sweating in the heat and swimming, it had worn off. We spent that day driving around the island, stopping at places that looked good to swim at. We didn't go anywhere fancy for a birthday dinner, instead  asked to go on one of the lagoon cruises. So with that planned for the Sunday we just took it easy for Saturday. Found a good burger joint. Had an ice-cream. Drank more rum and felt sorry for myself for being so sunburnt.

The lagoon cruise on Sunday was really good. There are several but we chose the one that has been around the longest. It starts by going out on a boat and the guys tell you about Rarotonga until you get to the marine reserve. Then they hand out snorkels and you get in the water and look at fish. It was cool. We didn't see as much as the time I was scuba diving in Oman, but it's way easier and cheaper than scuba diving! We saw lots of cool colourful fish though, and then the boat took us to an island and there was a beach BBQ, with tuna and lots of delicious fresh fruit. After food there are demonstrations - one of the crew climbed a coconut tree, then they showed us how to husk a coconut, and how to tie a sarong in a few different ways. I volunteered Nathan, he didn't appreciate it. And after husking a coconut he showed us how they grate out the inside and squeeze it to make coconut cream. It was awesome. They told us that there was a night market if we wanted a feed that evening, so we headed to that later in the evening. It was like a huge pot-luck dinner with a whole lot of strangers. There were stalls all around the edge of this carpark full of trestle tables, and the stalls had all sorts of food like BBQ and various sorts of cuisine from around the world, plus baked goods and desserts. We had BBQ and we tried the local raw fish delicacy, called ike-mata. It was marinated in some sort of lemon and coconut cream sauce with onion and other good stuff. I was wary and made Nathan try it first but it was actually delicious and I ate it all. Then we bought pineapple pie, apparently another local favourite - it was incredibly bland. Luckily the chocolate cake we also brought was really good and so was the ice-cream. The night market was so worth going to.

The Monday was our last day and we stayed in the main town for it. We shopped and looked in most of the jewellery stores to find me a birthday present. The Cook Islands are famous for their black pearls and we looked at pendants, bracelets and rings. Finally we settled on a really classy silver ring with a dark blue/green pearl. It fit me perfectly, but it turned out my hands were a bit swollen in the heat because when I got back to NZ it was too big! I shopped for a few small souvenirs, but not many because food there was really expensive so I had pretty much run out of money. I got the obligatory seashell souvenir and a fridge magnet to add to my collection. Then we pretty much just had to pack up our things and wait until our very late flight at 2am. It wasn't really a fun wait. There is a hotel with a restaurant and bar across the road from the little airport and it was awful. The pizza was awful, the music was bad, the ice-cream sundae was not even as good as a MacDonald's one and the service was not great. When it was late enough to check in for our flight, we discovered that Nathan's new passport didn't have his NZ visa information so that was a huge hassle! But finally we were on our way, we had a long uncomfortable jetstar flight back home, and arrived in Welly to a broken down car (it just needed a new key, it's all better now).

So that was my birthday holiday, feels like forever ago. It has been a pretty hectic month since, but I'm done writing for today so maybe I'll talk about that another time. I will add photos soon - they are on my computer in Wellington and I am in Invers right now so that will have to wait.












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