Well today is our last day in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. We spent a little time admiring the view from our balcony and Sangeet wrote a couple of postcards. As we still had the car we then decided to drive around the island.
Whilst walking out of the hostel we bumped into a couple from Blenheim, New Zealand who we have met before, they were going to the Mooring restaurant so we decided to give them a lift, especially as they were a great couple. They invited us to stay at their house they gave us their address and even said “we can pick you up from Picton.
Once we dropped them off we went to an Internet cafe Deli-licious, Sangeet tried the fruit smoothie made with local papaya and banana, I had a cappuccino. We logged onto the computer and booked the accommodation for New Zealand. (Our flight is today at 4:15pm the length is four and a half hours yet we get to New Zealand tomorrow at 8pm, I still find it so fascinating. Some people left New Zealand on a Friday evening and arrived in Rarotonga on Thursday evening so relived their Friday again! Just imagine that….you are having a bad day so you can fly to the Cook Islands and relive that day again!!!)
Afterwards we drove to the Maire Nui Gardens where Sangeet fell in love with the garden and atmosphere. We walked around the garden and saw some amazing plants, tropical flowers and vegetables, a lot of which is served in the on site cafe. They had mangos and papaya growing in the garden too. After the walk we ordered a feta cheese salad and a fruit smoothie with local fruits, Sangeet could taste the freshness I could not!
There are two roads that circle the island, an inner road and outer road. all the shops, restaurants, resorts etc are on the outer road which is the road most people use. we decided to drive on the inner road today where we saw lots of houses and plantations. Yesterday when we finished the walk all three of us were so glad that we just walked towards the car, apparently there is a waterfall (Papua or Wigmore’s Waterfall) at the end near the car park which we totally missed! Today we went back to have a look at it. As the tmpretaure was hot (around 30 degrees C) the waterfall was dry. Also the area around the waterfall is not well looked after. The little waterfalls that we saw as we walked down through the rainforest from the Needle were much more impressive.
After seeing the dismal waterfall we spent a little time at Aro’a beach, got gas, had a look at the golf course near the airport then headed to the post office to send the postcards. We then went to check in. There is a departure tax to pay, NZ$55.00 per person! just before security there is the bank Westpac where they take payment and stamp your boarding pass to say you have paid.
I still cannot get over the fact the flight will be four and a half hours yet we arrive 23 hours later, amazing!
After arriving in Auckland we checked into the airport across the road from the airport:
Novotel Auckland airport
Auckland International Airport
Ray Emery Drive
Today we decided to walk the cross island walk, an amazing walk which starts in the north of the island and finishes in the south. One can do the walk from south to north but best starting it in the north, as you can see the marked route more clearly so there is a greater chance of taking a wrong turn, if started from the south. The walk is very challenging but you are rewarded with passing through some of the islands most impressive natural scenery. The walk is about three to four hours, in wet weather it can get very slippery, remember to take plenty of water and mosquito repellent.
About 2km into the walk we met Lee who arrived this morning from LA. he lives in Perth, Scotland. He joined us for the walk which was nice. We did not see anybody else at all during the walk.
Before heading out for the walk we decided to hire a car from the hostel, 24 hours hire for NZ$40, Paul the manager said it will help us tomorrow as we can just leave the car at the airport and he will pick it up. We drove the car to the south of the island and parked it at the end of the cross island walk route, we then took the anticlockwise bus to the north, it was very busy. We began the walk by celebrating with an ice lolly!
After completing the walk we picked up the car and drove to town, where we dropped off Lee after exchanging contact details. We went for a drink at Club Bana Bistro, Sangeet had a mango, pineapple, papaya and banana smoothie, I had a cappuccino. The smoothie was huge and very tasty!
As we needed to use the internet we popped over to ‘click internet’, a internet shop to use their computers, unfortunately the internet for the whole island was down!! We then popped into the ‘Perfumes of Rarotonga’ I bought a couple of ice pops which were very nice, reminded me of my school days. Sangeet bought a couple of postcards and some gifts. The shop makes soap from the local coconuts.
After some time relaxing at Cooks Corner terminal and watching people go by, we popped back to the car where Sangeet saw a chicken with 11 very young chicks and fell in love with them! She started feeding them salt and vinegar crisps!
We then drove to a restaurant called Tamarind the location and restaurant looked amazing, Sangeet decided to check out the restaurant, whilst I stayed in the car as there were dogs walking around and eyeing up the ‘brown meat’. Sangeet came back and said I should take a look, we ended up ordering drinks and enjoying the views, Sangeet had hot chocolate I had cappuccino. The restaurant had some vegetarian options but could not say if the cheese was vegetarian. We then went to the Indian restaurant called Raviz, we ordered take away and vegetable and onion pakoras to eat there, the pakoras had no flavour and were a disappointment. I ate a few and got the rest to take away, along with Sangeet’s mutter paneer and rice. We arrived back to the hotel in time to see the very cloudy sunset. After some time we popped out to a nearby village hall to see the locals who were singing, it seemed like a play and the singing sounded amazing, it was all in the local language so we are not sure what it was about but still enjoyed it! We stayed there for about thirty minutes before heading back to the hostel.
At the hostel Sangeet had the mutter paneer with rice which were VERY chilli, I had a couple more pakoras which tasted awful. Around the hostel there is a dog, the owners live a few houses away, I gave the pakoras to the dog, he loved them and ate every bit up. I then gave it crackers which it also loved and ate. Unfortunatley I could not find any other food and Sangeet would not allow me to give it the hot mutter paneer. I think I have a new friend especially as it is now sleeping on our balcony!
For breakfast, Sangeet made fried tomatoes, mushrooms, potatoes which turned out to be mashed potatoes, fried onions and baked beans, we sat on the balcony whilst we ate the scrumptious breakfast.
Saturday morning is market day which is held on the west side of the town centre. Punanga Nui Market starts around 6am and finishes about 1pm, there you can buy pearls, clothes, fresh local produce at much cheaper prices than the shops, great smoothies and ready made food to eat there. We took the clockwise bus into town which stopped at the market. The temperature was around 30degrees C, perfect to have a smoothie, we chose mango and passion fruit it was delicious and very cooling. We had a wander around the stalls, the clothes sold here are floral in design and very bright colours. We bought some bananas which looked good and were much cheaper then the supermarkets most likely because these are home grown and not imported from New Zealand. Afterwards, we had a wander around the other stalls.
After the market we walked further into town and found a nice spot next to the beach. we sat there for a while watching the waves crash against the lagoon and topped up our tans. we are so black! Then we headed towards the information centre, we are looking to do the cross island walk from north of the island to the south and wanted to check guide prices, the guy at the information centre said that it is worth having a guide though the walk is well marked and it is not a must. He recommended ‘Pa’ who knows the land and its history very well. There was air conditioning in the information centre so we hung around chatting to the helpul and friendly tourist information rep before going back into the heat. he told us companies like McDonalds, Sheraton and Hilton are trying to get into the Cook Islands, though Rarotongans have managed to resist he said they are fighting a losing battle. It is good that there are no big chains here but I kept on thinking at least I would get free wifi if McDonald’s or Starbucks were here!
It was around 2pm, most things in town were closing, luckily Foodland was open so we topped up on a few items. After 1230pm there is no anticlockwise bus and the service becomes hourly therefore we caught the 3pm clockwise bus back to the hostel.
At the hostel, Sangeet relaxed on the balcony overlooking the beach and continued reading her book ‘A Walk in the Woods’ by Bill Bryson which we bought from Ferndale library for US$1! I tried to relax but found it difficult…..my mind never seems like it can relax. So I took out the garbage and had a wander to the Chinese restaurant to have a look at the opening and closing times.
When I got back Sangeet was sleeping on the balcony….as I was bored I made coughing sounds to wake her! When Sangeet woke up, she prepared crackers with sweetcorn relish which was very nice. She also made chickpea pasta and for dessert she had Watties strawberry yoghurt dessert, Watties is Heinz branding for Australasia, also the dessert is for babies (Sangeet enjoys baby food desserts!)
Today we got the cleaner to clean the shower, which she did, I was so happy and just jumped into the shower. I really do think that one cannot stay in a hostel in such an idyllic location. Perhaps it is just me, I really am too used to luxury and am finding hostelling quite a challenge. We first travelled the world in 2005 for three months, we were very fortunate to find (on the whole) clean accommadation. Nowadays it seems more of a challenge. I am just so tempted to pull out the American Express platinum charge card and blow it on luxury accommodation!!
Afterwards we went to the hostel dining room to find Phillip from Croatia and Jacob from Australia. Great guys who have been here for a while, they gave us some good information. They also invited us to the hostel barbecue they have organised for tomorrow night.
There is a bus service that runs around the whole of the island one clockwise and the other anti-clockwise, you cannot miss it as it says this on the screen. It runs every hour, there are some designated stops around the island, this is more so you know roughly what time it will be at the stop. Alternatively if you see a bus coming you can flag it down regardless of where you are. A single fare, regardless of distance costs NZ$4 a return fare costs NZ$7, we bought two return fares. We headed clockwise to Avarua town north of the Island to get off at Cooks Corner, a ‘sort of’ bus station. Our hostel is on the west coast. The bus was full of tourists. The locals seem to get around mainly by scooter just like Aitutaki. After a quick visit to Foodland supermarket much cheaper than the grocery we went to yesterday and much more to choose from, they have vegetarian cheese! This island has a lot more in stock then Aitutaki, perhaps because the cargo will come here first from New Zealand. Saying that the prices for imported goods is still very high. We picked up some tomatoes, mushrooms potatoes and onions as usually the best veg goes pretty quickly.
Afterwards we walked to an Indian restaurant called Raviz, the manager is over from Auckland as they have branches there, he has been here for 7 years. As we entered the restaurant i noticed ‘Ek Onkar’ written on the cupboard, it gave me a good feeling to know the restaurnt is run by Sikhs, who, hopefully would know the inportance of cooking veg and non veg dishes seperately. We ordered dhaal, butter paneer, jeera rice with mango lassi, dessert was mango kulfi. It tasted nice. I just know I will suffer later!!
Whilst eating a elderly man Derek approached us and asked if we were from Punjab, we said yes (well technically we are!) he said that the happiest years of his life were in India studying in the foothills of the Himalayas, he and his wife have been coming to the Cook Islands for the last twenty years, this year they were celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary. He left India in 1947 as things started to feel less safe. He said he loved India and the people…..not sure where in India he went that he loves the place and people! Anyway, in 1947 he went to England and joined the RAF where he met his wife Edith (she worked in traffic control for the RAF). Derek was a very friendly and chatty genetleman and I think he was excited to see a couple of Indians.
After lunch we met the chef Baburam Sharma he had been here for 7 years and was bored, said its a good place to visit but not to live there was nothing to do, dont think his family are here with him. Made me think that sometimes you look at a place and think I could retire here but then what would you do? The mind should always be kept busy.
We had a long wander around town saw the Para O Tane Palace famous because the treaty accepting the Cook Islands as a British protectorate was signed here in 1888. we went to the information centre and also found out about yoga (Ashtanga) classes that run on weekdays. Yoga is everywhere! then we got ice cream as the temperature was soaring, it was around 30 degrees C. I am still trying to get free wifi and have come to the conclusion that even on this main island it does not exist. Probably another reason I could never retire here.
We carried on exploring the town and the beach near Trader Jacks cafe there are a few ATM points ANZ and Westpac, the latter charges for withdrawals (around NZ $4.50) whilst ANZ has been free.
As the bus service stops at 4pm and resumes service at 6pm we decided to go to Cafe Salsa for a coffee, Sangeet had a hot chocolate with soy milk, I had a cappuccino.
We then went back to Foodland supermarket to stock up on more food and water. Usually at the checkout Sangeet and I have a competition to guess the total amount of the shopping to see who is closest, on this instance I guessed NZ$62.00 Sangeet guessed NZ$65.00 the total was NZ$116.00!!! I nearly fainted!
We walked to the bus stop and caught the evening bus clockwise only and went around the island so we did full circle of the island today. It was a cheap way of seeing the whole outer part of the Island. The inner part is not developed lots of greenery and an extinct volcano.
Once we got back to the hostel, Sangeet cleaned the kitchen and fridge before we put any food away, the hostel has laundry facilities so I took the clothes there, it cost NZ$4.00 there is no drying facility. Suppose in this hot weather you just naturally dry the clothes.
Afterwards Sangeet finished off the curry leftovers. I dare not eat it as it caused me an upset stomach so had some bread, butter and relish instead.
We went out to see the stars, quite amazing on how many stars are here we saw a couple of shooting stars which was exciting, one was very long, also got to see a lot of satellites.