Tuesday to Thursday, 23 – 25 February, 2016 – Last day in the Cook Islands and Home

Tuesday – Thursday, 23 – 25  February 2016 – Last day in the Cook Islands and Home

Tuesday, 23 February 2016:  Went down for our usual delicious breakfast at the Shipwreck Bar.

 

We decided to go into Avarua for our last minute purchases and to post our postcards. We were “lured” once more into the Fudge shop.

We caught the 1.30pm bus back to our unit and had a late late lunch on our balcony as needed to use up our supplies. After we did our packing, went for our last swim and then it was just a lazy afternoon. It was nice and relaxing as we extended the room until 6.00pm that evening instead of the checkout at 10.00am.

After my last swim

After my last swim

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Christine on our balcony

We and then it was just a lazy afternoon after we did our packing. It was nice and relaxing as we extended the room until 6.00pm that evening instead of the checkout at 10.00am. It was then down to the Shipwreck Bar for our last drink until we were picked up to take us to the Airport.

We weighed our cases – Chris’ weighed 18kgs and mine was 17kgs. Wish I could keep my luggage down to that all the time for future travelling overseas.  We went through Customs quite easily and had a little time before we boarded our Virgin Australia International Flight VA172 for our 4 hours and 30 minutes flight. We were in 25E and F seating so had the three seats to ourselves. Sometime into our flight we had about 20 minutes of really bad turbulence and again another session but then after that we had a smooth flight and landing into Auckland at 1.25am New Zealand time on Thursday 25 February as we crossed the International Date Line so “lost” a day.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

We filled in time until it was time for us to go into the International Departure Lounges. Christine went ahead as she was due to leave a half an hour before me so we said our goodbye in case we didn’t catch up with each other as I went and purchased a magazine.  I was once more “bomb tested” while going through Security. Chris and I did meet up again so we had another last coffee together before she went to Gate 10 for her departure. I then went downstairs to Gate 5 to board my Air New Zealand Flight NZ101 at 6.15am. to Sydney.

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I had an aisle seat in Seat 29K (4 across). We took off at 7.00am for the 3.35hrs flight to Sydney. We settled back until breakfast of scrambled eggs, yoghurt and fruit were served. Was a very smooth flight and we arrived about 20 minutes early but had to circle around before we could be allocated a gate so virtually got in at our estimated time of 8.35am Sydney time.

I went through E-passport and then collected my luggage and through Customs no trouble. I then got on the 9.15am transit bus to the Domestic terminal. It was a nice sunny day.  I filled in some time before booking my case through to Canberra. After passing through Security, I went and had a nice croissant, coffee and Portuguese tart before boarding my final flight.

At 11.15am boarded my Virgin Flight VA642 – window seat 11F. This was a twin propellor ATR72-500/600 so was going to take almost an hour to arrive home. We taxiied off at 11.25am but had to wait for several planes ahead of us in the queue to take off. Once in the air, visibility was quite hazy.  It was a smooth flight and landed in Canberra at 12.35pm. Rob was there to meet me and it was home by 1.15pm to a warm 38 degree Canberra.

It was home to reality after two weeks of having a great time both with our activities in Melbourne and then our stay in magical Cook Islands with Christine. We thoroughly enjoyed The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, going up the Eureka Tower while in Melbourne and then having our many bus trips while on Rarotonga – seeing the beautiful colours of the lagoon, the lovely white soft sand, the majestic mountains, many gravesites, the palms and coconut trees swaying and the many beautiful colours of the different flowers and being greeted with the Kia Orana by the hospitable Cook Islanders – having our flight over to the “slice of Heaven”, the Island of Autitaki – swimming with the bigger fish and seeing the many many different coloured fish while snorkelling.

Was a super fortnight !!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday and Monday, 21 and 22 February 2016 – Visit to Palace and Rarotonga Area

Sunday and Monday, 21 and 22 February 2016 – Visit to Palace and Rarotonga Area

Sunday:  We got up at 8.00am but I had a shocker of a night so I was not 100% – too much activity yesterday!  Our breakfast was different from our weekly ones of the lovely muffins and fresh fruit. We were given unusual instructions what to do in order for Steve (the proprietor) to cook us omelettes. We were given a plastic bag and put our choice of ingredients in it – then seal and crush the ingredients. You then let the air our of the bag, reseal and then the bag is immersed into boiling water for about 10-12 minutes and out comes a lovely fluffy omelette. A very unusual technique but very tasty.

At 9.45am Chris was driven by Geraldine, Steve’s wife up to the local church. I slowly walked to a nearby shop for a couple of supplies and then rested up until Chris came home. At 1.30pm I thought I would have to send out a search party. She arrived back at 1.40pm and told me that the service was a special one for other nearby villagers so that was the reason she was so late. The rest of the day was spent very quietly until 7.00pm when we went down to the Shipwreck Bar for our dinner.  Watched a lovely sunset and then back to the unit for more quiet time before eventually going to bed.

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Monday:  Felt heaps better this morning and the weather was nice and calm.  After Chris returned from a short walk, we went down for breakfast at 8.30.  The Takitumu Palace of Marie Pa Ariki was on our itinerary.

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It was opened to the public on 15 December 2014 by Pa herself and it was the first time in history that a paramount chief has made an official residence accessible to locals and tourists alike.

We caught the 9.40am anticlockwise bus to the Palace. There was another couple, Jeanette and Rob from New Zealand who were also visiting. The walk up to the Palace, a sprawling unpretentious, one-story building set back from the road in beautifully manicured grounds was very pleasant.

When we reached the door, it was all shut up even though there was a placard on the pavement advertising that it was open. While we were on the bus, we passed a huge funeral taking place so we thought that the Queen maybe attending. For a short time we were amused watching a dog play with a crab. This was quite fortuitous for us as not long after, a lady appeared and apologised that we would not be able to see the Queen as she was in Auckland having knee surgery and that she would be taking care of us and showing us around the Museum. She introduced herself as Chantal Napa and is the niece of the Queen. We soon learnt that Chantal was the instigator of persuading the Queen with her vision that she should open the Palace up to the public and Chantal is so very passionate with visions of expanding the Museum. In November 2014 Chantal was given the authority to operate and manage the official Pa Ariki Palace staterooms as a Museum and the Well-being Centre.

For the past 25 years Marie Pa Ariki has overseen her Takitumu people as paramount chief – a title she inherited from her mother Terito who passed away in 1990. Marie Pa was just 42 years old.  The following is a little bit of her history:

PA (Chiefly Title)

TITLE: Pa Ariki
FOUNDED: ca1300 RELIGION: Christian
STATE: Cook Islands ISLAND: Rarotonga
VAKA: Takitumu

PRESENT TITLE HOLDER: Pa Tepaeru Teariki Upokotini Marie Ariki O.B.E., 37th (48th) Pa Ariki since 1990.  Born in September 1947, invested with the title on 27th June 1990, President of the House of Arikis 1992/2002, she was appointed Consul in Auckland by the Cook Islands Government in 2002, remaining in that post till March 2008, in the following year, she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) in 2003; she converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith after her marriage in 1968 to Samuela Napa.

There are three wings of the palace and each serves a different function. One is the residence, the centre is the Museum – a window into both the life of Marie Pa and Polynesian traditions; and on the right is a health and wellness centre that was inspired by Pa’s passion to change the living habits of her people. Chantal  took the 4 of us into the Museum. It contains a large assortment of things Pa has collected over the course of her 25 year reign and on her travels throughout the Pacific. There are numerous photographs with different visiting dignitaries, magnificent tapa cloths and many other artefacts. There were a couple of photographs showing the Sheraton Hotel and we wondered why they were in the Museum. We were to learn that the Hotel is built on the land that Pa owns.

There was also a photo of the Vaka Takitumu built in 1993 by Sir Tom Davis. Pa set sail on this vaka for Tahiti but it was required to come back for repairs, so Pa flew to Tahiti and came back on the Vaka. In 1996, Pa made a spiritual journey on the vaka to Samoa. Before she set out on this journey, she had a tattoo on her wrist of a centipede to represent the 3 virtues she lives by and portrays to her people which are: Ferocity – if a centipede senses that you are going to do it harm, it will attack to defend itself so too will Pa if she senses that you will harm her or her people; Velocity – since the creature is fast, so will she be if you try to attack and Movement – this tattoo also serves to identify her as royalty when travelling overseas. The centipede is shown in her headdress

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Pa with the headdress showing the centipede in the centre – her lucky charm

We went out into the beautiful gardens and Chantal gave us a very comprehensive commentary on the different plants and trees on the property. Pa’s mother planted a lot of them and Pa herself is a keen gardener. At the back of the property, Toa (Sheoak) trees were planted as a wind break. There were Timani trees – used to make drums, Au Trees for skirt making. These are more flexible than the pandanas trees. There were taro, kaffir lime,paw paw, sugar cane, gardenia, bird of paradise and ginger also planted on the property.

Jeanette, Rob, Chris and I in the gardens of Palace

Jeanette, Rob, Chris and I in the gardens of Palace

Chris and I in Palace gardens

Chris and I in the Palace gardens

After our leisurely tour of the gardens, we came back into the Museum and was given more history and had hand ons with some of the many artefacts. There were two beds with beautiful needlework quilts, gifts from people of New Zealand.

We took some photos with some of the artefacts and then came back into the previous room divided by a huge tapa cloth and heard about the Atamira. This is the chief’s seat that is used on special occasions, such as the coronation of Pa and other significant occasions. The Seat is carved from one piece of mahogany and was made in 1896.

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It was time for us to leave after being with Chantal and hearing how passionately Pa and she are for the Palace to expand. We certainly enjoyed seeing the memorabilia which pays tribute to Pa’s life and passions – her campaign against diabetes, her milestones, the 33 chiefs and 14 sub-chiefs that fall under the title of Pa Ariki, Marie Pa calls them her pillars of support, all of whom were invited to bring photos and artefacts they thought worthy of display in the Museum. Just not enough time to spend more time at this lovely venue.

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We left the Palace at 1.10pm and caught the anticlockwise bus to Avarua Village. On our many bus trips, we had four different drivers – 2 were very helpful, one was quite crouchy and the other one was a hoot. He had a name tag on saying – “Mr Hopeless” – he sang all the way on the drive. His repertoire didn’t change from day to day though, but you still got a laugh. Just enjoyed his job.

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Our singing bus driver who we had several times during our many bus rides

After getting out of the bus, we wandered a short distance to the restaurant Trader Jacks for a delicious lobster tail meal. Yummy. Was nice sitting looking out to the sea. Never tire. On our way back, we were lucky that we did not get hit on the head by a falling coconut. It would have done some damage to us had it fallen on either one of us. Headed back to the village, got an enormous icecream and once more onto the bus to take us back to the unit.

We decided to go to the Anchorage at the Sunset Resort on a recommendation. When we rang up to make the booking, they told us that it was quiet so if we could make it around 7.30. We advised them that we had to rely on the bus. When we got there, the restaurant seemed to be rather well patronaged. We were shown to our table and ordered 1/2 dozen oysters and a prawn, ginger and thai salad quite quickly but it seemed we had a long wait. Told that a table of 12 had come in without notice so this had put them behind. We patiently waited but we were getting quite stressed out as we did not want to miss the 9.45pm bus back. If we missed that one, we would have to wait another hour and we were too tired to have to do that. The meals eventually arrived but I felt that I would not have time to eat my lovely looking salad, so asked for a “doggy” bag to take home with me and sorted out the bill. while Chris had time to eat her Fish of the Day.

We went to bed after feeling quite exhausted after another full day.  I got my “second wind” and couldn’t go to sleep. When I got up, there was a hermit crab in the unit, so I amused myself watching its antics. Was going to show it to Chris when she woke up but it somehow disappeared on me – have no idea where it went so at least I had the photos to show her. I then decided to eat my salad meal at 3.30am !!  Enjoyed it as I could eat it leisurely.

 

 

 

Saturday, 20 February 2016 – Flight to Aitutaki Island and Cultural Show and Dinner

Saturday, 20 February 2016 – Flight to Aitutaki Island and Cultural Show and Dinner

We were up at 6.00am feeling optimistic that we would have our flight to Aitutaki as the wind had abated. We would not have confirmation until we were at the airport. The last two days’ trips had been cancelled due to the effects of Cyclone Winston. Fortunately for us, it had changed direction and went westwards to Fiji. Sadly, it left untold devastation as they had winds up to 320 kms.

We were picked up at 7.00am and taken to the airport where we were met by our tour guide, Paul who told us we were flying out. He had his ukelele and seemed to be a very happy chap. There were 12 of us  who boarded the Air Rarotonga plane and took off at 8.00am. It was a lovely sunny day and we had a smooth flight. We arrived at the Aitutaki Airport at 8.50am.

Boarding the plane for Autataki Island

Boarding the plane for Aitutaki Island

 

Aitutaki, also traditionally known as Araura, Ararau and Utataki, is one of the 15 Cook Islands, north of Rarotonga. It has a population of approximately 2,000. Aitutaki is the second most visited island of the Cook Islands. The main village is Arutanga (Arutunga) on the west side. Aitutaki lagoon and its islands are breathtakingly beautiful. The classic picture postcard of a small palm tree fringed tropical island, with shallow, warm turquoise waters, corals, tropical fish and blue skies is taken here.

After arriving at Aitutaki Airport, we were on board “le truck” and driven around Aitutaki Village and given a very comprehensive commentary. The homes are unpretentious and the yards are immaculately raked and planted with flowering trees that cast shade onto well-maintained white graves. As in Rarotonga, the local people bury their relatives in the yard.

On February 10–11, 2010, Aitutaki was hit by Cyclone Pat. The high winds of the storm ripped the roofs off most houses and damaged other buildings including a school and a hospital. At least 60% of houses were damaged. There are a substantial number of empty homes scattered about as Aitutaki’s population decreased after that Cyclone. You see where the deserted concrete building frames have vines and greenery covering them.

Water is very scarce on the island as there are no mountains so dependent on rain to fill their tanks. The main staples are arrowroot/tapioca, taro and breadfruit.

Aitutaki was the first of the Cook Islands exposed to Christianity when the gospel was introduced in 1821 by John Williams of the London Missionary Society. We passed by the first church to be constructed in the Cook Islands – built over 180 years ago. After weathering many Pacific storms as well as five cyclones the church was sorely in need of repair. Work commenced in June 2009 and continued until Cyclone Pat struck in February 2010. A wonderful team of workers continued on the project and the church was ready for a grand re-opening on 26 October 2010 – exactly 189 years to the day of the arrival of the gospel on the island.

In 1942 New Zealand and American forces were stationed on the island, and  outnumbered the local population of the island at the time, built the two-way airstrip which is still in use today. This airport, and one on the northernmost Penrhyn Island (Our accommodation is No. 207 Penryhn) were to be used as bases by the Allies during World War II. The first aircraft, an American light bomber, landed on November 22, 1942.  The island was to be the last point of defence in the Pacific, but Japanese advance was reversed and married some of the locals and remain on the island.

We stopped off at the prestigious Pacific Resort Hotel – Magnificent but out of our league as over $NZ1,000 per night. It has been rated best boutique/5 star hotel in the world for 3 consecutive years. The grounds were absolutely beautiful.

It was back in the vehicle to board the 21m vaka (twin hulled catamaran) the Titi-ai-Tonga for our lagoon cruise. Although very windy, the colour of the water was a spectacular aqua. We were seated with a nice German couple from the Black Forest, Germany Claudia and Rainer. On each table for each person, there was a fresh coconut drink. Fresh fruit and tea/coffee were available for morning tea.

Claudia, Rainer, Chris and I on the vaka

Claudia, Rainer, Chris and I on the vaka

There are several smaller islands in the lagoon. Our first stop was on Akaiami, a small, elongated islet around 20 minutes at the opposite end of the lagoon from Aitutaki’s main island. Akaiami is remote, quiet, charming, unspoiled and surrounded by pristine turquoise lagoon and coral reef, and there is a small lodge there. It was once the old Coral Route flying boat base.  We only had a 15-minute stop for a walk along the white sand and to watch the antics of the hermit crabs. Paul blew on his konkshell horn to call us all back on board.

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We were on board once more and our next stop was Moturakau Island. We walked through some very thick foliage and came across two little baby white terns (love birds). There were quite a lot of terns flying around. Paul gave us a commentary about the hermit crabs and the wild hibiscus/clover trees. The bark of the tree is stripped and then put in the sea water for about a fortnight to soften the bark and it becomes pale. Grass skirts are then made from this product.  We moved on further through the jungle and came to the pandanus trees and coconut palms. The fruit from the pandanus trees looks like pineapple but it is inedible. As they have a nice perfume they are used for leis (garlands).

Two of Aitutaki’s motus (small islands), Rapota and Moturakau, were the locations of the first series of the UK reality television program Shipwrecked in 2000. In 2006, the island was used as the location for the tribal council in the US TV program Survivor: Cook Islands. Surrounding islands were used for tribal camps and crew locations. One of the tribes was named Aitutaki (or ‘Aitu’) after the island. Then, not long afterwards, Shipwrecked returned again, with Shipwrecked: Battle of the Islands 2006. This was filmed on the same islands as before. One year later, Aitutaki was the locale of an episode of Survivorman.

Once more, we were back on board heading towards Tapuaetai (One Foot Island), a popular stopping spot for lagoon cruises. Christine was studying the map with Paul to make sure we were heading in the right direction. So I took over the steering wheel !!!! Only joking. We sighted a couple of stingrays along the way.IMG_8752

We moored and now the sun was quite hot so we all got off for a swim in the beautiful clear turquoise water.  Was a super spot for snorkelling but because there was quite a strong current and with my limitations of my arms, I was quite happy to float at the rear of the boat until after lunch.

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We were spoilt by partaking in a huge array of salads and barbequed tuna. Was delicious. After lunch, it was then back in the water to frolic with the large fish and variety of small fish I went around the other side of the vaka and I did a little bit of snorkelling and saw the many brilliantly coloured fish and I even patted one of the larger fish. Just a magical place.

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One Foot Island is noted for its legends of how the island was named.

A Couple of Versions of The Legends of One Foot Island.

Long ago, one of the chiefs of Aitutaki, seeing that there was not enough food for his people, created a fishing reserve to protect the resources of the lagoon. In this area, no one was allowed to fish at any time. By doing this, the chief was making sure the lagoon was not over-fished and his people would always have enough food to eat.

Nga was a simple fisherman. He respected the wishes of his chief but his family was hungry, so Nga made a plan with his son Taongo that they would paddle to the reserve where fish were still plentiful. When they reached the reserve both father and son were tired but they knew they had to catch as many fish as they could and return to the mainland.

One of the villagers coming home late from a festival spotted the silhouette of an outrigger vaka in the reserve. He ran and told the chief who was outraged that anyone had dared to disobey his orders. “Send a war party to capture whoever is fishing in the reserve!” he shouted, and the warriors of the village swiftly launched their vakas.

Nga spotted the war party in the distance and knew they would never escape in time. “Paddle to Tapuaetui!” (One Foot Island) he instructed his son, and they made their way as fast as they could to shore. Nga told Taongo to run to the center of the motu, which he did. Nga also ran to the center of the motu but he was careful to step in his son’s footprints as he did. Soon the sounds of the warriors could be heard on the shore. Nga lifted his son high into the arms of a pandanas tree, where he could hide. “Do not come down until dark,” he whispered and continued running to the other side of the motu.

Taongo watched them lead his father back, at spear point, demanding to know if anyone else was with him. “No, it was just me,” said Nga, and the warriors believed him because they only saw one set of foot prints.

After the sun set, Taongo climbed down from the tree and paddled his father’s vaka back home. His mother couldn’t believe her eyes. Her husband had been killed for breaking the chief’s law and she thought her son was also dead. Taongo told her the story of how his father had sacrificed his life and saved him. In time, the story spread, as stories do, and soon, and forever after, Motu Tapuaetai was known as “One Foot Island”.

The island was made famous by a Maori legend about love and sacrifice.

The legend has been taught and re-taught over the years and it seems that there are various interpretations Some say the son took the father back to land, others say that his body got lost in the lagoon.

Before we left the island, we got our passports stamped “One Foot Island”.

After spending the wonderful time on the island, we set off again at 3.00pm. While we were cruising, Paul told us some interesting facts of the coconut. It has many uses and just a few uses are mentioned. The coconut husks are very hard so Paul did a demonstration with Rainer and used an iron bar to break the coconut in half without damaging it. In early days the coconut husks were used to scour pots, make rope used on the houses and canoes, mosquito repellant and used for fire wood. Claudia was a “model” as Paul told us how the strained coconut milk was used for a hair conditioner and also a skin conditioner. The shells of the coconut are used for necklaces and earrings, shirt buttons, bases for ukeleles, cricket protectors and as bras in cultural shows and for many health products.

Before too long, we were back  at the Aitutaki Airport and we left at 4.10pm and after a smooth flight we arrived back in Rarotonga at 5.20pm and taken back to our accommodation.

The advertisements say about Aitutake = a little piece of paradise or “One unforgettable Day”. We can certainly agree as it was.

Flying towards Raratonga

Flying towards Raratonga

We quickly changed before we were picked up in a rather uncomfortable truck with dozens of other people to attend the T e VaraNui Village which is the cultural centre of the Cook Islands.  We were shown to “Table 3” and there were 8 other people at the table. After we ordered our cocktails, we were then directed to a first class Island/Western fusion buffet dining.

After a great meal, we moved to the edge of the area at 8.30pm to get a better view of the Night Show that was about to start. It was a stunning “Over-Water Night Show” with some fine dancers and musicians as they performed by flaming torchlight on the floating and fixed stages of the waterfall gardens. As well as the artists being on the stage, a canoe and “barge” floated down the water way with the “Chief” and his “daughter” on board as this reflected the story that was being told during the performance. The costumes and settings were brilliant.

The Chief and his daughter

The Chief and his daughter

This stunning show reflected the experience of the villagers delivering an electric and authentic cultural performance and was thoroughly enjoyable. The energy of the performers and the resounding music does not show in the photos. It still fascinates me the way the women “wriggle” their bottoms.

This part of the show was spectacular – dancing with fire

After the night show, some of the artists came onto the area where we were and interacted with some of the guests. It was then time to get a “comfortable” bus back to our accommodation. We both virtually fell into bed after an extremely hectic but thoroughly enjoyable day and evening. We did not plan it this way, but once again Cyclone Winston forced us to change our events and we ended up having the day over on Aitutaki and then going to the Cultural Show but both were fantastic but wearing.

 

Friday, 19 February 2016 – Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Friday, 19 February 2016 – Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Once more it was a blustery night. We got up and went down to the Bar for our usual breakfast. We had it this morning with Angela as she was leaving later today. We caught the 10.30 “clockwise” bus once more into Avarua shopping centre and wandered along and into the Internet stationery store and got a couple of cards and then it was into the Bounty Bookshop. Purchased a couple more cards and a magnet.

Before we caught the bus back, we had latte at the cafe, Banana Court. I saw a couple of tops on a nearby rack so purchased them before going to the bus terminal. Just outside to tempt you, was the Fudge shop so I quickly made a purchase of some fudge, a magnet and some candles.   We caught the “clockwise” bus but this time it went the long way round passing through the villages of Pue, Matavera, Ngatanglia, Mur, Titikaveka and Valma’anga and finally to Aroa.

As we were walking back to our unit, Alone from reception gave us the news that our Highland Paradise Cultural Show – the venue being up in the mountains –  had been cancelled due to the high winds courtesy of Cyclone Winston. After I ate my leftovers of my lovely seafood platter we went and made an alternative Cultural Show at Te Vara Nu Village for tomorrow night.

It was then into the lagoon for another beautiful swim and with goggles on we could see so many beautifully coloured tropical fish. We had an early meal down at the Shipwreck Bar. I ordered Shepherds Pie but it was not available so had Chilli ConCarne and a Ginger Beer. We laughed as some of the drinks ordered were served in glass jars even some of the cocktails. When we had finished looking at the waves, we went back to our unit and packed in hopes of our early flight to an outer island. As I am a believer that things go in 3’s, I said to Christine – our progressive dinner, the cultural show and my first choice at dinner had been cancelled/unavailable, we will be going in the morning !!

We heard that Cyclone Winston had changed direction and was now heading westwards towards Fiji. If it hits Fiji, it will be their worst in history.

We are all packed in anticipation of our 7.00am pickup, we went to bed saying lots of prayers.

Thursday, 18 February 2016 – Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Thursday, 18 February 2016 – Rarotonga, Cook Islands

It had rained and blew a gale during the night and the waves were pounding quite loudly and high out on the reef. We finally got up at 7.45am and went down to the Shipwreck Bar for a lovely platter of fresh local fruit, muffins and coffee. Chris went for a short walk and then we did some housekeeping and then made a booking for our dinner tonight at a restaurant called the Kikau Hut.

We had a restful day today – casual lunch of cheese and biscuits out on our balcony, doing some puzzles and then we went for a lovely refreshing swim.

We then went down to the Bar where we listened to some music played by a local pair, chatted with Angela until 6.30 when we were picked up by a Gordon to drive us to the Kikau Hut restaurant. It is a hexagonal restaurant set in a lovely garden on the island’s sunset side. Was a lovely relaxing venue.

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Chris and I in the grounds of Kikau Restaurant

After Gordon took some photos we were seated and I ordered a lemon, lime and bitters and the Seafood Platter – was just divine. Christine ordered the fish of the day. For dessert we shared the Kikau Wontons, couli and cream. In the centre of the wontons there were bananas and oozing with chocolate sauce. The apple and blueberry crumble was very tasty.  As my platter was huge, I had a “doggy bag” to take home. Gordon drove us back at 8.45.  .

It was sprinkling rain and the wind was blowing even stronger than before. It looks like Cyclone Winston is still heading towards us. We settled down and went to bed after a very relaxing and enjoyable day and evening. Seems all that is done on the island by us is swimming and eating !!!!

 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016 – Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Wednesday, 17 February 2016 – Rarotonga, Cook Islands

We were both quite tired so didn’t get up until 10.00am so missed breakfast downstairs at the Shipwreck Bar – the on-site eating and drinking facility and where breakfast is served each morning.  Once we sorted ourselves out, we took in the view that we had from our balcony.

We then went into reception and met Stephanie who made some pre-booked events. For Thursday night it was a Progressive Dinner, Friday night a Cultural Show and on Saturday a flight to the outer island of Aitutaki. We then caught the local “clockwise” bus into Avarua, the hub of Roratonga and situated on the central northern side of the island. Avarua is the capital of the Cook Islands. The buses go either clockwise or anticlockwise and they travel the whole island which is 32kms around its main coastal road. One route is shorter to Aora.

The mountains are on one side with the lagoon/reef on the other. The island is lush and carpeted with plantations that yield year round fruits and vegetables. The frangipani, hibiscus and bougainvillea are just beautiful with their vivid pinks, yellow, reds and purple colours and the gorgeous red flame trees.

We wandered into a couple of shops and we each purchased a pair of $12NZ thongs. It was then into a local eating cafe – The Salsa – for yummy seafood fritters, paw paw salad and iced chocolate. After purchasing some groceries from Foodland it was onto the 3.00pm “clockwise” bus back to our accommodation.  The journey back was quite varied with the beautiful lagoon on one side and the spectacular mountains on the other. We saw lots of gravesides in the yards of the private homes as the local people bury their relatives in the yard. It is a solution to the problem of limited public cemetery land and a means of keeping ancenstral spirits near.

When we got back to Aora, the water looked so inviting we donned our newly acquired swimmers and our rock shoes for our first swim. The rock shoes are advisable as the lagoon has pockets of beautiful coral, but is very sharp.  We came back to our unit for a little rest before going down to the Shipwreck Bar for dinner at 7.00pm. I had a nice butter chicken and a glass of wine and Chris a vegetarian lasagne and wine.

We met an Angela who lives in America so was nice chatting with her and enjoying being seated on the sand and watching the sunset and seeing the waves pound over the reef. The weather was getting quite blustery and the surf wilder.

We were starting to feel the effects of Cyclone Winston that was heading our way. After our time downstairs, we returned to our unit and did some puzzles/crosswords and of course chatted until it was time for bed after a lovely day.

 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016 – Leaving Melbourne for the Cook Islands via Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, 16 February 2016 – Leaving Melbourne for the Cook Islands via Auckland, New Zealand

Later in the afternoon, we retrieved our luggage from the Punthill Apartment and caught the 3.00pm Shuttle Bus to the Melbourne International Airport. We weighed our luggage and I was surprised that mine was 14 Kgs and Christine’s 17 Kgs. This was a record for me. With some assistance we printed off our boarding passes and luggage tags and then booked our luggage through to Rarotonga, Cook Islands. At 4.45pm we were at Security. I was requested to go into the cubicle and I “lit up” but evidently it was my watch.  Then I was “bomb checked” but of course was all clear there. We were through Security by 5.00pm so had time for a coffee and watched a TV program, “The Chase” until 6.00pm and then went to the nearby Gate 10 and our Air New Zealand Flight 126 was boarding. The plane was a 2x3x2 configuration. Chris and I were seated together in rows 29E and 29F. We departed at 6.40pm and the flight was going to be 3 hours and 40 minutes approximately. We settled down and waited for the meal to arrive as we were not sure whether we were going to receive any. When they were eventually served, there was only one meal being served to me. We were told that there had been a mix up with our booking but in the end we were both given a meal.

The flight was reasonably smooth for most of the way with just a small amount of turbulence.  We arrived in Auckland, New Zealand at approximately 12.20pm (New Zealand being 2 hours ahead of Australia). Kia Ora (Welcome) The queue to get through Customs and Security was horrendous as 6 planes were being processed at the same time. The queue was miles long and 4 wide. We finally got through and endeavoured to find somewhere to settle in as we  were not due to fly out until later that night. It was quite difficult to find somewhere immediately, but eventually found some vacant seats near the arrival area. I found 4 seats that I could spread out on and was pleased to be horizontal as standing in the queue for so long was playing its toll.

My "5 star" accommodation

My “5 star” accommodation !!!!!!

Christine was going to be stoic and stay awake. I stirred at 2.00am – couldn’t sleep with the activities going on in the airport. I layed down again until 4.00am when I went and bought us a cup of coffee.  At 5.00am the airport became even more busy as this was the time that more flights were coming and going. At 6.15am another coffee before we purchased tickets for the Sky Bus into Auckland City.  It was quite wet and very windy. We left at 7.35 and arrived at the Queen Street Wharf at 8.20am. We went into Valentiinos Gelato for a nice breakfast. Christine went quickly to the nearby Post Office to exchange some currency and then we purchased return ferry tickets for the 10.00am ferry to nearby Devonport.  At 10.30am we hopped on a mini bus for a detailed commentary by a Steve.  Our first stop was at Maunhgauika, North Head.

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We went into an older underground tunnel that used to be a gunnery. It was nice to be out of the misty rain and wind. Once out of the tunnel, we had views over the harbour.

It was then up a very steep climb via Alexandra Road to the very windy Mt. Victoria a prominent hill 196 metres (643 ft) high. From here, Mount Victoria provides stunning 360 degree views of  City, the harbour and the ocean to the south

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Just about blown back to Auckland !!!!

It was then down to Devonport village where our very interesting and informative commentary by Steve ended at 11.30pm.  As it was raining again, we went into a nice restaurant, Dixie Browns for Waffles and icecream and coffee.

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We were told it was “Waffles Wednesday” and our photo was taken to go on their Facebook page. (Can’t find it). After the huge waffles, we caught the 12.45pm ferry back to Auckland and onto the 1.00pm Skybus to the Airport. We sat around for awhile until it was time to go through Security. It was easiest to use the E-passport facility but Christine’s didn’t work so got assistance. We passed through the International shops to Gate 5. Before we boarded, I noticed a Pandora shop and as Christine likes the product, she went and had a look – No, it wasn’t just a look. She came back smiling as she made a purchase to be added to her collection. It was now time to board our Virgin Australia Flight VA173 at 3.35 for the departure time of 1620 pm. The approximate flight time was 3 hours 55 minutes.

We had 3 seats to ourselves. We were not eligible for a meal on this leg so just had some cheese and biscuits. It was a very smooth flight and we arrived in Rarotonga, the capital of the Cook Islands  and is the largest of the 15 Cook Islands on Tuesday, 16 February 2016 at 9.15pm although we left New Zealand on Wednesday, 17 February 2016. This is due to crossing the International Date Line and Rarotonga is 23 hours behind Australia. All very confusing.

 

On entering the terminal, we were greeted with “Kia Orana” – This is the welcome and means “may you live long”. Very touching. A floral garland was placed around our necks as this is one of their customs.

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We were happy to see that our luggage had also arrived and as we approached Customs, a man was playing on his ukelele. As the airport is quite small, we passed through Customs very easily and was greeted by Steve who drove us to our accommodation at the Aroa Beachside Inn on the western, leeward side of the island. It was upstairs and our number was “207 – Penrhyn” and right on the waterfront. All the accommodation was given the names of the 15 islands of the Cook Islands.

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As we were extremely tired, we virtually went straight to bed.  We cannot believe that we are now in the Cook Islands.