I know a lot of New Zealanders travel there regularly, but this was our first time, there are so many places to visit in the world and we tend to chose Asia with it’s beautiful fresh cheap food – and low priced massages – can have one each day there!
There is a local bus that travels around the island of Rarotonga, but as there was a large group of us it was cheaper to hire a van and share the cost. Not like Fiji where you can hop on the local bus from Denarau Island into Nadi for very little cost. It’s a good idea to take some food or snacks with you to the Cook Islands, a lot of their food is imported and thus costly. We chose to eat most meals out, and had many delicious lunches and dinners. These ranged from the best’real’ Indian at Mama T’s, to organic salads with all ingredients grown at the cafe The Hidden Garden, to seafood platters at resorts. We ate a lot of yellow fin tuna. Medium rare, it is the best!
The weather was a little cool and windy, we were there in June which is their winter, 20-24 degrees. The pool and sea didn’t have many enjoying what would have at other times been their fabulous waters and surrounds. No matter, there were plenty of other things to do.
We went on a marine life eco tour on the Raro Reef Sub. This is a semi-submersible boat. It leaves from the Avatiu Harbour near the Pununga Market ( which is great on Saturdays with many stalls including food) , and the trip takes a little more than an hour. The captain, Steph (a New Zealander) , told many interesting tales, fed giant trevally which swam around the boat, and showed us the underwater life. We climbed down the ladder to the underwater section of the boat to see hundreds of fish, coral and what is left of a century old shipwreck.
Those of us who like a challenge, or didn’t read the info to realise we were going to have a challenge, spent an afternoon walking the Across Island Track in Rarotonga. This 3-4 hr walk moves through a lush valley – a walk in the park at this stage – then a steep ascent to the base of the Needle, climbing up tree roots to the top where we met a walker (climber) going the other way. No longer a walk in the park! He told us that the journey down for us was pretty steep, but no worries, there were ropes to hold onto to help us down. Wow. No choice, only one way and that was forward! Those of us in our 60’s and 70’s found it quite an experience, for the teenagers and their parents it was more enjoyable! The extra steep parts we were advised by our friend to turn around backwards, hold onto the rope and let our feet find the place where they can settle. Reminder to self: take sneakers with grip even if you think you are doing a walk in the park – it might be a walk in the rainforest! We made it down to Wigmore’s waterfall at the end of the walk, then had more than 2km to walk along the road back to our accomodation- a good wind down! If you do the walk, remember insect repellent. Mozzies are hungry!
Cycling is another way to get around the Cook Islands. Some resorts have them available or there are places with them to hire. The roads are not too busy and the drivers give you plenty of space.
All up we had a great time in Rarotonga, Aitutaki which followed Raro was warmer and beautiful. More about that soon!