Friday 2nd March
We travelled to the airport at Auckland where we spent further time on the computer pending the flight to Rarotonga.
Thursday 1st March
We arrived at 9.00 p.m. the day before we left after crossing the International Date Line. As it was dark, we were unable to see much of what was clearly a small island. We were pleased to see that our room had been upgraded to one with a sea view where, even in the dark, we could see the waves breaking on the reef a short distance from the shore.
Friday 2nd March
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and sat around until an Orientation Meeting at 11.00 a.m. This told us a little about the hotel and the island and the precautions that should be taken before going in the water as there are stone fish, sharp coral etc.
There is a bus that follows the road around the coast in a clockwise direction and another that does the same anticlockwise. We chose the longer journey of about 40 minutes so that we could see as much as possible before arriving in the town of Avarua and having to make a decision on our accommodation for the remainder of the stay. Everything is extremely small town. The road was generally flanked by the small low temporary looking buildings that we had seen in New Zealand. A number of these had two or three huts in their gardens and these comprised much of the accommodation in the island. It was clear that our hotel with its two and three floor blocks was unique. (It was also, fortunately, extremely empty).
Saturday 3rd March
Today we took the clockwise bus into Avarua in time for the Saturday morning market. This proved a mixture of village fete and tourist attraction. There was the sale of vegetables and fruit but also arts and crafts. A band featuring a local singer were playing and Jill bought the CD which included “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton!!!
We looked at the remaining shops in Avarua and then stopped for a coffee. We fell into conversation with a British couple who emigrated five years ago to Minorca. Eleanor had been a teacher and Clive was a tour rep.
They kindly took us back to show us their apartment at the Crown Plaza Beach Resort a short distance from our own accommodation. We had been contemplating a move and certainly liked what we saw, being a group of individual chalets with palm leaf roofs and a well-equipped interior. However, their tariff was 2½ times as much as ours and so we decided to stay where we were.
In the evening our hotel ran a Cultural Show plus Dinner. The exuberant dancing and singing left us with an overall impression of a very enjoyable day.
Sunday 4th March
We felt we would have liked to have attended Church but could not easily find one where we felt certain the service would be in English and our casual clothes would be acceptable.
We spent the day by the sea with a couple of walks to explore the area surrounding the hotel. At least we are getting a lot of reading done.
We ate at the hotel – Jill again having the local raw fish in coconut dish called Ika Mata and Adrian a Marlin Steak which we both thoroughly enjoyed.
The 13,000 population of the Cook Islands is apparently diminishing. The majority have already left for the bright lights of New Zealand! Certainly there seems little to hold young people here where there is really only tourism, agriculture and fishing. The “Capital City” is a town of some 5,000 people and perhaps 20 or so shops but all of a very laidback, basic nature. Currently bad diet plus smoking is causing a health crisis in the Pacific region with Cook Islanders being something like fifth in the world obesity tables. They remain a very happy and fairly friendly people.
We have never really seen a tourist area like this one although there are certain elements that remind us of Sri Lanka. Who knows what the future will bring! At present, an outbreak of Dengue Fever (of which we were scarcely aware) is doing nothing to help tourism. We realise it may be low season, but our own hotel is probably no more than one tenth full.
Monday 5th March
We concluded that Dengue Fever, cloud and rain and lack of much of interest to see, made it worthwhile seeking to rearrange our flight so as to spend more time in Tahiti and less in the Cook Islands. Air New Zealand were able to arrange this for us when we visited their office at the airport. The visit itself was of interest as we saw how such a small airport coped with arrivals and departures and all the other business of an airport within such a small shed-like building.
We walked from the airport into town and paid a brief visit to the church and museum taking a short external look at the University of the South Pacific which appeared very small. We also saw a local school.
On returning to Café Salsa for our lunch, we again met Clive and Eleanor whom we had first encountered there on Saturday.
In the afternoon, Adrian went snorkelling and Jill made use of the hotel Gym which is free to residents.
Television reception has proved extremely difficult with the only clear channel being TV1 from New Zealand with a local version screened by Rarotonga and offering very quaint adverts for all the local businesses. We were particularly amused to note a special deal on plastic bowls and also $50 worth of mozzarella cheese.
It appears that the needs and aspirations of Cook Islanders differ from our own.
The local news gave an interesting insight into issues concerning the South Pacific including a recent report on health and also problems of quality control in seeking to export agricultural goods.
Tuesday 6th March
It teemed with rain for most of the day. Jill had a couple of sessions in the Gym and walked 5½ miles and Adrian swam in the pool. Otherwise it was a day of reading. Problems with wifi access lead to us being locked out of our Nationwide Account on Jill’s login and she emailed Customer Services.
In the evening we went to dinner at the Tamarind Restaurant with Clive and Eleanor. We had an excellent meal accompanied by piano music as well as a good chat.
Wednesday 7th March
It rained again but not as hard as yesterday. By lunch time it had eased although there were still some showers. We went into Avarua for lunch at Café Salsa. Jill bought some perfume and a black pearl necklace and earrings. We also managed to get a small gift for Lesli. We spent the rest of the day in the hotel.
Thursday 8th March
It rained today – all day! We felt sorry for a couple who arrived for their wedding shortly after the worst of the downpour but with it still raining.
We left in the evening to catch the 10.20 p.m. flight to Papeete where we arrived shortly after midnight and took a taxi to the Radisson Plaza Resort that we had booked via Wotif.