Chapter 4: I become very lazy.

Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
Trip End Nov 2004

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Flag of Cook Islands  ,
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I have to admit I was very nervous during my first steps into my dorm room at Vara's on Sunday morning. In a way it felt like the first day of college again: surveying your new surroundings and trying to get a handle on everything at once, wondering what your new roommates would be like and if you'd get along, and checking to see whether the mattress would be getting ready to walk away on its own (ok, that wasn't a concern at Brown so much). I was doubly nervous because the write-ups on Vara's are never flattering; they describe all-night parties, lots of people wandering in & out at all hours, and very crowded & noisy living conditions. Sounds hellish, yes? Ha.

Suffice to say that around 1am on the first night, as I finished my umpteenth glass of rum & something during my 8th drinking game of the evening with a bunch of swell new friends, I realized I'd get on quite well with hostel living. Yes - I've now officially entered a segment of my trip that will make some friends insanely jealous, and make others roll their eyes. Days at Vara's consist of some combination of snorkelling in the lagoon and sunbathing on the beach, and nights are communal events usually involving greasy takeaway food and staggering amounts of alcohol. Good times. =) Of course, one could point out that if I was so interested in these activities to begin with I could have saved substantial money by just hanging around fraternity basements or going to Newport. But really, it's not the same. Trust me.

Muri Beach is incredible. The lagoon is seldom more than waist deep, and you can wade out to a few beautiful tropical islands for some private beach time under swaying palms. The only catch is that it's mating season for the triggerfish, so they're territorial and MEAN right now. There's a kind of funny paranoia going around as a result. I've only had one encounter so far, when a colorful 8-inch specimen came charging at me; a kick in its direction sent it scurrying, so I'm thinking the fear may be exaggerated. Supposedly a few people have battle scars on their legs, though, so I'll keep watching out.

Yesterday I went snorkelling a few km down the road and was treated to some incredible fish. I think I'll return tomorrow with the camera and try to get some pics. Hundreds of colorful (and BIG!) fish were all around, swimming right up to us, probably hoping to get fed. Last night several of us took the bus across the island to see the "Island Night" at the Edgewater Resort. For those who pay $50, it's a buffet & dance performance, but for those who sneak in late (us), it's cocktails at the bar... and a dance performance. The drums were even more intoxicating than the maitais, and I'm still not sure how the women can move their hips like that! The show was good, but as I have the attention span of a fruit fly I was happy enough when after 45 minutes we realized we had to catch the bus back.

Today it's cloudy so I decided to motivate and rent a bike for another round-the-island journey (it's only 30-some km). Stopped for lunch at a cafe and asked for a slice of smoked chicken pizza (the only other choice was ham). The pizza came, and the meat looked awfully red to be chicken, so I asked, and the woman told me very authoritatively that it was chicken but looked different because it's "smoked." Well, 12 years away from ham hasn't altered my memory of the taste, so oh well - check off one more type of animal that's blundered into my digestive system since I gave up the vegetarianism. I'm currently at an internet cafe in the cute town of Avarua (Raro's commercial center), and I maybe have 10km left to go on my circuit. The island on the whole seems more prosperous than French Polynesia, and I'm not sure if that's just an illusion, or if it's true because of the ties the Cooks have to New Zealand. The locals are very friendly... on Monday night a huge group of us came into town to go to the Returned Serviceman's Association Club for a popular backpackers' night, and lots of Rarotongans came out to laugh at us "dancing" to the awful music. 3 UB40 songs in one hour? Yikes. Afterwards, in a truly stupid move, about 12 of us hitched the 1/2 hour back to Vara's in the back of a pick-up truck. It wasn't stupid because it was hitching - everyone does that here. Rather, it was stupid because the well-meaning local driving the truck was so drunk he couldn't even manage complete sentences. Luckily he drove at about 20km/hour and only brushed a few bushes along the way. I'm sure I have much scarier transport in my future... all part of the adventure!

By now you probably figured out that I scrapped my plans to fly to Aitutaki this week. It was a lot of money to fly there for just 2 days, most of the accommodations were sold out, and I'm having a blast on Raro, so I decided to relax instead and just spend the week here. On Friday night I'm moving on to Fiji for... well... more of the same, probably. Can't wait! Much love to everyone,

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