Kia Orana Everyone!!

Trip Start Jul 27, 2003
Trip End Jul 26, 2004

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Sunday, September 14, 2003

Well hello all and Kia Orana which is welcome and long life to all!! Well things have been hectic (NOT!!) It seems the less you have to do the less time you have to do things like internet updates etc!! We have had a great time in The Cook Islands and apologise for the lack of communication from here its just so much effort to leave the beach to walk to the Internet cafes!! Anyway here is a much less filled diary of our last two weeks!!

Monday 1st September
We got off the plane at 6.30am in Rarotonga the largest of The Cook Islands which were discovered by (amongst others) yes you guessed it Captain Cook! We passed through immigration to collect our bags. I had booked Varas a long time ago and we were getting picked up from the airport by Vara herself. We had booked a private room for the first week but then moving into Dorm life for the second. We jumped in the van with Nick from MZ who we had met on the plane and a couple from Woodbridge in Suffolk (Hi Sara!)and we chatted whilst driving the short journey to Varas. We knew it wouldn't be far as the Island is only 6 miles long! The island is miles from anywhere in the middle of the Pacific but surrounded by a lagoon so the water is shallow for aboiut half a mile out for swimming and snorkelling. The Island only has two roads an outer road and an inner road and is about 18 miles all the way aroundand they use New Zealand $.

We pulled up outside our accomodation and Wow! We were literally no more than 10 feet from the whitest sand and bluest water I think I have ever seen. There were 3 unhabited islands just a short walk out into the shallow waters just asking to be swam to. There was a big deck on the front with tables and chairs for communal gatherings. There were 2 kitchens equiped with facilities and a big indoord sitting area. It was only 7.30 and we were shown to our room for the next week (it was nice to think you could settle in the same bed for more than a couple of days!!) We decided to get a couple of hours sleep. We got up at 9.30 and headed out to inspect our new home for the next 2 weeks. We had our own "Room 3 shelf" in the kitchen for our food and a shelf in the fridge. We got chatting to some fellow guests and for the first time it feels like we are "really" travelling. Most people who were travelling for a year were at the tail end of their holiday so it is great to get lots of advice from everyone. So much so that we have changed the end of our trip to take in Nepal as everyone we met that went their raves about it.

We sat on the deck with a cup of tea looking out at paradise. You could pretty much do everything from the beach we were on, Muri Beach, which is supposed to be the best on the island. You could hire sailing boats, kayaks, snorkelling stuff, mopeds there were a couple of shops just a small walk away selling all the esentials. We were paying $20 (about 7 pounds) and we were next door to a 5* hotel which was $180 a night. We could use their bar and eat in their restaurant but we had to walk the 50 feet back to our place to sleep! It was really hard to try and chill out after running ragged for so long in the US and not rush off and do everything in one day. It took time to adapt to "Island Time". We sat on the deck and met a bunch of people. We then headed into town and had a wander around the small town of Avarua. There were 3 Internet cafes, a dozen shops, a dozen bars and restaurants and a small harbour. We got online for about 2pounds an hour and sent a couple of emails. We had a wander around the shops and went to the supermarket to get some shopping to fill our "shelf"! We then had an Ice Cream on the Harbour and caught the bus back to our accomodation . I made some Spag Bog as it has been too long and it was so nice to be able to cook again. We went to eat on the deck with a couple of beers (Vialima) which was soon to become a habit!

We got chatting to a teacher from The Wirral called Barry who was a really nice guy, he was on his way home to buy another Round The World ticket as he wasn't ready to go home after a year! There was a girl called Natalie who had been travelling since she was 18, 7 years altogether. There was another girl from Aberdeen who was doing 6 months with her 7 year old daughter. A 54 year old American who was waiting for a working ship to come in to take him around the world. A bunch of students and a fair number of thirtysomethings. It was brilliant, a bunch of very different people spanning from 7 to 54 years old yet all having so much to talk about. We had an early night to beat the jet lag.

Tuesday 2nd September
We got up and had soft boiled eggs and soldiers - oh the things you can do when you have your own kitchen!! We sat out on the deck where the sun was beating down already. After breakfast we headed out to one of the little islands, or motu as they are known here. It only gets waist deep so you can walk it if you want to. We sat on the island, the only people on it was us. We read and caught some rays. When it started getting to warm we went out to do some snorkelling. There were loads and loads of fish. It was really really beautiful. We stayed out till midday then headed back to escape the heat. Did I mention this is the middle of The Cook Islands winter!! You would never believe it. We had some lunch and sat on the deck all afternoon. Its funny how people get into groups and end up hanging out. We had a bit of a group established already. There was Nick who we had met on the plane, another couple of Aucklanders, James & Joe who were here on holiday, Jenny a lovely girl from Kidsgove, Emma and Rebecca who were twins and just known as the twins, and a guy called Greg who worked in "the city" or he did till he jacked it in to be a builder in Brisbane. We headed up to the little shop to get ourself something for dinner. They had just had a fresh delivery of Broadbill fish so we bought a couple of big steaks for just $6 (2 pounds). The tuna steaks were even cheaper. We headed back and cooked the steaks and ate out on the deck with a few bottles of Vialima!! We sat out till the early hours chatting in our newly formed gang! Nick had a fishing rod and him and Simon fished off the deck and caught some fish, all thrown back as they were too small.

Wednesday 3rd September
We headed up to Budget after breakfast to get a moped so we could see more of the Island. We were told we had to get our Cook Islands licence first. We had to go to the Police Station in town to get our licence. The odd thing was town was 3 miles away and you needed to take your bike with you to sit your test which involved driving before you had your licence!! We got into town and went to sit our test which cost $5 (1.75). The policeman followed you while you literally drove around the block. You cover less than half a mile with 2 turns, a Give Way and a Stop sign. You get back to the beginning and the policeman signs your piece of paper to say you passed and gives everyone a few words of widom like "watch those gear changes" or "becareful of those Stop signs" and then you are done. You go into the police station and get a photo ID legal licence for $10 (3.50). So we were now legal on our semi automatic bike and we took a drive round the Island!

The drive took all of 30 mins and we then headed back to lay on the beach as it had been a hard day after our exam! We headed out to snorkel and saw loads more fish and some eels and even an octopus near one of the little motu. We went to lay on the beach some more. I went to get a shower as it was 4pm and the water here is solar powered and there is never any left by 6pm. We sat out on the deck with some Fiji Lager as it had been on offer at just 12 cans for $12 (4pounds) and sat chatting to our new friends.

Thursday 4th September
Today we headed out into the island and onto the inner road which circles the amazing mountains in the centre. We were looking for a deserted hotel that we had been told about called The Sheraton. We soon found it and realised why it causes so much hype. There are several stories that surround the hotel but one I prefered and seemed the most plausible. It was built in 1992 and financed by an Italian businessman who had made an agreement to import everything he needed for the hotel from Italy as "he had family there". It was very near completion when and the Italian businessman was arrested by The Italian governement as party of a large Mafia operation and all his money was deemed sought through criminal means and the Italian governement seized all his money leaving nothing to finish the hotel. The thing is it is so nearly complete. The credit card access on the doors, the jacuzzi baths in all 500 rooms, the huge reception area with it huge tiled dancefloor. The thing is no-one on the island could afford to finish it so it has just sat there for 11 years falling apart. The owner of the land can't afford to demolish it. There is a huge man made swimming pool in the grounds with marble steps going down into the now slimy green water but the wierdest thing of all is that there is boxes and boxes of stuff lying around, fine italian tile, thousands of terracotta roof tiles, cookers, fridges, 500 headboards, wardrobes, just loads of stuff. Its all been sitting here for 11 years and none of the locals will make use of it because they see it is stealing and it is against their beliefs to take what is not theirs.

Friday 5th September
Today was pretty much taken up by 9 of us on a cross island ridge hike. The hike starts on The North Beach and you walk along the mountain ridge to the centre where there is a place called the needle which is a sheer faced tall rock in the middle and then you head toward the South Beach. It is 6 miles in all and was such a great walk. The weather was perfect and you could see the whole island from the needle. We got the bus back into town from the South Beach and went to a bar called Trader Jacks for a dip off their deck and some beers. We sat drying in the sun and sunk a number of icy cold Cooks lagers. We all headed back to Varas and I was asleep by 7.30 and stayed that way for 13 hours.

Saturday 6th September
Saturday is Rarotonga Market Day so we got up and 10 of us headed to market for breakfast. It consisted of Ika Mata which is raw Marlin fish marinated for 7 hours in cocunet cream and lemon juice with tomato, pepper and onion. It was gorgeous. We then had fresh Paw Paw fruit with Ice Cream which was a bit excessive at 10.30 but hey we are on holiday. It the started to rain so we headed back to Varas and sat on the deck we started playing cards and by 2pm the beer was flowing again which is lethal. We carried on regardless into the evening where a beach party was warming up at the next resort so we headed there. We all danced the night away and then stumbled back along the beach to Varas.

Sunday 7th September
Sunday is church day. We all got up in time to take the short stroll to church for 10am service. All the backpackers are invited to church with a free feed afterwards. Now you can see why 10 slightly hungover travellers may want to get up so early for church. The service was really good and had lots of singing and clapping. After the service we all headed out to The Church Hall where we were presented with Fried Chicken, Fresh Mussels, Fresh Clams, Watermelons, PawPaw, Fruit Scones, Chocolate Cake and Tea. The locals wouldn't let us leave until everything was either eaten or packed up to take with us. We all walked back along the road with our arms laden with bunches of bananas and napkins wrapped around scones. We were not going to need to eat again today.

Monday 8th September
Today would be a learning day. That is how many card games you can play. None of the games are too complimentary with names like Shithead and Arsehole. It was cloudy today so we sat and played cards in between two servings of 2 minute noodles. One of the gang left today and most others leave tomorrow and its kind of sad to see people go, but with every flight out is a new flight in so its never quiet. This was also our last night of peaceful sleep before dorm life so our so called friends shared some of their worst dorm stories with us - none of which I will go into at the moment!!

Tuesday 9th September
We checked out of our room and were waiting for some people to leave their dorm before we could check in so I headed up to The Internet cafe to Update Travelpod before I got too behind. They serve the best Chocolate milkshakes here and they are so big they last you the whole hour slot. It was a gorgeous day today so I finished my emailing and went to lay on the beach for the rest of the morning. We got chatting to two Irish lads who were also waiting for a dorm to be cleared. We went to find out if we could check in only to be told they had double booked. We had all paid in advance so they couldn't exactly kick us out. All they had available was a studio. Which is a luxury studio for families. We shared it with the Irish boys Kevin and Brendan who were really nice lads and we had a very nice marble topped kitchen to oursleves and heated water so no need to rely on solar heating!!

We headed out and hired kayaks with Nick, Jenny and a girl called Kate. We headed out to the edge of the lagoon where it reaches the reef. Here it is only knee deep. You get to the reef and then two more paces and it drops 4 kilometres. There were some amzing sea life out here including some blue starfish. They were a bright royal blue and about a foot across. They were beautiful. We then saw some spray from some whales just a short way past the reef. Unfortunately they didn't show their tails but it was amazing to think that just a couple of hundred feet away were some humback whales. The surf on the reef was too high and a little to harsh to risk taking the kayaks over.

4 more of the gang left today and Jenny who became a good friend was among them. We are going to meet for a balti in a year in Stoke though!!

Wednesday 10th September
After a little too much sun yesterday we decided to do nothing today. we got up about 9am and I went back to sleep at 1pm till 3pm. We sat on our balcony with the Irish boys drinking Vialimas and having a laugh most of the afternoon and until the early hours.

Thursday 11th September - Happy 6th Birthday Emilia!!!!
We were sitting on our studio deck when James (Aucklander) came running into our studio asking if he could use the shower. He ran in fully clothed and stood under the cold water almost in tears. He had had a bad fish!! It makes your skin itch unbearably for about 6 hours and there isn't much you can do. We sat taking it in turns rubbing ice on hios back for hours before eventually giving up and I took him to hospital. The people at the hospital were really nice and gave him some cream and some tablets to knock him out. It was horrible to think that fish could do that and it put us off fish for the rest of the day. We got back from the hospital and the tablets worked as James was asleep within about 10 mins.

Thursday night is island nightat The Staircase. We all headed up there as it was our last night. We got the bus into town and went to Trader Jacks again for some Cooks lager and a feed. We had the Garlic Prawns for starter and Lamb Shank with cheddar mash. It was brilliant. We then went to the Staircase which is where the locals do some traditional dancing. Of course there is nothing like a bit of audience participation, Simon and Brendan were called up to do some dancing (photos and video clip to follow soon!!) After the dancing a DJ steps in and plays all the latest tunes (latest in Raro standards). We then left and headed back to Varas with a sing along on the journey back.

Friday 12th September
Leaving today. We got up and checked out of the studio. The Irish boys were leaving for Fiji with us. We moved our bags in with the Auckland boys, James and Joe, so they could look after our bags for us. Five of us headed to the Internet cafe to get some milkshakes. We got to the Internet cafe only to find out they had run out of ice cream. We were pretty gutted as we had got quite a taste for them on the walk up. We headed to the Pacific Resort next door they wanted $8 for a small glass and only did a chocolat5e and banana mix whereas the Internet cafe does 20 flavours. We decided to go the 6-11 to get two tubs of ice cream to offer as a trade to the Internet cafe. If they made us 5 shakes they could keep the remainder ice cream The girl happily obliged - yum.

We whiled the day away with a few Vialimas and 2 minute noodles. We booked a cab for 6pm and headed for the airport. We got on the plane at 11.45 for our 3 hour flight to Nadi, Fiji.

Saturday 13th September
Today doesn't actually exist for us as we crossed the dateline.

Well another p[lace ticked off the list. The Cook Islands is a brilliant place and very friendly and about 10 days is all you need and we are now feeling fully beached out. We may cut Fiji short by a week depending on our first impressions.

Hope you are all well. Take care and email us soon
Lots of Love
Liz and Simon xxxx
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