Monday, 17 April 2017

Arrival at the Cook Islands, Rarotonga

ALLIE: DAY 61: Monday, 16th of April or Sunday, the 15th of April

Flying out to the Cook Islands, Rarotonga  

landing on the Cooks
Early morning check in for a Boing 777 flight with Air New Zealand out to the Pacific Islands. It’s a relaxed 3 hours journey to Rarotonga and I am very much looking forward to spending some sunny days at the beach.

We arrive a day later but two hours earlier, do you understand? It’s Sunday, the 15th of April – again.

No I am not drunk nor did I have a black out, but we have crossed the international date line during our flight and may now enjoy the same day again.
It must be quite a challenge to have email exchange between the Cooks and NZ I imagine. ‘So do you mean today, or tomorrow or did you actually mean yesterday??’

The ‘International Airport of the Cooks Islands’ looks rather private and cosy to me. A singer welcomes all arrivals with Maori songs and a lady offers us help in finding accommodation. We certainly need that but it seems to be rather difficult. 150 students from Boston, USA have just arrived with us on this flight and have taking up all hotels. Nevertheless we finally arrive at the pleasant and friendly “Paradise Inn” near the capital town of Avarua. The hotel is also full with students but we can stay upstairs and have even a little (nearly) private balcony.

looking forward to relaxing days
I am eager to go swimming. But there is a disappointment: the corral reef here is so shallow and full with sea urchins that swimming is impossible.

How sad! Well, yesterday it was Phil’s turn, today it’s mine. Anyway, there is hope – for Phil in Vancouver and for me in Aitutaki.

We wander around the little town. There is a lovely old church with an interesting graveyard around it.

What a life it must have been to be posted out here from England to be the governor of the Cook Islands? At those times it was a six weeks journey back to the UK and at least a week or more to New Zealand.

the little church
Next door there is a church service in progress. The ladies are dressed in their best clothes and all wear a beautiful big flowered hat. Lovely singing tunes up and we stand and listen for a while.

It’s Sunday and that’s the day of rest and of prayer – at least for most of the locals. Everything is shut. The only place that’s open is the ‘Trader Jacks’ Bar near the harbour and we can’t resist to have a drink there.

I am trying their special ‘Melon Mist’ which consists of honey dew melon, Cointreau, white rum, vodka and pineapple juice. No wonder I nearly fall of my stool after that drink!

view to one of the Cook islands
Later on that evening we end up again at the Trader Jacks and have a meal whilst watching hundreds of little fish swimming close to the bar to catch insects. It’s a noisy night with the students and a disco man next door.

PHIL: Day 61/16 April

Actually today is 15th and 16th of April for us as we cross the International Date Line en route to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands –  a 31/2-hour flight. 

Perversely Auckland is bathed in sunlight and the sea a glassy calm, airport windsocks hanging limply in conditions we have been craving for a week in Hamilton.

Rarotonga is still enjoying its Sunday rest when we arrive, but a tourism lady in the arrivals area tells us most accommodation near the airport (where we want to be positioned for our 0530 departure for Aitutaki tomorrow) is taken by a large study group from Boston University (not, I guess, Harvard).

We eventually find ourselves in the company of some of these students at the slightly euphemistically-named ‘Paradise Inn’, about  3km from the terminal but conveniently close to what passes for downtown Avarua, the capital of the Cooks.

A walk round the ‘town’ centre has some lovely backwaters including a coral limestone church where a congregation is, for some reason, eschewing the main church for a modern hall next door. 

colourful mural paintings
The singing is typical Polynesian/Christian , reminding me of a visit to Nuku’alofa cathedral thirty years ago in the presence of the King and Queen of Tonga

Another beautiful Victorian verandah-ed house with a flagpole looks as if it was once home to the Resident Commissioner in more Grimble-like times of the last century. It is falling into disrepair. The last resident commissioner stayed on in more than spirit, however, as a tombstone by the church reminds us.

A convivial bar/restaurant, Trader Jack’s, sits overlooking the bay and the remains of a wrecked cargo ship so we eat off local fish, some of which leap from the water as we watch. It seems to be home to a group of expats which includes a couple from Yorkshire and some Americans.

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