Our first destination - the Cook Islands
25.06.2006 - 03.07.2006
View Around the World 06-07 on TulsaTrot's travel map.
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Hello yall! Nadine and I finally arrived to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands last Monday and we are happy to be in a rainy paradise. Quite a bit has happened since we arrived to the tiny island, so we will let you know what has been happening.
First of all, if you are not familiar with our locale, here is the 411. The Cook Islands are located in the South Pacific west of Tahiti, east of Fiji, and very far due south of Hawaii. It's a tropical climate. There are two groups of islands, the northern group, hardly inhabited, and the southern group which contains Rarotonga and Aitutaki, the two islands we are visiting. We picked these set of islands over Fiji and Tahiti due to A) the fact that we wouldn't expect there to be many visitors, which there aren't, B) a little cheaper, which it isn't, compared to American prices, and C) it would be beautiful, no doubt about that.
June 22nd we flew to L.A. to meet up with some old college friends before going to our first international destination. Upon arriving to L.A. our goal was simple, relax. Previously we had been packing, moving, and making sure our apartment was empty before our first flight. Chrissie was Nadine's roommate at TU and we stayed with her and her roommate Vola. It was great riding down to Venice Beach where I could lift weights and constantly ask where the gym was in front of a big crowd. I also met up with Van Schaick, one of my college roommates. He is a big lawyer in Hollywood now, so if you ever watch COPS, he is responsible for making sure the show is not breaking the law themselves. Quite ironic! It was a great time of laying around, watching World Cup soocer, and repacking our bags.
Our flight from L.A. to Rarotonga left at 11:45 in the evening. The entire way, Nadine had the middle row to herself where she remarkably slept a solid 5 hours on the plane before our arrival into our layover spot of Papeete, Tahiti. Myself, I had two seats to myself where I curled up like a baby and slept like an old man. The actual arrival into Rarotonga was pretty nice. Instead of just landing onto the single runway, we flew by the island at a low altitude to land from the opposite direction because of the wind blowing off of the Pacific. The view of the entire island was amazing.
The first four days of our time on the island consisted of reading, writing, staring out the window praying for the rain to stop. Yes, our first days in paradise were restricted because of the rain.
After several days of non-stop rain, Nadine was content staying in the hostel reading her book, myself, I had to get out of the hostel, so I jumped on the bus and headed to Muri Beach to just see another part of the island. When I got there, I found a nice little place to rent a kayak and the rain let up and the sun had actually peeked its head out along with Sabrina, our German friend from our hostel, so we rented two kayaks. As soon as we put it in the water, the clouds clouded over, wind picked up, and the rain began to fall again. Since I paid for the kayak, I was determined to use it. Kayaking in the rain across the blue lagoon was refreshing in the choppy Pacific Ocean water. After we landed and searched the first motu, Sabrina decided to head back to the beach, because she was cold. I on the other hand figured I might as well visit the other motu born of volcanic rock. As I paddled over, the waves and wind were blowing me and my kayak around like Matthew Pepper in high school, so at that moment I decided it might be wise to go back to shore. I did live to see another day.
Once the rain really stopped on Friday, Nadine and I traveled back over to Muri Beach to try our hand at kayaking. From the beach, we manuevered our bright, plastic kayaks around motus, the name for the little islands, as waves crashed in the far distance against the reef that surrounds the island. When it came time to return our kayaks, we paddled against a powerful headwind. As a result of our kayaking, the next morning, Nadine had some sore shoulders and back.
Saturday started off as a sunny day and we had high hopes. Snorkeling was our goal. We rented some snorkeling gear and walked south down the island road. We found a secluded spot on the beach and dropped our stuff there. As we headed out towards the reef, the water wasn't that deep, so we had to avoid running into it. After a few trips around the reef among parrot fish, several of the fish that you saw in "Finding Nemo," we decided to try another spot further down the beach noted for great snorkeling. This next spot was the perfect spot for snorkeling. In front of the Rarotongan Resort, there was deep water with 10 times as many fish as the previous spot. The entire sensation felt like we were swimming among all types of fish one would find in an aquarium. It was awesome!
Sunday, July 2nd, a very important day in American history, my 29th birthday, we attended mass at a church close to our hostel. In the Cook Islands, people are known for two things, their dansing and their singing. The singing at mass was lively, unique, and in Maori. After mass, we were invited to join in the monthly tea. Basically, everyone brought some type of food to go along with either tea, coffee, and juice after mass. It was a good time as we talked with folks from the island.
To celebrate my birthday, we went to eat at an Indian restaurant for a buffet the night before as well as a day of renting bikes and circling the 20 mile road circling around the island. It was a great way to see the island.
So there has been a few interesting things that have happened here, just some quick notes. At the Indian restaurant, I walked into the restroom, and instead of seeing a trash can for your paper towels, there was a very large crab eating the paper in its place. I jumped back when I saw it. You would hate to have him bite your butt while you were going to the loo.
Another item of interest, we have learned that you have to wash your clothes everyday or two, not three or four, because, as is the case with our clothes, they begin to stink quite a bit in the humid weather.
We actually went to an "Island Night." Different Cook Islanders perform their native danse. It was great to see the folks in their native attire. At the end when it came time for people in the crowd to danse with the dansers, Nadine hurriedly hid behind me. Unfortunately, they didn't pick her.
It has been fun here on Rarotonga. We are now heading to Aitutaki where they are currently filming Survivor. I am going to sneek onto the island. Hope all is well.
Peace from the Cooks - John and Nadine