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Thursday, 8 August 2013

Badass biking in the Cook Islands!

Jennie and I haven't been to Rarotonga in the tropical Cook Island group for 6 years but it's a nice warm destination for a short break, the people are lovely and the food is great. Flying time from Auckland is under 4 hours.  In fact, a great place to celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary and escape from reality!

Whilst waiting for our flight at Auckland airport, we noticed a NASA 747 parked outside the terminal.  Turns out that it's an airborne observatory which was using the clear air over NZ to study the Milky Way - cool!


 NASA SOFIA Airborne observatory (big door in front of the fin)

Accommodation in Rarotonga ranges from the basic to pretty opulent and we had a beachfront apartment at Muri Lagoon.  Certainly weren't disappointed!

Tough, but someone has to do it!

Slumming it!

View from the apartment over the lagoon

Arriving late afternoon, there was just time to unpack, indulge in happy hour cocktails and enjoy local seafood.

Happy (very) hour cocktails

Local Mahi-mahi (dorado) seafood

Chocolate and hazel nut dessert

First priority next morning was to organise some transport.  Rarotonga has a maximum speed limit of 50 km/hr.  If you ride a motorcycle without a helmet (which seem to be practically non-existent), you're restricted to a (choosing the word carefully) theoretical top speed of 40 km/hr.  With these restrictions, hiring a scooter is just fine.  So is the hire price of just over NZ $15 per day!!   

Rarotonga has a laid-back approach to getting your Cook Islands licence, which is more of an income generator than a demonstration of competence.  We hired our scooter at the apartment, but then had to ride to the police station some 20 minutes away to get a temporary licence.  No worries if you're familiar with riding on 2 wheels but guess it could be a bit dodgy if you haven't ridden before.  Suppose that if you make it to the police station in 1 piece, it proves that you're not totally incompetent! 

Our steed was a Yamaha 125 scooter with auto transmission and surprisingly peppy, even 2 up!  Harsh words and the occasional clout from the speed controller on the rear seat prevented maximum top speed from being explored.  The Star-Trek gaudy layout of the instrument cluster had us calling it the Enterprise, even if I wasn't permitted to engage warp drive!

The bridge of the Enterprise

Ticket to ride?
(Hi-tech safety gear is a baseball cap turned backwards)

Poking the Devil with a stick and running away.....

Parliament - they can hardly be accused of unnecessary opulence (or security)!

We'd done all the touristy things on our previous visit so this time, it was a case of exploring the island on the scooter, kayaking in the lagoon and just chilling.  One of the hallmarks of the Cook Islands is the wonderful fresh food, particularly seafood and a wide variety of fruits which we had for breakfast each morning.  Fruiting trees are literally everywhere.

Pawpaw plantation

Stopping by the roadside and picking up fresh coconuts

The nearest McDonalds is 2851 km away - long may it be so!


Even though it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, the tropics still have plants flowering and busy growing everywhere - here are some examples:

Gorgeous leaves on shrub

Bougainvillea hedgerow

Although Rarotonga is a popular destination for Kiwis and Aussies looking for a mid-winter break, it's by no means overcrowded and there are lots of unspoiled beaches with no-one on them.  By sheer coincidence though, one of my riding buddies, Martin, was in Rarotonga at the same time with his partner Cindy to attend a wedding and it was great to get together for a meal and a few beers!

Two people, one scooter and that's the lot!

We had a short-lived tropical storm pass over the island.  When it first hit during darkness, we were about 20 km away from the apartment watching a live rugby match on a big screen in a village hall with the locals. It was still hosing down when we headed away and my protective gear of a shirt and shorts weren't a heck of a lot of use - soaked through in seconds although Jennie was hardly damp hunkering down behind me! At least it was warm.  It stopped raining in the early hours but it was still blowing hard in the morning and the kite surfers were having a ball on the lagoon.

These guys were REALLY motoring!

The Saturday market on the island is a big event, as much social as being there to buy all the local products on sale.  There was a bewildering choice of foods, clothing, plants and local crafts available and the Cook Islands drummers always raise the hairs on my neck - fantastic!

Hand-printed sarongs

Exquisitely carved shell pendant

Locally made electric Ukuleles

Cook Island drummers

All too soon, it was time to head back to the airport and return to reality, but it was a wonderful break.  Hope you've enjoyed the introduction to a little corner of the South Pacific which is largely unspoiled with wonderful, unaffected local people!

The airport on Rarotonga



26 comments:

  1. Thank you! I don't think I've ever seen anything on the Cook Islands though I do remember hearing of their existence in school (way back in the flat earth days). Time to research it a bit more.

    So was this the annual surprise trip?

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    1. Cheers Richard! Rarotonga is great for up to around a week of fun, Western Samoa is a little larger but more to do and Vanuatu is really good too. All the South Pacific Islands have their own charms.

      We now consult on where to go as we've travelled extensively in Australasia, the Pacific and south-east Asia. Our longer trips are getting a bit more expensive so we want to make sure that we are both happy with the destination! All being well, the Canadian Rockies by train next year doubled with an Inland Passage cruise to your neck of the woods!

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  2. Happy Anniversary ... what a great way and destination to celebrate.

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  3. Thanks Karen,

    I can think of worse ways of having fun!

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  4. ....and you maon at me when MY hat is on the wrong way!

    Love the pendant, actually wish I had known as I would of got you to get it for me. I love those kind of things.

    Anyway, in case you were worried, we didnt miss u...

    much.

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  5. Rogey me ol' mate! You're a trend-setter and simply not appreciated, that's the cross you have to bear!

    Yeah, it was pretty nice and only about $35. The carver was making them on the spot. We didn't realise that there was high quality shell carving on the island either.

    My heart is broken...... :-)

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  6. fabulous! happy anniversary, and thank you for sharing it with us!

    i have been meaning to get to cook islands for 25 yrs, and it's even more beautiful than i've heard... it's on my short list. :) one of the things i must do while there...find that carved pendant (i just love it too)!

    cheers!

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  7. Hi Ms M and thanks!

    Yep, it is lovely and the people really make it - just laid back and genuine.

    Something I only noticed today is if you look at that pendant on the lower right hand side, it's a humpback whale engraved on it (nose upwards). The Cook Islands are on the migratory route.

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  8. Happy Anniversary both of you!!

    What a great place, have to admit the islands is not soemwhere I've ever wanted to go, I guess that's because Bali tends to be the destination for most people and that kind of thing just doesn't appeal to me, from you post I think Cook Islands might be a lot different. So relaxing!!

    I would have had to have one of those Ukelele's and the pendant is so beautiful.

    I'm also loving the shorts and t-shirts, it's snowing nearby and I'm sitting here in three layers of thermals wishing the heater would do it's job better .. your photos warmed me a little bit :)

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    1. Hi Brenda,

      We've been to Bali too and Patong in Thailand - very much geared to western tastes and western food outlets and bars. The South Pacific isn't like that and neither is Vietnam, which we have a strong affection for. All depends what sort of holiday you're looking for at the time really.

      Yeah, it was lovely to have a bit of warmth even though the winter has been very mild where we live.

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  9. mean while at the retirement village......

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    1. Steve,
      Age and cunning beats youthful enthusiasm every time. And you can get away with a lot more when you play the senior citizen card too ;-).

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  10. Another place to add to the bucket list. Thanks for sharing your trip with us - beautiful!

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    1. Canajun,

      My pleasure! It's nice to tease the kids that we're using up their inheritance :-)

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  11. Happy Anniversary to you two!!

    You know through the grapevine that the Cook Island have long been a dream destination for me. I think since I heard Rarotonga had a few childfree resorts, lol. It just seems the perfect tropical destination - outside NZ of course.

    It looks like you and Jennie had a great time. Thanks for sharing all the pictures and making everyone just a little bit jelly.

    Oh and with your hat on backwards do we need to start referring to you as G? As in - YO, YO G what up?

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    1. Thanks Brandy!

      Yep, the resort next to us was child-free but even though ours wasn't, there weren't many about as it was during school term time.

      Hahaha! s'up Mama? (That's the extent of my street talk). Maybe I should learn some hand movements from the (c)rap videos first for a bit of cred!

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  12. Geoff great pics as usual. The weather here has been the polar opposite to what you had there. I've prepped the ZX14 in the hope of a short ride tomorrow.

    I'm sure that you will love Canada next year, it's a spectacular part of the word.

    Cheers Jules.

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    1. Thanks Jules!

      Apparently, it's been nice in NZ during our absence but typically, it's now set for rain for a few days, darn it!

      The Canadian Rockies and the Alaskan cruise has been on the bucket list for a while so looking forward to it.

      Safe riding mate!

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  13. AAAAaaa...the pictures are perfect to show the serenity and calmness of the area. Happy Anniversary and I'm glad you both had a great time. Though I will have to shake my finger at the utter lack of ATGATT. Tsk, tsk. :)

    So...do you really think that NASA aircraft was looking at the Milky Way?? You are priceless! wink, wink.

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    1. Cheers Lori! (Hangs head in contrition regarding ATTGAT - wouldn't know where to find any out there!).

      Hahaha - probably using the clear air to look through bedroom windows from a great height for all I know ;-).

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  14. Congrat's on your 41st guys. What a ripper of a place for a holiday. Food for thought....

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  15. Cheers Marty!
    There's a bit more to do in Western Samoa but Rarotonga is a great place to chill!

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  16. What a lovely getaway. Happy anniversary to you both! We are always tossing the gear when on a scooter, right? I have been guilty of this, too...

    Harvesting fresh coconut, an ocean view to die for... oh stop it.

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  17. Thanks Sonja!
    Errr...yes indeed :-). A scooterist's life is a happy one eh? You've been to some pretty special places on yours too!

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  18. Hey Geoff,

    Happy anniversary!

    The cook islands look amazing, they have always been on my to do list.

    I used a similar 'high-tech' safety device for my scooting in Thailand.

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    1. Hi James!
      Thanks mate. There's more to do in Western Samoa or Vanuatu, but the Cooks are a wonderful place to simply chill, which is what we wanted this time.

      Hahaha - yeah, the safety devices are programmed to have long memories for indiscretions too! We didn't ride in Thailand. Traffic didn't look too suicidal, unlike Vietnam.

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