Blog Roddus

Blog Roddus
My Favorite Place

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rarotonga, Cook Islands - October 14-21 2014

Our Stay on a Tropical Island.

Rarotonga is the Main Island of the Cook Islands, about 3000KM north east of New Zealand. It has a free association with New Zealand and it's citizens are considered New Zealand Citizens, although the reverse does not apply. The Natives that settled there about 1400 years ago may have originated from Tahiti and are closely related to our own Maori here in NZ. Rarotonga is the seat of government for the Cook Islands and the most populated of the islands. It has a circumference of 32KM and a population of around 14,000 people. It gets around 100,000 visitors a year, mostly from NZ and Australia and therefore a considerable percentage of it's foreign income comes from Tourism.
We had been wanting to visit this little piece of paradise for quite some time, but things like work and paying the morgage etc.. had put it off again and again. Mrs Roddus finally put the foot down and said we have to go this year and so we finally booked our seven days in heaven.

After a bit of Time Travel(we left on Wednesday and arrived the day before), we finally disembarked to a very warm and humid afternoon at Avarua International Airport. After de-misting my camera we got this welcoming shot as we waited to board the transfer coach to our accommodation.

 Our accommodation was the wonderful Lagoon Breeze Villas, situated on the south west corner of the island, not far from the Rarotongan Resort and Spa. Although the place was mostly full it never seemed crowded and it was very peaceful with fantastic gardens and a great swimming pool. 

Almost everywhere you went on the island there were chickens, in the shopping areas, in the resorts, around the eating houses, here are some of the ones that hung around out studio, including the three roosters that woke us up every morning. There was no escaping the chickens and I think that every one on the island had a contract with Rarotongan Fried Chicken to supply their meat.

The other critter that we found in frequent numbers were dogs. Quite often lying in a dugout chillin' on the beach. The dogs were even more laid back and nonchalant than the locals, even cat like in their demure. They were a bit of a danger on the roads though, especially after dark.

As you can see, Rarotonga has some beaches, we liked the beaches, in fact that might have been part of the reason for going there. The only down side was the low pressure weather system that sat over us for about 3 days and caused quite a brisk breeze on the beaches where we were staying on the south side. Fortunately we had a good pool at our resort and it was very sheltered from that breeze by the trees and buildings. The temperatures never went below about 24C in the daytime.

Most of the island is surrounded by a very clear and mostly shallow lagoon, the lagoon protects the island, mostly, from the fury of the ocean. You can see the breakers crashing upon the reef behind me. Those breakers got quite furious and large after a couple of days of that breeze I mentioned earlier. We liked the lagoon, it was warm and inviting and we spent quite a lot of time in it.

We got one night and morning of rain, it didn't get cold at all. This is Lagoon Breeze Villas gardens in the rain. There were the occasional showers at other times but they were brief and we dried out quickly. It was a bit of a pain when riding a scooter in the dark with rain lashing your face and the glasses getting pretty wet, made for dodgy visibility. 

This is a shot of the beach opposite our accommodation, it was surprising how often we had the whole section of beach and lagoon to ourselves, considering how many people visit this place, we never felt crowded, but quite often alone in this romantic setting. Just the way I like it.

The best way to get around the island is on these cool scooters. If you have a New Zealand drivers licence, its a breeze to get a Rarotongan one for 20 bucks and the hire rates aren't too bad at all. No helmets required if you stay under 40KM/Ph . It was so much fun and so much more freedom than relying on the buses. The island was teeming with tourists and locals on these type of bikes. The hire office for our scooters was only 2 minutes walk from our accommodation.

The lagoon water was beautifully clear and the bottom presented us with plenty of corals to dazzle us.

The resort supplied us with complementary snorkeling gear to use in the Lagoon. There are lots of wonderfully colorful fish and interesting coral formations that kept us amused for hours in the water. I had never been snorkeling before and although it was fun I couldn't get the full effect as I had to remove my glasses to wear the snorkel mask, fortunately the magnifying affect of the water did allow me to see enought to enjoy the sights.

The resort also supplied some kayaks for our pleasure although I found them quite uncomfortable to use and so didn't go to far from home base. but got some nice shots back to shore.

When the beech and lagoon got too windy, we just decamped to the resort pool.

The following photos were taken at Muri Beach. This is probably the most beautiful beach on the Island, made more so by the cool Islands out in the lagoon. Of course this piece of beach is surrounded by high end resorts and is the busiest beach spot we visited.

While visiting Muri Beach, we booked in for a tour on Captain Tama's Lagoon Cruise. We got taken out behind the above island near the edge of the reef for about an hours snorkeling before being taken to one of the bigger islands for lunch and coconut tree climbing demonstration among other cultural entertainment and information, all presented very tongue-in-cheek. Very enjoyable and killed four hours of that day.

On Saturday mornings they have a great market in Avarua, selling cloths, lots of fruit and veges and carvings and trinkets etc... it is very popular with both the tourists and locals and it was to most crowded place we experienced all week. There is also a food only market at Muri beach on about 4 nights a week where you can get some very good cheap meals from the stalls.

On our last full day on the island, I went for a short trip into the interior. There are several hiking tracks and I spent about 45 minutes exploring the start of this one. Didn't have time for a proper tramp, next time maby.

Also on our last night, with the breeze much calmer, we got to spent a bit of time on the beach after dark and got to experiences the impressive amount of tiny translucent crabs that come up onto the sand at night.

Several things came to my attention on our visit that were disappointing about Rarotonga. One was the old abandoned buildings and the half built but never finished buildings that dotted the main circuit road.Especially an abandoned hotel project. Another was the very rundown shacks that appeared to have people living in them. The Roads were in pretty poor condition and there was quite a lot of rubbish lying around(bottles, cans, plastic etc...) and we found quite a few pieces of glass on the beaches (it Muri Beach something cut my foot as I was about to go in the water, didn't see what it was but it was all sand there, fortunately it just cut my outer skin and I didn't even bleed). Not sure if the rubbish issue is tourists or locals, probably a bit of both and there often wasn't any public rubbish bins to be found. There were gangs of locals going round and cleaning up coconuts and coconut fronds and other twigs and leaves from the sides of the roads and the beach front reserves, but then they would burn them on the edge of the beach and I suspect some of the plastic rubbish ended up on those fires. I suspect that most of the resorts and hotels, (especially the larger ones) would be owned by off shore interests and I would like to hope that some of the large profits made from the tourist industry actually find their way into the locals pockets.
 On the plus side, the locals are friendly and very laid back, all the food we ingested from local restaurants and other fast food outlets was of very good but not outstanding quality and the service was excellent.
It is good to see that the govt' is in the process of replacing the old diesel power generating system with solar power and apparently the health system is heavily subsidized by the Government.

No comments: