Island Time

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Originally, I thought I wanted to stop over in Fiji on my way back to the States, but after talking to a lot of travelers, I learned that island hopping is the best way to see Fiji. After backpacking for 7 months, the last thing I wanted to do on my one week island holiday was relocate every other day. Since the Cook Islands are so easily accessible from New Zealand with the large amounts of Kiwi visitors, and the fact that they accept the same currency (they also use their own triangular shaped coins which I found pretty nifty), to me this seemed like the perfect transition location between NZ and flying back home. So, I booked a flight to Rarotonga! Most tourists choose to vacation on the main island here as the other 14 islands are much smaller and more expensive to visit. Once I arrived, I checked into my first private room in months, and slept for about the first half of the week. By the time I finally woke up, it rained the second half of the week so unfortunately, I didn’t get to do a whole lot while I was there. It still worked out well for me though considering it’s a relatively quiet island to begin with.

My flight was only four hours, but it still made for an exceedingly long journey, even if I had discovered time travel. I departed Auckland at 9am on Monday, June 2 and landed in Rarotonga just before 4pm on Sunday, June 1. If you are making hotel reservations from New Zealand, don’t forget to factor in the International Dateline if you want a bed to sleep in your first night on the island! I stayed in the capital of Avarua, which I found most convenient since I was on foot. If you want to be within walking distance of most of the bars and restaurants on the island, my vote would be to stay here. But if you are looking for Raro’s nicest beach and snorkel spot, I would suggest Muri Lagoon. That’s where I took this picture.

Raro couldn’t be more laid back if it tried. Everyone drives mopeds to get around. And by everyone, I mean everyone. From grandmas flaunting that windblown look, to large adult men trying to shield themselves from the rain to tourists who just barely passed their temporary island license, you are definitely in the minority if you hire a car. Although, there is also the option to take the public bus. There is only one road on Raro and it encircles the entire island in about a 45 minute drive. Since there are no crossroads slicing through the rugged mountainous terrain in the middle of the island, the bus directions either take you clockwise or anti-clockwise. How simple is that? If you accidentally get on the “wrong” bus, it will just take you a few minutes longer to reach your destination. And let’s get real; nobody is in a huge hurry here. We’re all on island time.

As far as eating and drinking, I quite enjoyed hanging out at the Whatever Bar. I made loads of great friends there, and the open upstairs deck probably has one of the best views in town. I enjoyed me more than one generous serving of the daily catch and an order of ika mata, the local’s specialty consisting of fresh raw Yellow Fin Tuna prepared with lemon juice, coconut cream and veggies like onions, tomatoes and cucumbers. The markets are also something not to be missed. I stumbled upon a lively night market Thursday evening and took a wander around the busy Saturday morning market.

Overall, I found the Cook Islands to be a relaxing destination aside from one very loud problem. Nobody warned me that the island was infested with roosters! You would think with so many of them running around squawking at all hours of the day, the locals would be eating more chicken, but that was not the case. Super lovely people, super awkward flight schedule if you’re meant to be shipping back to the States.

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