We crossed the date line flying from Fiji to the Cook Islands, so we left Fiji on Saturday 9th June and arrived in Rarotonga on Friday 8th June! On arriving at the airport we thought we'd be good and declare our trainers at immigration because they both had a little bit of mud left over from our waterfall trek in Fiji, plus we were told all they do is dip them in disinfectant and send you on your way. However, our trainers were confiscated and we were told we couldn't pick them until we leave! They weren't even that muddy! So we left trainer-less to make for our accomodation, only to find they weren't expecting us and so had to wait a little while while our room was made.
Rarotonga is only 32km in circumferance, so we decided to stay in the same place for our 2 weeks here. We stayed at a guesthouse rather than a hostel, and it was very much like a homestay. The owners (Atua and Mata) live 5 minutes away, and the house is left to the guests with them dropping in every now and again to make sure everything is ok. Plus Atua runs a local bakery so we get free bread! So we arrived and settled into our room and went to bed to sleep again through friday 8th!
We realised during the night that next door (30 yards away) live 3 big pigs and about 10 piglets, and about 15 cockerels! The pigs dont make a great deal of noise until they get fed at about 8am. But the cockerels dont conform to the stereotype, and cock-a-doodle-doo all through the night and not just at dawn. So we didnt have the best nights sleep. Anyway we had a decent lie-in and made our way across the road to the beach opposite for a relaxing day in the sun.
On Sunday most things are closed here so we again spent another day on the beach, this time diving down to see what life there is in the sea. Just as in Fiji, the island is surrounded by a lagoon. The waves crash a 300 yards or so off-shore due to the coral protecting the coast, meaning snorkelling conditons are perfect. The water here is as clear, if not clearer, than Fiji. Further more the fish aren't scared and happily swim in and out of your legs! We researched a little and found out the names of the fish we could see. Amongst many others: Trigger Fish ("alright Dave"), Butterfly Fish, Soldier Fish, Spotted Toby, Sunset Wrasse, Unicorn Fish, Goat Fish, Angel Fish, Parot Fish, Moray Eels, Octopus, and Sting-Rays! Spectacular sight.
The following day we caught the anti-clockwise bus (the island has 2 buses, one going clockwise and the other anti-cockwise around the island!) into the capital, Avarua. We decided to hire a scooter for the time we were here, but you have to get a Cook Island driving licence, and if you dont have a motorbike licence you have to take a test! But its not as tricky as at home, i had to drive once around the block, with a Policeman behind making sure i didnt mess up. So i passed with flying colours, Hannah hopped on the back and we made our way back to the South Coast where we were staying.
The following day we drove to a different area to sample the snorkelling there. Hannah found a new friend (there are lots of dogs wondering around the island) who we named Homer because he was so lazy, and i decided to see if i could swim out to where the waves break. Unfortunately i got a little too close to a massive sea urchin, and got stung along my side. It wasnt too bad though, i had a small rash for a couple of days but then it disappeared.
On the thursday we went to Muri Beach, the most famous and popular beach on the island. But it wasn't as nice as the beach opposite our accomodation, so we didnt go there again! Friday was another beach day, and Saturday we went to the market in town where we purchased a couple of pictures and a mask as our mementos from the Cook Islands.
Sunday was another beach day, monday we ventured into Avarua again to do the walking tour from the Lonley Planet guide, taking in the various important landmarks in the capital city. In the afternoon we went to one of the resorts for a game of tennis, which Hannah won 6-4. The following day we went to see Wigmores Waterfall before going to Black Rock for some more snorkelling. Although this was supposed to be one of the best places to snorkell on the island, it wasn't any better than the beach opposite.
Thursday was another beach and snorkell day. In the evening we drove into town for an Island Night at The Staircase Restaurant. It was similar to the island nights in Fiji with lots of hips shaking, drums beating and various limbs flying around. But we both thought the dancing was better here than in Fiji, very entertaining.
On friday we walked to the Needle, a 413m peak on the island. You can do a guided tour, but with cash running low we thought we manage on our own. And we did pretty well, only taking one wrong turn. It was pretty steep in places, with no steps to help. Who needs steps when there are tree roots to grab hold of? Weirdly we found a cockerel at the top all on his own, how he got there God only knows. After we made our way back down we dropped our scooter off and got the bus back to our guesthouse.
Today is saturday, we leave for Los Angeles tonight at 11.40pm. We've both enjoyed it here, its certainly been relaxing which is exactly what we need before 5 weeks in the chaos of America!