Monday, August 30, 2010

Sea Creatures and Cultural Trade Fair, Rarotonga.

Sea creatures and more Cultural Trade Fair, at Rarotonga. Dancers from Pukapuka.
Another perfect day dawns, we were up and out to watch the Activities personal feed the fish in the lagoon before breakfast. For the last 2 years this area has been a Reserve, all the fish are protected and are fed regularly to keep them around so all of us holiday makers can enjoy snorkeling among them. Everyone that came to watch was given chunks of old stale bread so we could all have fun and make the shoals of fish chase after the thrown bread. The sea just boils with the movement of so many fish, lots of small ones but heaps of really good size for eating fish and such pretty ones.

After fish feeding it was a leisurely breakfast time out on the beachfront on tables with big umbrellas, in the fresh air and sunshine. How lovely.
As we have heard The Cultural Trade Fair is on again today, we hurried to catch the bus earlier so we could watch more of the dancing and enjoy the drumming and atmosphere of the market on the side of main street. There was just as bigger crowd as yesterday and the food and handicraft stalls were all setting up their wares.

Todays’ dancing was mainly from the small remote island of Pukapuka one of the most distant islands from the Northern Group. Because of the remoteness it has apparently developed a distinct style of drumming and dancing. We just know that the show was very enjoyable, the costumes colourfully bright yellow the dancing graceful and the drum band very musical and stirring. I liked watching some of the older ladies who were encouraging the young dancers and the drummers, on to greater heights, and singing with them. They were a show in themselves.

We decided to try the Coconut Curry today for lunch after watching the island chef preparing the food, absolutely yummy it was too, on rice with some chicken in the curry too.

We also bought a large pack of the Island cooked in-the-ground umu food of half a chicken and a chunk of beef with taro, cassava and our favourite taro leaves cooked in coconut milk all on a bed of rice, this we plan to take home and have for our dinner tonight, it only cost $10 and will easily feed us both deliciously.
Watched some local youths jumping into the harbour, swimming and clowning around in front of Trader Jacks restaurant and couldn't resist taking a picture of their fun and games.

We then wandered over to the Cook Island Police Dept, where Erle sat for his Cook Island drivers license, just a formality, filling in forms and paying $20 but very important, a nice little earner for the Islands as all visitors must have one if they wish to drive a scooter or a car. While Erle sat for the license I had a nice friendly chat with the Sargent who had not a lot to do at the time. He said we must make sure we take adequate care of our belongings both at the resort and in the car, not to leave the rooms or the car unlocked or anything visible on the seats etc, as there is quite a lot of petty theft against the holiday makers, the Police were working hard to get the problem under control. It was really nice to have a relaxed informal talk with lots of laughing and joking with the Police sergeant.
When Erle has the license we caught the bus and headed back to Edgewater resort.
We will do something about getting wheels tomorrow.
We were surprised when we got back to the resort to see about 30 people out on the reef across the lagoon in front of the resort. They had all waded out through the shallow waters, clambering over the coral covered rocks, not an easy simple wade! We had no idea what they were all doing way out there and so kept on walking back to our room to change into swimming gear. We had a nice swim and the crowd started to walk back though the lagoon all happy and pleased with themselves, they couldn’t wait to tell us all that they had been out watching Whales! In fact it was two mother Whales with little calves swimming alongside. When we knew what to look for we also could see the Magnificent creatures gracefully arching their backs flicking their tails high in the air as they dived down behind the reef, then came back up, noses pointing out of the water and they ‘blew’ a geyser of spray high in the air. What excitement, this is not something anyone of us had expected at all. The whales usually stayed at the top if the island when they called into the island, but here they were putting on a performance just for us. And, what is more they continued to do so every day while we were staying there, right out in front of the Resort. So lucky. Sorry there are no photos of them, my camera is not powerful enough or quick enough to capture them out there, even though it is not very far out in the ocean.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Clouds over Rarotonga.

Sky Watch, do check out all the wonderful skies from around the world.
Clouds gather over the big rugged mountains in the center of the island of Rarotonga Cook Islands.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rarotonga; a tropical Paradise

First day on a tropical Paradise Island; Rarotonga
Once we were settled in our lovely new apartment we scattered a few things around to make it look like home then raced out to catch the Round the Island bus, this is a great service which has 2 buses that run, one clockwise and one anti clockwise so there is always a bus about every 20 minutes, we didn’t have to wait long before we were on our way in to the main township of Avarua. Just before we left, a lovely Cook Island lady working in the gardens called me over and placed a beautiful smelling white Gardenia flower behind my ear; I left it there all day long. A sweet gesture I appreciated.
As we were driven down the main street the passengers all let out a collective whoop of joy and surprise to see a big Market day being held. There were many tents and hordes of people but the most obvious thing was the powerful drumming beat, this is really stirring and quite musical, kind of. As, this was Wednesday and not a market day, everyone was keen to investigate.
It was in fact a Between Islands Cultural Trade Fair, ( Cook Islands consists of many widely scatter islands) with competitions of island dancing and drumming and also there was lovely ethnic local food from all the outer islands, as well as many interesting items of basketwork, word and shell carvings and black pearls as well as many other hand made trade things.
We decided to find a comfortable seat on the rocks in the shade of a coconut palm and watch all the wonderful dancers and tap our toes to the drumbeat while eating our lunch from a stall selling smoked fish with cassava and taro, followed up with some special stuff called Poke it appears to be coconut bread soaked in coconut cream and sometimes bananas we rather liked this. Apparently the fish is a delicacy from Mangaia, one of the other Islands within the Cook Island group. We spent a while chatting to the interesting locals and happy people from other islands. I am not sure which Islands these dancers represent, but they were very good.
When the dancing finished we went grocery shopping to stock up with lunchtime food for the next few days, before catching the bus back to Edgewater Resort and our lovely apartment. Once home we collapsed on the bed for an hour-long Nana nap. Nothing better; especially when on holiday. Thus refreshed we went to the pool for our first swim both in the pool and in the lagoon.
We haven’t done a lot of snorkelling before but the waters are so full of small and large colourful fish and the water so nice and warm we decided to give it a go. Wow, this snorkelling is so much fun, once you get the hang of it, we stayed in for ages following the fish around the coral outcrops.
We had a quick drink or two while sitting out on the balcony/deck of our apartment watching the sun set, then decided to eat the cold meat and salads we bought for lunches as we just couldn’t be bothered going out anywhere for a meal.
Already we are feeling lazy and relaxed, this is going to be a great holiday.
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sunset from Trader Jacks.

Sunset from Trader Jacks Restaurant and Bar, at Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The favourite place for many people in the evening, but rather too crowded for us to stay long. But we stayed long enough to capture this lovely glow across the harbour.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Winter this year has been very wet and dismal rather than actually cold, but constant rain and muddiness under foot convinces one that a holiday on a South Pacific tropical island would be a great idea. We have been to Rarotonga about 4 years ago and loved the slow relaxed happy way of life, so we decided to make another longer trip. Our first thought was to stay in the beautiful Muri Beach area, where the small islands are scattered like little jewels just off shore, some can even be walked out to at low tide. But our travel agent couldn’t find a single source of accommodation for us anywhere in Muri Beach as it is very popular. So we opted to return to Edgewater Resort and Spa, where we stayed last time. It was comfortable with a great view and the sunset was spectacular there every evening, the breakfasts also were rather nice and are thrown in for the accommodation cost.
We chose to travel by Air NZ rather than the cheaper Jet Star as we knew we would be hungry after driving to Christchurch to catch the [plane and we would get a nice meal on Air NZ. Was a good idea, we firstly were offered nice packs of chips, the Steward offered the passengers behind us an extra pack, and I cheekily said it was mean that we didn’t get an extra pack, and he said “you only had to ask” and tossed us 4 packs of chips. He then said, “If you don’t ask you don’t get.” And looking directly at me added “And you remember that!”
We arrived just on dark and were showed to our apartment, we quickly dashed out to get a meal at the next door restaurant where we had eaten before on our last visit. The meal turned out to be very nice, but we were very hungry so anything probably would have tasted good. But when I inquired about a drink of water I was told I had to buy a bottle of water, I did so and the bar tender attempted to charge me $7 for it, luckily another tourist at the bar said hey you only charged me $4 for a bottle of water, so the bar tender relented and charged me $4 also. We made a mental note not to eat there again! Walked back to our apartment in the pitch darkness, no street lighting much in this area. We were quick to bed but didn’t sleep very well as we had noted that there was no cooking facilities in the apartment and we had paid extra for rooms with a kitchen, also we spotted that there was no balcony which we had intended to sit out on in the sun reading our books, further more the rooms were so tiny there was only room for one chair and the small double bed, as there are two of us we didn’t think we would be at all comfortable in this mean little room , fighting over who would have the chair and who would stand that day, and resolved to complain heartily in the morning and try for another room, any other room would be better.
In all the years of travel we have done, never once before have we complained about our room or tried to change to a nicer one, but we sure did this time. When morn dawned it showed us that the tiny mean little room had only one window and it was completely blocked but a big tree right hard against the glass, so we would have to have the lights on all day and night!
Right after breakfast we marched up to the reception desk ready to take on any receptionist, the poor lady didn’t stand a chance really against our demands, and very soon agreed to allow us to change to another room, but, without any cooking facilities. Who cares about that, there were almost none in the other room anyway, just a tiny microwave with 5 tiny buttons on one side, how it worked I have no idea, but didn’t plan on finding out either. The receptionist sent us to have a look at another empty room we could change into. It turned out to be the most wonderful beach front ground floor apartment, about 3 times the size of the previous room and this one had a sunny balcony we could watch the sunset from, plenty on space for not only 2 comfortable chairs but also a nice settee as well in the lounge part and a huge double bed, with no hesitation we agreed to accept this new room as long as there was no further charges! There were no extra costs so we joyously hurried to repack our gear and transfer it all to the lovely sunny rooms with a view!
I am sure this will be the first of many stories from Rarotonga.