Thursday, 24 May 2018

Rarotonga highlights reel

Gosh, I've been home for a month and not finished all the travel posts I have drafted. There are so many wonderful things to see and do in the Cook Islands, so this highlights reel will help remind me of the good times and round up a wonderful tropical holiday.


There are so many highlights that I barely know where to begin. I've already blogged about a few.
  • Breathing in that unmistakable sweet tropical scent from the moment I stepped off the plane. Ahhhh.
  • The main road goes right around the perimeter of Rarotonga, which  means you are never more than 10 metres away from scenes like this. #nofilter

  • Another day in paradise

  • The colours. Everything is so colourful, bright and vibrant. The island is covered in greenery that explodes with colour everywhere you look.

  • Drums, music and dancing everywhere. Music and dance is a huge part of Cook Island culture and is the primary expression of celebration.
  • Kayaking at Muri Beach. It takes just seven minutes to gently kayak across the sheltered lagoon to one of the islands where you can soak up some sun and just relax. At low tide, you can even walk across. Divine.

  • Punanga Nui Cultural Market on Saturday morning. It's the place to go for local food and crafts. Chances are you'll bump into everyone else you know while at the market as it's a popular hangout.

  • Tropical fruit
  • Muri night market. Great food at affordable prices four nights a week.

  • LBV Bakery in Muri Beach is by far the best place for coffee and baked goodies. (There is also one near Avarua.) The baguettes and doughnuts are some of the nicest I have ever tasted. You're on holiday so you can indulge in a doughnut or two. We did!

  • When in Muri ...
    Chocolate doughnut from LBV Bakery
  • Koteka Winery in Muri Beach. A backyard shed that is chock full of things fermenting and infusing in every type of bottle available. Drive up, toot your horn three times to see if anyone is home, then step into the eccentric world that is Koteka Winery. Spoiler alert: grapes are not grown on the island so the wine and vodka is made from bananas and any other type of fruit Koteka grows. I came away with a handful of the freshest, plumpest vanilla bean pods I've ever seen. You can also find Koteka at the Saturday markets in Avarua but I highly recommend trying to visit for a very eccentric island experience.

  • Vanilla bean pods


It's hard to imagine but there are some less than optimal things to experience in this island paradise (and others like it). From cockroaches the length of your hand that fly around at night in search of food to being constantly lathered in tropical strength Bushmans Deet to ward off insect bites, the variety and abundance of creepy crawlies takes some getting used to. Ants will sense an unrinsed plate from a mile away and converge in your kitchen sink at night. Centipedes will crawl along your floor and make a definite crunch noise if you happen to stand on one.

Oh, and the roosters will start crowing at 4am and only stop when the sun goes down. That's ok if your resident rooster lives a few houses away. Not so much if they're on your property.

Then there's the humidity in rainy season, especially just before a downpour. My usually flat hair restyled itself into what I call Humidity Frizz and the feeling of stickiness is constant. Air conditioning and ocean breezes offer some welcome relief.

Finally, the road. (Singular: one main road circles the entire perimeter of the island with various inland offshoots.) Rainy season plays havoc on road surfaces so there are potholes everywhere, but also makes it challenging to work out where the edge of the road should be, especially during a downpour. The road markings are faded to almost invisible, something that a few thousand cat's eyes would  go a long way towards ensuring safer driving at night.

Next time

There is plenty to see in the Cook Islands. Here are a couple of things I never got to do during this trip but hope I can return to experience them another time.
  • Day trip (or longer) to Aitutaki. Just a 45 minute flight away from Rarotonga, Aitutaki takes paradise to a whole new, but very expensive, level. Airfares for day trips start at around $500 so I'd like to spend a bit more time exploring. 
  • Captain Tama's glass bottom boat trip. Leaving from Muri Beach, these mini cruises looked like lots of fun.
Captain Tama's glass bottom boats at dusk

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Te Vara Nui Village

A highlight of our holiday was an evening at Te Vara Nui Village. Te Vara Nui is a traditional island village that was built to honour Mama Vara, who is now in her 80s yet was there to greet us at the entrance. The village itself had flooded earlier in the week after some very heavy rain, meaning that we couldn't take the tour but the over water show would go ahead as planned.

This is the scene that greeted us on arrival.

Entrance to Te Vara Nui Village
The tables are arranged on either side of this scene, meaning that everyone has a pretty good viewing point for the show which takes place on and around the water in the middle. Dinner was first; a huge island style buffet featuring all the usual suspects as well as a range of island cuisine to sample.

An island style buffet awaits

Since we were enjoying an island holiday, it seemed right to indulge in a cocktail. My dessert cocktail was appropriately named Island Love and was full of all the good stuff: Kahlúa, Baileys, Frangelico, Crème de Cacao, brandy and cream. With a table overlooking the water, I was all set for the show.

Island Love dessert cocktail

Now for the entertainment. As a family of entertainers, we were a bit skeptical, worried we'd be subjected to a heavily contrived performance then quickly ushered out, all the while being assured that we'd had a 'cultural' experience. What followed was a thoroughly delightful evening of music and dance that we'd highly recommend other visitors go and see.

The show tells the story of Tonga-iti, a legendary warrior whose arrival in the Cook Islands caused quite a stir among the locals many moons ago. The performers delivered a high energy celebration of this historical event through music, dance, costumes and lights. They cleverly used the 360° stage and surrounding pool so that every seat was the best in the house.

Here are a few action shots from a mesmorising evening.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

The colours of Rarotonga

My love of flowers and bursts of colour meant that my senses were thoroughly indulged in Rarotonga. The plant life looks and smells so beautiful, especially the tropical flowers growing in abundance all around the island. My favourite is still the classic white and yellow frangipani but I was also treated to displays of wild hibiscus, hanging heliconia, red ginger and tropical water lilies. Even the foliage is dynamic and colourful.

Here is a selection of photos I took during my holiday. I can't identify all of the flowers but loved finding floral surprises whenever I went walking.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Kia orana, Rarotonga!

Kia orana! May you live a long and fulfilling life.
I have recently returned from nine glorious days in a tropical paradise. What's not to love about the Cook Islands? It's small and easy to get around, warm and friendly with plenty of things to do - or you can just enjoy some precious time out. The pristine beach scenes from the postcards are real. So is island time. Add a large whānau wedding to the equation and we had a first class experience of island hospitality.

I'm going to post some pictures and highlights of my holiday in the coming days. They're something I'll look forward to returning to during the long winter months ahead, when my feet are no longer criss-crossed by the tan lines left by my sandals and summer seems like an impossibly distant memory. Kia orana, Rarotonga.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Black Sheep

It's podcast binging season.

Black Sheep is a programme for history buffs. Written and presented by Radio New Zealand's William Ray, each episode delves into the history of an infamous kiwi.

The accents, both natural and imitated, are an acquired taste but the stories are gripping and I found myself racing through both series in true binge-listening fashion. Who knew New Zealand had so many murderers, outlaws and unsavoury characters dotted throughout our history? Were their stories covered up or simply forgotten over time?

I think the episode that stood out most for me was the very first one. Broken Blossom tells the story of Alice Parkinson, a supposed woman scorned who took drastic actions and paid a hefty price for them. I wonder how different things might be if she were alive today? Maybe she would have been diagnosed with postnatal depression. Hopefully she would have received some support.

Black Sheep is back again soon with a new series, so there's plenty of time to catch up with the first two series if you haven't already.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Lost and found

Last month, I received an email informing me that I'd won a $200 voucher to spend at a big ticket retailer as part of a monthly promotional draw. How exciting! The voucher was couriered to me a couple of days later and I thought about many ways I could use it to help set my new home office.

A few days later, a second $200 voucher arrived from the same person at the same retailer. Even the congratulatory note was identical.

My next step was obvious. I emailed her back, thanking her for the original voucher and explaining that a second one had arrived that day. Perhaps she could send a courier ticket for me to safely return the second voucher? Here is her response:
"Oh my! You're THE most honest person ever! I was just going through my voucher records trying to figure out where the missing voucher was. I'm so very sorry!"
A similar thank you message arrived once the voucher was returned, full of gratitude and seemingly surprised that I sent it back. I find it a bit sad that honesty is seen as unexpected, but there's no way that second voucher should be mine and it was immediately obvious that I must return it. Honesty is its own reward.

Yesterday, I was coming home from my morning walk and spotted some 'rubbish' in the front garden. It certainly hadn't been there when I left an hour earlier. I tweeted about it.

Mr Weka and I conferred; although the bank note was immediately outside our bedroom window, we didn't think either of us had dropped it. I checked that the cash I'd been paid a few days earlier was still in my wallet (it was). We agreed that $50 is a sizeable amount of cash to lose and that this situation was very different to the time when the weather gods blew a pair of women's track pants into our backyard, or the time that a book was anonymously hand delivered to my letter box - addressed to me.

I set up a twitter poll, but already knew that I would hand the money in at the local police station. The conversation following the poll reinforced that my decision is the right thing to do. $50 is a lot of money for someone to lose. Who knows what it was destined for? If it is unclaimed and eventually returned to me, I will donate it to charity. Honesty is its own reward.

I've lost a few special items before and searched endlessly for them. Some have monetary value while another has sentimental value beyond belief. My precious taonga is still out there somewhere. It's of no value to anyone outside of my whānau and I hope that karma helps bring it home to me. Honesty is its own reward.