Rarotonga, the ‘capital’ island of the Cook Islands was our next stop on our round the world tour after NZ. Not exactly big, only 32km in circumference, we decided to stay 11 nights (we would have shortened it but our flight to Papeete, Tahiti was fixed and unchangeable with only 2 flights a week. Oh well, 10 full days on an island in the Pacific – not bad!).
Our initial plan was to spend 5 days on Rarotonga and then book a flight to the outer-island of Aitutaki, spending another 5 nights there. Unfortunately prices are extortionate unless you get a last minute deal – the cheapest we could find was $400 return, for a 40 minute flight. We stayed put for another 5 days hoping the wind forecast for those days materialised.
Whilst in Raro we stayed at Backpackers International, they could potentially rename it Backpackers Germany instead because of the amount of Germans staying there! It was the cheapest accommodation on the island and exactly what we needed. We hired a scooter for our entire stay – $13 a day – bargain, and just cruised around the island.
After the first 4 days we had a daily ritual of driving to Muri Lagoon, buying the best coffee on the island from the local café and then sitting on the beach, watching and talking to the local kitesurfers who were either learning or just waiting for the wind to pick up. As we didn’t have our own kit, we needed to hire, and we wanted to make sure the wind was strong enough and regular enough to warrant splashing our cash. It was at Muri that we met the lovely instructors and owners of KITESUP.
Unfortunately and understandably they were a little weary of renting out their kit and required a paid assessment to check out our standard before they rented us some kit. Still not enough wind and not wanting to spend money for an assessment and then not actually renting kit, we chilled at the beach, watched some of the locals riding 17m kites, we walked across the lagoon to the small islands, swam, snorkelled, drank more of the best coffee on the island and the some free coconut water in the afternoon, basically we just enjoyed a bit of R&R after a crazy few months in NZ.
Free coconut water – My coconut was bigger!
Oh hello Wind!
If the wind hadn’t turned up we’d probably of felt a little claustrophobic on the island. It is just so small and there’s not that much to do – although we snorkeled it wasn’t the best having being spoilt in Indonesia and the Philippines. We would say 5 days would have been enough. But….. the wind picked up! We un-expectantly had free assessment each, JM randomly when we watched Troy the instructor and our new favourite German friend Chris kiting in another spot on the way home one day. Troy from KITESUP gave JM his own 17m kite and his board with freestyle boots and off he went. I was shocked – never have I seen, or expected to see JM kiting with anything bigger than an 11m let alone with boots and not straps! JM took to it like a duck to water – I could see his smile from the other side of the lagoon.
The boys played on the water all evening and it wasn’t until the next day when it was my turn – assessment time – up, off I went and Troy just left me too it, I loved every second. Kiting on a tropical island was phenomenal, turquoise water, the sun beating down, no one and flat water = Paradise. We spent the next few days with our new found friend Chris, the KITESUP team and the local pros at Muri beach just kiting and chilling, chatting, drinking coffee, chatting, drinking fresh coconut water and chatting. Great times!
In between the beach, snorkelling and swimming we went on a few treks. We completed the cross island walk up to the Needle for great views and a good photo opportunity. It was a nice 3 hour trek from the north to the south of the island.
We took the local bus (there’s one with clockwise and another anticlockwise written on the front which pass every hour) back to the start of the walk to collect our scooter. An experience but $5 for any distance – rip off! We also walked up to the Raemaru Lookout, not far from our hostel and only a 1.5 hour return walk. It was a little wild and the track not so well trodden, but it was fun to do. Sadly the lookout was rather obscured by all the trees at the top so it wasn’t really a lookout.
On Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights there was a night market in Muri and the perfect place to try out some local fresh food for a great price. We tried a variety of things and it was yummy, yummy, and yummy!
Sunday is God’s day so what better way to spend it than to go to church Raro style! It was an amazing experience with the service completely in Rarotongan Maori. We had no idea what they were saying, but they were extremely welcoming and the singing was phenomenal! They even put on a buffet lunch for us visitors, maybe a tourist gimic but it worked for us!
We went to a Rarotonga dance night near our favourite waterhole, the Hula Bar. We were kindly invited to sit at a NZ family’s table where they offered us bowls full of dessert and because we sat at their table we didn’t end up paying for the show – well nobody asked, and we didn’t know until we returned to the hostel and everyone else had paid! It was a fun night with everyone from Backpackers ‘Germany’ International there.
We met some really wicked people at the hostel which made our stay even more enjoyable. The island is lovely for a nice week long break. Bring a jumper during April because it’s not as warm as you think, and don’t expect all the fresh fish and fruits you imagine there to be on an island like Rarotonga. All the nice stuff gets sold to the plush hotels. SO unless you are staying there hit the night markets and try to find some small backstreets where families sometime sell a very limited supply of local fruit.
A great 11 nights, we have the kitesurfing bug back, made some new friends, and we had time to catch up a little on our blog of the Philippines from over 10 weeks ago! Refreshed it’s now time to visit JMs favourite place on this planet, (although NZ and Indo are up there now!) French Polynesia!!!