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From Raro to Auckland

(Reprint from News: December 16, 2001)

December 15, 2001


I woke up the next morning at 5:00 a.m. and got a ride to the airport from Ben, a mellow dreadlocked Islander surfer dude who works at Vara's and handles transfers.  As I stood in the check-in line at the airport, I noticed a gorgeous young woman who was working at the terminal and I thought she looked familiar.  I was trying to figure out where I had seen her during my 5-day stay in the Cook Islands but I couldn't remember.  As I got up to the counter and started checking in my bags, she came over to ask someone a question, saw me, and said with a smile, "Hi Del."  This really dumbfounded me because beautiful young women typically don't come up to me, smile, and say hi, especially ones I don't know.  


For the next 20 minutes I tried to figure out who she was.  Then it hit me -- she was the receptionist at Vara's and obviously did double-duty with Air New Zealand.  In fact, she was Vara's daughter and, as someone told me, she recently won the "Miss Rarotonga" beauty pageant.  At least I hadn't said anything stupid to her, which for me is unusual.


A short time after leaving Raro, our plane crossed the International Date Line and consequently, I totally missed Friday, December 14, 2001.  If anything important happened on that day, please let me know.  


Four hours later, and now Saturday, our plane cut through the thick clouds over Auckland and landed at the airport.  This was my first trip overseas and I had heard a lot of horror stories about going through Customs and getting hassled by the officers, but fortunately everything went smoothly at Auckland Customs.  In fact, I've learned on this trip that it's much easier to travel overseas than I had thought.  Even something like finances is easy to deal with as I've learned from the PBS master traveler, Rick Steves.  Rick suggests getting cash at the ATMs in the airports and not fuss with going to banks and cashing in Travelers Checks (or Traveler's "Cheeks," as they call them in New Zealand), which I think is good advice.  By the way, getting cash from an ATM is easy to do in New Zealand because this country has more ATMs per capita than any country in the world.


Several months ago, I was planning to buy a truck in Auckland when I got here and then drive it around for a few months before selling it and leaving for Australia.  I wanted to buy something similar to the single-cab Toyota pickup with a camper shell that I had in the U.S. (see My Toyota Pickup), which I've driven for the past 16 years, in which I could throw a foam pad in the back and sleep in at night.  However, from Internet research that I had done while still in the U.S. I learned that single-cab pickups weren't popular in New Zealand, which surprised me considering that they're extremely common in the U.S.  As I discovered, and for reasons I don't understand, dual-cab pickups were a lot more popular in New Zealand than single-cab pickups, which are virtually unknown.


Anyway, I decided instead to rent a car in New Zealand instead of buying a truck and I had made the arrangements over the Internet for a car rental while I was still in Bellingham.   After clearing Auckland Customs, I called my car rental company, Easy Rentals, and picked up my car from the proprietors, a nice gentleman named Sigit and his kind wife, Nelly.  I got my rental, a mid-1990s white Toyota Corolla, for about US$15 a day, which I thought was a pretty good deal considering this is the summer peak season.  You can also rent campervans over here but they cost upwards of US$50 a day or so, quite a ways beyond my rather shoestring budget.  



Above left:  A sunrise photo -- a rarity for me.

Above center:  After spending five days in the Cook Islands it was time to go, although not by choice.  This is checking in at the Rarotonga Air Terminal.  Unfortunately, you can't see Miss Rarotonga in this photo.

Above right:  Ready to fly to Auckland.


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