From Raro to Auckland
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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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