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Kicking Back in Rarotonga

(Reprint from News: December 10, 2001)

December 10, 2001


At 5 a.m. the next morning, our jet landed in balmy Rarotonga, the principal island in the Cook Islands.  I was hoping to watch the landing but even if I had a window seat, it was too dark outside to see much of anything.  After debarking, I took a picture of the jet and then... left my laptop computer sitting on the tarmac.  


I didn't discover this fact until an hour later when I was riding to Vara's Place, my lodging on Rarotonga.  Vara, the pleasant owner of the lodge, was quite concerned (as was I, of course) and she called several people at the airport, even though it was early on a Sunday morning. 


Losing my laptop computer would have been a real disaster, much worse than losing my camera, passport, or plane tickets, because of the information I have stored on it and because of the many ways in which I use it, such as my website, e-mail, managing my finances, processing my photos from my digital camera, and, not least of all, playing my MP3 tunes at night.  I found it ironic that after months of planning, the very first thing I do when I land overseas is lose my laptop computer!  Am I stupid or what?!


Fortunately, though, the airport security staff called back a few hours later and said that they'd found my laptop.  It was a big relief to me, and a testament to the honesty of the Cook Islanders.



Above left: This is a postcard, but it's the only aerial shot I have of Rarotonga.  It's a mountainous island in the South Pacific and is the primary island in the Cook Islands.  Muri beach, the best beach on the island, is in the foreground.  I'd recommend staying on Muri if you're going to "Raro." 

Above right:  A bunch of groggy tourists stumbling off the plane at the Rarotonga airport at 5:00 a.m., Sunday morning.  After taking this picture, I left my laptop sitting on the tarmac (hey, it was a long flight).  Fortunately, I got it back the next day.


Kicking Back in Raro

I spent the next two days traveling around Rarotonga.  Rarotonga is almost perfectly circular and, unlike many islands in the South Pacific which are flat, coral atolls, Rarotonga is pretty darn mountainous.  In fact, Rarotonga reminded me of Kauai, though it's much smaller -- only 20 miles around.  About 11,000 people live here, almost all of whom are on the flat periphery of the island.  Almost the entire perimeter of the island is settled and there are a lot of small "mom-and-pop" motels and convenience stores scattered around the island.


I figured this would be a good place to practice driving on the wrong (oops, left) side of the road, so during my second day here, I rented a car in Avarua, the main town on Rarotonga.  It was pretty strange to drive on the left side of the road, and I kept telling myself, "Left, left, left," hoping that I wouldn't smash straight into an oncoming car or, more likely, a scooter.  After a few hours, though, I was getting used to it.


As I discovered, Rarotonga was a pretty nice place.  It wasn't the absolute tropical paradise that I had envisioned because it was much more settled than I had thought.  In fact, other than the rugged interior of the island, there aren't many places you can go on the island for seclusion.  Still, I liked the laid back attitude on the island, the tropical weather, the beautiful beach at Muri where I was staying ... and the cheap prices.



Above left:  Here's my studio (top floor, left) at Vara's on Rarotonga.  It's 50 feet from the beach and costs only US$35 a night.

Above center:  Inside of my studio at Vara's.  Like most motels in the Cook Islands and New Zealand, it's equipped with a full kitchen.

Above right:  While still worrying about my laptop, I took a Sunday morning stroll on Muri Beach, the nicest beach on Rarotonga.



Above left:  Muri is lined with small hotels, motels and private houses.  I think it's the best place to stay on Rarotonga.

Above center: Tai's Weather Rock is used to forecast the weather on Rarotonga.  As the sign says, if the rock's wet then it's raining.  Gee, thanks Tai.  

Above right: Here's the main road that goes completely around the island, along with a typical store and "takeaway" (or takeout), where I got a huge seafood dinner for $6.



Above left:  Avarua is the capital and largest city in the Cook Islands.  Motorbikes are everywhere.

Above center:  I rented a car on Avarua for a day and got used to driving on the wrong (oops, I mean left) side of the road.  I spent most of the day driving around (and around and around) the island and didn't manage to run into anything.  

Above right:  What child?



Above left:  "Downtown" Avarua. 

Above right:  Even the license plates here are friendly.



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