Kicking Back in Rarotonga
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
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?!
though, the airport security staff called back a few hours later and said that they'd
laptop. It was a big relief to me, and a testament to the honesty of the Cook
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.
Back in Raro
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.
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
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
Above right: While still worrying about my
laptop, I took a Sunday morning stroll on Muri Beach, the nicest beach on
Above left: Muri is lined with small
hotels, motels and private houses. I think it's the best place to stay on
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"
Above right: Even the license plates here
Travels (2001-02) >
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New Zealand and Cook Island Stories > Kicking
Back in Rarotonga