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Cook Islands

South Pacific Paradise

Cook Islands - Rarotonga Pt. 1

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Kia Orana from the Cook Islands!

Kia Orana is the local greeting and translates “may you live well” in Cook Islands Maori. We arrived the main island of Rarotonga at sunrise after a long day and night of traveling from Colorado. Rarotonga is the largest island of the 15 in the Cook Islands. It is completely ringed by a coral reef, as are most of the islands, and is somewhat mountainous with the highest peek at 653 meters.

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It did not take long to unwind and settle into the slow pace of the Cooks and “island time”. We have 18 days here so we decided to take things slow and not try to do to much in any given day.
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Rarotonga backpackers has turned out to be the quintessential backpackers hostel and we quickly made friends with most of the guests sharing stories of past travel and what lies ahead. We would become close with a few that were in the cooks for as long as us and on the same pace of budget travel. Cooking and eating together at the hostel and wasting the days away on the beach occupies the better part of most days.

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We have done some hiking here climbing one peek for excellent views of the inner island and coast as well as the highly touted cross island track via a massive stone pillar called the needle. The snorkeling has also been out of this world. We are sure to have a lot more of this to come but were I am today I do not know how it can get much better. The coral within the reef can be easily reached from shore and in some spots is isolated clops of coral surrounded by a soft sandy bottom to long stretches of maze like coral electric with color in the afternoon sun and packed with many different tropical fish. Other than the fish we have seen giant clams, eel, and blue starfish.

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One night we headed out to a bar in town were they were having an “island night” The bar turned out to be a cheesy disco and The setting had me skeptical but the performance was actually done quite well and was very entertaining. Male and female dancers in traditional dress performed in front of about 15 drummers and singers. At the end of the show they came through the audience and randomly selected people to come up on stage and dance. Meghan was yanked out of her seat and like a good sport she got up and shook her hips as best she could with the distraction of everyone at our table snapping away at their digital photos in rapid succession!

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We are on the west side of the island and are treated to some amazing sunsets but a short scooter ride around the beautiful and empty sothern side of the island and you come to Muri Beach on the east side. This is were the lagoon is and there are 4 deserted islands, or Motu, one can explore. Here the water is truly turquoise and the sand is pure white.

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From here we head to the Island of Aitutaki for 4 days. Aitutaki is known for its massive lagoon and is said to be one of the most memorable sights in the South Pacific.

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Getting My Cook Islands Drivers Licence
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Greenpeace Boat in the Harbor
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Dancers at the Saturday Market

Posted by pmunson 12:38 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (0)

Aitutaki, Cook Islands

True Island Paradise


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WOW! Stop what you are doing and book a flight to Aitutaki! We departed Rarotonga on a small Sabb aircraft for the 50 minute flight to Aitutaki. We had only booked 3 nights here so we picked an early morning fight over and an early evening flight back to make the most of our 4 days here. We did not waist any time hireing a scooter and setting out to explore the island. The slow pace of Rarotonga screeches to a near halt here on Aitutaki. Most shops are in the front of peoples homes and the island has and eire uninhabited feel at first.

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From above Aitutaki is a triangular reef dotted with tiny islands, or mota, on the south and the east and a long skinny main Island in the shape of a fishhook on running up the west side and over the north. The lagoon here is huge 15k at the southern base of the triangle and 12k north to south. From the air it looked like a bright turquoise gemstone floating in the deep blue see. Most of the accommodation, restaurants, and shops are on the west side of the main island while the lagoon side is nearly deserted. we scooted down around the south side of the island on a dirt path and then up the lagoon side around the “fishhook” to O’Otu beach, one of the pretties on the main island.

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On our second day we took out a tandem sea kayak and padded out across the lagoon to some of the deserted islands. We spent about 4 hours in the boat and on the islands and did not se another person nor another boat on the lagoon! If this place was anywhere else in the world I imaging it would be backed with jet skis, water skiing, and boats but here we had the whole place to ourself. We explores an interesting inlet packed with marine life including eels and Robinson Caruso’d on an the Island of EE.

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Unfortunately the next day was a rain day but we made the most of it by shucking 6 coconuts and creating an Island botchi setup. Our friends from Rarotonga had arrived the day before and we all were staying at Toms beach cottage so we actually had a fun day entertaining ourselves.

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We took advantage in a break in the rain to head down the beach for an Island night that our host told us you could just watch from the beach. The singing and dancing were OK but the real highlight was the fire dancing.

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On our final day we splurged for the mandatory lagoon cruise. We set out on a bright yellow Catamaran motorboat for a day of snorkeling and beach cruising. Out in the lagoon the colors intensified and we all were inspired by the beauty of this place. The snorkeling was fantastic and the Islands were amazing. This was the sight of a season of the TV show survivor as well as the UK show shipwrecked. One thing we saw here were Giant clams. They were about 2 feet long and 12 inches high and their flesh was bright blues, purples, and greens. We were treated to a tour of 4 islands, and afternoon snack of passion fruit (YUM!), mango, Paw-paw (papaya), bananas, Guava, and Donuts!, as well as a BBQ lunch of freshly caught tuna and local veggies.

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After the lagoon cruise we hurried out to the airport for a nice sunset flight back to Rarotonga for the remainder of our time in the Cook Islands.

Posted by pmunson 13:02 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (5)

Return to Rarotonga

Lazy daze


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We were back in Rarotonga on the 7th of November for my birthday. We put a big day in starting at the Local market for breakfast and we got to watch some of the traditional dances done by little kids. I think Meghan was more excited about this than I was but it was pretty cute.

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From here we set out to watch the start of a Vaka race. Vaka is the Maori Name for the ocean going outrigger canoes. The traditional hollowed out wooden boats have been replaced by modern fiberglass versions. The boat's fit 6 people and as a relay team they can make it around the island in just over 2 ½ hours. Apparently the members of the relay team are dropped off ahead of the Vaka in the ocean by moter boat and as the vaka arrives 3 team members jump out into the water while three simultaniosly pull themselves in barely missing a paddle stroke. They do this every 10 minutes for the entirety of the race.

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Next it was on to the Cooks Islands 20th annual 7’s in Heaven Rugby tournament. Teams from all over the Pacific come each year to compete and we were able to get in on the action. We had never watched Rugby before, did not know the rules of the game, but still had a great time along with what must have been the majority of the local people on the Island who had turned up for the tournament! After a nice dinner out the evening ended back at the hostel were George and Matt surprised me with a birthday cake they had bought at the market! Perfect.

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The next few days were spent idly hanging at the beach, snorkeling, and sending off some of our new friends. The Cook Islands have been absolutely amazing and we would come back again if we have the chance. Other than a little rain 3 of the 18 days we were here the weather has been perfect. Not to hot and not to cold. The locals are super friendly and we never felt pressured to buy anything or felt unsafe. It is going to be a big change of pace once we get to SE Asia and India but this was an excellent and really relaxing start to our trip. My only real complaint is the prices on food (10 dollars for a box of cereal!) and the general lack there of good beer.

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1 USD = 0.75 NZD… OUCH

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Mori Statue found all over the Island.

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One of our favorite snorkeling beaches

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Freshwater swimming hole

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Sunset Coctails
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Coral in the lagoon
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The Harbor
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Rarotonga Backpackers Hillside Location

Posted by pmunson 20:02 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (1)

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