Days 27 & 28-Rarotonga, Cook Islands

February 5, 2018

Awakened to rain, not just rain, torrential, buckets, a deluge and inundation of rain. It was beating on our roof so hard it was almost all we could hear. There were ideas of what to do today, but with the weather we just hung out reading our books and waiting for the storm to pass like it usually does. We had a little clearing, so not willing to risk getting caught out in another storm, we ordered a taxi and rushed into town to do a little purchasing of some necessary goods. Then we headed across to the waterfront and had a drink while waiting for Trader Jacks restaurant to open at 5:30 pm.  While sitting sipping our drinks the local outrigger groups were going out to practice. Just like Hawaii the local groups race and compete inter-island.  It was really the roughest we had seen the surf, plus there was a wicked riptide. Three boats went out and then all hell broke loose. First was the rain, then a huge boom of thunder followed by sheet lightening between 50 to 100 feet from where we were sitting. 

At least the rain and water are warm. It’s the only consolation for getting soaked to the skin. 

The restaurant staff moved our table as water was pouring into the bar area.  We had a delicious meal, fish, chips and salad for me. Then called our taxi driver and headed home.  It rained most of the evening and during the night.  

February 6, 2018

Overcast morning and the coolest weather we’ve have in the Cook Islands at 79 F. We had a 8:30 am pick up by Raro Mountain Safari for a trip up into the interior mountains of the island. Pete and I decided to wear our swimming togs, the chances of getting very wet were very high.  

The trip was very interesting with tours through the local farming community.  One of the grocery stores grows all its own produce on its family land. Land isn’t sold here it is just passed down from generation to generation. That is why they bury their loved ones on the family property, the family or tribe will always be there.  Foreigners can lease land, but not buy. Rarotonga is the only volcanic island in the 15 island Cook chain and is the only island that can cultivate a wide range of vegetables. All the rest of the islands are atolls, made up of sand. They have a much more limited ability to cultivate plant foods. We saw orange groves (in photo below) pineapple, taro, breadfruit, papaya, passion fruit, corn, mango, and much more. 

Most all the little farms and neighborhoods were tidy and well kept.

There were cultural stops with history of the three tribes on the island. The story of how they came in seven canoes and visits to ceremonial sites (marae) that are now rarely used, except to install a new tribal king.  The photo below shows the Koutu and marae of the Makea tribe, thought to be built in 1350 AD. The ceremonial platform is towards the back of the photo. 

We then headed up to get a good look at the needle rock, one of the highest points on the island.

Then down to the beach for a BBQ.  While lunch was being prepared, I took a little walk down the beach and was amazed at the beautiful items that had artistically washed up.  

Days 26 & 27- Rarotonga & Aitutaki, Cook Islands

February 5, 2018

Tourista, nuff said. Did feel better by evening and we all walked down to Sail Bar for a drink and then onto Rickshaw again for another good dinner. 

February 6, 2018

Booked a day trip to Aitutaki today. Got the transfer to the airport at 7 am and flew for 45 minutes to the Cook Islands second most popular island, 160 miles north of Rarotonga. Aitutaki is an atoll with an enormous beautiful blue lagoon. The trip included a boat trip to 3 smaller motu or islets that make up part of the rim. The photo below is from

Boarding the boat involved wading through the water and climbing a set of stairs. Unfortunately I stepped in a hole and dropped to my knee onto a rock. Very large knee abrasion, that bled and bled. The boat crew was very attentive and cleaned it with a antibiotic. Determined to enjoy the day, along with the fact they didn’t have any gauze it was left to the open air.

There was a nature walk on the second islet, which featured beautiful White Terns and a lesson on telling a female from male coconut shoot. The male shoot comes out the bottom of the coconut and the female shoot comes out of the top.

Then we were off to some coral beds for snorkeling. The water was only 3 to 5′ deep and there were lots and lots of fish.

This guy was about 30″ long and there were several of them swimming around all the snorkelers. 

This fish is the master of disguise. Wouldn’t have noticed it at all, except I floated right over him.  

After the snorkel, we had a buffet lunch on the boat with ingredients solely from Aitutaki, except the onions. The breadfruit potato style salad was really good, as were the grilled plantains, fresh passion fruit, tuna, grilled eggplant and a few other things I couldn’t identify.

Charlie was our MC, historian, naturalist, and instructor on all things Aitutaki. Charlie is 20 years old. He had a scholarship to school in New Zealand, but he was homesick and returned after 2 years. He has tremendous pride in his island and is thankful the USA built the Aitutaki airstrip during WWII, as it brings tourists to the island. Prior to a small but very strong cyclone in 2010, Aitutaki was a big producer of bananas, but the cyclone destroyed much of the islands banana farms and now they are dependent on tourtism for a living. The military development of the airstrip was as the last line of defense in the Pacific against the Japanese. The Japanese advance was reversed and the island never saw any action. Some descendants of the American troops stationed there remain on the island.*

Music was a big part of the trip and they mixed traditional songs with soft rock and roll. 


Days 24 & 25, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

February 3, 2018

Made arrangements to get to the airport to pick up John. He arrived from San Diego through Tahiti. Amazing it’s only a 2 hour time different after flying for 8 hours. Since we had to catch the clockwise bus that only comes once an hour, we decided to get to the airport early and have a late lunch. Walking around the airport neighborhood, we found the old historic Nikao cemetery right on the water. Tourists, foreigners, and WWI “Anzacs” (Australian and New Zealand) from the Cook Islands are interred.

It was so good to see John’s smiling face at the airport. We had arranged through Sonny at the Aroko Bungalows to have Kiki pick us all up in his taxi and transport us back.  We stopped at a store, so John would have water and juice the next morning. We had enough banana bread left so he wouldn’t go hungry. It is a walk to everything, groceries, restaurants, etc.  We are fortunate to be in the area of Muri Beach, which has a little commercial area. On our bus rides around the island we have noticed the many of the Bungalows, Hotels and Resorts have very few options for groceries or restaurants. 

Not much to report for the rest of our day….long naps and a stroll to a delicious dinner at the Rickshaw restaurant. The food has been with one exception very good in Rarotonga. We walked home in the dark, using my iPhone flashlight to see and let cars know we were along side the road.  

February 4, 2018

We were all up fairly early today, had a lazy morning and decided to catch the 10:13 am bus to Tikioki beach. We have been told that it is one of the better snorkeling beaches. 

As it’s Sunday, the bus is only running Clockwise and until 4 pm. There is no liquor sold in the little groceries and all the stores are closed. There are some energy stations open, grocery stores and the Night Market. We saw some lovely ladies in their Sunday best on scooters headed for church. Many of the men were dressed in white suits, like the two gentlemen entering the church below.

We had a great time at the beach and found an outdoor shower to wash the salt water off down the road behind a cemetery. It was up in the air as to whether the bus was going to show up. After examining the fine print on our bus schedules, it appeared on Sundays they didn’t run from 12 to 2 pm. We are dealing with the bus, because driving  on the island means obtaining a local drivers license, taking a test and purchasing the license. Just doesn’t seem worth the bother. Besides we are on island time….there is no urgency to get anywhere, except to the airport for flights and then there is taxi service.


This odd fish was about 14″ long and just kept circling me getting quite close and checking me out the whole time.  His buddies were behaving like normal fish, but this guy was definitely curious. 

I was looking in a coral hole when I saw something moving. At first I thought it was a piece of waving seaweed, but it was moving around a lot and seemed to be black and white.  It was very hard to get a picture with it never coming out into the light. I’ve been on the internet trying to figure out what it is, but haven’t had any luck.

Ok, enough with the fish. They fascinate me, but I know they’re not on everyone’s hit list.  

One of the highlights of the day was that the bus schedule was out of date and the bus did arrive only 10 minutes late.  We headed into town and stocked up on snacks at the energy station. We lucked out, our bus driver took a 1 hour break, so we had time. I couldn’t figure out how come they had such large containers of everything, then I noticed the Kirkland Brand. They must order on line from Costco.  

Onward towards home and a nice nap. Then a walk down to the Night Market for more fantastic local food.  I had mixed shrimp, mussels, fish and squid in coconut milk on rice with mushroom gravy.  I know it sounds weird, but it was sooooo good.  

Headed back with a store stop for breakfast supplies and was amazed that they had Almond/Coconut milk…..hallelujah! No more nasty powdered creamer floating around on my morning coffee. 

Here’s our extremely laid back and wonderful friend John. We stopped at a beach side bar on our way home, since it was the only way we were going to get a glass of wine today. 

Day 23- Rarotonga, Cook Islands

February 2, 2018

Tomorrow’s the big day when John comes in from LA to join us for the rest of the trip.  We made it to the liquor store today to get him some scotch. I’m hoping he will share a little bit with me.  

Since we were out and about, I took several photos of the island to give you a better idea of the terrain. The interior mountains are very rugged and jagged looking. We are looking at taking a jeep tour of the interior and visiting some of the little villages.

Lots of churches on the island, some I’ve never heard of before. Traveling in the South Pacific is the first time I’ve really experienced the missionary spread throughout the this part of the world. They are still here and still proselytizing. 

Just a quick trip into town today to pick up a few things on our list.  Got most everything, including a new dress, because it’s just too hot and humid for pants and Tee shirts to be very comfortable.  So, now I have 3 dresses that should get me through. 

Also the tide was out when we got home, so Pete had to go wading, meanwhile I was admiring the literally hundreds, if not thousands of little crabs (about 1″) that that were out of their holes facing off, fighting and generally enjoying their time out of water.  The two in the featured photo were especially feisty.  

This is our bungalow chicken, like Hawaii they are all over the island.  She has one surviving chick and they have made Aroko Bungalows their home.  

Day 22- Rarotonga, Cook Islands

February 1, 2008

Lovely morning on the deck drinking our coffee and eating a breakfast of banana bread. Our mission today is snorkeling at Aroa Beach. So, be forewarned if you are tired of bad, semi-bad and the occasional good fish photo you might want to read the paper instead. Although I am getting a little better at taking these shots.  Our bus pulled up to the beach, just as the clouds started rolling in and a light rain started coming down.  We decided to take turns going in the water, so someone could stay with all the stuff we had carted with us. 

I had a wonderful time out in the water with the fish, recovering coral and sea slugs, lots and lots of sea slugs. Very unattractive animals that I had to be very careful not to step on. Besides not wanting to hurt them, they looked disgustingly squishy. 

The lagoon I was snorkeling in was fairly calm and shallow.  We were told by a New Zealand gentleman that the coral in the lagoon was just about dead, with few fish just last year. It is making a remarkable comeback with many more fish and healthier coral. 

There were very few places over my head, so I was able to get close to the fish without diving. I would love to identify all these fish and other critters for you, but it’s just too slow trying to look things up with the available internet. 

These little guys live/hide in the coral and don’t seem to move far away, as you can see clearly in the featured photo. There were several pieces of coral like this one with clouds of little black and white fish hovering around.

This fish didn’t like me in his territory, he would zip back and forth, then make a run straight at my mask.  See the sea slug in the upper right hand corner. 

This enlarged photo is of a tiny little fish that lives in a hole in the coral. It stretched out about 1″ from its hole before it got a look at me, then it contracted back to safety. 

These fish were about 8″ long and ghostly white with black strips.

Absolutely gorgeous coral growth with plants and animals. Check out the little anemones in the upper left hand corner. 

When I headed into the beach, Pete was pacing back and forth and I couldn’t figure out what he was doing.  It had started raining harder and he was trying to get all our stuff back up under the trees to keep it dry… it turned out a hopeless task.

I found a shower down the beach and rinsed the salt water off. Then we headed across for a late lunch/dinner at the local restaurant. My fish and chips were very good, while Pete’s burger was cooked to hockey puck consistency. Waiting for the bus again in the pouring rain, we were soaked by the time it arrived.  The plus side is that the rain is fairly warm, so other than the discomfort of wet clothes, it wasn’t too bad.

Day 21- Rarotonga, Cook Islands

January 31, 2018 again

It was a glorious sleep-in today, having arrived last night at around 10:30 pm and lights out after midnight.  Some time was spent studying the bus schedule, while Pete walked down to the local store to get more water and internet vouchers.  We decided to take the clockwise bus, instead of the counter-clockwise bus around the island to get the most road time viewing the snorkeling beaches and sites.  

Here is our new home with a view. We aren’t right on the water, but have a view between 2 other bungalows towards the lagoon in the photo below. The little guy in the featured photo is a land crab that lives in a hole right off our deck.  He has been checking out the new tenants.

We waited and waited for the bus, I obviously read the schedule incorrectly.  Finally getting on we have scoped out the beaches and found a great place for snorkeling with a restaurant right across the street.  

Both of us were amazed by the sprawling Flame trees all around the island.  The road circles the perimeter of the island with few roads going into the steeply mountainous interior.  

One thing we noticed today were the abundance of cemeteries. We will have to find out if there is one for every family, because that certainly seems to be the case. There are even tombs in peoples’ yards. Don’t think I’d like getting up in the morning to make tea or coffee and see grandma’s tomb out the kitchen window.  This is a interesting cultural custom that will need to be explored.

There were many abandoned concrete buildings around the island, with all the lush vegetation they manage to look quite picturesque. We got off the bus in town, to pick up a few things we could use in our travels. The driver was super nice and told us about the fish and chips at Trader Jacks. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was 3 pm, we walked right over to get some food after our little shopping expedition. Here’s what we found out, 95% of the restaurants on the island close at 2:30 pm and re-open at 5:30 or 6 pm…..rats!

The bar was open with the regular suspects lined up on stools. We had a consolation drink and headed out to pick up the bus for our bungalow.  We messed up on the schedule again and waited about 50 minutes, alternately walking and waiting, until a lady took pity on us and offered us a lift. Of course no sooner did we get in her car, when the bus came. Along the way our Good Samaritan asked if we had been to the night market yet.  It is only open Wednesday and Saturday with food stalls set up by different residents on the island. Pete had big fresh Ahi steaks, with rice and apple/pecan salad, I had the Ahi curry with rice. 

We couldn’t resist a couple of desserts to go, will dive into those shortly. The food was divine, keeping in mind that we were both ready to chew a leg off at that point. It was only about a third of a mile back to our bungalow, so we took another walk to make room for the decadent looking chocolate cake.