A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Gill's Travels

Bounty from the Sea

Thursday 3rd December 2015

sunny 30 °C

One of the things I was keen to do today was go and have a look at an art gallery that we had seen on the edge of Avarua. So mid-morning that's where we headed. We had a look at the art, but the main thing they had there were Cook Island black pearls. I had thought about buying a pearl pendant while we were on Rarotonga so I had a closer look. They only sell local cultured pearls and they can either be bought mounted or loose and they will then have them mounted or strung if that what you want. I had a look at quite a few and then went and had a look round the rest of the gallery to give me some time to ponder my potential purchase. I decided to go for it, partly as it would go with a pearl bracelet bought for me several years ago by my son Paul. I set a mental price limit and then looked at what they had within that range. Betty the assistant showed us quite a few including one that had an extra small white pearl that had formed on one side. I really liked this flaw and so we discussed it being drilled and hung from a very simple silver pin, work which could be done by tomorrow. Nigel offered to buy it for me which was very kind of him and then we left before I was tempted by anything else!

By now we were ready for some lunch so we went to a cafe near Black Rock Beach. It seemed quite strange to see all the Christmas decorations that the New Zealand owner had put on the tables and around the walls.

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I don't think I will ever be able to get my head round a tropical/ summer Christmas. The food was really nice (I had locally caught fish again) but I didn't like the overall place as much as some if the other places we had been to, it just seemed to lack a bit of atmosphere. After lunch we went back to our bungalow for a couple of hours until it was a bit nearer to high tide which would make for better snorkelling. We decided to go back to Titikaveka Beach, the place we had been on Saturday. We were hoping to snorkel again but the wind and tide had stirred up the sand quite a bit and so the visibility was pretty poor. There were also large waves breaking over the reef.

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Nigel persevered but I just stuck to swimming. We didn't stay on the beach too long as we wanted to get back for dinner. On the drive back I noticed again the laid back attitude to motor cycle safety on the island. One female rider was steering with one arm whilst holding a baby in the other!

We had arranged with Angela to have a meze style platter delivered to us at our bungalow this evening. This was bought by the cook and her husband and she laid the food out on one of the beachside tables.

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There was a feta and tomato salad, some ika mata (raw fish salad) mussel fritters, some smoked fish, prawns, spring rolls, koftas and lots of other food besides. It was all delicious, but more than we could eat between the two of us. It was so peaceful sitting there eating with just the sound of the ocean and no one else in sight. The peace was short lived though as Nigel decided to get into the hammock hanging nearby between two coconut palms. It caused great hilarity watching him try and get in to it, and even more when he fell out. He is clearly out of practice since we were in Vietnam over 5 years ago!

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Posted by Gill's Travels 23:10 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (0)

Staying Close to Home (Again)

Wednesday 2nd December 2015

sunny 30 °C

Really annoyingly I realised quite early on today that my purse was missing. I knew that I had it in the Tamarind Restaurant last night, when I got it out in order to leave a tip. We went and spoke to Angela and she rang them and worryingly they said that they didn't have it. However shortly after we returned to the bungalow to have a more thorough look, Angela came and told us that they had now found it. I was pretty relieved as we had a fair bit of cash on our preloaded card and although when Nigel checked it no money appeared to have been taken it was still a good to know it safe. We decided to go and collect it before we did anything else.

Once that was all sorted I could relax a bit, especially given that the card and all the cash was still in my purse. We drove back to Magic Reef stopping off briefly to have a look at Black Rock Beach which was another swimming/snorkelling place that had been recommended to us. It was quite different to the other places we had been to, with a large black basalt rock just off the shoreline. The tide was coming in quite rapidly and as I sat on one of the smaller boulders a wave come in and gave me a bit of a soaking. It was somewhere that we might have considered returning to but the access to the beach great and there was quite a lot of rubbish dumped in the undergrowth which put me off a bit.

Once we got back we had a late breakfast and we decided to stay near the bungalow today. We started off by walking southwards down the beach towards the nearest 'passage' through the reef.

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This was quite narrow and I was surprised a few days later when I saw how quickly a boat managed to manoeuvre in and up to the jetty. Whilst we were walking we saw an egret standing in the sand.

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We then walked back to the bungalow and sat watching the waves breaking on the sand. The colour of the water constantly changes and today the wind was whipping up the waves and carrying them over the reef and onto the beach.

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During the afternoon we had another swim in the sea near to the bungalow but apart from that we just relaxed and did some reading. As well as looking at the fish and the coral in the water it was also fascinating, but slightly worrying, looking at the quite large bits of dead coral on the beach.

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As the evening drew in we had the best sunset since arriving in the Cook Islands.

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The musicians we had listened to on Monday night were playing at the Waterline Restaurant just along the beach, where we had eaten on our first night in Rarotonga. We really enjoyed our meal and the music, made all the better for the improved acoustics at the Waterline which made it easier to hear the music. Once we had finished eating we went back to the bungalow and ended the evening with a welcome cup of coffee.

Posted by Gill's Travels 19:50 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (0)

All About the Swimming

Tuesday 1st December 2015

semi-overcast 30 °C

The thunderstorms that we had been expecting overnight didn't materialise and the weather was much improved by the time we got up. It was pretty hot, but there was a proper blue sky for the first time since we arrived on Rarotonga.

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We had a pretty boring breakfast of toast and marmalade, sadly the fruit platter we were given on arrival has all been eaten. Nigel checked and found out that high tide was going to be a bit after 1pm so we aimed to get out on one of the local beaches for about midday. The nearest really good beach is at Aroa which is about three to four kilometres south (anti-clockwise) from where we are staying. The beach there is better than here at Aorangi in that the reef is further out and there is less rock and coral and more sand in the lagoon so it makes for better swimming.

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The sea was a beautiful colour when we arrived and we were feeling pretty warm and so we went straight in for a swim and then we did some snorkelling. I keep getting problems with salt water irritating my eyes when I snorkel, so after a bit I reverted to swimming and then came out the water quite a bit before Nigel did. I still saw some really pretty fish and one really large greyish one when I was swimming in the shallows. Going out further Nigel was able to see some better examples of coral as he went much nearer to the reef.

After about an hour and a half on the beach we went to get some lunch at a cafe just up past Muri lagoon, recommended to us by Angela for their fish sandwiches. I had Tuna and Nigel had their FOB (fresh off the boat) both of which were delicious. That particular area is one of the most popular on the island but the water didn't look as clear there as elsewhere on the island and Nigel had read reports about localised pollution and excessive damage to the coral.

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Despite being sunnier today on the beaches the Rarotongan mountains were still shrouded in cloud and mist.

Once we had finished eating we decided to go back to Magic Reef and chill out there. We had a bit of a swim in the lovely boat shaped pool and then went and sat on the beach in front of our bungalow with a beer. It probably wasn't a great idea as I ended up dozing off for a little while and woke up with a bit of a headache. I had hardly drank any of the beer and the headache sort of put paid to any more alcohol that evening. Fortunately a bit of time in the cool and lots of water plus a couple of paracetamol seemed to do the trick. We had booked a table (or at least Angela had done this for us) at the Tamarind which she had previously told us is her favourite on the island. It is about a 15 minute drive from where we are staying up on the northern shore. It is situated in an old colonial building, one of a few still remaining, and the staff are very friendly and welcoming. I had yet more fish (swordfish on a lemon and pesto risotto) and Nigel had lamb shank. I followed mine up with a delicious pavlova whilst Nigel settled for an iced coffee. I had really enjoyed the meal, and although Nigel thought his lamb wasn't the best he'd ever had we had both enjoyed eating there. The wind had blown up again during the evening and there was some rain but we managed to get back to our accommodation without getting wet. It was still pretty hot and humid and there were loads of flying (and probably biting) insects around despite my hefty dosing of Deet and a number of hungry geckos, so after a short while I went inside and took advantage of the coolness the air conditioning provided.

Posted by Gill's Travels 23:16 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (0)

A Wet and Windy Day in Raro

Monday 30th November 2015

storm 29 °C



The strong winds and rain continued to be a presence when we woke up this morning and so again we just relaxed at the bungalow for the morning. It felt a bit indulgent to just sit around reading and relaxing but I reminded myself that we were still on holiday, and this was the real 'chill out' bit of our trip. Late morning we decided to go and visit the Marie Nui Gardens and Cafe on the south east corner of the island.

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When we arrived it started to rain and so we decided to visit the cafe first and have some lunch. As we were eating out this evening we both went for salads, smoked fish salad for me (they are really into marinated and smoked raw fish on the island) and chicken for Nigel. We then succumbed and shared a piece of their 'world famous' cheesecake served on a platter with loads of tropical fruit.

Once we had finished all of this the rain had died down a little and so we went the explore the gardens. They are spread over quite a large area and it was quite hard to tell where the gardens ended and the native trees/ bush began. There were lots of beautiful trees and shrubs, some such as frangipani, bougainvillea, hibiscus and bird of paradise plants that I recognised, and many more that I didn't.

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There were also fruit trees and a large vegetable garden fenced off, I suspect more from the native wildlife than from visitors! Once we had finished looking round we went back to our accommodation at Magic Reef and relaxed and read our books for the rest of the afternoon.

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This evening we went to a restaurant called the Kikau Hut which is up towards the airport. The owner came and collected us and the brought us back after the meal. On Mondays they have a couple of musicians there and although I had presumed that thus would be traditional Polynesian music in fact they were playing well known stuff from the late 60's and early 70's which is absolutely my era. The food was great as well; locally caught fish for me and a fish curry for Nigel followed by a pretty unhealthy but delicious banoffee pie for me and ice cream for Nigel. The hut itself was pretty simple but food, service and music were a great end to a relaxing but wet and windy day in Rarotonga.

Posted by Gill's Travels 22:34 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (0)

Staying Close to Home

Sunday 29th November 2015

storm 28 °C

The weather was certainly no better today than yesterday, and perhaps if anything slightly worse. There seemed to be no rush to get up; and so we had a lie in, chatted and read books. When we did finally stir ourselves the tide was still partially in and so the water in the lagoon, particularly further up where we had taken a dip yesterday, was deep enough for a bit of snorkelling. The whole of Rarotonga is circled by a coral reef although it varies from about 100 to roughly 300 metres from the shoreline. This means that the waves tend to break on the reef rather than on the beach. Even when it is quite windy there are very few waves coming into the lagoon making it fairly safe to swim. There are a number of 'passages' around the island where there is a gap in the reef which means that the waves can come straight onto the beach and there is a pretty strong and potentially dangerous current going back out to sea. Because of the lack of rock and coral in these places, and due to the slightly deeper water they are a deeper turquoise and clearly visible. As we started to snorkel I found that it was a bit of a fiddle getting my mask to fit properly and despite being protected by the reef, the lagoon still had a bit a a current so it wasn't the most relaxing of swims. Despite these niggles it we had an interesting time and saw a number of brightly coloured fish and a couple of large deep blue starfish. Given that it wasn't sunny and we hadn't yet had any breakfast we didn't stay in the water too long. We then made the short walk back up the beach to our bungalow and after a warming shower we got dressed we then had a late breakfast/ brunch. The rest of the day was pretty chilled.

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We spent much of it sitting on our deck and come evening we had a beer and a home cooked meal. The evening light on the beach was pretty amazing although not the beautiful sunset we were hoping for. Having checked the forecast for tomorrow we knew we were in for more of the same, or worse as cyclone Tuni still wasn't that far away although fortunately there were indications that the weather system had been downgraded to a tropical storm.

Posted by Gill's Travels 22:17 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (0)

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