Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Kia Orana

Our flight from Nadi to Rarotonga was late afternoon, but because we crossed the date line we arrived on the evening before we left. This threw us slightly. At Nadi airport I thought for a moment we were going to be charged again for revalidating our tickets, but then the woman said we didn’t need to and just directed us to check-in. Air New Zealand still haven’t answered my complaint e-mail about the way we were dealt with in Auckland. The Lonely Planet mentioned a departure tax which confused us because, despite signs up in Nadi airport we couldn’t find where to pay it. It seems they include it with the ticket now, which seems much more sensible (take note New Zealand).

The pacific islands like to welcome you to their airports, this time a single bloke playing a guitar and singing as we queued for immigration. Our immigration officer must have not done his dourness training yet as he seemed reasonably jolly, although he did purse his lips a bit when he saw the original date on our onward ticket. I explained that we’d had them changed and they needed to be revalidated. He didn’t look convinced but stamped our passports and waved us through anyhow. After baggage collection and customs, where Gemma had to show some plant based souvenirs that she’d bought to an officer, we found the desk of Rarotonga Backpackers. We’d pre-arranged our accommodation by e-mail and joined a gang of others. There were quite a few of us and only a small minibus such that we ended up rammed in, with people sitting on each others knees and with their legs over the luggage. Thankfully the road that circles Rarotonga is only 34km around so we knew that it wouldn’t take too long to reach our destination. The hostel has two locations, one on the beach and another nearby on the hillside. We were booked into a bungalow at the hillside. They are pretty laidback in these parts, so just showed us to our room and told us to sort out the checking in formalities the next day.

Despite the cock-a-doodle-do’s starting up early in the morning I still didn’t drag myself out of bed until gone 10:00. The check in formalities were dispatched quickly and we set off to have a quick look at the surrounding area. Just down the hill and over the road is the beach and the thin strip of shallow lagoon protected by the reef which runs right around the island. We hopped on a bus into town. The bus service couldn’t be any less confusing, two services, clockwise and anti-clockwise with a single price for a journey. No route numbers, fare stages or changing buses.

We browsed the market which was being packed up. Cursing our tardiness we sat down for a nice lunch at a seafood place called Trader Jack’s. After lunch we made a mad dash to the supermarket and bottle shop. We’d been told the supermarket closed early on Saturdays and wasn’t open on Sundays. No alcohol is sold on Sundays either, so we had to make sure we were prepared! We were kind of blown away by the prices in the supermarket (2 litres of milk -$7.20), but reminded ourselves that we were on an isolated island where everything has to be shipped in. We spent the rest of the day just reading on our balcony and looking at the elusive thin wedge of blue ocean horizon that we could just about see through the coconut and papaya trees.

In the morning we hiked up the Raemaru track, or halfway at least. The track is hewn roughly into the bush up the hill and was fairly hard going at the start. There were some gorgeous views out over the island, the contrast between the deep blue of the open ocean and the lighter turquoise of the lagoon being particularly striking. Following a fairly distinct pattern, the rest of the day was spent reading on the balcony. There is a certain laziness that seems to pervade the pacific islands and we succumbed to it rather easily.

People partying by the pool into the early hours kept me awake and I had to resort to earplugs to finally get some sleep. That notwithstanding, we were up and out quite early the next morning and into town on a fact finding mission. In the afternoon we made our way over to the beautiful Muri beach for a bit of a look. Because we knew our check out from Rarotonga Backpackers was imminent we were looking to book somewhere to stay over there. A trudge around places was unsuccessful, they were either full, too expensive, or in the case of the backpackers over there had closed offices. We gave up and returned not having sorted anything out.

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