With the exception of a few rainy days in the Pacific northwest, the weather throughout our time in the US had been very kind to us indeed. Even so, the temperatures had been dropping with the onset of winter and we looked forward to some sunshine before Christmas.
Rarotonga was the answer. The largest and most populated of the Cook Islands in the middle of the south Pacific, it is still tiny by most standards with only one main road which circles the island. Avoiding the resorts and hotels, we chose to rent a beachside house in Matavera with a full kitchen and laundry facilities, essential for the travelling family.
We spent the first morning searching for our swimwear before eventually realising that I’d left it in the wardrobe of the apartment we rented in Mammoth (don’t ask me why I unpacked swimwear in a ski resort…) so Alex ended up exploring the beach in pyjamas and ski boots!
Later we caught the island ring road bus to the supermarket. With one bus an hour in each direction we had plenty of time to get our groceries before the next scheduled bus. So far, so good.
As we waited for the next bus outside the supermarket a car pulled up. A friendly looking chap wound down the window and offered us a lift. Sure, what could possibly go wrong? With bags of shopping weighing us down and our ice cream melting I wasn’t keen to wait any longer and ignored Nick’s looks of hesitation, deciding that most people aren’t the terrifying axe murderers that the likes of Fox News would have us believe, so in we got.
Our driver, let’s call him Bob, was indeed an affable fellow. Driving barefoot and looking relaxed in his shorts and shirt it was a surprise to discover he was the local lawyer. I gave Nick a look that said “See – not an axe murderer” and he gave me a raised eyebrow that said “the bus was 5 minutes away.”
Bob asked us where we were going, something we probably ought to have established before we got in the car. You see, we had little to no idea! Having been collected at the airport that morning by our host’s daughter and driven straight to the house without really paying attention to the roads or address, all I had after a long flight was “Well, we are staying in a red house, owned by a guy called Kelvin with a pink shop at the end of the driveway.” Nick was in no mood to help.
By this time Bob had established that we were travelling around the world and I could see that, even with his relaxed view of things, he was wondering how on earth we had managed to get this far. Eventually he worked out that we needed to get to the other side of the island and sadly he would only be going another few miles up the road, so he would drop us at the next bus stop.
No harm done.
As we got out, the bus behind us pulled out to overtake and as we raised our hands, I swear the driver gave us a friendly wave as he drove off. I couldn’t look at Nick.
Ever the optimist, I decided we could walk and we set off. The heat was stifling so it was slow going and pretty soon the ice cream was liquid but about an hour later the bus came by again and this time stopped to pick us up. Eventually we spotted the little pink shop at the end of the driveway and jumped off the bus. That night we decided we needed a car!
Fully mobile again, we spent the following day driving around the island, replacing our swimwear and enjoying the beaches. They are simply breathtaking.
We absolutely fell in love with the place. A friendly local offered the boys her kayak and we swam and snorkelled in crystal clear water almost every day.
Compared to so many of the cities we’ve spent time in recently, one of the stand out features of Rarotonga is the sense of equality, by which I mean we saw little evidence of either obscene wealth nor abject poverty here – it feels like people are more level and we really like that.