Tuesday, 26 April 2011

On an island in the sun

You all know the stories. The German who's been to Cambodia and Peru, but not to France.  The American who's surfed off South Africa, but never seen the Empire State Building. So many people neglect the gems in their backyard while looking for them on the far side of the planet.
To an extent, that's true of us.  It was only last year that I went to Australia and I've never been to Cape Reinga, while Lauren's never been to Milford Sound.  Only once has one of us been to a Pacific Island - Lauren's trip to Tonga.
So going to Rarotonga this month was an overdue pleasure.

My whole life, I never made the connection. Duh.

And what a pleasure it was.  We've been a bit dubious about island/resort type holidays - there's only so much lying in the sun that we can take before we get bored.  One of the great things about Raro is that it's as gorgeous a tropical island as any cliche - rugged jungle-covered hills, palms drooping over white beaches, coral atol teeming with fish, friendly locals - but there's a lot more to do than just laze around. While we were there we:

Went on a glass-bottom boat tour and learned about coconuts from this guy, the Pacific coconut tree climing champ. Seriously, he was awesome.

Got cultural: visited the site where the Great Fleet waka allegedly left for New Zealand and watched a tapu-raising ceremony at the marae at Highland Paradise

Raced crabs. The little pincers were everywhere.

And, of course, spent a lot of time lying around doing some light reading. For the record, I read a trashy fantasy.

And despite an economy dominated by tourism, Raro doesn't feel like a tourist trap. Grab a bike and head inland and you are surrounded by taro fields, pigs, rusting cars, innumerable small cemetaries and Rarotongans going about their lives. It is a genuine place, and certainly different enough from New Zealand to make you feel that, despite not needing to change currency, you had visited a very different part of the world.
Add in some nice restaurants and plenty of adventure-type options (I tried scuba diving for the first time, which is another story), and Rarotonga has it all.  Go.

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