On Sunday 1st February, LJ, OG and myself found ourselves at the Wellington airport (Elle, I owe you a bottle of wine for organising our transport there – thanks again!) unable to check in… brilliant! We bloody would be the ones to encounter a road block at our very first stop, wouldn’t we?
It turns out that somewhere along the line, either our travel agent or the Air NZ system booked the baby on the toddler’s lap. Unfortunately, if you’re under 12 you’re not allowed to have an infant in your care, so the computer threw a wobbly at us for 45 minutes until finally no less than four attendants were able to collectively fix the issue and check us in!
The first flight was… interesting. Not only was it half an hour late leaving which was causing problems at the other end, but my children had clearly decided it was Drive Mum To Drink day. Fuck me, was I glad to see mum and my sister at the Auckland International!
The flight from Auckland to Raro was pretty good, all things considered. The disappointing thing was that I only discovered the booze was free halfway through the flight! And of course, they cut beverage service half an hour before landing. What a ripoff!
We landed in Raro at 10:30pm Saturday 31st January. Mind. Fuck. It was insanely hot, it must have been at least 26°C at that time of night. I was not prepared, and the heat never let up! I’m pretty sure I lost about 5kg of water weight with the amount off sweat coming off me while we were there.
With everything in the Cook Islands closed for church, we took today as an opportunity to explore our surroundings at the resort. We were stoked to discover that not only were we right next to the beach, but so was the pool! We drank piña coladas out of a fish bowl (seriously, that’s what they’re called!) and sunned our pasty white bodies. I also took my camera to the beach to get some shots, which sadly went for a swim when the tide suddenly rose out of nowhere! Still, I managed to get some great photos on my tablet.
The day concluded with a buffet dinner at the resort, which was full to bursting with local dishes and NZ Beef and Lamb! Easy enough to stick to your diet, if you can resist the temptation of a gigantic Baked Alaska…
Everything is open! We catch the clockwise bus into town in the morning, driven by the colourful Mr. Hopeless who alleged he was on day release from the prison (until 4pm). Our first stop is the pearl shop… because it’s the nearest place with air conditioning! We trawl the main drag in search of the supermarket. The prices are exorbitant! $8.60 for 1L of milk, $13.99 for a head of cauliflower! In the interest of conserving moolah, I decide I’m fine with brown rice with our lamb stew tonight! Oh, and don’t forget to pick up your $30 bottle of Lindauer… I suggest buying your booze from a liquor store, the prices are on par with some of our Liquor Kings and Mills!
We catch the clockwise bus again and get to see the whole island on the way back to the resort. Tonight, we also discover tiny geckos everywhere! We let them roam our walls in the hopes they’ll eradicate some of the teeny weeny ants that are getting into EVERYTHING.
It’s my little sister’s 21st birthday in NZ! Last night we spent a good amount of time arguing over who was going to drive the scooter if we hired one. Each of us had a fair point – neither of us trusted the other to not kill us on the road. Off we trotted to the rental place to organise a ride for the day. For $35 I got a 115cc scooter and a temporary Cook Islands license which was good for the next 26 hours, but first, I had to sit my driving test…
I got to the grassy area where they keep the vehicles and handed over my documents. The young lad taking my test managed to convey that he wanted me to sit on the back of the scooter, then proceeded to drive me around. He was talking the whole time, but I’m not sure if it was English or Cook Islands Māori he was speaking… I did manage to catch one question – “Have you driven a motorbike before?” Er… Yes. Quad bikes count, right? How hard could it be?
Kinda hard, it turns out! I even managed to hit part of a coconut tree on my first lap around the course! Thankfully, he didn’t see that. Somehow, I was declared roadworthy and sent on my merry way.
The road rules in the Cook Islands are pretty simple:
– Speed limit is 40km/h if not wearing a helmet, 50km/h if wearing a helmet
– No riding two abreast
– Watch out for stray dogs who have a death wish
– Don’t park under a coconut tree
Turns out my sister and I needn’t have squabbled over who was going to drive, when she saw me wobbling down the road she was pretty convinced that she was fine being the passenger. And a great passenger she was, too! On our way back from the supermarket she ascertained that it was us everyone was beeping at on the road, not because we were a couple of MILFs on a scooter, but because my indicator was on and nobody could figure out why we weren’t turning left…
The locals are bloody hoons on their scooters! Me, I was quite happy to stick to the speed limit. Take 40km/h, add dodgy suspension, a pillion, no helmets, and potholes the size of a toddler swimming pool (and just as deep) with a healthy dose of tropical rain all over your sunglasses and you’ve got a recipe for a trip to A&E. Extreme caution is advised!
We spent the evening watching the incredible Island Night and eating from a delicious buffet, then once the kids were in bed we went back to the bar, drank far too many cocktails and stumbled home at midnight. Party animals!
Ouch. But lots of sun and swimming.
Today’s activity was the highlight of our week! We went on Captain Tama’s glass bottom boat and saw hundreds of beautiful tropical fish, moray eels and a leatherback turtle! The fish were so tame, they came close enough to touch when we were out snorkeling.
We stopped off at No Touching Island and had a beautiful fresh fish BBQ with delicious tuna and some local produce. This was followed by a demonstration of how to husk and open a coconut, and how to extract the cream from the white meat. I even got a full green coconut to myself, given to me by the guide, Chocolate (Paraone, to the boys!) who wanted to make sure I had enough milk to feed the baby. He gave her some of the immature jelly-like meat from the green coconut to munch on, which she seemed to love! We watched a man scale a coconut tree in under 10 seconds and lazed on the beach. What a life!
The day lasted from 10am to 3pm, so it’s no wonder the tykes were all tuckered out before we were even halfway home!
The day I’ve been excited and nervous about since Tuesday! You see, the reson we actually went in to town that day was to book in my newest artwork…
So, 7:40am the bus rocks up to reception. Actually, it’s more like 7:50am, because Island Time is actually a thing over there. Like, “look at the sun, looks like it’s somewhere around 10am. Yep, cool, we’ll go with 10am” Island Time. Not NZ Island Time – “yes, I own a watch and I use it often so I can always be no more than10 minutes late”.
Anyway, anyway. Bus rocks up. Appointment is at 8:30am, next bus is at 8am BUT it’s the anticlockwise bus, so we would be late if we caught it. I go around and pay the driver while mum gets Bia out of the pram. She comes around with this look of horror on her face and I’m like ‘come on man, hurry up’ and she says two words, in capital letters. MASSIVE. POONAMI.
Oh my little angel. Sure enough, all up her back, all over the pram, and all over mum. Runny mango chicken poos with bits of rehydrated raisin speckled throughout. She sure knows her timing, does our girl!
We manage to get her on the bus where LJ is sitting patiently on a mama’s lap. We’re both pretty shocked that he’s sitting quietly on a stranger’s knee, but thankful he’s happy as we’re cleaning up the carnage while the bus bumps along the main road.
We get to the market and LJ happily chases around chooks while the pram gets a clean, then off we trot to find coffee. The skies open up and we manage to find a caravan with some canvas umbrellas. The coffee is surprisingly tasty, and halfway through we figure out it’s made with coconut cream instead of milk. Makes sense though, why use milk which is horrendously expensive when you can stretch a native resource just as well as you can soy milk, pop it in the joe and not even mention it’s coconut, just watch people drink it, like it, then slowly realise it’s not what they thought it was but keep drinking it anyway?!
8:30am rolls around and the sky clears and the birds come out again, so we head off to the tattoo place. Hilariously, we get our first proper run in with Real Legit Hardcore Island Time. The tattooist is there, but his mate who is doing the outline is…wait for it…1 and a half hours late! But it’s cool, because it gives me time to feed the baby, figure out a design, learn about the medicine tree in the backyard, and have a real conversation with a local about surfing, insects, bloody coconuts, rugby, kids, and tourists!
Finally his mate shows up, and we get started.
It’s pretty sore, but not as bad as the big one on my side! I find I can breathe through it, and in under an hour he’s done the outline and his partner finishes the shading. These guys have got some serious moves! I’ve never had someone draw a design on with a ballpoint pen before (as well as using the carbon paper method, I might add), and I’ve never had a tattooist use the same needle for block colour, lines and shading until now!
Saturday/Actually Sunday in NZ
Home time. Up we get at sparrow’s flatulence in the morning, 4am NZ time, and the next 12 hours are spent in transit. There’s no free booze on the way home which is a shame, but at least the kids both slept on the whole flight from Auckland to Wellington. I even got some shuteye too, and woke up with my entire boob hanging out of my singlet – so if you’re the person who was sitting next to me on that flight, I’m very sorry you had to see that.
It’s a bit cold here in the South Pacific. I think we need another family holiday – and by that I mean just Josh and I. The kids can stay home this time!
Next trip will be our honeymoon at the end of December. Where would you go?
Ahh, Rarotonga. I want to come back. Take your time, and hurry up.