Hi everyone. As promised some musings on our adventures.
We left Vancouver April 11th and headed to Rarotonga via LA. We had a few hours layover time in LA so we went into town and found Olvera St. – the historic centre of the city, and little slice of Mexico in downtown LA – a couple of bands playing Mexican music and lots of little stalls. It was fun.
We wanted to go to see the Walt Disney Concert Hall (a fabulous building designed by Frank Gehry) but it was 15 and raining and we were freezing (in LA!) so we went back to the airport for our flight to the Cook Islands. When we arrived there at 6:30 am it was already 26 degrees!
Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands and we rented a little cottage on poles right on the beach. Raro is surrounded by a coral reef that forms a lagoon almost around the entire island so there is safe swimming as the wild waves of the Pacific break way off shore. We were there for 7 days. Everything you’ve ever heard about South Pacific tropical paradise islands is true – blue skies, azure seas, white sand beaches, coconut palms, and endless sun – it’s all true. You can see it all in the tourist brochures but nothing prepares you for the reality which is 100 times better than you could ever imagine.
Our cottage is in the centre of the pic
One day we went on a snorkelling tour to the outer lagoon. It was about an hour leisurely glass-bottom-boat ride, then they anchored and we all donned our masks and snorkels and jumped into the water. It was amazing, like being in a giant aquarium surrounded by the most beautiful tropical fish of every pattern and colour. Also the guys who took us had been “taming” an 8ft moray eel by feeding it chunks of fish. Sure enough they managed to coax it out of its hiding place in the coral. It was quite amazing to see one so close. After snorkelling we were taken to an island and given a BBQ fish lunch and a demonstration on many different ways to tie a sarong (which was interesting) and how to husk a coconut – something I’m sure to find extremely useful in my everyday life!
Sunrise from our balcony
Another day we went for a hike across the island. It's listed as Raro's most popular hike but we saw no-one else, probably because all the tourist info says it's dangerous and you need to be experienced hikers and go with a guide. Don and I are pretty experienced hikers but I must admit we found it challenging - very narrow path, very rocky, very slippery, lots of creek/river crossings. It was really hard work, but totally worth it, even the anxious moments when we thought we'd be swallowed by tropical jungle and never seen again. Honestly there were times when we really didn't have a clue where the track went next. It just seemed to end in the middle of the jungle. Then eventually we'd discover a tree marker or a bit of an opening in the greenery. We finally made it out the other side about 3 1/2 hours later hot tired and filthy. Time for a swim; in water that's always about 25C degrees!
We did another hike (this time an easier trail), and went to the lively and colourful Saturday craft market. At the market there was also a wonderful demonstration on the local drumming and dancing.
We went swimming every day of course, and one night we went to one of the local fancy resorts for “Island Night” - dinner was cooked in a huge underground “oven” and followed by a performance of drumming and dancing. Oh and a guy who husked a coconut with his teeth! (All you Survivor contestants see it and weep!)
But I think the highlight of our stay there came on the last day. We decided to wade out to one of the islands we could see from the beach. We met a couple who just happened to mention that if we stood still near one of the big mounds of coral we’d see lots of fish. What serendipity! Don and I would probably have just blundered our way to the island and then back again and missed it! Anyway we did as they suggested and sure enough many many fish appeared swimming in and around the coral. We didn’t have masks or snorkels with us but it didn’t matter. The water was only about 3ft deep and very clear and we stood for a long time and saw all kinds of fish of every colour. It was so exciting to see it ourselves, somehow more real then when we’d gone on the organised tour.
Our next stop was Auckland NZ on our way to Australia. Again we had quite a few hours there so we went into town and up the Sky Tower for fantastic views of the city. We also did a short ferry ride to the “charming” little town of Devonport where I had what I think is the worst gelato I’ve ever eaten (dry and crumbly). Auckland was like LA – about 15 and raining so we went back to the airport.
Pics of Auckland from sky tower
Three flights in one day! Raro to Auckland, Auckland to Sydney, Sydney to Canberra. Exhausting! But it is so good to be home, where I am as I write this. It’s been 7 years.
The past 4 days in Canberra we’ve been on 2 long bike rides around the lake, been to the National Portrait Gallery and the National Botanical Gardens and had many morning coffees, and lunches out with family. It’s good to see my sisters and their husbands and kids again and spend time together – sitting in the sun in one or other of Canberra’s many outdoor cafes eating croissants and drinking coffee and catching up. A big dinner tonight with friends visiting from Sydney, a big family dinner tomorrow night, and a trip to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve the next day, followed by dinner out with some old school friends. We’ve had fabulous weather so far – the first 3 days here 25 and sunny. Rain today but still warm and supposed to be clearing tomorrow. The Canberra days are all getting to be a bit of a blur so I’ll let pictures do the talking. When I’m not here I forget what an incredibly beautiful city Canberra is.
Canberra bird life
That’s all for now.