No more ladders (or snakes)

Monday, October 12, 2009
Rarotonga, Southern Cook Islands, Cook Islands
12/10/09 Day 3 Muri Beach and Avarua, Rarotonga

Decided we'd go for a walk in the opposite direction this morning so had some brekkie and headed round passed Te Manava Villas and along the south coast . Some really beautiful villas and groups of cottages along the beach. No motus around here, just the reef about four or five hundred metres offshore and a long white beach fringed with palm trees. If it sounds like paradise it is. We walked passed Fruits of Rarotonga, a café beside the road that marks the beach where Raro’s best snorkeling is said to be found. We walked back along the road so we could work out the names of the places we’d seen from the beach. Most spectacular was The Little Polynesian. This morning’s walk was about 6km.

Decided we’d better pack before we headed out to explore Raro by bus. We’d thought about hiring a car for a day so we’d need to go to the police station and get a driver’s licence. Jo Jo was already next door cleaning the other cottage that we'd be moving in to. Obviously took us longer to get ready than we thought it would because there was a knock on the door and it was Jo Jo telling us the cottage was ready. Al said his goodbyes to the pole house and we moved over into the cottage .

Hallelujah! It was huge. Ok, so the view wasn’t quite the same as from the pole house but we could sit in bed and see water (plus the construction site next door), we had a huge covered verandah, it had chairs and a table, a big modern bathroom, but best of all IT HAD NO LADDER!!! Pretty much dumped everything and headed out to catch the bus. $7 each to go right round the island. Bargain!

Was great to get away from Muri and see where the locals lived although lots of the places on the beach front were obviously rentals.

Drove passed a gigantic resort complex that was half built. It looked like it was going to be eventually taken back by the tropical landscape. A dilapidated sign advertised the Hilton Rarotongan Resort. We found out later that it dated back to the late 80s and had been started by a developer who ran out of cash (was originally to be a Sheraton) . There was mention of some possible government corruption, and the Mafia, the Italian one! Cool!  

Then another developer took the project over and it was going to be a Hilton but they also ran out of dosh. Very sad, as it really looks like all of the hard work has been done - at least a dozen three storey blocks of accommodation all built (missing windows though), a huge building in the centre that I guess would have housed restaurants and bars, acres of flat ground that surely wouldn’t take much to turn into the tropical paradise that was originally intended. Why would Hilton or Sheraton or Intercontinental bother though when they could most likely buy the same amount of land in Vietnam or Thailand and build the same resort from the ground up and it end up costing them less.

Paradise though the Cook Islands are, they are way too hard to get to, way too expensive to get to, and for what you get at least at the big resorts, way too expensive to stay at .

But I digress…

The bus calls into the big two Raro resorts - The Rarotongan and The Edgewater Resort. The Rarotongan is literally in the middle of nowhere. No idea if they have a free shuttle to Avarua but if they don’t you’d have to hire a car or catch the bus to escape. Edgewater is a bit closer to town but still a long way and it‘s also the bus or hire car to get away. The Rarotongan looked pretty flash but the Edgewater looked a bit tatty. At least Muri where we are has plenty of restaurants and a couple of shops where you can buy your own supplies.

Took about 30 minutes to reach Avarua, the main town on Raro. Saw the runway in the daylight. Eek! Got off the bus in the centre of town and had a bit of a wander. Bought some postcards, picked up some maps and brochures at the tourist information centre, booked the famous ‘Pa’s Cross Island walk’ for Wednesday - four and a half hours up to The Needle then back down to Wigmore’s Falls to soak what no doubt will be aching feet . It recommends good walking boots but I’ll be in sandals and Al will either wear his runners or his reef shoes.

A Raro institution - Trader Jacks - was calling us so of course we answered its call. It’s a bar and restaurant on the wharf at Avarua. Had a few beers, two great fish lunches and although tempted to stay for dinner, we decided to head back to Muri. Just managed to get the last bus (4pm) before the drivers took their dinner break. The buses wouldn’t start again until 6 but would then go through till 11pm.

A bit about the buses. There are only two routes - clockwise and anti-clockwise. It’s a flat fare of $4 one way or $7 return. They run from 7am till 4pm Monday to Saturday and 8am-12pm then 2pm-4pm Sunday. Every night except Friday and Sunday they run from 4pm-11pm. On Fridays they cater to the party (read backpacker) crowd by running from 4pm-10pm then from 12am-2am. No evening bus services on a Sunday . The timetable is in ’minutes past the hour’ at stops. From our experience they never run early and are never more than a couple of minutes (if any) late. Maybe I should tell this to our idiot Mayor Campbell Newman so he can hear more evidence of how pathetic our buses at home are.

Got some more beer and packets of chips at the servo/shop about five minutes down the road - his ‘common’ beer is only $12 a six pack (so $40 Oz a dozen). We got some NZ beer this time - Export Gold. Was fantastic to get back to the cottage and sit out on comfy chairs on our big covered deck, chugging a couple of beers and looking out across the lagoon. Decided against fancy dinner tonight so headed up the road, torch in hand, to one of the burger joints. The closest one was closed so walked right up to the other end of Muri.

Choices were fish, beef, cheese or chicken burgers. Beef or cheese was $12 including chips and coke. Al wanted fish, I was going to get beef . But they were out of fish, out of beef and out of cheese. They actually only had chicken. Suppose we should have been thankful they had chicken. No idea why, but we also ordered two serves of chips, at $5 a serve! The burgers were good but I had about ten chips.   Was very funny watching other people go through the same ordering process that we had.

Headed back to the cottage and picked up our sudokus where we’d left off. Yes, sudokus. There is no tv and no radio. No wifi. Any music I’ve burnt is on the hard drive at home. We forgot to bring a pack of cards so sudoku is our entertainment.

Was fantastic to get into a bed that didn’t involve climbing up a ladder but boy was/is that bed hard.
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