~ that’s Cook Islands Maori for “hello”, and everyone calls it out as we cycle around the island of Rarotonga. We first came to Raro, as everyone calls it, in 2010 and loved the laidback island lifestyle, so we decided to spend a month here on our way to New Zealand, Australia and SE Asia.
This is the tropics, and it should be warm and humid, but actually we’ve had so much rain, it’s a bit chilly and damp – feels a bit like England! Ah well, they need the rain here, just as they do in California where we spent the last four months.
We’re staying in an Airbnb place we found, and our hosts Trish and Henry have been so welcoming and kind, inviting us to BBQs and local events, and introducing us to their friends. We’ve found this is absolutely the best part of travelling, meeting the locals.
Soon after we arrived, Henry mentioned that he and some others were going to spend a few hours clearing and cleaning up a neglected graveyard, so we said we’d come along too and help out. The Brychyard, as it’s known locally, is the graveyard of predominantly Australians and New Zealanders, who came here following Milan Brych, searching for a cure for their cancer. Sadly, Brych was a charlatan and didn’t have a cure. The local Cook Islands News have picked up the story, partly due to the efforts of Cate Walker from Australia, whose mother is buried here.
Cate has started a Facebook page to raise awareness of the problems of neglect of the Brychyard, and to get assistance and government help in maintaining it.
Apart from a few cemeteries, it’s a common local tradition to bury relatives at home, so as we went around the island, we often saw a few graves in the gardens of local homes.
And of course we went diving! We dived with the friendly people at Dive Rarotonga – Ed and Karen, whose business this is, and Paul who is their divemaster. The visibility around Raro is stunning, such clear water, such extensive visibility. By all accounts, this has been the “coldest winter for years”, but of course that is all relative. Nevertheless, as warm water divers, we were glad of their new 5mm long suits! This was the first dive area I got to try out our new Olympus TG4 camera. The camera was struggling to set a white balance any deeper than about 20 feet, but with the ability to shoot in RAW I was able to adjust the colour in editing software after the dives, and I’m quite pleased with the results, although I know I’ve still got a lot to learn about this camera, and underwater photography. We were thrilled to see a gorgeous Spanish Dancer, Ragged Scorpionfish, different coloured Christmas Tree Worms, Triggerfish who followed us round like puppies, large parrotfish, and various different butterfly fish.
Saturday morning market day in Raro is lots of fun! Stalls with pareos, black pearls, T shirts, coconuts, homegrown tomatoes, fresh bread, yummy fresh fruit smoothies, delicious chicken curries, waffles and ice-cream!
And in the middle of it all a group of lovely talented young traditional Cook Islands dancers and drummers.
We challenged ourselves and completed the cross-island walk! The guidebooks say it takes about three and a half to four hours, it took us about five hours, and there were times we wondered if our rotting skeletons would be found by future hikers, mouldering in the jungle… Tree roots made steps for us, if very steep at times, there was a stream that we crossed so many times I’ve lost count, the brown eels in the stream eyed us up as possible prey, and the three-legged goat almost chased me… but the views from the summit of the Needle and the coasts around the island were truly stupendous, and we’re glad we did it, even if we were aching and stiff for a couple days!
Rarotonga is a quiet, beautiful island, blessed with friendly people, fabulous beaches and gin-clear waters. There are no discos and no high-rises, and we’re happy that is so.
Come with us to our next destination, where will it be? Click below to get email updates. We promise not to spam you or sell your email, we don’t like that and we assume you don’t either!