A hike to Lagos

Got out of bed around 8:30 — I guess I’m still not quite acclimatized to the new timezone yet. Last night I didn’t fall asleep until after 2:00. Oh well, not much on the daytimer today anyway.

After coffee and toast we decided to go for a hike across the hill to the east of us, to the town of Lagos. I wanted to buy a phone card for my phone — so at the very least, next time Dave and I are out golfing and it takes a little longer than we expected, we can call Marylou, so she doesn’t sit in the kitchen waiting for us while dinner is getting cold. 

We walked along the promenade, then up into town, before striking out along a trail leading up to the top of the cliffs that cradle our beach. Along the way we stopped from time to time for a quick photo or to stop and chat with other tourists who were hiking the same trail — and I must confess that I didn’t stop talking for most of the trip!

Not many locals here — this is a tourist area, and it’s not quite “in season” yet. There are many shops and restaurants all around us, but most are not open yet. But we’re told the warm weather is coming soon, and it will bring with it (mostly Irish and British) visitors, many of whom have summer homes here. But it’s not quite ‘summer’ here yet!

After reaching the top of the cliffs we soon stopped for a celebratory drink. And talked some more. Marylou gave us an update on how many steps we’d made so far, including the horizontal and the vertical kind. Yikes! if we keep that up we will surely cancel out the calories we’ll consume at each of our ‘rest’ stops!

When we got into the town of Lagos we made our way into the town centre. We chose a small outdoor table at a restaurant where the Driedgers had already tested the offerings on a previous visit. We ordered a couple of pizzas and fortified ourselves. Then it was just a short walk to a ‘Vodafone’ shop where it only took a couple of minutes to get a SIM card installed on my phone. So now I have data and a L-O-N-G phone number that no one will call me on. 

We opted for a bus ride back to our apartment. When we stepped into our apartment we were expecting to find a couple of additional space heaters which our apartment manager promised us. And sure enough, there they were: two brand new fancy heaters. But they were not on! What’s up? It didn’t take long to realize that turning on the new heaters caused the breaker to fail. And after quite a bit of trial and error we determined that no matter what combination of outlets we used, have all SIX space heaters going in our apartment would not be an option, no matter how much we spread them out. Hmmm…

And so it was that we found ourselves once again huddled around the kitchen table where the small room and ONE of our new fancy heaters seemed to keep the temperature up enough for us (well, MOST of us) warm without wearing our jackets. 

We thought we’d watch a movie on Netflix but were sorry to realize that the movie we WANTED to see was no longer available on that service. I had brought along a couple of thumb drives with some video selections — so there we sat, watching videos on Marylou’s Macbook which we parked in the middle of the dining table. We paused it a couple of times for snacks and supper breaks, and before we knew it, it was 10 o’clock — bedtime.

Well, not for ALL of us. Dave relocated to the couch in the living room and wrapped himself up in some extra blankets and watched TV while I sat in the corner and updated this journal. And shortly after eleven, although I wasn’t at all sleepy, I too made my way to bed, hoping that one of those new heaters would keep me warm at night.

B-r-r-r-r-r. Cold wind and warm hearts.

I finally woke up at around 8:30. Yikes! This is no way to start! We have things to do and places to go to.

A quick hot shower to combat the FREEZING cold room. I found out later that the space heater was connected to an outlet that turns off when I turn out the lights. Hmmm… That’s not going to work. The apartment is large and lovely. But it is clearly designed for seasons when the temperature is higher than 10 degrees. Those tile floors are brutally cold.

I found the Driedgers in the kitchen checking their ‘devices’. It’s warmer in the kitchen because it is a smaller room where the doors can be closed and there are TWO space heaters and two people sitting in there. Make that three…

We went out for breakfast — a short walk along the promenade that fronts the beach. Lots of outdoor tables at the restaurant we went to. Not so many outdoor customers, although, just like at home, smokers are banished from all confined spaces and a few hardy souls were ‘hubbering’ outside. Not us. We went inside and tried a few tables (there were only a few tables) until we’d decided which spot was the ‘warmest’, and I use that term loosely. But the coffees were hot and the waffles hit the spot.

On the way home we stopped at one of the two ‘Supermercados’ and bought some supplies for tomorrow’s breakfast. We’d been invited to visit Jim and Bonny at their AirBnB condo in a neighbouring village for supper tonight, but Dave and I thought we could probably squeeze in a game of golf before heading out to meet them at 4pm. So we loaded up our clubs and left Marylou to hold the fort while we drove out to a nearby course, just to ‘check it out’.

We asked about golf at the front desk. We hadn’t made a reservation — and were surprised and delighted when the girl said how about right now! Yes! We opted to take a ‘buggy’ instead of walking because there was a special deal available. That turned out to be a good call. We were paired up with a lovely couple from Ireland. For the next 4 plus hours the four of us managed to hit some fine shots — but we also got quite familiar with the trees and the scrub brush that lines each fairway. The course was quite nice, and although the layout looks relatively straight forward (as in, on most holes you are required to shoot the ball straight and forward), with a fairly brisk (and cold) breeze to contend with, we soon realized that it was a sufficient challenge to in all likelihood warrant a return visit.

I think that Irish woman was looking at us ‘a little sideways’!

We’d been invited to the Peters’ place for four o’clock so we could go for a bit of a walking tour before supper. Well, when we were still working our way down the 15th fairway at 3:15, we realized we would not be able to make it by four if we finished the game. So we aborted our game and bid our new Irish friends adieu and hurried home to pick up Marylou.

Marylou was just starting to send Bonny a text that we would be ‘a little late’ when Dave and I rang the doorbell. A quick change and we were back in the car heading to Porches (the town where they’re staying for a couple of days), with Google Maps guiding Dave as he drove back along the A22 Autobahn.

We arrived a bit late, but not too late for Jim and Bonny to lead us down a long beach staircase so they could show us the incredible cliffs along the coast, while Jim’s brother Rob and his partner Evelin prepared supper for us.

Lovely. Back at their apartment we enjoyed appetizers and drinks. The Peters brothers and their women have already travelled many roads here in Portugal. They are here for one more week, ending their tour in Lisbon. It sounds like they’ve had a marvellous time.

Too bad Rob isn’t in the picture (because he’s taking it!) A delicious meal and a fine evening hosted by gracious friends.

WE certainly had a marvellous time there with them tonight! Robert and Evelin prepared a feast of shrimp, mussels and paella, salad, beer and wine, and a dessert of chocolates and some Portuguese Tawny Port. We had a very fine visit — lots of interesting conversation around the table. I guess sometimes you have to go far away to really visit with people ‘from home’!

We said goodbye and returned to our apartment. Maybe, after such a fine evening, it didn’t seem quite as cold anymore. Still, we huddled together in the kitchen, now all three of us hovering over our devices with our space heaters doing their best to keep us feeling warm. I had to update my blog — and now I have to hurry and ‘save’ my work before the battery dies. And so ends Day Two — and a good day it was!

Day 1

I’m sitting in the airport in Amsterdam. It’s 1:30 in the afternoon here, 7:30 in the morning at home. The last leg of my trip to Portugal is a two hour flight to Faro, departing in about three hours from now. I’ve already sent a text to Dave; he and MaryLou are at the bus station, waiting to take the bus to Faro. We’ll pick up our rental car there and drive the one-hour trip back to our apartment in Luz together.

The flight from Minneapolis was uneventful. The KLM flight was less than a third full; according to the stewardess, it was so empty due to the Super Bowl game. Since I missed seeing most of the final quarter, I was somewhat surprised to learn that the Eagles had won! Well what do you know! Probably a little too much air in the footballs that Brady used.

I snoozed for about four hours — everyone took advantage of the extra seats and we all had a ‘bed’ across 3 seats. I read my kindle too, and finished the Bill Browder book Red Notice.

Part Two: I sat around in the Amsterdam airport for about 3 hours. I wasn’t tired — it was around noon local time when we landed. I started reading another book. I went for walks. I watched planes taking off and landing. For a while I followed a large group of Chinese tourists around — they were being led by a ‘guide’ who was waving her ‘tour leader’ flag. Most of them were wearing white masks over their mouths. I think they were all lost for a while — they headed a long way down one of the arms of the airport, and soon they were all coming back. Wrong concourse, I guess.

The last leg of the journey was the opposite of the flight I’d just taken. Instead of a large modern jet, this was an old 737. And it was PACKED. My carry-on bag ended up somewhere in the middle of the plane even though I was seated in row 3. But ultimately it got me to where I needed to go, and everything was just fine. I landed in the Faro airport, waited for my ‘oversize’ golf bag to come careening down the luggage chute, and then made my way into the waiting area where I met Dave and Marylou. They had taken a bus from their town and we were going to find our rental car and drive back together. Great.

The rental car ended up being at the OTHER end of the airport, but we only found that out after we’d dragged my luggage across about 4 carpark lots in the cool wind of the evening. After filling out the forms and stopping to fill the empty gas tank, we were on the Autopista (or whatever that main toll highway is called here in Portugal) heading back to our apartment. In spite of Google Maps expertise we somehow ended up on a dark narrow country road, a bit lost. But only for a short while. And then we were there. I parked the car and we gathered up my luggage and crammed into the two small elevators that would take us up to the fourth floor. Home. At least that’s what this will be for the next three and a half weeks.

It was COLD. Colder inside than the temperature outside. But Marylou had made soup which she warmed up for me, along with a fine plate of cheese and cold cuts and crackers. We visited for a while, had a glass of port to go with our ice cream dessert, and then off to bed. A long day. Cold and tired. But Dave got a space heater going in my room, and Marylou found another big warm blanket in one of the closets, and it didn’t take many minutes after my head hit the pillow, and I as fast asleep.

Did you pack your bags yourself?

I’ve often been asked whether I packed my bags myself by the airport customs agents. They want to know if I’m sure of what’s in there and to avoid being interrogated and delayed in some holding tank, I always answer in the affirmative, just as I did today. But today I answered it honestly.

It’s been a while since I’ve packed my own bag. It’s been a long while since I’ve flown alone. But that’s the way it is now. That is “my new reality”. So here I am, sitting in the Winnipeg airport on Super Bowl Sunday, on the first leg of a trip to Portugal. A trip that Sue and I planned and booked half a year ago. But those plans were interrupted. In fact, when Sue got sick in fall and then died in December, I cancelled our flights and our ‘HomeAway’ apartment rental in southern Portugal. But our plan had been to spend February and March in the Algarve together with our friends Dave and MaryLou, and the Driedgers did NOT cancel their travel plans. After Sue’s passing they invited me to consider joining them for part of their time — they had rebooked the same apartment in the small beach town of Praias da Luz, a town with several golf courses nearby. Dave and I could go golfing while MaryLou did some writing.

So that brings me to why I am sitting here in the Winnipeg airport, typing my first blog post of this ‘holiday’ on my phone, hunting and pecking away with one finger! I packed my (own) bags yesterday and had a leisurely start to my day this morning. My kids invited me over for brunch and then shuttled me here at 1:00, giving me the requisite 3 hours to check in and get through customs before the scheduled (and so far, on time) departure.

And that brings YOU, dear reader, up to date. And now it is 4:00pm and they are starting to call passengers to board. Next stop: Minneapolis, home of Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for you non-Romans).

Update #2. It’s 8:00pm. I’m sitting at the airport in Minneapolis, watching the “super” bowl. The second half just started and the Eagles are hanging in there against the Patriots. Hey, I wonder what’s more American: a ‘patriot’ or an ‘eagle’?

My flight to Amsterdam leaves at 9:30, so I won’t see how this ends. It takes an hour and a half to play the last two minutes, never mind the whole second half. I got a text message from Dave, who is apparently watching the game together with Jim and Bonny, who are also in Portugal. By my calculations it’s two in the morning there! They’re going to be up all night if they want to see how it all ends.

Well, I will stop poking my phone for a while and watch a bit of football.

Leaving LA

We slept well and woke up at around 6:30. Sue found bagels in the B&B fridge so that’s what we had for breakfast. After showers we watched a bit of TV before saying goodbye to our hosts and I got us an Uber taxi to the airport. Not a lot of traffic at 10am on a Sunday morning.

We checked in almost right away — I paid WestJet to take my oversize golf bag. Great! Now all we have to do is wait.

Ah, but we weren’t home yet. We were looking to see what the gate number for the LA to Calgary leg of our flight would be when we noticed that the departure time was delayed. Oh well, we have some extra time in Calgary. No worries yet.

But the delay continued to increase! It wasn’t long and we were convinced that we would miss our connecting flight in Calgary. We checked with the WestJet folks — they explained that the delay was due to “de-icing” delays in Calgary, that ALL flights in and out of Calgary were delayed, that ‘our’ plane was now on its way here, and there was still a chance we WOULD make the connection. Hmmm…

We called Alex, who was going to be picking us up in Winnipeg, to let her know that there might be delays. Then we went for lunch. Yikes, lunch is expensive in the LAX airport!

And then we waited some more. We considered cancelling our Calgary to Winnipeg flight since we were fairly certain to miss it anyway (we still have to clear customs in Calgary!), and book two seats on the next (and last) flight out which would get us into Winnipeg after midnight. Not great, but at least we’d get home today. But the WestJet ladies said with a bit of luck we might still be able to make the first connection, and if we missed that we could still try to book the late flight. So that’s what we decided to do.

At 2:15 the WestJet plane from Calgary arrived in LA. We boarded and departed LA at 2:52pm. When we arrived in Calgary they announced that connecting passengers should meet the WestJet agent and get their ‘new’ boarding passes. We hurried off the plane and got boarding passes for the LAST plane to Winnipeg. Are you SURE we can’t make the connection. No, she says. Sue and I RUN to the other end of the Calgary airport, heading for the gate from where our plane is scheduled to leave in about 10 minutes. We run. And run. And get to a closed gate, no agents at the desks, a WestJet plane at the end of the boarding bridge, about to back away. ALMOST! but not enough. And anyway, our luggage wouldn’t have made it. So we’re here for a couple of hours until (hopefully) our next plane takes off.

As we walked back to our ‘new’ boarding gate we ran into someone who turned out to be a ‘manager’ for WestJet. We pleaded our case. She was very good, and asked if a $30 food voucher would help us to pass the next 2 hours.

We found a restaurant, each ordered a big beer, and started texting with Alex. Our new scheduled time of arrival in Winnipeg was 12:15, meaning she’d only get home at 1:30 or so.

It turned out that our friends Werner and Karen were on their way home from a week in Bermuda, and were delayed in Toronto, and expecting to arrive in Winnipeg about 10 minutes after our plane was supposed to land. I texted Werner and he replied. Yes, they had a car at the airport, and yes, they would be willing to give us a ride home. GREAT!

Now we could enjoy our pub meal and know that our kids didn’t have to come in late at night for us, and we would be home and in our bed for tonight.

Midnight at the Winnipeg Airport

Werner & Karen

Our plane arrived at the Winnipeg airport at 12:15. Our luggage was there a few minutes after we de-planed. I was worried about my big golf bag but managed to arrange with the luggage service that I could leave my bag and pick it up tomorrow.

And then Werner and Karen’s plane arrived. They had two little carry-on bags. Werner assured us that he could take ALL our luggage in his car, and that’s what we did.

We got home at around 2 in the morning. After 100 days away, and after a few disappointments on this, our final day, we were home and happy to be home.

A Night in La La Land

The flight from Rarotonga to Los Angeles took 9 hours. Sue managed to sleep about 5 hours; I did not. Air New Zealand is a pretty good airline, but after this, our third leg, flying with them, I have to say their food is TERRIBLE. I think we’ve had CHOICES of meals on each flight — curry chicken or ‘something’ beef — and they stewardess talks it up pretty good, makes it sound like fine dining, and the airline crew is all cheerful passing out the trays and filling up your glass with your choice of pinot noir or merlot, etc, etc, but still, MAN! that airplane food SUCKS!

We left at midnight, and with the time change, landed in LA at noon. After clearing customs, which went surprisingly quick, we had a coffee and logged onto airport wifi so I could order an UBER taxi to take us to our AirBnB.

All went well until we got to the AirBnB. Or ALMOST got. The taxi circled the block a number of times, looking for number 7103, but there was no such number. There was a big complex of condos with a prominent 7101 address on it. Finally he dropped us off, assuring us we’d find the right building within the complex. We didn’t. And now we were standing on the sidewalk with 2 suitcases, one big VERY heavy golf bag, and 2 backpacks — and a phone without a phone card and no wifi. LOSERS!

An hour later, helped by a passerby who used her phone to text the host, and several residents who came OUT of the building and after hearing our story had NO idea who would be running a ‘hotel’ in their fancy condo building, our new host showed up and let us into the elevator that went up to their apartment. Not a great start to our last AirBnB night on this trip. After AirBnB-ing for much of the last 3 months without a hitch, this was a bit of an unwelcome surprise.

In the end the ‘mix-up’ wasn’t their fault, nor ours. Our hosts (a young couple with a 3-year-old child) had sent us an email with clear instructions on how to let ourselves in, but Sue’s Gmail account had somehow diverted that email so it didn’t appear in her inbox. 

It was 3 o’clock by the time we were in our room. We logged onto the wifi (and THAT felt good after a week of crappy internet on the island) and connected with the world again.

After catching up with our emails, we left our place a little after 5pm and walked about 25 minutes to an area with quite a few restaurants, bars, and shops. The ‘Hopdoddy Burger Bar’ looked like a great choice for a ‘burger-starved’ guy like me. And Sue found an interesting salad with a glass of wine on the menu. Perfect.

We are staying in an area called ‘Playa Vista’. There’s a university and LOTS of condos in the area, and the people living here look to be upscale urban ‘stay fit and shop at Whole Foods’ kind of folks. The neighbourhood is clean, and modern, and safe, with lots of families out walking or cycling. Quite a contrast to where we’ve been hanging out for the past week. 

After our dinner we bought a bottle to take home with us and walked back to our AirBnB. We had a Nature Valley granola ‘healthy’ chocolate bar with our glass of wine in our room. And we watched PGA golf on our large Samsung TV. It felt great to ‘veg’ and relax and watch American television and read American news and be in a time zone only a few hours different than our ‘home’ time zone. 

Sue sent Alex an email with details about our flights tomorrow, and if all goes well again, by this time tomorrow night we’ll be pulling back the sheets on our own bed. 

Friday in Rarotonga — Leaving

After morning fruit we watched a bit of television. We’ve discovered (too late) that because of a lack of local programming for the two channels they have here in the Cook Islands, they fill the morning slots with GREAT Australian documentaries on one of the channels, and CNN Live on the other one. So today we watched an Australian documentary about raising children.

I completely re-packed my big golf bag, moving things around and removing some of the heavier items so we don’t repeat the kerfuffle at the airport again (let’s hope it works). Sue read. We walked to the grocery store and got some fresh bread for our lunch sandwiches.

We both had a nap after lunch. It rained on and off, alternating between huge downpours and hot sunshine as quickly as I can type this sentence. Sue packed. The advantage of not buying any souvenirs (or anything else!) is that it all still fit into our two suitcases. 

We had happy hour followed by a late supper, although that still didn’t clean out our fridge completely. We left some goodies in there for our hosts. Speaking of which, our hosts, Stan and Tracy, showed up soon after our late supper. They stayed at our place for two hours and we had a very nice visit. Earlier in the day, Tracy had brought two coconuts for us to taste. A popular drink here in the Cook Islands is nu (coconut water) which, according to our hosts, is very healthy and refreshing. I had already tried to poke a few holes in one of the coconuts in the afternoon, but only managed to poke a small hole in my thumb. Now Stan offered to show us how it’s done. He said he usually used a machete for the job, but after whacking it with one of our kitchen knives, he managed to pop the end out of one of them. So we had to try it — and yes, it tasted cool and refreshing and a little bit like ‘weak’ coconut water.

By the time our hosts had said goodbye, we had barely enough time to close up our suitcases before the taxi was there to take us to the airport. He dropped us off at the end of an already VERY long line-up of sun-burned tourists in flip-flops slowly nudging their assortment of large suitcases closer to the check-in counter. But it was 10:30 at night, the air was pleasantly warm, if not cool, the big jet was waiting on the tarmac for us, and we were going home. The thought of it almost made the hour we spent in the line-up having to listen to an obnoxious couple from Vancouver prattle on and on about THEIR travels bearable. 

Our flight took off on time, a minute before April Fool’s Day. I couldn’t help think about how often we’d heard and felt these big jets this last week, as they lifted off the airstrip and just barely cleared the roof of our villa.

Goodbye, Rarotonga. 

Thursday in Rarotonga

I woke up a year older then I’ve been for the past year. It didn’t feel much different. Deep down inside I still think of myself as a 21-year-old with lots of life still to live and things still to do. I suspect most old people probably think they’re younger than they are (younger than they look?).  So maybe I’m not half as ‘cool’ as I think I am.

Last night it rained quite a bit. There are three separate villas on the yard here; we are in the middle one. When we first arrived we were the only guests, but we got ‘neighbours’ a day or two ago on the one side — looks and sounds like they might be two youngish couples who like to listen to heavy metal music. Yesterday evening the owners here were busy cleaning the third cottage, getting it ready for guests who were expected to arrive late at night. I guess the plane out of Auckland had a bit of a delay and only arrived here around 3:30am, so our new ‘other’ neighbours were delivered to their villa by a taxi about an hour later. We woke up and watched it all from our open bedroom window. About 15 minutes later the world shook as that plane took off again, flying directly over our building. (Good thing the wheels retract after take-off, or we’d have tire tracks on our roof!) Thankfully, we had no trouble going back to sleep — we’ve become pretty good at sleeping here in the Cook Islands. 

When we DID get up, Sue made coffee and cut up fruit to go with our yogurt. I checked my email and found my inbox filled with happy birthday emails — most from people I actually know! Even Google said Happy Birthday and had a little tune to go with all the blinking candles. Pretty special!

We sat on the deck and read all morning. I finished my John Grisham book (Terrible! although Sue says I’m such a ‘negative ninny’ right now that it’s not the best time to do a book review). 

At lunch we finished off the last of some of the sandwich supplies in the fridge. Sue said, “Only 36 more hours.” The countdown has begun.

I had an afternoon snooze (all that reading and thinking about what an energetic and young-at-heart old fart I am had me all tuckered out!) and then it was time for some more crossword puzzles with Sue. 

Rudy’s 61st Birthday dinner at Trader Jack’s.

After a short happy hour and a quick shower it was time to go out for dinner. The sun was setting and with a light breeze coming off the ocean the half-hour walk to Trader Jack’s was relatively pleasant. We were seated at a reserved table near the water’s edge. The view of the ocean was lovely. Unfortunately, the view of mostly humungous people (many South Pacificers seem to be VERY large) eating at tables around us curbed our appetite considerably. But we made the best of it by gazing at the sea. We’d been told this was THE best restaurant in town so maybe our expectations were too high. We both picked at our plates for a while, enjoyed our drinks, and that was it for the birthday dinner! We walked back in the dark by the light of my phone flashlight and were home by 8:30. 

And that’s how we spent my birthday in Rarotonga. We’ve got one more day here. Tomorrow night we leave here at midnight and fly to Los Angeles for one more overnight before getting home late Sunday night.

Wednesday in Rarotonga

Scrambled eggs for breakfast. Email from Mom wishing me a happy birthday. Cloudy skies, so there may be some relief from the oppressive heat today. The plan is to buy a parcel of bus tickets and travel around the island. It’s a 32km trip all the way around — we can almost WALK it. Almost.

Sue packed her suntan lotion, swimsuit, and beach towel into a bag. We added a couple of small umbrellas. We went out to the supermarket just around the corner from our driveway to wait for one of the two busses. One does the clockwise circuit every hour, the other does the counter-clockwise (or ‘anti-clockwise’ as they say here) circuit. The schedule said we had just missed a bus, so that meant we could sit on the roadside bench and enjoy the warm sunshine for half an hour. Meanwhile, since we’d run out of internet data again this morning, I ran into the supermarket to buy another $10 voucher. NOTHING happens quickly here on the island. The friendly, but very relaxed, islanders found many important things to do and people to chat with while I waited impatiently for my voucher to be printed out. Still, I got back to the bus stop with time to spare. 

The bus will make as many or as few stops as is required — you just wave them down when the come by. So it took us only about half an hour to get to where we wanted to get off for our first stop. 

Partly we felt somewhat obliged to at least have a look at some of the resorts, beaches, and facilities on the south side of the island. Before booking this leg of our trip, Sue had received some travel tips and recommendations from a couple of travel agents who had been here. Beach-front cottages at two different resorts came highly recommended. While we hadn’t booked either of them, the old travel agent in Sue needed to scout them out. So that’s how we picked our ‘drop-off’ point.

The first little resort had cottages on both sides of the main road. Sue asked to see a room and had a quick ‘tour’. The cottages on the beach side of the road cost double that of the ones on the island side. Our hosts told us that the BEST beach was actually not far from where our villa is located — the water is clean and clear and cool. They claim that the sea on the south side of the island has a lot of algae in it. We didn’t bother to check that out — we are not beach people and it would have made not difference to us. 

We started walking beside the road — not too much traffic here so we only had to step off occasionally. We must have walked for at least 4kms. The cloudy sky made the temperature for walking bearable. And the intermittent rain showers gave us a chance to try out our umbrellas as we scrambled to find a place under a big tree to shelter us. 

At some point, surely way past our ‘official’ lunch time, we stopped at a lovely ‘high-end exclusive’ resort. Sue asked if we could walk through it and have a lunch at the beachside restaurant. They said of course and ushered us in. White table-cloths. Infinity pool overlooking the beach. Very nice. 

We ordered off the lunch menu. Fancy-schmantzy. Sue loved it. 

After our leisurely lunch we continued on our walk. We were sopping wet, either from the heat or from the regular rain showers. The umbrellas popped in and out of our ‘beach bag’ quite a few times.

Although we had originally thought we’d take the bus from the one resort to the next, we ended up WALKING all the way to the next one. And past it. And all the way through the next village, the second largest one on the island. We ended up standing in the pouring rain, umbrellas up, waiting for the next ‘clockwise’ bus for about 20 minutes. But when it came, it stopped no problem, let us board, and drove us back to Rarotonga, ‘our’ town. 

We exited the bus in the centre of town so Sue could head over to what is purportedly THE TOP restaurant on the island and make birthday dinner reservations for tomorrow night. It’ll be HER treat; i.e. she’ll PAY for it, and she’ll LOVE it.  

When it rains, it pours!

We only pulled out the umbrellas one more time on the walk home from the town centre. That’s how it is here on the island — it rains, it stops, it rains in one village, the sun shines in the next village. 

All our chicken and rooster friends welcomed us home upon our arrival, clucking and crowing and running after us as we walked up our driveway and up onto our deck. Isn’t it nice to be home again!

Well, now that we’ve acclimatized ourselves to the temperature here, and had a good look at more than just our immediate neighbourhood, it’s perhaps time to take stock of things and share with you some of the things I like best about the Cook Islands. I was thinking of posting a “Top Ten” list, but that proved to be somewhat of a challenge. So I’ll start with my “Top Three” things now, and add to the list as more “fun” things occur to me. 

TOP THREE FAVOURITE COOK ISLAND EXPERIENCES

  1.   
  2.   
  3.   

Like I say, I hope to add to the list. You might want to check back sometime to see if I’ve thought of anything else.

We showered and sat on our deck, reading, for a while. Although my sore throat was feeling better, I wasn’t quite a hundred percent yet. Sue offered to make something for supper, but neither of us had much of an appetite. So we sat and read and listened to the geckos chirping on the ceiling of the patio.

Tuesday in Rarotonga

Even though we both went to bed early last night, and even though the windows were open and the ceiling fan was on ‘high’ but we were still bathed in a layer of sweat, and even though a 757 jet took off from the airport and roared over us, just inches from our rooftop (Sue heard it, I apparently slept through it), we both slept well and slept long.

We got up at 8, another day in paradise (although it’s still “hot as hell”). Fruit and yoghurt and toast and some great new coffee! What shall we do today? Well, I still have a sore throat, although I THINK it’s better than it was yesterday. Maybe we should lay low and go for our island circumnavigation bus ride tomorrow when I’ll feel even better. Deal. We checked our email — nothing new in the world. We wandered off to our respective corners of the villa and read: Sue her kindle copy of the Tony Blair autobiography, me with a very predictable John Grisham courtroom story I ‘borrowed’ from the bookshelf in our last B&B in New Zealand.

Lunch happened close to 1pm. Great, as usual. Sue can do magic in the kitchen — and the best thing is, she loves doing it!

After lunch I chased a mama pig and her two little piglets around the yard, trying to get a nice close-up. At some point, Tracy, the Mrs of the host family here, came by and Sue called her over. We ended up visiting with her for most of the afternoon. Learned a lot about the Cook Islands and even more about her family and her situation here. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon. 

After the great tuna sliders I had at the restaurant yesterday, Sue was interested in buying fresh fish and see if she could make something similar. Our lady, Tracy, told us there was a fresh fish market not far from our place. So we took a walk in the mid-afternoon heat to go and buy fish. And we came back shortly after with some fresh tuna.

There were some clouds in the sky from time to time this afternoon, and even one or two short little rain showers. That helped to bring down the temperature a bit — and I’d say we probably had the best weather yet late this afternoon. Almost comfortable!

When the Tracy’s husband, Stan, came home from a hot day of putting a roof on a new building he was constructing somewhere on the island, he stopped by and joined in the conversation. But Stan loves to work and needs to keep busy, and it wasn’t long before he was up on a stepladder adding some material to the ‘divider fences’ between the 3 rental villas. After a while Tracy had run out of things to talk about and she left too. 

Sue and I did another crossword puzzle (we do them together — she reads the clues aloud and I fill in the answer), and then Sue went inside to fry up those new tuna fillets. Wow! Fresh tuna steaks with a lettuce, avocado, and tomato salad — What a meal! By 8 o’clock supper was cleaned up and we were back on the patio, overhead lights on, geckos flitzing around on the ceiling above us, while we tried to read just one more chapter before calling it a night. 

We read until 10 o’clock, then went inside. We showered and watched a bit of Kiwi news on TV while snacking on some Black Forest Tim-Tams. And then it was bedtime again.