Tag Archives: Cook Islands

We end our New Zealand holiday with a week in Rarotonga, the biggest of the Cook Islands, in the South Pacific.

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

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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.

Monday in Rarotonga

It’s still hot here. Too hot. Too humid. Hard to breathe.

I woke up at around 7 with a very sore throat. Oh, oh. Is this from snoring or am I getting a cold? Sue said she hadn’t slept a wink since 1:00am so she rolled over and slept for another hour or so.

We had scrambled eggs for breakfast. I read for a while. Sue worked on her iPad, adding up our expenses, one of her favourite things to do. I was kind of stuck — couldn’t update my journal from yesterday or check on my email or read the latest Trumpy news because last night we maxed out our 500MB internet access — so I would need to go buy another $10 voucher before I could be connected again. At some point I turned on our 2-channel TV and saw that the snowy, distorted picture was actually the local TV station broadcasting CNN live. Hey, we can watch a bit of news. Well, it didn’t take long for us to get caught up with all the latest. Just in time, Sue discovered another New York Times crossword puzzle stuck in her notebook — so that gave us something fun to do for an hour. 

We headed into town just after noon. Hot, hot, hot. We walked all the way to the centre of Rarotonga where the ‘BlueSky’ internet company store was. I bought another voucher, punched the codes into my phone, deleted about 12 spam emails, looked at a couple of photos of Max enjoying the Spring weather on the street outside his house, and just like that, we were all caught up with the happenings in the world.

We stopped at a restaurant on the way back and had lunch. I decided that from now until we leave, the ONLY thing I should order here is fish or seafood, since that’s what they do well here. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home and topped up some of our supplies. 

Back at our villa it was time to have a snooze out on the deck. I think Sue read her book during this time, but I can’t vouch for certain. 

Too hot, too sweaty, too unmotivated to go back into town for supper. Shoot, why not have an ‘enhanced’ happy hour (that means more cheese, more sausage, more olives, more crackers, at least one more G&T) and call it supper? We’re convinced that the heat and humidity here diminishes ones appetite, though you wouldn’t believe that if you saw the (massive) South Pacificers who live and eat here! 

We sat outside on the deck, waiting for it to cool off a bit. Sue threw our t-shirts and shorts into the ‘energy-efficient’ washer and a few hours later took out the clean clothes and hung them up on bar stools under the whirring ceiling fan in the spare bedroom. Once it was dark we entertained ourselves by watching the 8 or 10 geckos that were zipping around upside-down on the ceiling of our deck, catching flies and little bugs. At one point the sky opened up and dumped buckets of rain on our little part of the world. Just as quickly, it stopped. We went inside and watched a bit of local news on TV and had a couple of “Tim Tams” for dessert. We finished a couple more crossword puzzles. And that was the end of Monday in Rarotonga. Shut ‘er down and gone to bed before 10:30. See you tomorrow!

Sunday, A Day of Rest in Rarotonga

 We slept last night. Sue made coffee. Breakfast was papaya, bananas, and yoghurt. The temperature was okay until about ten o’clock when it started to warm up again. We sat outside on our deck. It was quiet today – very quiet. Everyone in Rarotonga goes to church on Sunday, so there was little traffic.

Sue had lunch ready at 12 noon. I had a few naps, interrupted only for an occasional hydration break.

Walking on the beach.

At 3 o’clock we put on our swimsuits, lotioned up our noses, and walked to the beach at Black Rock. The streets were quiet. The beach was quiet. Oh, there were some folks having a bit of a family gathering under the shade of the palms here and there, but even the beach bars were closed. We left our stuff at a beach table and walked into the water. There’s a breakwater that protects the beach from the surf. We walked a LONG way in but the water barely reached the bottom of my shorts. Hmmm… Not gonna swim here. We walked back to the beach and sat at ‘our table’. At least the breeze here felt comfortable.

The owner of our villas installed these solar panels next to Villa #1. The power generated is fed back into tne national grid.

We continued walking farther, past the airport, just to see what lay ahead. More of the same. We turned around and went back to our place. The villas around ours are all vacant, and even the owners of the villas, who live in the first house on our ‘bay’ appeared to be gone for the day. It’s quiet. It’s a day of rest.

The most excitement I had today was when I was trying to take a photo of one of the hens that wanders across our yard with her chicks. I was crouching down, trying to get a close-up without scaring her away. But instead of running away, she looked interested and started coming towards me. I guess she thought I might offer her some food. And then another chicken came up behind me, and when I turned around, a HUGE FLOCK of chickens were heading my way! Wow! I didn’t know there were that many chickens in our area. Sue brought me a piece of bread and I started throwing crumbs at the chickens. Yikes! Now I’m feeling a bit like my sister-in-law, Angie, who dotes on a dozen or so chickens of her own. I hope I haven’t started something I’ll be sorry for tomorrow, when I might be created by a flock of chickens waiting for breakfast at our front door.

We read a bit more. Finally, at around 6, Sue made supper for us. I had another little snooze. When the sun was down we turned on some patio lights and sat outside. The air was pleasant. We did a couple of crossword puzzles in Sue’s book. Had some chocolate for a night snack. It was getting close to ten o’clock. Sue was chasing a big old fly around the house, trying to smack it with a beach towel. No success, although both the fly and Sue seemed to enjoy the challenge.

Yikes, all that lying around and breathing makes a guy tired. I tried watching a bit of TV again – but all that’s on either of our two channels is Australian rugby – and even that faded away when suddenly have the screen on our TV went black. Oh well. Time to go to bed.

Saturday in Rarotonga

The roosters were crowing at around 6:30. We got out of bed at 7. The view from our open bedroom window is stunning — the rising sun’s rays were illuminating the forest-covered volcanic mountain that is the centre of this island. Coconut trees hardly moving in the stillness. The air is warm but you can feel the hot humidity that is just around the corner.

We showered (what a waste of time and energy THAT was!) and Sue made some good coffee with the French press in the kitchen. We gathered up our assortment of reusable cloth grocery bags and headed into town. A few houses down from our villa a lovely young lady approached us and introduced herself: Elliot, the girl Sue had made the AirBnB booking with. Very friendly, asked us how our night had been. Anything we need? Feel free to stop by the house and ask. NICE! We explained that we were just on our way into town. Did we want a ride? No thanks, we’re happy to walk. We actually had no idea where we were going, but we followed the driveway out. Along the way we passed quite a few roosters and mother hens with their families of chicks scurrying around, scratching the grass, looking for the ‘early worm’. For a while we were followed by a little piglet and when I turned around to take a photo he/she scurried off to join a big old sow rutting around in a heap of garbage in someone’s garden. And when we got close to the main road a few mangy dogs joined together in a barking contest and nearly scared Sue back to our cottage.

We got to the end of the driveway and turned right. There is only one main road that circles the island, so it’s probably impossible to get lost here. Already there were lots of cars and scooters on the road; all of them, presumably, were going to the one and only Saturday Market! So were we.

Vans and trailers were parked at the side of the road. Quite a few stalls were already set up before we even got to the actual market. Not far from our corner we came upon the CITC Grocery and Liquor Store — the only ‘big’ store of its kind on the island. WELL! That’s convenient! We checked out the store shelves and were very surprised to see the selection and variety of products. That same sausage and cheese and crackers we’d packed into our suitcase because those things were either hard to get or very expensive here? All available here and the price difference was negligible!

The Saturday Market

Once we knew what we COULD get at the grocery store, we continued on to the market. Fruits and vegetables were supposed to be MUCH cheaper and better here. So we wandered around. Sue was doing her best to find us a RIPE avocado. Slowly but surely our shopping bag was getting full.

Several stalls were offering breakfasts, and good coffees, and fruit smoothies. We plunked ourselves down at a little plastic table next to a ‘waffle and fruit’ breakfast vendor. Busy place. We were joined by another couple — turned out they were Canadians, from Vancouver, visiting the Cooks for 3 weeks. We drank our coffees and visited for a bit.

On our way back to our house we again stopped at the grocery store — and this time we loaded up our bags “bigly”. Although the trip from there back to our villa was only a short walk, we had to stop and trade carrying hands a few times on the way home, just to keep our arms from falling off.

Back at the villa we put away the groceries and then plunked ourselves down on the patio — exhausted! Man! It is STINKING HOT here. And the humidity is almost unbearable. Sue, of course, thinks it’s just lovely! 

We had lunch on the patio. Bohemian pilsner came out of our fridge feeling refreshingly cold, but relief from the heat was brief. It did little to bring the body temp back into a tolerable range. Whenever a little gust of a mountain breeze blew over our big cedar deck it felt (and smelled) like we were sitting in a sauna that was probably getting a little too hot, and you should probably run outside and roll around in the snow for a bit before the top of your head blows off. 

And how could ANYBODY actually get any work done in this heat? But I watched the owner of our complex push a lawn mower around for a while, and then he brought out his riding mower and continued working under the hot sun. I was feeling so lethargic I couldn’t be bothered to ‘twitch’ my leg when a fly landed on my foot and started to tickle me. Both Sue and I had at least one nap each. 

Sue put together a little happy hour snack. Elliot, our host, came over and checked in on us to see how we were doing. She explained that because another customer had requested Villa #1, we’d been ‘upgraded’ to Villa #2. So THAT’S why our place didn’t look anything like the photos we’d seen when we booked it.

At around 7pm Sue and I ventured out. We walked about a kilometre along the main road to a hotel/restaurant that our hosts had recommended. We got a table overlooking the ocean where the sun was just setting. We ordered our food, but neither of us was particularly hungry. We both picked at our food for a while and listened to the ‘world geography quiz’ that the young people sitting at the table next to ours were playing. We paid our bill and walked back along what was now a very dark road. I used my phone flashlight to guide us on the way. 

Back at the villa, the windows and doors were opened wide, our ceiling fans were switched to ‘high’. But it wasn’t really comfortable yet. Sue and I each took a shower, trying to cool down. That helped a bit. 

We sat on the patio and filled in a crossword puzzle together. Finally, at around eleven, we called it a day and went to bed. Finally, the night air coming through our window is bringing us some relief.

Leaving New Zealand

After one last great night’s sleep in New Zealand we spent today morning packing and cleaning up. Typically, Sue worried quite a bit about not being able to fit everything into our two suitcases. But when all was said and done, everything got packed and my backpack was mostly empty.

Our hosts are Seventh Day Adventists and had gone to church this morning. We had asked if it was okay for us to stay until noon. And so, after an early lunch, we loaded up the car and headed for Auckland.

The half hour trip on the main freeway took double that — rush-hour bumper-to-bumper traffic heading into town. What’s the big deal? Adelle. What else. Must be an afternoon concert.

We “petrolled” up the car and returned it to the Rent-a-Dent dealership in Manakau. The same young kid, John, who had delivered the car to us in Bethlehem three months ago was manning the fort. He looked over the car and pronounced it okay. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind taking us to the airport. Well, no, too busy and short staffed. I checked to see if Uber was an option. No cars available. I asked John again. Well, they charge $25 for that service. Deal.

Fifteen minutes later we said thanks and goodbye to John at the airport. We checked our two suitcases in at the counter and then headed to the oversize bag check-in. Oh, oh. Problem. We are 3 kilos overweight. Remove something or pay $120 extra fee. No point arguing with this guy either. So we take that honkin’ big bag (with TWO sets of clubs and TWO golf bags and FOUR pairs of shoes) off the conveyor and open it up. So much for how nicely I’d wrapped the whole contraption in assorted colours and lengths of bungee cords. Out came the shoes, one pair at a time, onto the scale. All four pairs added up to three and a half kilograms. Close her back up and drag her to the guy at the baggage counter. Yup, that’s okay now. Shoot, I’m all tuckered out and sweaty and we still have a long day ahead of us.

Now we’re shopping for a big shopping bag to haul our shoes in. Too bad we didn’t think of this a bit earlier — I had a big shopping bag packed into the golf bag. Fancy “New Zealand” bags here in the airport shops are $19.00! Oh well, what choice do we have? It’s only money. But then, 5 minutes after we’ve gone through customs, I realize I’ve forgotten to collect that brand new “shoe” bag from the X-ray screening counter! We start running back to the customs gate. Of course I’d already forgotten what colour our new bag was. But as we approach the gate we spot a customs agent holding our bright green shoe bag and looking for the owners. Whew! Yeah, but there’s a slight problem. He opens the bag and starts looking through the shoes. Aha! There’s an aerosol can in one of the shoes. Confiscated. Shoot! That was Tim’s sunscreen, left behind after our golf game in Hawaii. Too late now.

After all the fuss and bother, the rest of our trip to Rarotonga went off without a hitch. Almost. It turns out that our plane, which was scheduled to fly from Auckland to the Cook Islands and then to L.A. had already flown an extra leg BEFORE our flight and with the extra cleaning, etc, it would be at least half an hour late loading us. So our arrival in Rarotonga will be closer to 11pm than 10. Not too big of a deal. But the REASON for the extra flight? ADELLE! Again! New Zealand Air added a flight for Adelle fans who were flying in from Christchurch.

At around 10:45pm we landed and then stood in the customs line-up for the better part of an hour. But once we reached the desk things went quickly. We were directed to have our luggage checked, so once again, I had to open up our new green ‘shoe bag’ and show the friendly bag-checkers that we had no New Zealand dirt or sheep shit on them. Okay. Re-pack. Taxi. Our man is waiting for us. We load our 3 very heavy bags into his van and join one other tourist for the ride out of the airport.

Our villa is about 3kms from the airport! The taxi turns down a little side road and drives through what appears to be the front lawns of several homes before he pulls up right in front of a large lit-up beautiful house. He turns around and looks at us: “This is your place.” What? Really? It didn’t look like this in the photos. The other passenger looks at us and says she wishes she was in a place like this. Where is her place? Oh, she’s staying quite a way out through town, at a backpacker’s hostel.

Taxi driver lugs our bags from his van onto the deck. “Goodnight.” We still don’t quite believe this is the right place. In the wet (it must have rained all evening) darkness of the midnight, this big 2-bedroom brand new home with its large windows and all the lights turned on looks like Shangri-La.

Of course, we ARE on a little island in the middle of the Pacific. And there is no internet here. And the TV has ONE grainy channel showing a cricket match. And we are SOAKED in sweat without doing anything — and it’s the middle of the night! But this is our place for the next week. Good thing I brought a book along. Don’t think we’ll be moving around much, never mind hiking up mountains or through forests.

We open our suitcases on the spare bedroom bed, put on our shorts and t-shirts, and have a welcome drink on the large patio. Then we call it a night. What a Saturday it was. And to think that tomorrow we get to do Saturday all over again!

Pukekohe, Day 2: Our last night in NZ

We’re going out with a whimper. No big trek today. No long drive through forests and mountains today. No, we didn’t really do anything (AGAIN!) today.

Sue did a load of laundry and hung it on the drying rack for the day. Just before lunch we went for a walk for an hour. After lunch we FaceTimed with Max and Alex for a bit. I was going to read in the afternoon, but I had a nice nap on the couch instead. Sue found one final B&B for us — we have an overnight in L.A. on our way home a week from today.

Our host lady brought us a couple of slices of the white chocolate cake she’d just made for our ‘happy hour’. It was delicious, but it also meant that we were not really very hungry when suppertime rolled around. So we waited an extra hour before phoning the pizza place in town to order take-out. We drove into town to pick it up and by the time we were back in our apartment my appetite had returned as well.

In all her cleaning and re-packing, Sue found another crossword puzzle from the Christmas edition of the Winnipeg Free Press. I filled it in and watched a movie on TV. Sue went to sleep at around 11. I, on the other hand, was well-rested from my afternoon nap, and stayed up to watch TV until late.

Tomorrow is Saturday. Our plan is to have a lazy morning here and check-out right after our lunch. Then we’ll drive back up to Auckland and return our car rental. We’ll go to the airport to catch our 5:45pm flight to Rarotonga. We’re supposed to arrive there at around 11pm tomorrow night, but really it will be 11pm TONIGHT (we travel back across the date line). And after our first night in Rarotonga we get to RE-LIVE Saturday all over again!