The South Pacific continued...
I woke up early each morning to a combination of things: chickens, roosters, dogs barking at other dogs protecting their property, the 7yr old Samoan boy Carl who lives up stairs walking a stroller with his lil brother down the stairs outside my room and wheelin it around on the gravel. Also the warm air would wake me up. It was never uncomfortably hot but warm enough that I was sleeping in my bikini top and shorts, on top of the sheets. One morning I woke at 3am to a biker gang of locals on scooters who showed up causing complete chaos! They were banging on the walls of the open aired common area, yelling and then they threw something big and left. It was probably a coconut they threw and they were likely just looking for a fight with someone. Apparently I was the only one who woke to this.
The Saturday morning market was the biggest market on the island, full of food vendors, souvenirs, and some fresh fruit and veggies. Floor and I hitchhiked there. I bought a tank top for myself there that really put me into buyers remorse with its price tag of $35! I always have buyers remorse Its a weird thing I deal with. I liked the design on it and it was made special for the Vaka Eiva competition and it was also from the only brewery on the Cook Islands. I don't tend to buy myself gifts as I travel. Traviling is my gift so I decided one tank top wouldn't wreck my wallet and I got over it.
We watched a cultural show of dancing and music that was happening on a stage at the edge of the market. About mid way through the young girls who were dancing pulled people from the crowd to dance with them. I was a chosen one. I didn't understand that I was supposed to just dance on my own so instead I copied the young girl in front of me. I thought she was supposed to be teaching me the moves of their dance. The other 2 audience dancers won a $99 voucher to a tour because they were dancing their hearts out. Next time I suppose I should ask what I'm supposed to do.
I did some dive research because I intended to dive off the island but it never happened. I heard from several that the diving wasn't good there and that Thailand and the Great Barrier Reef were better. I have dove in both of those locations so I had a good idea of what they were talking about. The dive shop that was recommended to me wanted $100 for a reintroduction and then a day later they would TRY to get me in for two dives at $160. I wanted a guarantee that I could dive after the intro and that price seemed pretty high. It had been almost 2 years since I had last dove so the re intro was necessary. Maybe I'll look into it once I get to Vietnam.
I located the Crossfit box on the island and rode a bike there that a girl from the hostel loaned me one morning. She had rented it for the week.
I also had two days in a row of backpacker WOD's with travelers who were staying with me. It was the same as when I stayed in Bali and had a room full of German girls, Alicia and I. This time it was 3 German girls and a girl from Switzerland. The Samoan man who lived upstairs at the hostel would watch us each day with his youngest baby boy in his lap.
I made several more German friends, met a lady from England, a few from NZ, one from Holland, 3 from Canada, and one from Scotland.
I love the connections from traviling that are brought together at backpackers like this. I even became friends with the Samoan family who lived at the backpackers and a Rarotongen girl named Sala. Oh and a couple of ladies from the Sunshine Coast of Australia who gave me their contact info and asked me to come visit and stay with them next time I was there. More connections for later travels that will benefit both them (for USA travels) and myself.
Because food was so expensive I really tried not to buy a lot or eat a lot. At the grocery store I bought a box of healthy-ish cereal to eat dry because it was $7 on sale and milk would have been $8 or $4 for past date milk. I also bought a $2 papaya and 2 packages of ramen noodles at $.60 each. Then I ate a few meals out.
I made a mistake and opened my cereal one night for dinner where I ate it by the handful. I got lazy and put it back on a shelf instead of the fridge. When you live in the tropics you should just put all your food once opened, in the fridge. I knew this but like I said, I got lazy and I paid for it the next morning! I pulled the cereal out and started eating it, again by the handful and quickly felt lil ants running up my arms. I instantly looked at the box only to see it covered in them and in the bag! In my $7 box of cereal! So I tied it off tight with a hair tie to cut off the trail and when the outside of the bag was insect free I stuck it in the freezer. I continued to eat on it the next day, it helped that I couldn't see the bugs any more. I decided it was a little extra fiber and if the islanders would still eat it then so would I. These ants were easier to eat then the larger ones they eat in Thailand. So yet another plus!
I went to church on Sunday with 6 others from the hostel. We walked there and back along the beach. Tisa at the hostel had encouraged us to go so we could experience the island culture even more. As if we weren't already convinced she also told us they have a reception after the service with home made local food.
Most graveyards around the island look like this and many homes also have graves like these in their front and back yards.
There was lots of signing in both Raro and English during service and half of, if not most of church was lead by the Sunday school kids, signing and resiting verses from the bible they had memorized. I took 3 pictures but felt awful taking them so I have since deleted them. I felt that it wasn't a place for photographs. It wasn't a tourist attraction even though I saw others taking photos. It felt like an invasion of their privacy. It's something private to them but they welcome guests to worship along side them.
It was a beautiful service at a basic Christian church. All the Sunday school kids and the adults who led them wore white and sat in the front middle section of the pews. There was lots of colorful flowers decorating the building and colorful outfits and hats. The interior was mostly white, wood and turquoise coloring and there was an up stairs balcony which is where we sat. The service ran for an hour and a half with fans spinning throughout to keep us all cool. The dress attire was clothing to cover your shoulders and down to your knees. I did my best with the limited backpack wardrobe I carried.
There are lots of churches around the small island, lots of religions are being celebrated there! I felt that the Christian church I went to was going to be the most authentic.
I spotted a Blue starfish and a number of flying fish in the distance, all jumping together on our walk back.
Mariana, the Brazilian girl who also stayed at the hostel with us, said the blue star fish are good luck if you touch them. Then she went on and on about it, so much that I had to go back and touch it. I found 2 more in the days to come and touched them all. I'd say that with three blue star fish encounters and church I should have great luck coming my way!
Resorts! As a group of backpackers we discovered resorts would often give one access to some of their facilities if food was purchased from their restaurants. The Rarotongen resort would let you only use their pool and if you wanted use of their sup's or kayaks you had to pay $100 for the day! No thanks! The young Canadian couple from Prince Edward Island, Mattie and Casey discovered that if you sit on the beach in front of the Rarotongen close to dinner time the staff will invite you up for drinks and appetizers, on the house. We aren't sure if the staff is assuming you are staying in the hotel though. Mattie and Casey acted like they were, just in case. And yes there was a girl from North America at the same backpackers as I with the exact same name as I.
Nautilus resort at Muri beach would let you use their infinite pool and their sup's and kayaks for the price of a meal. It was a nicer beach area as well. This place was a definite win for me!
We talked a lot of travel, the girls and I, during lunch at the resort. Telling eachother the key things to see in each others home states and countries. The Swedish girl, Christine is going to LA soon so I talked salt and straw up, since they have 2 locations and a kitchen in LA now. She's going and very excited!
By the way here's an updated photo of my latest stash:
Mariana (from Brazil) and I went to the Muri beach night market one evening. It's mostly a food market so we were going for dinner. I sometimes think I'm a bad influence on new'er travelers, especially when I suggest hitchhiking and then we get picked up by a drunk driver! We were so thankful to be picked up that nothing clues us into his drunken state except his speech about a paragraph in!
Drink driving at any hour of the day is unfortunately very common in the island and not very inforced by police. This guy was from NZ originally and a lawyer on the island. Great combo! Drunk driving a lawyer! There's lots I could say about the conversation the 3 of us had in the car but I'll keep it short!
There's was a lot of speeding up (only to the speed limit though) and then slowing down and pulling off to the side of the road when cars approached us. Then he says, "okay ladies we have a decision to make, we can go to my house for drinks or I can just take you to the market and drop you off." I quickly said the market was good, we were meeting friends. I didn't really know any good way to get out of the car after we both realized he was drunk and it wasn't a long drive so I just kept him engaged in conversation so he'd stay focused on the road and not falling asleep.
The market was worth it and good food with good prices! We didn't plan to meet anyone there but 2 other girls from the hostel showed up there so we all ate together.
hitchhiking back in the dark wasn't as easy! The biggest problem was that I was dark so no one could see us. We would either stand under street lights when they were available or I'd turn the light on my phone on and shine it at my thumb and my face. We walked about half way before getting picked up by 3 local girls for only 100k's but we were greatful for anything! We walked a distance more before finally getting another ride that got us right to our door! It was a local lady and her sister in law who is a cop. How I ironic to be picked up by a drunk driver one way and a cop the other way! Also ironic was that they couldn't believe we had walked the distance that he had and they had just come from the market and were heading home. Ha! What luck!
A group of us went to watch the paddle races at Trader Jacks on opening day.
We sat under a pop up tent at a picnic table for the majority of the day. It was a great view as we are right next to the water and also where the boats were launching and coming back to for the finish line.
We cheered on all the teams and mingled with participants and fans of the Hawaiian team, Australian teams, and Canadian teams - mostly.
We all had delicious waffles for lunch from a coffee cart/waffle stand and then said goodbye to Daniella, one of the German girls as she was leaving by plane to explore another cook islands and we wouldnt see her again.
I met with the girls for our last sunset opportunitiy together. we had tried for a few nights to see the sunset together as it was supposed to be a great beach (across from our hostel) for sunsets. The first time we attempted it it rained so we basically turned around, another night it was pretty cloudy so we watched it but didn't get the spectacular colors who are hoping for. Our last night together it was so cloudy and I would say the previous night was actually a better cloudy sunset but we had great company and really that's all that mattered.
We had three new doctors staying in our hostel studying and interning from NZ. It's common I suppose for Kiwis to go to those islands to begin their careers. I also learned from them that a lot of Americans go to NZ to to study to be a doctor. Why? Because it's more affordable.
This island could have easily blown my budget if I had stayed longer. There's really no way to do it cheap on Rarotonga. Eating out for any meal is on average $15 to $20 and that's without drinks. A shirt or tank top would be $20 to $35 on average and the grocery store...! That could be an entire story on its own! A container of single serve yogurt can cost you around $12, a box of cereal $7 on sale otherwise $10(ish), eggs are expensive and that's weird because the island is covered in chickens but I think they are mostly wild chickens and no one knows where the chickens lay their eggs. The best egg deal you can get on that island is $.50 for 2 eggs at the corner market near the hostel.
I spent more then I should have on the island for being there such a short time. I had to remind myself that I was paying for accommodations and feeding myself and that I may never return so I should enjoy it. I did, within reason and I kept track of all the money I saved by hitchhiking!
Anja, the German girl I arrived to the island with helped me finish the trip off. We spent the last day together, rode the entire island (45minutes) on her scooter and ended by going to black rocks to watch the sunset but once again it didn't really impress.
On the way to the airport with Tisa driving and another couple (from England) flying out that night, I noticed for the first time what the public bus reads. Across the top of the front windshield it says "clockwise" so im guessing it reads counter clockwise at other times!
I have one last Rarotonga photo to share with you:
Checking my bag in at the airport. Check out this luggage scale!