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Flying to the Cook Islands!

2010 August 11
by rob

March 13, 2009 – The First One

Bah! My alarm woke me up with a start in the middle of a dream. It was way too flippin’ early: 5:50 AM. I skipped the shower. I didn’t put on hair gel. Just deodorant and clean clothes and I was out the door. I must have been some sight. It wasn’t even light out yet! I didn’t even eat! *shock*

My bus to the airport left the city centre of Christchurch at 6:30 AM. This bus was no airport express: simply a local bus. It took half and hour to get there and cost NZ$7.

I checked into my flight. I had a one hour and twenty minute flight to Auckland, starting at 8 AM, followed by a short layover, then a four hour flight to Rarotonga from there. The ticket agent advised me that there probably wouldn’t be a meal on my first flight. That made me sad so I grabbed a coffee, muffin, and sandwich at the airport cafeteria. I felt like I was in such a rush that I didn’t even have time to drink my hot coffee and got them to dilute it with some cold water. How sad. I then went through security, got to the waiting room with a few minutes to spare. Perfect timing…..

Or not! Apparently I didn’t actually look very closely at my ticket since it very clearly said my flight was supposed to leave at 8:40 AM. Idiot! I could have had more sleep… and a shower… and a better breakfast. Alas. Anyways, I picked up a free copy of The Press, Christchurch’s daily newspaper. As always, the coverage of the world news in the NZ media was somewhat poor.

The flight was short and fine. I sat in a window seat. Kristina, a German girl who was staying in the same room as me at Hogwartz, was in the aisle seat of the same row. Some Kiwi guy sat in between us. The three of us talked quite a bit, which is very unusual for me. I’m rarely talkative on flights.

We landed at the Auckland domestic terminal. I exited the terminal and walked 900 metres to the international terminal. Air New Zealand interlined my bag for me, so I didn’t have to carry it. I already had my boarding pass. That’s nice. All I had to do was go straight to security. I visited the duty free shop to buy a 1 litre bottle of 42 Below kiwifruit flavoured vodka for only NZ$48 (CA$33). That’s a great price since 0.5 litre bottles are usually NZ$36 to NZ$44 in regular bottle shops. I also purchased some new moss-top flip flops. Thank goodness… I couldn’t go to any tropical islands without flip flops!

My flight was annoying. The people I was sitting beside were very annoying. I was on an airplane filled with tourists. Oh god. At least the shiny new Boeing 777 plane was kitted out with seatback TVs to entertain me. I watched “Burn Before Reading” (okay), an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”, the Flight of the Conchords HBO special and the episode from season 2 of Flight of the Conchords where Brett and Jemaine become prostitutes.

Part way through this flight, the airplane passed over the International Date Line. Since we were moving eastwards, that meant that the day changed to…

March 12, 2009 – AGAIN

We landed in Rarotonga in the afternoon. The timezone was now six hours BEHIND Toronto instead of eighteen hours AHEAD.

The Cook Islands are the thirtieth country I’ve been to (assuming that Macau and Hong Kong are part of the same country, China, even though I had to use my passport to go between them). I didn’t really count countries very closely before. Thirty is probably more than most people will ever go to. I’m sure I can get many more! Which country will be my fortieth? How long will it take for me to get there? Not any time soon, however. My rate of traveling will surely be reduced in the next few years.

The Cook Islands are a rather obscure place. Perhaps you’ve never even heard of them? The country consists of fifteen small specks of land in the South Pacific Ocean — located approximately between Tahiti and New Zealand. The Cooks are in the same time zone as Hawaii, about the same distance south of the Equator as the Hawaiian Islands are north of the Equator. This tiny country uses the same currency as New Zealand: the New Zealand Dollar.

View Larger Map

I like clicking the zoom out button on the map. It takes many many clicks before you can tell where the Cooks are. It shows how far from the rest of the world they really are.

My plan here: do some island hopping. Rarotonga is the main island — that’s the starting place. Air Rarotonga is the Cook Island’s domestic airline. It flies to many of the individual islands from Rarotonga. It does, however, run one other flight between a pair of islands: Atiu to Aitutaki. So, taking advantage of that flight, I could fly in a triangle and visit three islands.

I had booked a night’s accommodation at the Ariana Bungalows. I had originally booked two nights, but Air Rarotonga decided to change my flight to Atiu to the day before. My initial time on Rarotonga would be very short — less than twenty-four hours. The owner of the bungalows met me at the airport to pick me up. She advised me that since I’m going to the outer islands where there are often shortages I should stock up on food while I’m still on the mainland. It’s funny how the term “mainland” is always relative. In the Cook Islands, the tiny island of Rarotonga (only 12 km long) is called the mainland. All of the other islands in the country are the Outer Islands.

So, we stopped at a supermarket in Avarua (the main settlement on Rarotonga) to stock up on portable, but boring, food. We also stopped at the Telecom office to inquire about purchasing a SIM card for my mobile phone. I decided to not get one since there’s no coverage on the island of Atiu. No +682 phone number for me.

If Rarotonga was a clock, the airport would be at 10 o’clock. Avarua would be at 12. The Ariana Bungalows would be at 1. My airport pickup and dropoff the next morning would cost me NZ$30. It seems a bit dear considering it’s only a twelve minute drive, one-way. I think, though, that the fact that the owner of the bungalows stopped at the supermarket and waited for me to do some grocery shopping was nice. We also stopped on the way at a road-side stand to pick up some papaya.

I actually booked myself my own private bungalow that night. It was expensive, NZ$80 (CA$55), but it was pretty nice. My own kitchen! My own bathroom! My own bedroom! My own patio! Mine! No sharing! The ocean wasn’t nearby, but there was a swimming pool right in front of my bungalow. I went for a bit of a swim and let the jets massage my nethers (tee hee).

The owner showed me a brand new fruit that was in season and was grown all over the Cooks: starfruit! It was called “raparapa” in the local Cook Island Māori language. It was nice, juicy, and had a decent flavour. She said you could eat the whole thing, but the centre had these stringy bits that I didn’t like as much. It’s a decent fruit, but not as good as mango. It was too bad that mango was out of season. Before coming to Rarotonga I was dreaming of the bounty of mangoes that I would eat. Alas, it was not to happen.

Before bed I enjoyed some of my kiwifruit vodka, worked on my journal, played some Nintendo DS and read William Gibson’s “Idoru” for a while. I wasn’t feeling as asocial as I was a couple of weeks ago, but it sure was nice to revel in my own solitude for once, even if I had to pay for it. There were many other people staying at the bungalows, anyways.

Rob Sz
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

One Response leave one →
  1. September 10, 2010

    Good info

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