Early November to November 22
Having settled in and forgotten about our worries with Sonja, Joe and Odette, life in Raro seemed better every day. After figuring out our finances, which were going to take a big hit as we hadn’t planned on paying for food and accommodation for a month, we grasped our situation a bit better. Everything wasn’t “going to shit” and we wouldn’t have to sleep on the street once we got to Japan. We just had to be a bit careful with how we spent it, and not just go off on spending sprees. However, as I said in the last post, after a week we were forced to spend more on food as we felt sick from eating cheap food with no vegies/fruits etc…
One of the most memorable things we have done so far, and our main way of getting around, was hitchhiking! It’s especially effective in Rarotonga, as the island is a circle, all you have is clockwise and anti-clockwise (There are only two buses in Rarotonga, each going a different way around the island). Whether it was jumping at the back of a pickup, or “Yut” (Utility vehicle) as they called it, or getting the back seats, every time we made a new friend. I’d estimate the number of times we hitchhiked as about 4 per day, for two months so we’ve met approximately 240 different people. And even with an island population of 10,000, we only saw two of those people again. Some were Islanders, some Maori, some European, some were tourists but all of them were generous and kind. Not once did we have a bad experience, the only experience you could remotely call “bad” was one bored islander who wanted to give us a tour and did so for 20 minutes and when we wanted to get out wanted to keep going. But really, he was just bored and felt embarrassed when we reaffirmed in a firmer tone that we wanted to go. It’s by hitchhiking that we met some of the most interesting and generous people on the island. One lady who worked at the market gave us a box full of vegetables and fruits (super expensive too!) after hearing we were eating badly, one baker asked us to take as many loafs of bread as we wished from his truck, a pastor prayed for us, the minister of foreign affairs of the Cook Islands told us she would look into our old hosts’ situation because she felt strongly that foreigners were being brought and kicked out repeatedly and the deputy clerk of parliament invited me over for a tour and discussion!
Speaking of, I did go to parliament to meet the deputy clerk again, Helen, and it was a pretty memorable experience. In her office she explained to me how the Cook Islands government works, how it’s on “break” right now because the PM wishes to keep power and a snap election call could take him out so he’s avoiding it by just not holding any parliament meets. She also told me of the worries the Islanders face every day, such as the quality of the ocean and the amount of fish in it, unfortunately because the government has sold the fishing rights to China, the CI are having all their fish simply drained from their nearby waters… In addition to this, because of changing temperatures and rising waters, salt levels have risen in a number of the smaller islands, making growing crops impossible, and sea levels have risen so high that the difference in some places is dozens of meters over the last 10-20 years. After all the talking we headed to the parliament chamber, a room the size of a classroom at home, and she invited me to sit in the speaker of the house chair!
Other than that, we kept on meeting new people, and having to say goodbye to others which was really hard 😦 We ended up making bonfires some nights and drink and hang out at the beach. Peter (South-Africa/India) and Rhy (Canada) even took us to the beach one night with a long-exposure camera to take some cool shots of us swinging fire around, which was pretty amazing. No worries we were super careful, nobody got hurt, I can already feel as I’m writing this the worry from the parents.
Rarotonga was the perfect spot for snorkeling, with a ridiculous amount of beautiful and colourful fish in some select protected areas. It’s just the right depth, calm and really warm. And so we would rent the gear from either the hostel or a place nearby and go see the life under. We couldn’t take pictures of what we saw so here are some I found online that basically look like what we saw. In short it was awesome, especially the scuba, as our friend Hanno said, “Of course it’s amazing, it’s the ocean brah!”
Of course we can’t forget that a lot of our time was spent playing with Lady. Who’s lady you ask? Only one of the bravest, cuddliest dogs in the world. She’s the hostel’s dog and legend is she adopted the hostel. She once chased away and fought 7 beach dogs who were getting a bit too close to us in a dangerous way. On her own, and she won. Ruthless. But also some nights she would raise her front legs and hump us as we were sitting at a table. And yes, she is a female. Every time we’d go to the beach she’d follow us happily, certified good doggo.
We didn’t spend all of our time at the beach though, we also managed to fit in a lot of cultural activities, like going on a tour of the Matutu brewery, the only beer brewed in the Cook Islands, small but proud. Along the tour they also offer 3 pints, a lager, an ale and a coffee-flavored one or an IPA. The last one actually won an international award and so they can call it award winning beer now. This project was created some years ago in part to counter the huge movement of people from Raro to New Zealand. They wanted to show the new generation that there are still opportunities even if it doesn’t seem like it at times. Overall, a super informative trip about beer-making.
On our last sunday, we went together with Dean and Rachele, a Welsh couple, to the local church for the service. There was beautiful singing, very loud but not so loud that it’s uncomfortable, more like it was impressive that they could sing so loudly and still sound so good. As it was a special sunday, the service lasted twice the usual, so 3 hours, and most of it was in Maori. HOWEVER! The day was not over as right after the service, everyone in the church was invited to a feast with a ridiculous abundance of food, drinks and desserts and a humongous roasted pig. Unbelievably awesome and what amazing generosity honestly…
Rarotonga also has a beautiful organic garden that is open to visits and has a nice little cafe as well. So we went to see it for ourselves, and while it was completely empty of people, the flowers, trees and plants were quite nice and in a peaceful setting.
I don’t really know how to close it all. Rarotonga was amazing, it was pure beauty mixed with a palpable sense of raw kindness and happiness. Our month in the hostel ended with a night spent surrounded by friends that felt like a family and people we’ll probably never forget, like Timo with whom I spent a whole day hunting wasps with a spray and lighter, or Tom who taught us how to play poker and how stressful it is even to put 50 cents in the pot, oh and Muscle Jesus, but that’s for bad reasons, he was a religious fanatic. Ripped though, but still a lunatic and a mean person >: I probably forgot to mention a lot of people but that’s just because I’m forgetful (reminder: it’s in the website name), and of course there are so many things we’ll remember each person by, all wonderful.
We’d recommend this sort of hostel trip to anyone really, only thing is, it’s hard to say goodbye. ❤
Here are some more pictures, random and mixed. Thanks for the memories Raro, leaving you was one of the most painful things we’ve had to do…
~ Skander and Priya