Blast from the past – Rarotonga, Cook Islands, late 2017

I decided to look back and include some writing and pictures from previous trips. Here’s one, edited just a little from the original jet-lagged version. My dedication to documenting the trip has certainly gotten better with more recent trips. The featured picture (above) is the view from our little hut on the beach.

11-25-17 – At LAX, on way to Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

I’ve never been so unprepared for a trip. Don’t know much about the place, haven’t talked with anyone who has been there. Barely know if we have a place to stay (AirBNB) and how to get there. It’s a leap.

Spent more than a few dollars on new snorkeling gear, again on faith. I’ve been snorkeling about 60 minutes in my whole life, so no idea how much use this gear will actually get. I hope a lot – would be good exercise and good activity on this trip.

Thank God (or whomever) for business class departure lounges. We’re in the NZ / Star Alliance lounge – good, but not great. But sure is relaxing after the hellish-as-usual drive to LA. Socal freeway driving is in the top 3 of things I hate most about what Socal has become. The hot dry weather is #1…have to think about #2. Maybe taxes.

It was weird getting ready to leave today. I was actually thinking about not going – the new pup, Mojo, has a pretty bad morning, health-wise. He was sick enough to make us both wonder if he needed to be taken to the vet. But that was also enough to make me kind of wish we weren’t going. Maybe that’s one of the characteristics of getting older – you look for excuses to keep doing the same damn thing every day. But here we are. And Mojo is (probably) fine. (Postscript – yes, he was fine.)

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Hard to believe I booked a 1030pm departure. Most nights I’m deeply asleep by 10pm, so this is a stretch. And…I think we only have a two hour time difference between us and Raro. We leave at 830pm Raro time, travel about 10 hours, and arrive at 630am. Go figure. Latitudinal travel isn’t intuitive. We’re traveling from 32 degrees north latitude to 22 degrees south latitude – just inside the tropic of Capricorn.

BTW – this travelogue is just an excuse to write a bit. Need to develop the habit if I’m ever going to do more than write in my head. So this stream of consciousness should do the trick. And speaking of consciousness, mine is fading. With unlimited drinks and food, now 9pm, my bedtime clock is kicking in. I feel my IQ dropping. So…likely more from in-flight.

12-1-17 – Leaving Rarotonga

In the ANZ lounge at Rarotonga airport

Well….finally writing again at the end of our trip. BLTN. Leaving tonight after 6 days.

My excuses for not writing while in country are: always wet, sand everywhere, no table and chairs in the hut (really!). Sitting with a laptop perched in front of me just wasn’t comfortable.

This was an interesting trip. Not terrible, but definitely not great. Raro is somewhere between primitive and modern/mercenary. We snorkeled every day, a plus. And snorkeling was really convenient – just walk out our back door and into the lagoon. Couldn’t have been better. We walked a lot. And we watched a lot of movies. And ate out every day; that was about it.

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The worst news was the weather. We had three decent days upon arrival, and then three dreary, rainy, windy days. Not optimal. But we took our chances with the rainy season and got a 50/50 split on days. Could’ve been worse. Though, being stuck inside on a tiny island is noticeably worse than on the mainland. With outdoor activities shut down, there’s just not much to do.

We had some stress on the first day, Sunday. We ran into a perfect storm of financial worry – our ATM cards were expired (unknown until we got here), we had only a little UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_a85e.jpgUS cash, the credit card processing systems on our side of the island were inoperable due to some recent island-wide network problem. And it was Sunday, so almost all businesses were closed – they take Christianity and the Sabbath very seriously here (thanks Captain Cook!).

 

Our little beach hut.

So no way to get NZ cash, no way to use credit, no way to rent a car or get food at a restaurant. Most (not all) places would accept US cash, of which we had a little, but then we learned that the locals would only accept it at a 1:1 exchange rate, as opposed to the “official” rate of 0.7NZ to 1US. So we bought a cab ride for an exorbitant premium, and a little food at a gas station for the same huge premium.

The credit card problem also got in the way of our acquiring Wifi access. While our hut had a dedicated Wifi hot spot, we had no way to sign up and pay for it. The online portal would let you get through an entire process, and then stick hard on the payment step (back to the credit system problem). As I noted, primitive.

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We solved all these problems on Monday, one by one. But for 24 hours we were resource-less in a strange small land. Uncomfortable, to say the least.

There was good news. We snorkeled every day, and on the days when the sun was out, it was glorious. Quite an experience. We tried a different restaurant every lunch and dinner (once we acquired a car), and most were good. Driving around the island was easy. Wifi connections were solid, though we had to watch our usage. It was $10 NZ for

unadjustednonraw_thumb_a863.jpg500 MB access, and 500 MB went pretty fast. K and I got along great during the trip, even during the stress points. And we found a treasure trove of movies on a portable hard drive hidden way in a cabinet (I was worried it would be all porn, but it was in fact a lot of not-well-known but good movies).

But were those good points worth the considerable time and money we invested in the week? I’m still making my mind up about Rarotonga, but in general I’m leaning toward not coming back. One last black mark – the Wifi in the ANZ lounge isn’t working. I was looking forward to reading the sports and political news. It’ll have to wait another 12 hours. In terms of connection anxiety, I have more millennial in me than one would expect.

Lessons learned:

  • There’s always a reason the airfare is cheap. Think about it and figure out why – in this case it was the beginning of the rainy season, and it definitely affected our visit.
  • Always take enough cash to any unusual destination. Shit happens.
  • Always know the exchange rate before you get there. The locals might (did) lie to you.
  • Don’t believe the pictures on an AirBnB. It’s not as nice as it looks online. (postscript – I just keep learning this lesson…).
  • Flying business class has important perks well beyond the in-flight seats. Getting preferential treatment checking in, boarding, and getting bags quickly all add up. And the seats are still a huge plus.
  • Don’t depend on a voltage adapter you got gratis at a conference. I’m zero for two on that deal.
  • For international travel, patience is more than a virtue – it’s a necessity. I did better than usual in that department this trip, if I say so myself.

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