Three Perfect Days in RAROTONGA

OK—I can hear you all saying it … we wondered how long it would be before Raro got a guernsey.

When I first visited Rarotonga you had to go via Auckland—fine as long as you didn’t have to wait seven hours at Auckland airport. About 18 months ago Australia finally realised that Raro existed and you can now fly direct from Sydney. So come and join me for three days in paradise.

Landing at Raro is like landing in a friend’s back-garden. It’s not the biggest international airport, and as we struggle down the steps and make our way across the tarmac, there’s Jake with his ukulele, singing Maori songs of welcome as we join the queue at customs.

We’ve rented a beach house in Muri for our stay, and hired a car to get us around the island. There is only one road so even though I’m totally navigationally dyslexic, it’s highly unlikely we’ll get lost—although trying to find the house in the dark and without road signs is a tad challenging. But find it we do and the key is under the mat—as promised.

We wake the following morning to the sound of roosters and brilliant sunshine. Walking across the tropical garden, laden with hibiscus and frangipani, we seat ourselves at the huge deck over the beach; gaze across the lagoon; watch the waves crash over the reef, and toss up whether to have a swim or breakfast first. That being the biggest decision we have to make during our stay.

Deli-licious, a little café within a two minute walk, gets the nod, and once there we ponder over whether to go for the Big Breakfast (it’s big …), quiche, or one of the many muffins and pastries on display. We sit in the garden sipping our flat whites and watch the world go by. Later on we walk up the beach and float away the afternoon in the lagoon, before checking out happy hour at the Pacific Resort. A couple of cocktails later we stagger back down the beach and fall into bed.

The following day we pass on breakfast and take our little convertible car (top down) into the main town of Avarua and browse the shops perusing hand-woven bags, hats and fans from Mangaia Island; traditional wood carvings; beautiful hand-made quilts known as tivaevae that tell of family history and stories through their intricate detail, and of course the ever present black pearl jewellery set in silver or gold, and created and designed on the island.

Lunch is at Trader Jacks, where we sit on the deck working our way around plates of salt and pepper calamari with a tropical salad, and watch the fishing boats head towards the reef. We could have chosen pizza at Café Salsa, or Pacific chips (potato, taro and yam) with garlic mayo at the Blue Note Café in Banana Court. Maybe tomorrow …

Our drive back takes us around the island, past the wharf and airport, and through the many villages along the way. We stop at Wigmore’s Superstore to stock up on a few things, and sit outside with divine peanut butter ice creams to cool us down. Further along we pass the Governor-General’s residence (nice), and pull into a beach at Titikaveka where the lagoon gently laps on the sand and there are only a couple of other people in the water.

In the evening we pass on the cocktails and instead pull out the BBQ and cook up some marinated chicken with paw-paw salad which we eat on the deck while sipping a crisp cold white, and watch the sun sink slowly down into the Pacific.

The next day we have an early morning swim as we’ve booked a Captain Tama glass bottom boat cruise which includes lunch. The boat leaves the Sailing Club late morning and takes us along the lagoon around Taakoka motu where we feel the spray from the reef, then along a little further where we drop anchor while you and other passengers jump into the water with snorkeling gear. I stay on the boat and daydream while listening to the crew sing and play their guitars. What a life! Then it’s everyone back in the boat and we turn towards Koromiri Island for a BBQ lunch—once again serenaded by the crew.

Back at the Sailing Club there’s something happening on the beach. There is a red carpet and a large heart of hibiscus flowers set in the sand. It’s a wedding! How gorgeous. So of course we sit and watch. A warrior canoe appears on the lagoon and to the echoing sound of the conch shell the bride and groom are ferried to Koromiri accompanied by Maori singing and chanting, and the bridal party follows in a glass bottom boat. We decide to take in the atmosphere and order two glasses of champagne which we drink sitting on the sand and toast the happy couple.

The following morning finds us back at the airport for our return flights. This time Jake sings songs of farewell and hopes to see us again next year.

You betcha Jake!

The writer flew Air New Zealand (at her own expense), and stayed in accommodation through www.rentraro.com

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