After being on the go for the past 2 months, we were very much looking forward to our time in Rarotonga. Although it was a HUGE flight - 13.5 hours from Santiago to Melbourne with a 6 hour lay over there before our 4 hour flight to Auckland - we all agreed, it actually didn’t feel as long as we thought it would. We slept, watched copious amounts of movies and the even saw Antarctica making our ‘world trip’ truly just that - by the end of our trip we will now have ‘seen’ all 7 continents. (Thanks Melisa for the great idea!) Finally, we headed to Rarotonga after 2 days in Auckland.
During our initial planning, we had talked about visiting somewhere in the South Pacific. When my parents took us up on our offer to join us somewhere along our adventure, Rarotonga was ‘landed on’ as the destination for our meeting. We would go there before heading to New Zealand, while they would meet us after their tour of New Zealand. They had been to the Cook Islands 2 times before and were excited to show us the places they enjoyed. We were excited to reconnect with them, rejuvenate and of course, experience the splendour of island life for the week.
Unexpectedly, we met each other at the Auckland airport as we waited at our gate. We were thrilled to see each other with big hugs all around, quickly followed by the girls ‘measuring’ themselves to see how much they had grown (which was quite a bit actually). Unfortunately, we weren’t on the same flight together so it was a quick hello before we headed onto the plane. However, we had a glorious week to catch up, and that we did. We laughed, joked, played, chatted, cuddled, shared travel stories but most importantly, just soaked up the time we had together. Anytime to reconnect with those at home is great whether it be FaceTime, email or a quick note via social media, but it was especially sweet to have my parents join us in person. During our time in Rarotonga, we learned about the great importance of family lineage and tribal connections in the Cooks including how it governs land ownership. It seemed apt we were to meet up with family here.
Rarotonga is a small place which lends itself beautifully to ‘island time’ soaking up the sun and relaxing. This is exactly what we all needed, having come off of busy travels in the past few weeks. The drive around the island takes one hour and there are only 2 bus routes - the clockwise and the anti-clockwise bus, either of which you can flag down along the one main road. One can hike across the island too, which Dave and I would like to do one day but with the girls, grandparents, heat and humidity, we were also just as happy to relax at the beach and pool.
Mom and Dad noted growth and change since their last visit about 10 years ago. Being new to the island, we found there was much to see and do. We were only 125 steps from some of the world’s best snorkelling. With a reef protecting the island from waves, the water was like glass most days and very easy for snorkelling, sea kayaking and swimming. Dave was out in the ocean the whole time we were at the beach in search of wildlife and Grandpa got out snorkelling every day too! The girls loved to watch the different fish and were excited to find eels and even a lion fish.
Dad had his 75th birthday in early February so we celebrated with a fishing trip which was something he had always talked about doing when we were in Maui. Now, Meghan and I were leery about this as we are both prone to motion sickness, but we couldn’t miss out on Grandpa’s big party. As well, we heard of a record breaking marlin being caught only a few days before so we couldn’t miss out an opportunity like that. So off the 5 of us went early one morning (Grandma wisely sat this one out as she, too, gets seasick easily). We had been warned getting out of the harbour would be a bit rough but it would calm down further out. It was rocky to start but we all handled it. Grandpa was in the ‘captain’s chair’ beaming from ear to ear. The girls were excited by the prospect of catching the ‘big one’ and watching my Dad enjoying it was enough to get me through the first half hour.
The view of the island from out on the ocean was stunning as we cruised along the coastline. As the waves got more choppy about 2/3 of the trip in, the voices of excitement lessened as 3 of us (but especially two of us) continued to focus on not feeling too queezy so Grandpa could catch the big one. The captain was doing his best to help out, looking for birds circling overhead - a sign of small fish in the area that would hopefully lead to even bigger fish coming for them. Although neither of us wanted to ruin Grandpa’s present, we did ask the captain to head back to shore about a half hour earlier than planned as us prairie girls just didn’t have our sea-legs. So, how did Grandpa do? Well, despite not catching ANYTHING (or even even a nibble for that matter), he said he had a great time! Unlike the rest of us who all felt a little ‘off’ at some point during the excursion, he was fine and soaked up the rays, view and experience for 3 hours! Sorry it didn’t go exactly as we had planned Dad (Perhaps our stories of catching the ‘big one’ and our early bragging may have worked against us??) but we’re glad to have experienced it with you just the same.
In spite of no fish, we did come away with an interesting story. Of the two-man crew, our new friend JJ helped man the fishing lines. Dave and JJ got to talking about the Cooks, where he lived and life on the islands. JJ shared that he’s not from Rarotonga originally but comes from a small outer island called Palmerston. Having heard about this place, Dave asked if his surname was Marsters. Amazingly it was. JJ was the direct descendent from an Englishman (William Marsters) who found himself on the island with his wife, her sister and wife’s cousin in the middle of the 1800s. He married all three of them, divided the island into three portions and produced a prodigious family who still reside there (and all over the world) today. A cool anecdote connecting us with a quirky bit of Cook Island history.
To extend our Cooks’ history lesson further, we attended a hangi and cultural performance at Highland Paradise. Not only was the meal delicious but we all enjoyed learning about traditional ways of life and island history through dance, music and a visit through the historical site. Plus, it was a fantastic way to end our time together - getting all dressed up and heading out for dinner! Not to mention the view! Simply stunning!
Rarotonga was a wonderful gift for many reasons. It was a beautiful place to ‘just be’ for a week. It was also the perfect place to have fun and relax with loved ones. We had such a great time while there, we began making arrangements to go again when Dad turns 80! And, you thought we were kidding Mom and Dad! We’re already looking forward to it!
We're the Danchuks - follow our explorations and family adventures in a wide world (2018).