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Published: April 20th 2010
Going around the world, means you will have to cross the Pacific Ocean at some point. You can fly all the way to the US in one flight, but why not make a stopover on one of the many amazing islands that are dotted around in the pacific? Certainly a good idea!
One of those island groups is The Cook Islands. Named after captain James Cook, it's a group of 15 small islands with a population of about 20.000. The main island is Rarotonga and it has an international airport with flights from New Zealand and a weekly direct flight to Los Angeles. So "the Cooks" was a perfect stop on the way to the Americas for me!
I visited two islands, Rarotonga (the main island) and Aitutaki, a one hour flight away.
Everything slows down on the Cooks, it is very laid back. Landing at any of the islands' airports offers amazing views.
I checked into a hotel and one of the first things I did, was to rent a motorbike to drive around the island. However, in order to drive a car or a motorbike, you need to have a Cook Islands driver's licence. To drive
a motorbike I also had to pass a "practical exam" at the rental company, which literally meant driving around a tree and back. After I passed, I picked up my licence at the police station and could drive around!
Cook islanders are quite religious, primarily catholic, so I saw a lot of churches on the island. Mainly, Rarotonga is an island with lots of luscious greenery and some spectacular rocky hills/mountains. There's a main road encircling the island and is only 32km long. I drove around slowly though, making stops along the way and it took me the entire morning. I came across some amazing beaches, lined with palm trees and some of them have beautiful white sand.
I also went diving on the reef for a day. Not as spectacular as diving in Malaysia or Australia, I swam around in a half open cave and saw a couple of pretty fish and a green turtle!
There's also a cinema on the island. I went to see a movie there and it was quite an experience, it's a big wooden building with wooden levels and simple theater chairs.
Something a lot of tourists do, is an
island night. This is basically a buffet dinner with a dance show. I didn't feel much of doing something that touristy but still wanted to experience some of the traditional cultural dances. I was lucky, as there was a big show at the auditorium one day where all the schools on the island participate in and perform a traditional dance. It's a local event and the auditorium is packed with people (I estimated about 1500 to 2000), amongst them a lot of children from the schools loudly cheering for "their" school dance group. Quite a spectacle! Unfortunately I was not allowed to take my camera inside so I didn't get any pictures!
Afte a couple of days of chilling on Rarotonga, I took a (very scenic) flight to the island of Aitutaki, which will be covered in my next post!
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