En­joy par­adise on a bud­get

Rain, rain go away... sandy beaches and bright sun­shine are just a four-hour flight away, writes Rob Maetzig.

Manawatu Standard - - TRAVEL -

Right now it seems that ev­ery sec­ond New Zealan­der is hol­i­day­ing in Raro­tonga. And why not? What must rate as the most laid-back is­land in the South Pa­cific is a short trip to some much ap­pre­ci­ated sun and warmth.

The Cook Is­lands’ cur­rency is the New Zealand dol­lar, and this helps make Raro­tonga an af­ford­able hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion. Even bet­ter, there are plenty of ac­tiv­i­ties that are su­per cheap or free. Here’s a list of 10 of the most in­ex­pen­sive ac­tiv­i­ties on Raro­tonga.

1) Eat break­fast

Here’s a bril­liant way to be­gin your day in Raro – take a slice of lo­cally-grown paw­paw, peel one of the is­land’s thin-skinned la­dyfin­ger ba­nanas, squeeze the juice of a seg­ment of lime over it all, and eat. It’s de­li­cious sun­shine on a plate.

It’s in­ex­pen­sive, too. Right now in Raro­tonga paw­paws are as lit­tle as $3 at any shop or road­side stall, and ba­nanas are around $6 for a bunch of six or eight. Limes are around $6 a kilo­gram.

Most days we fig­ured that was eas­ily in­ex­pen­sive enough to go for sec­onds.

2) Catch a bus

Feel like a drive but haven’t got a rental car or scooter?

For just $5 you can climb aboard one of Raro­tonga’s cir­cleis­land buses and en­joy a ride right around the is­land.

You can even choose which way you want to go, be­cause the ser­vice runs both clock­wise and an­ti­clock­wise.

Th­ese buses aren’t air­con­di­tioned and, at times, the ride can be­come a bit harsh, but the trips are fun.

And, if you want to spend all day rid­ing on them, then you can pay $16 for an all-day pass that al­lows you to hop on and off as many times as you like.

3) Go to the beach

One of the ben­e­fits of hol­i­day­ing on a com­pact cir­cu­lar is­land such as Raro­tonga is that if it is windy and rain­ing on one side, then there’s a good chance it will be calm and sunny on the other.

So you hop into your car, or on to your scooter or the cir­cle-is­land bus, and find an­other beach.

It’s a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence sit­ting on a beach any­where around Raro­tonga – the views are fan­tas­tic, and there’s the con­stant roar of surf pound­ing the reef that pro­tects the is­land.

Many of the beaches also of­fer ex­cel­lent snorkelling and swim­ming, par­tic­u­larly along Muri on the south-eastern side, and at Black Rock to the north. And vis­its to th­ese beaches are ab­so­lutely free.

4) Play golf among the wires

The Raro­ton­gan Golf Club has what has to rate as one of the most hard-case cour­ses around.

Why? Be­cause if you play 18 holes by tak­ing on the nine-hole course twice, you are hit­ting your ball through com­mu­ni­ca­tions masts and wires on 10 of the holes. The rules say that if your ball hits any of th­ese, you must re­play your shot with­out penalty.

But it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter – all those masts and wires sim­ply add to the fun. In fact, there are many who can claim to have le­git­i­mately scored a hole-in-one, even after they’ve had one or more balls ric­o­chet out of bounds.

Also fun is the fact that some of the fair­ways are shared by golfers play­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions, which means you do need to keep an eye on who is hit­ting where. And not take any­thing too se­ri­ously. at­trac­tion and a na­tional em­bar­rass­ment – the un­fin­ished and now di­lap­i­dated and graf­fi­tistrewn Sher­a­ton re­sort.

If you’re not rea­son­ably fit, don’t at­tempt this walk. And lo­cals strongly ad­vise against try­ing it when it is rain­ing, be­cause the track be­comes very slip­pery.

But the as­cent and de­scent, which is aided by the pres­ence of plenty of tree roots that can be used as grab han­dles, is re­warded not only with mag­nif­i­cent views at the top, but the prospect of a cold beer at the bot­tom – just turn right when you reach the road, walk to the nearby Raro­ton­gan Re­sort, and or­der one.

8) Swim with the fish

Ev­ery­one knows that the snorkelling can be great in the la­goon sur­round­ing Raro­tonga.

And it’s free – well, maybe you have to buy some snorkelling gear, and don’t for­get to wear flip­pers or sand shoes, be­cause co­ral cuts can quickly get in­fected.

Many agree that the best snorkelling lo­ca­tion is the south­east­ern side of the is­land, par­tic­u­larly off a lit­tle shop called the Fruits of Raro­tonga.

But it doesn’t mat­ter where you go, be­cause if the con­di­tions are right you’ll spot plenty of trop­i­cal fish. And what can be bet­ter than splash­ing around in warm wa­ter un­der the Raro sun?

9) Buy street food

Well, it’s not re­ally street food – but road food.

The main road that cir­cles Raro­tonga is called Ara Tapu, and while it is sealed for its en­tire 32 kilo­me­tres, the speed limit is never more than 50kmh, and quite of­ten a lot slower than that. But that al­lows plenty of time to spot food stalls and stop. They of­fer ev­ery­thing from fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles, to co­conuts, cakes and pas­tries, and the dough­nuts that Cook Is­landers seem to love and have for sale seem­ingly ev­ery­where. Stop to try them – after all, you are on hol­i­day and you can watch your weight when you get back home.

10) Check out the roost­ers

Once you’ve been on Raro­tonga for a few days and you have slowed down your pace of life to what is known as Is­land Time (trans­la­tion: do­ing noth­ing), a great way to while away the hours is to watch the chooks – par­tic­u­larly the roost­ers.

In stark con­trast to the vis­i­tors who watch them, they never seem to re­lax.

They’re too busy guard­ing their harems of hens, and they’ll crow if they sus­pect an­other rooster is nearby, which is al­ways the case, be­cause there are heaps of roost­ers on Raro­tonga, even at the sum­mit of the Cross Is­land Walk where they’ll fol­low you on the off-chance you’ll feed them.

The writer trav­elled on his own dime.

SUP­PLIED

Raro­tonga is the per­fect choice for trav­ellers seek­ing sun, surf and seren­ity.

ROB MAETZIG

Take a walk up through the jun­gle on the Cross Is­land Walk to the peak known as Te Rua Maunga.

ROB MAETZIG

There’s plenty of fresh food to pur­chase along Ara Tapu.

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