What a fantastic place! It really is a little paradise. It's a small island, thirty-two kilometres in circumference, surrounded by golden, palm-fringed beaches and a crystal clear lagoon, with a mountainous interior covered in rainforest. It's hardly built up at all, everyone just scoots about on little motorbikes and the locals are really friendly and welcoming. We stayed in a little hut with a bedroom, on-suite bathroom, little kitchen, with patio doors straight on to the beach. Could you ask for more? How about glorious sunshine, a hammock and cheap cocktails?! Perfect :0)
There was an awful lot of lying around in the sun drinking pina-coladas but we weren't horizontal the whole time! We hiked from one side of the island to the other. It was bloody steep but definitely worth the effort as when we reached the top we could see the sea in both directions. It only took four hours but was definitely the most active thing we did in the whole ten days!
We didn't get to do any diving as we were still a bit bunged up (you can't dive with blocked sinuses) but we did do plenty of snorkeling. It was a considerably more enjoyable experience chasing the fish about in the warm, calm waters of the lagoon wearing only our swimmers, than it was flailing about in all that gear in the freezing waters of New Zealand! We saw all kinds of brightly coloured tropical fish and sea cucumbers and lots of other underwater life that I should probably know the names of.
We even went to church on Sunday, as the Cook Islanders are known for their gospel singing. It was quite an experience, made even more enjoyable by the arrival of a bus load of gorgeous Australian rugby league players! After the service we all got invited into a hall where we got fed loads of fantastic local food and cakes made by the ladies from the church. We (in this instance "we" being me and some of the other girls from the backpackers) got to do some more drooling later in the week when we went to watch the Ozzies play the local rugby league team!
Of course we experienced a bit of the traditional local culture too. We went to the weekly market and a show which involved lots of drumming and energetic dancing (to Ben's delight) by girls in coconut bras! We ate at some gorgeous little beach-front restaurants and saw lots of picture-perfect sunsets. There was even loads of friendly dogs and cats (of the non-mangy variety) to play with - vital to make it my perfect holiday. Plus, did I mention the cocktails?!
Whilst we were in Rarotonga some of our friends were at the Glastonbury festival back in the UK and to be honest we were pretty gutted about not being there too. But I have to say the fabulous setting, combined with all those cocktails, was a fairly effective method of numbing the pain! Maybe we should go back every year :0)
There are more photos here and some photos on facebook here