Not Tonga, Rarotonga. The largest and most southern of the Cook Islands was our next stop after leaving the brilliant lagoon of Bora Bora. After one of our more unpleasant passages, which included three days of choking on diesel fumes while we motored in no wind, followed by 30 hours of over 20 knots, big seas and tons blue water over the deck. For those of you non-boaters, blue water is bad. That is when every inch of your boat is covered in salt, you are dressed from head to toe in foulies and you can barely peak out the cockpit without getting doused in the face with spray. It's kind of like sitting on your patio in the rain and having someone dump buckets of water on you. I do go on, but you get the idea. Not that fun. I guess after writing blog after blog about how great we have it, (which we do) I should disabuse you of some of your romantic notions about sailing. It is hard work and well worth the reward but sometimes hard to see this when you are hugely sleep deprived or covered in bruises from simply walking around the boat while underway. Mark likes to describe this difficulty moving around in lumpy seas as trying to do your everyday chores etc, but you have someone following you around trying to push you down. A boat bully if you will. It is actually times like these that make these dream destination anchorages even more sweet once we get there.
Okay, Rarotonga. We did arrive safely and the harbor was quite small so not sure where to go, we tied up to the enormous loading pier. After talking to a fellow cruiser who informed us that the Port Captain was on holiday and so rushing to check in was not an issue we relaxed, had a nap and moved the boat into an out of the way spot near the shore. Not checked in, but hungry and really ready for some land and a walk we found some divine fish and chips at a place right next to the boat. Now for the last two years we have not lived in a country where English is the first language, or sometimes even second for that matter. So it was a pleasure when we walked up to the counter and the two little girls ( 7 and 10) said "What would you like". I was floored. And no not because I didn't know they speak English in the Cooks. I knew, but it was just so easy. I am not adverse to other languages and exercising my brain, but for the past week I have had many conversations with fellow travelers and locals and I knew what they were saying. I got every word, not just some idea of what they might be talking about.
The Cook Islands are independent but are a protectorate of New Zealand. The islanders are Polynesian like other places we have been, but speak English and enjoy all the benefits that New Zealand has to offer. They use Kiwi currency, can visit New Zealand freely and do. Rarotonga is the largest and most touristy island of the chain. Every person we met who was not a native was on holiday from New Zealand. They come in droves to enjoy the beaches and especially the weather. Weather I have enjoyed for years is a once a year thing for these folks.
While we were there we had a little of everything from humid days and sunshine to downpours and chilly nights.
During our week there, we took advantage of the reasonable prices and rented a scooter for several days to tour the island. Mark is the proud holder of his very own Cook Islands drivers license with a laminated photo and everything. One night we went to see the famed dancing of the Cook Islands. They are known as the best dancers in the Pacific Islands and win awards and perform all over the world. They were really fun and even got the audience to participate. The week flew by and it was time to go already. Our season is winding down and we need to be out of the hurricane belt by November. So off to Niue we go.