Roratunga – The Cook Islands
As the plane circled and headed for the tiny airport I caught my first glimpse of Roratunga in the shimmering early morning sun. A green dot in the deep blue Pacific. On planning our first trip to Australia to visit our daughter we decided to take in a few places along the way. I’d heard of the Cook Islands, a vast area in the South Pacific with dozens of little islands dotted far and wide, but not Roratunga. The 9 ½ hour night flight from LA passed quickly.
We were met at the airport by Sunny, our host and owner of the apartments where we were booked for three nights. The island is small with one main road running the perimeter for around 15 miles, this road is lined with coconut trees and pristine white beaches beyond. Sunny drove us to the accommodation, described as an apartment but was in fact a wooden chalet and put me in mind of the caravan sites on the east coast where I spent lots of very happy summer holidays as a kid. Inside there was a mini kitchen complete with calor gas for cooking. Bathroom and bedroom were more than adequate. At around £50.00 per night we weren’t complaining and when we saw the balcony/deck area with a view to die for we couldn’t have been happier. A lagoon, with the crashing sea beyond was right on our door step and a neighbouring cock crowing at 6.00 am every morning was the perfect cue to get me out of bed and wait for the stunning sunrise.
Being an old biker my husband Ray’s first port of call was the rental shop to hire a scooter – it cost £15.00 per day which we thought very reasonable. The quality of the road around the island varied from quite flat to bumpy to ‘I shouldn’t really be on this bike.’ But, it was all good fun and took us back to our youth. We couldn’t wait to get out and start exploring. September is classed as winter in Roratunga and the locals were all wrapped up in jackets and hats while riding their scooters. There is a sort of main town, with a supermarket and a few shops either side of the road but blink and you’d miss it. Unbelievably, we did manage to drive the wrong way down the one strip of dual carriage way, that runs for about 200 yards through this tiny town and yes a local policeman just happened to witness it and waved us down. He asked Ray if he had a license, which of course he does. How embarrassing! I thought it was amusing, husband no so. Nobody was in any danger and the policeman just looked a little exasperated (silly old tourists).
The temperature was a balmy 70/75 degrees which we classed as perfect beach weather. We found several excellent places to eat and a trip to the supermarket showed that the majority of food gets imported from New Zealand and Australia.
The island feels like a place frozen in time and I liked it. From the fast pace of life in L.A. where every other person is either speaking into a mobile device or sitting looking at one, it was a refreshing change to witness people actually speaking to one another in cafés and sitting on benches outside local shops.
There were a whole host of water-sports available, boats for hire for fishing and scuba diving. We didn’t engage in any of that but on several ocassions we did just pull up on the roadside and go for a swim in the crystal clear waters, which were beautifully warm.
We stopped off one day for lunch at a roadside café, Ray had a burger and I ordered a portion of chips, they were laced with salt which I wouldn’t normally have. I discovered later it was chicken salt, which is an Australasia thing and absolutely loaded with calories containing everything bad for you. The chips were delicious.
We arranged for an evening out at a neighbouring resort where they held an ‘Island Extravaganza’ twice a week. We had an elaborate dinner/buffet followed by a really exciting show including fire eaters, native dancers and musicians, all set in the stunning grounds of the upmarket resort. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening and it was well worth the money. It cost around £50.00 each.
Roratunga is a beautiful unspoilt island with a mix of upmarket houses and dilapidated prefab type bungalows lining the main circular road. We did venture up into the interior where I was surprised to find quite a few houses, newly built on big plots.
Our flight didn’t leave till 11.30 pm and we had a few hours to kill. The airport lounge area was open plan (a bit like a huge dutch barn) and unfortunately that night a storm threatened. I was frozen and ended up sitting in the disabled loo reading my book, where it was nice and warm. Finally, we set off for Brisbane. It had been nearly two years and we couldn’t wait to see our girl and Roratunga had been the perfect stepping stone to get us there.