Of the fifteen islands in the Cook Islands archipelago, Rarotonga is likely the only one you might recognize by name. Craggy green pinnacles rise from the island center as if offering ecstatic praise to the deep verdant valleys they overlook. The mountain slopes are fertile, indeed every colour you can imagine is represented in the flowering plants that overflow from the rich soil. Some of the flowers are familiar, while others are strange, but they all seem to belong to the place.
Rarotonga is the most populous island in the Cook Islands. The Parliament buildings, as well as the international airport, are located here. The chief town, Avarua, on the north coast, is also the capital of the Cook Islands. Although Cook Islands are referred to as Rarotongan, they may in fact come from any of the 15 islands in the group, such as Aitutaki or Mangaira. The island is surrounded by a lagoon, often stretching more than a hundred yards to the reef. The part of the island around Muri is the most popular with tourists for swimming, diving and boating. The interior of the island, dominated by eroded volcanic peaks, is a sea of dense, green vegetation and remains largely unpopulated due to the forbidding terrain and lack of dependable roads. There is no road crossing the island and there are only two bus routes “Clockwise” and “Anti-Clockwise”, seriously that’s what the bus routes are called. And, on Sunday only the “Clockwise” bus runs. There are no bus stops, you just wave the bus down or ask the driver to let you off. A complete tour of the island costs $4.
The seas are very rough, with winds whipping up the swells to a roller coaster ride level for the tenders. Pat isn’t the best on tenders at the best of times so we elect to stay on board. At 3 PM the captain cancels further trips to shore. By 4:30 everyone is back on board but we don’t actually leave the anchorage until 7PM due to mechanical issues with one of the winches. Things never break in good weather