Well, I’m back and I had a wonderfully relaxing time. Rarotonga is hilarious. It is a tiny island just 4 hours away from NZ by plane, but 22 hours behind (it’s just over the date line). In reality though, it’s a lifetime behind. Everything is done on ‘island time’ (which equates to slow motion compared to my normal existance).
It is full of conundrums. I couldn’t clear email on my phone (which meant an enforced holiday), yet the pool bar was a WiFi hotspot. Great – if you happened to pack a waterproof laptop. Clothes are about half the price that they are here, yet food and drink are twice as expensive.
There is one road around the entire island and it takes about 50 minutes to do the loop (if you stick to the 40kph speed limit). We hired a 125cc motorbike for $25 per day. You are supposed to pay $10 to buy a drivers license but no one bothers. You don’t have to wear helmets or shoes and there are no traffic lights. It really is like you see on movies about tropical islands (think The Beach). Unfortunately the roads are really bad so accidents are common. To make things worse, there don’t seem to be any drink driving laws. If you get stopped and they suspect that you have been drinking, you get laughed at and taken home.
There is one part of the road where the speed limit is 30kph. This is the “Jet Blast Area”. It is the part of the road between the airport and the beach, where the jets come in to land. Planes come in twice a day and all the locals rush down to the jet blast area to hang out on the road. It is incredibly strange. All that seems to happen is that you get deafened and blown over at the same time.
On Friday there was a special festival that started off with a parade. We had been sitting at a pizza bar on the beach having a few beers for lunch. We jumped on our bike to head home and found the roads lined with what appeared to be half the population of the island. Not realising that the parade was right behind us, I wondered what the hell was going on. Not one to miss an opportunity, I started smiling and waving. The crowd went wild and the police held them back so we could get through. I was truly in my element.
Shaun also decided to take advantage of the fact that we knew where every police officer on the island was. He figured it was the perfect opportunity to break the law. Considering the fact that there didn’t seem to be all that many laws, he decided to do 70kph on the bike. Not one of his better ideas. He went to close to a palm tree and got whipped in the ear. He bitched about how much it hurt for the rest of the weekend.
By yesterday I was starting to feel the effects of 4 days of solid eating, drinking and lying around. I decided to go for a run. That was foolish. Sunday is the sabbath which starts with church and ends with the traditional ‘umu’ or feast. The umu is an underground oven that consists of a hole filled with hot stones, food and then palm leaves. The food is slowly smoked over several hours. Several hundreds of these ovens on a small island have the effect of one huge incinerator. It felt like running through a pub at 4am. I’m fairly sure there was no air between the smoke particles. It reminded me of my childhood though. The smell was the same as when I would help dad rake the leaves and burn them.
So all in all I had a magic time. We got back last night and my I am grateful that it’s sunny here, although my toes and fingers haven’t defrosted since I hopped off the plane.
But who cares? I’m off to Tahiti next week.