Heading to the Cook Islands

Saturday 18th August 2007-My first thought is that I want to phone someone at home this morning just to say “I’ll speak to you again yesterday” and as I have 5 minutes calling credit left on a phone card I give mum a quick ring before breakfast. Peterina comes and sits with us until we leave at 10.I’m impressed she made it to say goodbye as she tells us she was out partying until 5am with some guests from the hotel.

We wave our goodbyes and get in a taxi for the airport. We sit reading and before long board our flight to The Cook Islands. The flight time is just over 3 hours and the time when we arrive is around 5pm. (Friday 17th August 2007) – Weird!!

We have booked a hostel within walking distance of the airport but I’m a bit upset when we look out of the plane window to see heavy rain. Anyway by the time we have been through immigration it’s stopped but it isn’t that warm and I’m definitely going to need to change into warmer clothes.

The hostel looks ok, right on the beach, we have a big room to share and the view out of the window is great. The fella tells us that the humpback whales are migrating past Rarotonga at the moment and to keep an eye out for them. We shower and change quickly and head to the bar to see if we can get some food. It is going to cost us a lot of money here for the next few weeks and it’s a bit of a shock when they tell us its 25 New Zealand Dollars (NZD) each for dinner, the hostel is 120 NZD and I can feel the cash draining away already.

We have our meal, a BBQ buffet and chocolate cake and ice-cream for pudding and watch the band. There is a wedding party going on and I feel sorry for the bride and groom. I guess when you go all that that way for a tropical wedding you hope the weather will be fantastic. As it is, it’s pissing down with rain and looks like a cyclone has struck outside. Not quite the photos they had hoped for!

We head back to our room, I go to sleep and Simon and the kids watch some film on the laptop. Tomorrow we are thinking of hiring a car for the day so we can drive around the island and try and get some decent accommodation that won’t completely break the bank. Hmmm! Could be difficult!

Nomads Sky Lodge

Our last day has arrived and we have breakfast and start to pack up our gear. We spend the morning by the pool and eventually Ali’s guitar arrives. It doesn’t look too good, it’s been mended with fibreglass, not quite what we expected but it actually seems to play ok and as we had resigned ourselves to the thought that it was knackered anyway we’re happy enough.

After lunch Ali spends some time getting some of the guys here to sign his book. We had originally intended to collect email addresses in this book but forgot about it from Malaysia to here so it’s a bit empty. Nevertheless he adds a few and he’s pleased with that. At 4pm its time to go and we say our goodbyes to everyone before Sunny takes us out to meet the ferry. Goodbye and Thank you everyone at Walu Beach- You have all been great- Sunny, Ziggy, Malley, Sena, Paul, Tico, Appi, Josh, Stanley, Matilda, Cassie- we love you all!! Our Fiji Family!

The ferry ride takes about 2 hours and we arrive at Nomads Skylodge around 7pm. Peterina has invited us to dinner with her family and at 7pm we meet her Dad, Sam and brother and sister Thomas and Carolin. After a quick drink we are shown to a table right by the pool and soon we are joined by Leba, Peterina’s mum. (The manager of the Skylodge)What a lovely family, they extend fantastic hospitality to us and we have a great Indian meal. The food is so good and includes thali’s with about 6 different curries to choose from. We also have some yummy puddings that we never tried whilst in India and Sam explains this is Muslim food that would traditionally be eaten at Eid.

We spend the evening chatting about our trip and about Fiji. Its very interesting conversation and we learn about the political and economic situation here. As with some of the other places we have visited it seems that waste plastic is a big problem, we also listen to some great stories about the local people. Despite the fact that Fiji is in lots of ways very progressive, it seems that in some areas, local traditions such as kava drinking are going strong. Probably accounting for “Fiji Time”. (Basically things will be done-sometime!)

By 1130 its time for bed and we walk down to the house to collect the kids who have gone off with Thomas and Carolin to watch The Simpson’s Movie. I feel really sorry that we haven’t had longer time to spend with Peterina’s family, they are so kind and friendly and I feel really happy to have had the opportunity to share a meal with them.

Tomorrow we are flying to The Cook Islands and crossing the International dateline. This means we will actually gain a day. How amazing I can’t really get my head around this concept no matter how many times Simon explains it. We leave on the 18th Sept at midday and fly for about 3 hours, and then arrive at 5.30 on Friday 17th. Wow!

Wake Boarding and Special Dinner

Today is turning out so good! We’re going to America Woo hoo!!

Our original RTW ticket included 2 months in the US but when we decided to go home early our plan was to travel from Tahiti to LA and then onto New York the following day before flying home. After talking to the Irish girls who are also flying to The Cook Islands on Saturday we decided to reconfirm our flights and discovered that our flight at 6pm has been changed to midday. This isn’t a problem although it does mean we will have to leave Walu Beach tomorrow instead of Saturday morning as planned.

We therefore decided to accept Peterina the student leaders offer to stay at her parent’s hotel on Friday night and meet her family. Simon then checks our onward flights to Tahiti and is a little confused to see that although the flight to LA is booked we aren’t booked onto any flight from The Cook Islands to Tahiti. We decide to try and miss out Tahiti altogether and fly straight to LA from The Cook Islands. We have taken some advice from our friend Marie and everyone we have spoken to tells us Tahiti is very commercialised and extremely expensive. The initial phone call seems like its getting a bit complex- we have to fly back to Auckland and it will take us over our airmile allowance. Blah blah blah.

However half an hour later and its all sorted – Hurray!!! If all goes to plan we should be flying to LA on the 1st Sept for a week, then to New York on the 8th and then London on the 9th. Perfect- just awaiting a confirmation email now. I’m feeling so excited about this. Although Tahiti is supposed to be good, we have had the most fantastic time in Fiji and couldn’t wish for a more perfect beach holiday. With 2 weeks to go in The Cook Islands- another idyllic beach place, I won’t feel cheated at all at missing out there and would definitely rather go to the States.

So it seems tonight is our last night here and the staff here have been lovely. At 2 o’clock the Americans leave and we wave them off happily. Its back to being a quiet and peaceful place and we’re touched when we’re informed that they will be having a special dinner for us here tonight. They clear all the tables except one from the beachfront and spend ages making it all look good for us. Sena put balloons and flowers out and tells me she has done it in red and white especially. (England colours)

Ali goes wake boarding in the afternoon and I sit worrying about him. It looks a bit scary to me but when he returns he tells me I needn’t have worried, the fella who took him out didn’t seem to have much of a clue either and I don’t think he managed to stand up on the board even once. In the end he tried knee boarding and at least kept his head above water for a few minutes! Simon, Maisie and I then take the sea kayaks out for half an hour and whilst looking through the water at the coral see a big bright blue starfish.

Many of the staff here have been sick since we arrived with a viral infection and when we get up to the bar, Paul the barman looks really ill. They are all complaining of feeling cold and have headaches and sore throats. I have been giving them paracetamol as they have been going to the hospital on the mainland and coming back with vitamin c tablets which they seem convinced will cure them, and telling them to go to bed.

Our evening ends when some Italian guests ask Malley to get some Kava roots. We have a few bowlfuls but it tastes horrible and I’m paranoid about getting sick as everyone including half the staff here are drinking out of the same coconut shell. Ali is already complaining of feeling weak and I give him a paracetamol at 9.30 when he asks to go to bed. We sort Maisie out and then go and lie in a hammock on the beach with a few beers, staring up at the stars and listening to the waves in the warm balmy air it’s a blissful and romantic last evening in Fiji

Hammock

I’m running out of titles for our diary now as we are doing so little! The main notable points of the day are that our fellow Malolo Sliders are all leaving today. At 11pm Mairi and Kevin say their goodbyes and we wave them off from the end of pier with reminders to go and catch up with them if we ever get to Ireland. To be honest comparing the prices for a holiday there and one here it would probably cost us almost as much to go there so I doubt we will go but we’ll definitely stay in touch by email .As Mairi’s camera broke Simon burnt some holiday photos onto a disc for them and they now have the proof of their fantastic time here.

I crash out on the beach in a hammock strung between two coconut palms and lie there listening to my MP3 player and making plans for our return home in a few weeks. First thing to do is buy a dog. (We have promised Maisie) We want to get an Alsatian like our friends Alli and Adrian’s lovely dog Reefer and I have promised Simon faithfully I will walk it every morning before I go to work. (“We’ll see on that one!” – Simon)

Caroline and Lydiane move their gear into our bure at midday and we have our lunch together. After travelling for a year and working in OZ for 6 months they are flying to LA tonight and then home to France in a few days. They have been lovely, we’ve really enjoyed spending time with them and we make some plans to holiday in one of the French ski resorts after Christmas and go and see them for a few days then.

They have their showers at our place and at 4 o’clock we walk down to the pier to say Au Revoir. We’ll miss them but I really hope we will see them again in France so I don’t feel too sad. The benefit of being the last of a group to leave is that we have scored 2 lots of sunscreen and some insect repellent!

I’m off to the bar now its beer time- quarter to 6 and I’m definitely ready for a Fiji Gold. We had a quiet dinner and sit chatting to the latest arrivals at the resort- two Irish girls Katrina and Rosheen. As it’s the Americans last night the staff perform the show we saw here last week. It’s very good and we enjoy it despite having seen it before.

Peterina the student coordinator sits talking to us over a beer. She tells us about the previous December’s coup and how when they reached the check points they would all open the windows and shout “bula” to the soldiers. She described how the soldiers would then sling their AK47′s behind their backs and shout and wave back. By all accounts it seems that even the day of the coup it remained extremely safe here and we have had the best time. We tell her that we had heard the Fijians are the friendliest people in the world and that we will be spreading that bit of information around when we get home.

Off to bed now it’s late and I really want to make an effort to do something tomorrow.

Cross Dressers

Oh my god we’re all feeling slightly weak this morning and although I didn’t drink too much, clearing up all the bottles from outside our room makes me feel a bit fragile. We all make breakfast apart from Maisie who scrapes her bum off the sheets at about 9.45 and has to make do with a bit of toast. Warrick and Amy left at 8am this morning, on their way back to Perth (The dark side as they called it) we really enjoyed them being here they were very young and mad and we had a great time.

Happily the Americans are going out for the day, island hopping, on a catamaran and it means the resort will be completely peaceful and half empty. Maisie new Fijian friend Gigi has also left today and it seems so quiet around the pool.

We laze about all day and meet at the bar for cocktails around 7pm. The entertainment fellas have arranged a “cross dressers” evening for the American’s and although we didn’t join in its highly amusing watching them prancing around in their thongs (Guys) we agreed that some of them conform perfectly to a stereotypical image of young American people- really loud, argumentative and a few are so rude and demanding. On the other hand they are full of enthusiasm for games, really competitive and fun to be around. They’re leaving on Thursday and although we will be pleased to be able to bag a sunbed and at least 5 minutes on the internet I will miss their rowdiness.

1030 Off to bed now- feeling tired and ready for sleep.

“The Malolo Sliders!”

Joe takes Ali’s guitar off to the mainland today and we decide to keep our fingers crossed that it returns repaired. If not we are kind of expecting that anyway so won’t be too disappointed. We feed the fish in the morning off the end of the pier and I lie for ages looking into their big fishy faces. The circle of life- we feed the fish our left over food, they get fat and end up on our plates and so it goes on.

After a quiet day by the pool the American girls come back and we decide its time to move to the beach. There is a bit of “them and us” situation developing now and although its very good natured they are so loud and over excitable that their screaming and running around is enough to have us all heading for a bit of peace. We find it perfectly, Warrick and Amy supply a bottle of Jim Beam and we sit with our fellow “Malolo Sliders Society” members(Us, Mairi and Kevin, Caroline and Lydiane and Warrick and Amy) on the beach watching the sunset and drinking whisky and cokes.

After a quick shower we meet at the 360 bar up on the hill, the students are eating up here tonight and then have a Pirates Night organised. Ali and Maisie join in enthusiastically and have dinner before all piling down to our room with a load of beers, a few bottles of wines and a few cocktails. We have a lovely evening, everyone gets quite pissed, Malley joins us later with his guitar looking frazzled after a day entertaining the Americans and we don’t get to bed until after 2am. We end the evening sat on the beach looking at the stars and promising we will try and come back to Fiji one day.

Hill Walk & New House

Simon and Ali got up early today to take part in a two hour hike to the highest point on the island. Patrina the American student co coordinator leads the walk and by all accounts they have a good time. When they get back around 10am I’m surprised to see they are completely knackered and filthy dirty, apparently the hike was fairly hard going and poor Ali suffered badly with his hay fever.

Maisie and I have had some breakfast and feeling guilty for my complete lack of exercise I decide to have a try in the gym. The gym area is on the beach and consists of a couple of bikes, a cross trainer and a rowing machine. Keeping in mind that I don’t want to exert myself particularly and do anything too strenuous I opt for half an hour on the exercise bike and leave it at that.

I ask at reception if it’s ok to start moving our stuff to our new home “Bure 6″ and when I’m given the ok get moving, Maisie and Mairi help me and it takes us about 20 minutes. It’s well worth it though. The new place is so so cool, with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms it’s massive and has lots of natural light. It’s also in a beautiful location, again right on the beachfront but with a long veranda out the front and a big patch of grass with coconut palms and a couple of hammocks.

I spend the afternoon lying on the grass outside our bure, it’s very peaceful and we love it here. When we talk to Mairi and Kevin later they tell us that the price for a one bed roomed beachfront bure was 450 Fijian dollars a night in 2005. The coup has definitely been a positive for us as we wouldn’t have been able to afford to come here .The normal rate for this place would be 690 dollars a night. (Without food) As we are getting it for the same rate as the other place – 50 Fijian Dollars each and all our food, we’re very pleased and well satisfied.

In the afternoon Caroline and Douglas an Aussie fella take the Hobi Cat out for a couple of hours and take Ali with them. He comes back having had a great time and plays volleyball on the beach with Simon and the fellas before collapsing in an exhausted heap.

We have dinner, a BBQ and then it’s the Hermit Crab Race again. When the winning crab No. 11 representing Wales is called with Ali as the owner we’re a little confused as we didn’t enter but it turns out that Malley has bought Ali a crab and entered it for him. Ali wins 19 dollars and is thrilled and touched by Malley’s kind gesture. We all sit having a few drinks and head off to bed around 11pm.

Kava Ceremony

The decision about Ali’s guitar has been made and Joe has offered us a free nights accommodation and food, a bottle of wine, the guitar is going to the mainland on Monday for repair which they will pay for and Ali is going to have some wake boarding lessons with Malley. We’re happy with this and think its fair compensation and as much as we can reasonably expect.

I expected it to be really quiet here this morning but there are lots of people around. At lunchtime a group of around 50 American students arrive. We knew they were coming so although it does turn this peaceful place into more of a party island we don’t mind. We sit talking to a couple of French girls, Caroline and Lydiane, they are at the end of their RTW trip and spent 7 months in Australia working and touring around. As they didn’t go to the East Coast its interesting listening to them chatting about the places they visited including Ayers Rock (Uluru).

In the afternoon Caroline takes Ali out in a kayak for some snorkelling just off the reef. Maisie plays in the pool with Appi and I lie frazzling in the sun. Simon has been playing volleyball and table tennis with the boys who work here but I haven’t so far been able to persuade my legs to do anything so energetic. I have got so brown since we’ve been here and I think it because it isn’t any hotter than around 30 it’s easy to lie there all day reading and listening to my MP3.

By 4pm my tooth is really hurting again. I have been managing the pain ok with 2 paracetamol in the morning and a couple of beers each evening but today it’s so painful and makes me feel miserable. I go and have a shower and as soon as it reaches a decent time- 5.30 head for the bar. Paul makes me a Malolo Slide (The best cocktail I have ever had and everyone here loves them) by 7.30 the pain is forgotten and we have a lovely evening with the other people staying here. A good mix, a drunken Aussie couple Warrick and Amy, Mairi and Kevin, Caroline and Lydiane, an American couple called Terence and Sarah, an English girl Michelle and us. Everyone has a lot to drink and I call home and chat to mum for half an hour in between.

At 9pm it’s the Kava Drinking Ceremony. It’s famous in Fiji and we have heard loads about it, the Kava roots are ground up and mixed with water to make what looks like muddy water which you then drink. It has a mildly narcotic effect and once Malley and Sunny have got all the American students sat on the floor I go over to have a look at what the Kava Ceremony entails. Apparently you should clap your hands once, say bula, drink a coconut shell worth and then clap 3 times. Well it tastes fairly non descript and only has the effect of making my tongue feel slightly anaesthetised. I’m surprised when Maisie says she want to have some but not surprised when Ali gulps his down. I tell Malley that Ali isn’t to have too much but despite this hear later he had 4 cups. I guess he’ll sleep well tonight.

The McCabes last day.

The first thing to do after breakfast is go and have a chat with Joe the resort manager about Ali’s guitar. Simon is worried as we don’t want to get Malley into any trouble and he makes it clear to Joe that we aren’t blaming Malley for what was definitely an accident. He says he wants to have a talk with Malley and we leave it that they will perhaps send it to the mainland and try and get it repaired. Everything here works on “Fiji time” and Simon is going to speak with him again tomorrow and try and sort something out.

We spend the day lazing by the pool and watching various people arriving. We thought it would be very quiet here today as lots of couples have left but a big group of Japanese people arrive and it’s soon fairly lively. Carol, Shane, Conor, Megan and Niamh pack up all their gear and we help them carry their stuff to the pier. At 4pm its time for them to go and we stand by the boat saying goodbye. We’ve had a lovely time with them and will miss them loads. We promise to go and see them in Portsmouth before Christmas once we get home.

Once they’ve left we have our showers and meet Merry and Kevin for a drink before dinner. It’s very quiet without the McCabes and we eat quietly with the kids. The Japanese group soon liven things up though and we sit laughing so much at them dancing around whilst Ali, Malley and Ziggy play the guitars. Very funny and exactly what we need to brighten us up after the upset of last night. I talk to one of the Japanese ladies about Japan and she tells me we should definitely visit there as it’s so beautiful.

We round the night off playing a game of guess the capital city by listening to the national anthems with two French girls and a drunken Australian couple and Simon wins us a cocktail voucher. Maisie is completely exhausted and I take her off to bed. Guess the Malolo Slide will have to wait until tomorrow.

Water Polo and Aqua Aerobics

Today started really well, we had our breakfast and after an hour or so sat chatting by the pool joined one of the entertainment fella’s Malley for an aqua aerobics session in the pool. The 4 guys here Malley, Ziggy, Sunny and Mel have been working really hard to make sure everyone has a good holiday and the 5 kids adore them. After a fairly placid kind of workout involving a bit of stretching and running around the pool we have a game of water polo.

Not a good idea for me as it turns out when I get elbowed hard in the mouth and end up with a split lip ouch! Still it recovers with a bit of ice application and Carol and I have a lovely afternoon sat watching the kids all playing around the pool. They have been joined by Appi one of the children who lives here and the gang of six seem to be having loads of fun. Simon and Shane take the sea kayaks across to the nearby Plantation Island telling us they’re off to check the talent out across the way.

We all meet for dinner in the bar early and have a few cocktails. The Malolo Slide is the scrummiest thing and Carol and I share that and a Fruit Daquari. We order dinner and are sat chatting with Merry and Kevin the lovely Irish couple that have been here a few days longer than us when we suddenly hear a huge bang. It turns out that Malley one of the entertainment guys has dropped Alister’s guitar and we’re completely distraught to see the head has almost completely broken off. Oh my god what a complete nightmare.

We now face a sticky situation, it was a complete accident and we don’t blame Malley at all. On the other hand it will cost us around 500 pounds to replace it. We talk it over with Shane and Carol and in the end ask Malley to talk to Joe the resort manager tomorrow and we’ll see what we can sort out. When we check our insurance policy we realise we will probably only be able to claim around 100 quid for it. What a bummer, Ali’s gutted, Malley looks distraught and its upset us all. I feel bad as Shane, Carol and the kids are leaving tomorrow and we wanted to make their last night special but it has cast a shadow over the evening for us.

11pm-off to bed now feeling tired and sad.