Saturday, 13 October 2012

Island Escape

Back home from our tropical holiday in Rarotonga.  Cook Islands.  Perfect weather conditions - 25 - 26 deg.C and one day we experienced 32 deg.C.  What I call real Summer weather.  We felt so amazing!  Our little cabin set high up on a hill, overlooking the lagoon and fringed with palm trees, was basic but self-contained.  We fed ourselves on local fare - yard-long beans, eggplants, tomatoes, paw paws, bananas and of course, coconuts!  We shared a coconut a day, juice (some have nearly 1 litre fresh coconut water inside) and jelly meat.  Older coconuts had thick flesh which we scraped out and ate like lollies.  

Paw paws were bought by the box-full, $7 for about 15!  A local elder heard about our paw paw feasting, laughed and said: "Plenty paw paw, plenty poo poo!"  How true!  That's because paw paw or papaya is rich in dietary fibre as well as antioxidants. Papain and chymopapain are 2 enzymes which help break down proteins into amino acids, which means it is an excellent digestive aid.  We gorged ourselves silly, by-passing the processed and packaged foods of supermarkets.  There are plenty opportunities to buy freshly baked organic breads from the markets and some shops.  And this we had for lunches, with aged malt-tasting island honey!  

We experienced a couple of grumpy stall and shop holders, they must get so tired of tourists!  And just when we were thinking negative thoughts, we experienced island generosity that blew us away!  We bought some bananas $2 for about 10 from a stall holder and discussed making our own food rather than eating out.  We raved about the fruits of the island we were eating.  She proceeded to tell us her name was Kaierangi, meaning food or manna from heaven!  She then gifted us a paw paw each.  After gratefully accepting her gifts, she then picked up a bunch of yard-long beans and gave them to us.  I tried weakly to protest but was simply met with another gift of a huge firm eggplant - a meal for 4 in itself!  We were so humbled by that immense level of generosity!  Everything she had grown on her land!  We tried to look out for her again to repay her generosity but the next market day was raining and deserted of stall-holders.

Island fare
On the island, my own personal solar panels soaked up the vitamin D and sun-rays in gulps!  Being a sun-worshipper means I am  running on  severely low battery for about 8 months of the year in NZ!  Land of the Long White Cloud............... being back, catching up on building updates and the weather blues.  It is mid Spring, and cold and rainy.  A great welcome home!

Wigmore's Waterfall
I made some insect spray to take along - what a blessing, as mosquitoes can literally suck you dry!  Into a small 125ml spray bottle, I nearly fill it with filtered water, add a teaspoon gin (for preserving and an oil dispersant) and 5 - 10 drops of the following essential oils: lavender, geranium, tea-tree and peppermint.  I then add about 20 drops of citronella oil.  A quick shake before use and it has the most pleasant smell and does a fantastic job!  I never stick to a precise recipe - too boring!  Each time it changes.  Have just made up a new one for home use as we used it all up on our trip.

We took a 3 hour hike in the Takitumu Conservation Area and were very glad of the insect repellent!  Our guide, Tom, was 14 days off of his 80th birthday and we were all huffing and puffing up the mountain behind his easy striding.  We got to see the highly endangered Kariori bird or Rarotonga flycatcher, which is bright yellow as a juvenile, and turns grey later on in life!  What a thrill!

Below are some images of the flora we found.  I have no idea of their botanical name:
Reminds me of Crab Claws

Reminds me of a Thai temple
And of course the beaches and lagoon............ what sheer unadulterated bliss to lie soaking up the sun's rays and viewing the aqua waters and vibrant skies.  The sun is so bright that it reflects off the sand and water and literally hurts the eyes!!  What wonderful light if you were a painter...........
 We watched a wedding take place right in front of our eyes, as we lounged on deck chairs in the sand!

My daughter and husband did the snorkelling thing, coming back all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with descriptions of amazing fish they had encountered.  I was happy to view the posters of local tropical fish in a nearby roadside cafe!  I have never been adventurous, and to immerse my head under water and perhaps come face to face with something creepy is not my sense of fun!  So I watched them snorkel, from the safety of the sand!  I did however, have a couple of swims both in the lagoon and hotel pool!!  
I know,  a wuss!  But some of us have a low adventure threshold - 'tis me!
Muri Lagoon

Wedded bliss

Pretty little bridesmaids

Crystal clear water
And how is a tropical destination sustainable?  Forget the carbon miles, 3.5hrs flying time gets us to a holiday destination that sustains my sun-loving soul!  I can handle this gloomy Spring weather now, much better than before!  And financially, my husband puts a small amount of savings every week into a travel fund................ our holiday is paid for before we even take it!  It's preferable to flying now and paying later............ for the rest of the year, long after holiday memories have faded.

Next year we are planning a Fiji getaway.  We never did get there, after planning to go a few years back when 3 days before our flights, George Speight overthrew the government and we were advised not to go on account of travelling with children as it could have been unsafe!  Let's hope there are no military take-overs planned for next year July!

Before we left to Raro
Progress when we returned.....
In the mean time, we hope to spend some time in our solarium or sun room and think back to warmer times on the island...........  It's blowing a gale outside!  Come on sunshine!  I have seeds to sow and food to grow...........

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