Steve backdropped by The Needle
Traming to the highest point on Raro Te Manga
Protect my head from the beach horses!
Coral Castle
Friendly sea cucumberAmie untangling a noisy goatDigging in the sandSummiting Te MangaRural EntertainmentGreat views after thick jungle hiking

Rarotonga is the capital Island of the Cook Islands, a little string of islands in the South Pacific. To get here, we had to fly through Tahiti…not a bad deal! The island is so small (32km around) that when you climb up it's highest peak at 556m or so, you get a panoramic 360 degree view. Stunning.

We've never been in such a laid-back atmosphere before. For being such a beautiful place with a lot of visitors every year, the islanders sure don't go out of their way to help tourists. I think that's what's so appealing about the island. It hasn't fallen prey to near as many tourist traps as other island paradises. Stores close at 6pm, restaurants and coffee shops are closed by 9pm (or "until late") and nothing's open on weekends. It's a very family-oriented island.

There were a few things we noticed about the island right away namely, no traffic lights. Not a single one. Just two roundabouts that threw us for a few loops that's for sure! There were also goats tied up everywhere in people's back yards, onto street signs and advertisements, and tethered to just about anything imaginable. You name it a goat was probably tied there.

Before we rented our motorbike, we had to hitch rides a lot…it was a method of winning against a very expensive transportation system…$3 per ride on the local bus – which really adds up after a few days of needing to go to town!

Raro has many gods. Namely the phallic demi-god Tongaroa. Apparently he's the god of fertility on the island. Check out the picture of him and you won't wonder why any longer. We just couldn't get away from him…he was everywhere and such an integral part of the island that we had to go out and buy our own little statue of him for our house.

We spent a lot of time on the beach…trying to become bronzed stallions. We snorkeled, swam and sunned ourselves. We even buried Steve up to his neck in the sand…probably not the safest thing to do, but it certainly was an afternoon island adventure that's for sure! Until…a group of horseback riders came galloping down the beach. There was no way Steve was getting out of there on time, so I had to sit by his head to protect him. It shouldn't have been a problem, except that one guy couldn't get his horse under control and was running straight to us. All of a sudden we heard one of the ladies yell out "Watch the lady!" (In a British accent) and then a squawk when she finally saw the live head that was smiling under my arm. Somehow the wild rider managed to swerve out of the way in time. And Steve and I are still married and didn't fall prey to a nasty Honeymoon catastrophe.

Our second last night on the island we checked out Polynesian dancing…can those people dance! Picture coconut bikini tops and grass hula skirts on the girls and bare-chested men wearing hula/loin cloths and feathered headdresses. The music was amazing and the whole evening was definitely worth the small price we paid to go!

-Amie-

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