Having arrived on a Wednesday, my intention had been to stay here a couple
of days, have a good dinner, get some fresh food onboard, and get on with it
towards Tonga on about Saturday. However, there is a low-pressure system
approaching the Cooks, the winds will be contrary for a couple of days, and
Metbob advises staying put until Tuesday or Wednesday. So I join that
pastime which is well known to yachtsmen, hanging about in a small
harbour awaiting a change in the weather.
Rarotonga is the main island of the widely-dispersed Cooks, "main" being a
relative term for an island with a 19 mile circumference. It has a bit of
agriculture, but the main business is tourism, all of it Aus and NZ. The
locals look Polynesian but speak with a NZ accent. The currency is NZD.
Sitting in a busy restaurant with, at this stage, one's unaccustomed ear
beset by Antipodean voices, is a hoot, it's like living in a live comic
strip. The girls semi-glam, the chaps in wife-beater vests (here's cool: a wife-beater with a hood!), backward baseball caps and flipflops.
Well, give me a month or two.
I've had a few jobs to do on the boat, but other than that my only notable
activity has been the vaunted cross-island walk over the lush hills from N
to S. It starts and finishes on a good track through verdant small-holdings
and orchards. In the middle there is a steep climb, hard work but with a
terrific view from the top. Then the killer: the way down. This is a long,
steep scramble down slippery rocks, helped occasionally by well-positioned
ropes. Luckily it was dry, in wet conditions it must be lethal. I fell once,
not badly, but enough to sprain a wrist mildly and fear for the working of
the boat. The whole took four hours, and the track ended at the main road on
the Southern coast with a strategically placed bar, a cold beer, and a bus
back to Avatiu harbour.
A trip on the bus to Muri Beach, the centre of beach activities, and that's about it on this island. There's only one other yacht in, a 30ish foot double-ender with a charming young Australian couple who are heading for Palmerston Island.
Come Tuesday, the weather forecast is good for Wednesday, Metbob has given me a green light, and it's time to clear customs and immigration. This time I go to them, a half-mile walk into Avarua town. I also need to pay harbour dues here at the Harbourmaster's office, but I'll do the long bits first, six or seven forms to fill in, and catch the Harbourmaster when I come back to the boat. Immigration, two forms but no problem, passport stamped. Customs: they need to see proof that I've paid the harbour dues before I can get my clearance document. So walk back to the harbour, pay the dues, and walk back to Customs. Several forms, and the document will be handed to me on the quay tomorrow morning when I've said I'm departing. Total cost: NZD 256 harbour dues for 6 days' anchorage, NZD 69 departure tax for one person, and NZD 57 "officers' time". Add that to the NZD 151 that I paid on arrival, and visiting the people of Rarotonga is not a cheap occupation. At least it's all done with a smile, unlike the equivalent in the West Indies.
A visit to the supermarket, a loaded dinghy, lots of fruit looking no different to the stuff that was confiscated, and I'm ready for the next leg.
Best wishes to all, Donald.