Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Goodbye Ratotonga, Hello New Zealand

On Feb 2 we were greeted early in the morning, as usual, by the many roosters and dogs which are ubiquitous to the island.  We made our way to the airport, thanks again to Henry and said goodbye to Rarotonga.  What a beautiful island it is.  The hills and mountains thrust up in the island's centre and are covered in jungle growth, making it lush and very green.  The people are very warm and welcoming and live mostly by the coast.  The beaches stretch on forever and virtually encircle the island.  Despite the rain, we had a marvelous time.  Our bungalow was perfect for us, even without air conditioning.  In fact by the end of the week, air conditioning felt very cold.  I learned many things about the ways of the people and some of their history while I was on the Island.  They hold their ancestors in great regard and many of the homes have their graves in their front and/or back yards.  Our hosts have respected this and, in keeping with their customs, we placed leis on the gravestone of our host's father.  I also learned that rain, heat and jungle produce many mosquitoes.  Fortunately we were warned well in advance and we prepared ourselves for those times when the sun dipped below the horizon and the invasion began!  It was not unusual to see people with dozens of bite on their legs.  Thanks to forewarnings we escaped this! I shall remember Rarotonga with great fondness and left with sadness.

Our flight to New Zealand was smooth and comfortable.  It is bizarre to leave on one day and to arrive on the next a mere four hours later thanks to the International Date Line!  So before I knew it February 3rd was upon us.  Of interest on our trip were the extreme efforts New Zealand is making to control the unintentional importation of biological materials.  This extends to camping and hiking gear, of which we had both.  All bags are x-rayed upon arrival and the contents scrutinized to ensure that declaration have been made honestly.  If any items were not declared before the x-ray, a substantial fine is levied.  Camping and hiking gear is examined and cleaned , if necessary, of any dirt or other foreign objects.  We did not have a lot of time to get to our connecting flight, so an additional screening and cleaning could have made us miss our flight.  Fortunately we had taken the precaution of thoroughly cleaning our gear so we were able to get through quickly.  A quick flight from Auckland to Christchurch followed and we arrived in the early afternoon.  We found the rental agency for our prearranged vehicle and then Paul bravely drove, on the left hand side of the road-with me flinching and starting at every turn, to our new home for the week.  We were exhausted and made it to a local burger joint for a quick supper and then relaxed for the rest of the night in our new digs.

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