Visitors Guide G

Game Fishing

See Fishing.

Gay Scene

I usually can’t comment first hand on this one but there seems to be a fairly open gay scene. I was chatting with a gay guy in the Staircase Bar & Restaurant one evening and he introduced me to a friend called Phil. I extended my hand and he brushed that aside and gave me a kiss on the mouth. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or mildly shocked, but after a polite conversation I asked a nearby single female if she would like to dance. Phil cut in on the dance floor and said, “I’m sorry, I thought you were with us”, referring to his table of around eight male friends. I imagine, however, that some of the more religious islanders would consider homosexuality sinful.

Geckos

Geckos are small, harmless lizards with adhesive pads on their toes. Mostly nocturnal, they wander the walls and ceilings, cack-cacking, mating and keeping the mosquito population down. Repeat – they are harmless! I’m repeating that because of a resort that told me they had quite a few American tourists complaining that there were baby crocodiles in their room. I like the little critters – although one made a home in my computer once and made a real mess.

Geography

There are 15 islands that make up the Cooks with numerous motus (uninhabited islets). Some islands are raised atolls, some are volcanic in origin. Rarotonga is the only island with a dramatic mountainous interior. Rarotonga and Aitutaki have a surrounding reef that allows for safe lagoon snorkelling. The actual land area is small (around 24,000 hectares) but the islands are spread over 1.83 million square kilometers of the South Pacific.

Getting Around

The pace of the Cook Islands will seduce you and it’s a place that needs little concerted exploring. It somehow unfolds before you. This could be because of its size – Rarotonga, the largest island, only takes about 40 minutes to drive around (32km). There are ‘around island tours’ that take you along the inland and coast roads with informative commentary or there are two public buses (modern, clean 32 seaters) that do the circuit, one clockwise, the other anti-clockwise. You can also hire a car or scooter – you will need to go to the police station in Avarua to get a licence. A licence costs $20 and it only takes a few minutes depending on how many other tourists are in the queue. This is only a revenue raiser so look on your licence as a cheap souvenir. The station closes for lunch from midday to 1:00pm. You may be able to get a temporary licence from your hire car company for a couple of dollars if you have a current NZ or overseas licence.

Driving is on the left-hand side of the road and the speed limit is 40km per hour, which is plenty fast enough. There are very few footpaths so you will encounter pedestrians, dogs and chickens along the side of the road. Common sense and the law dictates that you should wear a helmet while on a scooter but you will certainly feel out of place wearing one because no one else will have one on. When the authorities tried to enforce the law there was an outcry from a women’s lobby that protested that helmets would stop the tradition of wearing your best hat to church on Sundays and policing the law disappeared into the ether. Be careful if driving/riding on Friday nights because there’s every chance that other vehicles on the road are being operated by drivers who are too drunk to walk. You can also hire pushbikes (no licence required) and there are no real hills to worry about if you stick to the coast. Or you can walk. Once you have acclimatised to the humidity (only takes a day or so), walking can be a very rewarding way to soak in the atmosphere and chances are a local will pull over and offer you a lift. If you are feeling a bit hot and are in the mood for a chat, hop in. Air Rarotonga operates services to the other islands. If you only get to one, make it Aitutaki. Getting around Aitutaki is also easy – you can hire a scooter, bicycle, 4WD or take a tour.

Golf

There are nine hole golf courses on both Rarotonga and Aitutaki and they are pretty much weekend hacker type courses but they are fun and green fees and club hire costs are low ($20). On Rarotonga dodging radio towers can come into play (compulsory replay). The colonial style bar at The Rarotonga Golf Club is a pleasant spot for a cold beer (closed Sundays). Booking s recommended for Saturdays and there is an annual tournament in September. Phone 20 621. The annual tournament on Aitutaki is held in October and booking isn’t essential for the rest of the year. The course runs beside the airport (which is considered out of bounds). Green fees and club hire will set you back $10.

Government

There are 25 sitting members (eight cabinet ministers) in the Cook Island’s parliament, which is based on the Westminster system. This may sound small but it could actually be a case of over-government with each member representing around 600 people. If this ratio was universal, Australia would have 33,000 members of parliament, New Zealand would have 6,600 and the United States over 480,000 politicians. The head of the Cook Islands government is the Prime Minister. Most members are male although, at the time of writing, locals were predicting a female PM after the upcoming elections. This wouldn’t be a shock to the system because Gender is irrelevant for all land and chiefly titles. The outer islands each have a Chief Administrative Officer. Visit www.cook-islands.gov.ck.

Guide Books

For an ideal travelling companion try Moon Handbooks Tahiti including the Cook Islands. Designed to serve both independent travellers and those based at a specific resort, the “Moon Guide” contains detailed descriptions of most places to stay and eat in The Cook Islands (including outer islands). You’ll find transportation timetables, dive shop listings, sightseeing information, website reviews, internet cafes, political commentaries, etc. To learn more, visit the author’s personal website at and buy your copy before arriving in Rarotonga as they’re not sold there. It also makes for a good read on the plane on the way there.

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