I don’t like going “its my favourite”, or “the best”. I guess I’m just indecicive. I justify it by the assumption one day it might be bettered. However I’ve been to Rarotonga twice. Its exceptionally good, and believe me I’ve seen a lot of places referred to as "Paradise".
The rock spire at the centre of Rarotonga
Rarotonga is the capital of the Cook Islands. They’re an independent country, but affiliated with New Zealand. Though they speak some Polynesian dialect, they also speak English. It’s a beautiful island. A relatively cheap island. Its an exceptionally friendly island. Its low hastle. I love it. Al and Chris love it now too.
Road Legal in Rartonga
It has some quirks, the most obvious being the driving licences. To rent a scooter in Rarotonga you need a Cook Islands driving licence. Its $10 New Zealand. Which is not the end of the world and it makes a wonderful souvenir. Now I’ve had 2 Cook Islands driving licences. I lost the old one. Cook Islands driving licence records aren’t computerised back to 1999. Meant not only did I have to get a new one, but this time they noticed I don’t have motorcycle entitlement. I had to take the test. The test involves driving around the block. Its probably impossible to fail. I got lost. I did stop at the stop sign but over the line. In my defence my scooter experience is:
- 1991 Sedbergh School Cricket pitch (I hot wired a scooter in the CCF REME).
- 1999 Rarotonga.
- 1999 Tonga.
- 1999 Vanuatu.
- 1999 Thailand.
That’s 5 trips out, 9 years ago. I also need to say the instruction turn left at the “Gas Station”. Gas Station? I’ve seen bigger garden sheds. The test consisted of left out of the Police Station. Left at the first junction left at the shed and left on to the main road. Ending up up with left into the Police station. Guess which of my indicators didn’t work? The right one was fine. Passed anyway.
Christian had no licence at all his was stolen, he’s all right now, he’s got a nice Cook Islands licence should keep him in scooter rentals till he gets home.
Waiting for my test (yes Idrove there), note the Cook Islands Police Cap
Off we blatted, possibly obeying the speed limit. I wouldn’t know. My speedo don’t work and my brain doesn’t estimate in kilometres, only miles and knots.
Like I said Rarotonga’s civilised, bearing in mind I define Civilised as places where a person can kill him self with his own stupidity without the government getting in the way. No seat belts or helmets, and the air conditioned back of a pick up is legal.
Mind you I’ve had a lift in the back Roy’s pick up from Brighton Sailing Club, wasn’t much fun. T’was midnight in January, and I had to hold on to Martin’s bike.
Alan has biked a lot, didn’t stop him driving around the island with his indicator on. We all did that a lot. I think it was Churchill* who said “Never in the field of human tourism has so much wrong indication been shown to so many by so few.” He also likes to boldly go where no scooter has been before. Up mountains, down caves, a rock strewn track 6 inches wide is fair game to him. The track was strewn with mosquito’s, and it was the wrong valley anyway. We were looking for happy valley. Good name. We were lost.
In the style of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Resteraunt”:
Let me tell you about the Island of Rarotonga, its got 2 stop signs, 2 police stations, one police pickup and one police bike” Its road system is, lets face it, not extensive. It consists of a few streets in Avatui, a couple of dead ends into the hills and a ring road around the edge. The ring road has 2 bus routes. Clock Wise and Anti Clockwise, which is exceptionally neat! We still got lost. Not that we cared much.
We followed up our off road excursion with a beer at Trader Jacks bar on the wharf and a trip round the island. Stopping for pretty places - ok on Rarotonga you'd never get anywhere if you stopped at the pretty bits, we stopped at the very pretty bits and for a swim and for a fuel false alarm, yep my scooter was a turkey, dodgy indicator speedo and fuel guage.
Knackered we returned to the boat and took it in turns to hold a laptop above our heads to get a wifi signal and skype people.
The night was a great time, we’ve not been able to afford to eat out since the Galapagos, so we went to the all you can eat Indian. With lashings of Lager.
The following morning started slowly. All you can eat curry and lager will do that. Al’s drunken attempt to re-wire the telly needed re-doing by me, Cook Islands telly isn’t up to much, one channel, but its mostly in English. We missed my name is Earl. It was playing in the restaurant. Instead we learned about the New Zealand elections.
On top of the Cook Islands
View from the spike
Whilst waiting for the others I located happy valley drive the road into the interior. Off we scooted, got to the top and went for an impromptu walk. The centre of Rarotonga’s is a rock needle. Quite high. Well for people who’ve walked very little due to being confined to a small boat most of the time. Al’s flip fops took a hammering. Fortunately the n-gin-er who bodged up a brush plate for our autopilot motor bolted them back together for him. Still we were blown by the top of the island. Walking up a ridge 1ft wide with near vertical rainforest either side who’s path is solid roots is a hell of an experience.
The view from the top was excellent. Both side of the island visible, with the surf crashing on the fringing coral. Sun and clouds making patterns on the blue sea.
Down we slid and clambered and in the stream we sat.
T’was Sunday, and the south pacific islands are universally pious, not much is open. Just the burger cabin on the dock, luckily for us as we were right out of gas. We had a burger, I watched Auzie league, blogged and drank gin and tonic with a movie.
Monday we needed to leave, with little fuel, food or booze, no gas and a broken autopilot to fix. Not to mention the scooters to return, and paperwork to complete.
All this with a 2 day extended hangover and no coffee. No gas remember!
The autopilot was an epic. Its steering now. It consists of a hydraulic pump and ram, all driven by a motor controlled by a computer. The motor’s brush plate had disintegrated, possibly due to a damaged commutater. Alan and I weren’t the first people inside that motor. The cockup may well have preceded us. To re-assemble we had to pull a bearing off, a job eventually accomplished by borrowing a battery post puller (possibly) from the garage across the road. That was followed by the re-assembly of the brush mountings to the plate Alan had had made out of an old sheet of fibreglass. Al spent a hungover hour scooting around for new carbon brushes.
The brush plate during re-assembly
still with the old brushes
These went in the vice at Raro Cars garage to be filed down by me to fit. All was re-assembled using the bolts from the old resister I soldered into the genny a few weeks back, the filed brushes in their housings mounted and soldered on. The end of the world nearly happened, when we were so close to rebuilding our motor. Two segments of the commutater were loose. We glued them back down, bodger fashion. The motor wouldn’t spin as the commutater segments were proud and stopped on the brushes. And now the stuck bearing was trapped and irremovable. By completely disassembling the motor (more tools from Raro Cars) we got it to bits again and filled down the commutater.
Commutater - GSCE Science you may have forgoton:
Electric motors consist of 2 fixed magnets.
Between the magnets are one or more coils of wire
As current flows through the coils it interacts with the
field between the magnets, rotating the coils and the
spindle they're attatched to.
Electrisity has, therefore to be transfered to the moving
spindle. This is the commutator. Metal contacts on the
ends of the coils surround the spindle.
Small lumps of graphite, called carbon brushes, are
mounted on springs in the case to make contact with
Errrr not sure how you spell "commutater" nor's word.
It works. It works. Joy oh joy, unless you’ve spent a hungover morning in a cockpit locker in stifling heat, covered in hydraulic fluid and graphite dust, basically re-building an electric motor (that was never built to be fixed) you won’t know the joy I feel. Believe me, I think I speak for Alan too, we’ve bodged before, I soldered the genny back together a few weeks back, that was the stuff of epics in its self, what with the blowtorch to heat the soldering iron and all, but this was bodging beyond any thing I’ve ever attempted.
The signs that that say “the impossible we can do at once, miracles take a little longer” are right, miracles to take a while
The autopilot is running, we’re full of diesel and lovely cook islands water (pitty Christian swam in the water supply), the gas is bubbling the coffee pot on the stove, the beer’s in the fridge, its steak for dinner and were off to Nuie. A tinny country I’ve never been to before. One small independent island in the great blue expanse of the Pacific.
*Not the bloody insurance dog you twonk.