A Travellerspoint blog

Paradise found

Ripping Raratonga

sunny 27 °C
View RTW2paradise on ledsmith's travel map.

So now in the Cook Islands – this is definitely what you imagine the South Pacific Islands to be - and the sun has come out! A very small island – you can drive around the perimeter in an hour at the 30mph speed limit – beautiful white sand beaches ringed with palm trees – and all surrounded by a reef off shore so that there is incredible turquoise blue water all around and up to the reef. Then the interior is steep and mountainous deep green jungle, and all mysteriously shrouded in mist and clouds – very Jurassic Park.
Everything is clean and neat and tidy – apparently no severe poverty here – beautiful flowers and trees everywhere and even the capital – very small – is only a collection of neat shops and a restaurant or two! The islanders are all New Zealand citizens – with NZ social security – which probably accounts for a lot – however conversely clothes etc are quite expensive and handicrafts are not as cheap as in other places!
The hotel is great – not too big – with little houses – with bedroom, living room, verandah looking over the pool and kitchen ( although not using the kitchen!!) – and all surrounded by beautiful gardens, flowers and trees – hibiscus flowers in every imaginable colour, red, pink, yellow, white, orange and loads of different palm trees! Also lots of beautiful smelling flowers – frangipani etc so that you get the scents in the evening.
At first we wondered if a room looking over the sea would have been better – but then heard that the incredibly loud roaring sound of crashing waves for 24 hours a day and the strong wind through the trees did not make for a relaxing sleep at night – so we were happy to be where we are where the crashing sounds are only in the background - although we are still very close to the sea!
So far we have mooched, and sunbathed – did some diving which was OK but not as amazing as expected – the knock on effect of a passing cyclone which seems to have followed us from Bali – to Fiji – to here! Incredible underwater visibility is meant to be the thing here but not on this trip. Plus passing hump back whales – but only in July/ August – so we did not choose the season very well!
Now getting to the stage where we are losing track of days – but very aware that time is passing quickly and that this is the third week now!

Posted by ledsmith 00:48 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (1)

Raging Raratonga

this might be paradise, if the wind and rain stop!

all seasons in one day 28 °C

Arrived last night. Just lived Sunday 5th for the second time after crossing the dateline during the flight here. Looks like paradise and had a good morning exploring and taking the 'clockwise' bus from NW of Island where we stay to more sheltered SE.
But raging surf on our side, and wind and rain really set in from 3pm. We are suffering on the periphery of Cyclone Jasmine but hopefully it will improve. Place is just wonderful. Small is beautiful, and a long way from home Toto.

Posted by ledsmith 00:20 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (0)

Fiji Fun

more rainy days in paradise

rain 28 °C
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Third and fourth days in Fiji have been fun despite the near continuous rain and leaden skies.

On Friday we went on a trip by powered longboat up the Navua River, visiting a village for local cultural traditions, handicrafts and ‘lovo’ lunch. Then on upriver to view and swim at a waterfall in the gorge, followed by bamboo rafting and the boat trip back. All very beautiful and interesting but it made little difference to be in or out of the water; at least the rain is warm. But a break in the weather for happy hour at our hotel and the most amazing sunset ever seen on the planet!
Saturday and early morning nerves before the shark dive. All the rain has silted up the bay and so the visibility underwater was very poor. Two dives, standing or sitting on the bottom (24m and 16m) watching guys hand feeding sharks 2-3 metres away as that was about as far as we could see. Imagine large (I mean really big!) bull sharks coming out of the gloom three at a time and then turning away in front of you. Also lemon sharks and nurse sharks swirling around at knee level, plus a huge ball of other fish looking for food. All this plus a really strong current from surface down to 15m. It was well organised and it was ok, but in my view the conditions were at the very limit of what they can do safely. Still we live to tell the tale (and show some foggy video!).

Quick tour of the markets and curio shops in capital Suva after the dive, but the weather really socked in and its not one of the great tourist capitals of the world, though we could not really do it justice.

Posting from Auckland airport waiting for the flight to the Cook Islands. Will this be paradise? (I’m afraid the weather may not improve much as the whole South Pacific seems to be sitting under a huge weather system. Hey ho, just bought some rum in duty free!)

Posted by ledsmith 18:34 Archived in Fiji Comments (4)

Florifurous Fiji

Rainy days in paradise

rain 27 °C
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late posting, Sunday, Auckland airport (internet problems in Fiji)

The end of our second day in Fiji. Arrived here about 7.15pm on Tuesday after a 4 hour flight from Sydney. On arrival Smith’s Tours swung into operation again as we picked up a car and self-navigated two hours along the coast to our hotel in the dark and rain. Luckily the navigator stayed awake and we arrived without mishap, despite the 4km goat track that descends to our hotel.

Fiji is friendly, verdant, beautiful and full of flowers but it keeps raining! The first morning we went diving under heavy skies, just out from our hotel which fronts onto a shallow lagoon surrounded by reef and drop off. An interesting reef but the visibility was disappointing, though not surprising given all the rain and nearby rivers. We then went exploring by car, west along the coast, checking out other places for diving (and shopping).

Despite dire weather forecasts it was calmer and drier this morning (Thursday), with glimpses of hazy sun. Low tide so we walked our beach, ventured in the next door village, took some sun between showers and snorkelled in the lagoon. Explored east in the afternoon, taking in views of the coasts, the Sigatoka river and remains of a 19thC cannibal hill fort (and some shops). Passed several upmarket resorts but dined in splendid isolation in an independent restaurant right on the beach. Exploration inland planned for tomorrow via a river and rafting trip, and a famed shark viewing dive booked for Saturday. Fingers crossed the sun comes out for a little longer.

Posted by ledsmith 18:28 Archived in Fiji Comments (0)

Sydney Skylines

Let me take you to a gay bar

sunny 30 °C

So a full last day in Bali; our tour to Ubud took in a Barong dance performance – pretty good, shame we could not understand the jokes – and a Batik workshop and ‘hangar’. Then Ubud itself, the Tunbridge Wells of Bali. Shame all the creativity and spiritualism has been buried under commercialism and the tourist dollar, but of course we are part of that. To be truthful its very disappointing for a day trip, but it would be worth staying there for a couple of nights to have time to get under the surface when the tour buses are not around.
Night flight and 7am arrival in Sydney. Spent the first day (Sunday) exploring Old Sydney and the sights of the bridge and Opera House. Then Chinatown and Darling Harbour in the evening, the latter being a recent development of bars and restaurants, complete with Chinese New Year fireworks.

Monday and the Manly ferry. The main surf beach at Manly was closed for swimming because of the wind, waves and currents but we walked around the bay to a sheltered cove to swim and sunbath. Back to hotel to cool off, then a Smith’s tour of the redlight district of Kings Cross and according to guidebook cool Paddington was only partly successful in finding the hotspots. Nice Italian dinner in the Rocks (Old Sydney) to finish our time here. Time to pack and have a quick stroll in the morning, then a midday flight to Fiji (can’t wait).
Lynn’s notes - a few days to catch up on!
On our last full day –Diving in the morning - had a reflexology massage – I thought reflexology was feet only – but this seemed to be feet, hands, head and all. I had been led to believe that with reflexology you would get great insights into your health ( your left shoulder is hurting etc!) however not so! It was however very painful – so not quite the relaxing treatment that I had imagined – and although done in a fantastic setting in a little hut by the sea – instead of the gentle sound of waves – it was extremely windy so we had the crashing of waves which shook the whole area – an experience nevertheless!

Dinner at the hotel – was the special Seafood Dinner – with about 10 dishes – each better than the last – and all presented in the most amazing style – and all for the princely sum of £20 per person! A great meal to end on!

Ubud – Final day - lots of interesting shops and not long enough to really explore – really unusual as where there were gaps between shops , you could see pure jungle – valleys, huge trees vines etc. The Batik workshop was really interesting and really good prices although I did not realise that till later on! As the handicraft centre of Bali – there were areas full of wood and stone carvers – with the most intricate carvings, and areas of batik, and silver and gold workshops. Also in Ubud the strange fact of having large monkeys wandering around on the streets and between shops. The area around Ubud is full of spas etc – so would be good to stay at another time! Could not stay too long as we had to get back to the hotel to pack up and go the airport for the flight to Sydney……….shame!

Flight was about 5.5 hours – and as they were older planes with no inflight entertainment screens they handed out IPad’s loaded with films and TV’s – so the time passed quickly – although no sleep that night! Immigration into Sydney is a bit of a stress as they are paranoia about bringing in food etc – fortunately a friend at the hotel is taking back my bag of fresh spices to the UK, otherwise they might have been confiscated!

Sydney – the hotel is in a brilliant position right next to the harbour bridge and close to the Opera House.
However the costs are a bit of a shock after Bali – especially when the cost of a snack is more than the best gourmet meal that we had at the hotel in Bali – so takes a bit of getting used to! Main courses are generally between 25 – 40 Australian dollars and there is not much difference between the dollar and the pound – to give you an idea! We are in the Rocks area with lots of local markets with interesting things – however the clothes and jewellery are actually more expensive by a long way than in the UK –- a victim of the exchange rate , so I have been very abstemious ! - Fortunately we are not here for long! Feet are very sore – as we have walked for miles around everywhere –usual “Smiths tours” - so looking forward to Fiji!

Posted by ledsmith 04:23 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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