If you’re wondering why I didn’t post anything last week, it’s because I was in paradise. And in paradise, Internet access is eye-wateringly expensive. I was also too busy drinking cocktails on the beach. Poor me.
I was in Rarotonga, one of the Cook Islands, a country in the tropical South Pacific. It’s a very popular winter getaway destination for Kiwis. Indeed, just about every other tourist I met there was from New Zealand.
The reason is more than mere proximity. The Cook Islands are a four-hour flight from Auckland – (New Zealand is so far away from everywhere that your only cheap holiday destinations are Australia and the Pacific Islands) – but they’re also closely tied to New Zealand politically.
The country was a protectorate of New Zealand until the 1960s, and still uses New Zealand currency. Cook Islanders are automatically New Zealand citizens. (The population of the Cook Islands is approximately 20,000, yet over 60,000 Cook Islanders live in New Zealand.)
You don’t need a visa to visit, just proof of accommodation and a return ticket, and at least six months left on your passport. It’s so easy for New Zealanders to visit the Cook Islands. Everywhere you go, you’re blasted with advertisements for holidays there.
In the lead-up to my holiday, every time I saw such an advertisement I had to pinch myself – I was actually going! And it couldn’t have been more welcome. The last few weeks in New Zealand have been freezing.
Our flight to Rarotonga arrived in the early hours of the morning. The Cook Islands are twenty-two hours behind New Zealand, so whilst there wasn’t much jetlag to be had, living through the same day twice (then skipping a day entirely on the way back) was a little confusing.
Crossing the International Date Line involves too much mental exercise when you’ve been up all night! It’s bad enough filling in your arrival card when you’re in that state. I unsurely put down my profession as ‘writer’.
(I always get a thrill giving my job as ‘writer’. For so long, being a professional writer was my dream. Even though I’ve been getting paid for it for a while now it still seems unreal. Like I’m a fraud or something. The customs guy at Auckland Airport seemed to treat me with suspicion for it, anyway.)
The thing is, though, is you’re not legally allowed to practise your profession when you’re in the Cook Islands on holiday. This meant that every time I jotted down a story idea or made a note of the things we’d done, I was sort of breaking the law.
My partner pointed this out and named me a pirate writer. (A label I very much liked!) Beginning a new science fiction story whilst sitting in a hut overlooking the clear, turquoise ocean felt quite wonderful.
Landing in Rarotonga and finding it to be cosily warm was one of the best parts of the whole holiday. Several members of our party found the duty free cigarettes and alcohol to be just as exciting! Not so great was arriving at the resort to find that they’d screwed up our booking.
We had to spend the night in prison cell-like ‘emergency’ rooms with only half the number of beds we needed. (Well, apart from my partner’s dad. He was given the honeymoon suite!) But it was all sorted out the next day, so all good.
We decided to spend our first day in Rarotonga relaxing at the resort. I’d been looking forward to this so much. The last few weeks had been absolutely hectic and I desperately needed to spend a week relaxing.
The thing was, now I was here I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was wasting time. I was reclining beneath a palm tree and I felt like I should be doing something productive! It took a while – and a few cocktails – before I calmed down.
I started reading the first of Steven Erikson’s Malazan books and, I must say, I found the contrast between the resort around me and the gritty, gore-filled world of the book quite comical! The resort felt like it was inside a bubble of unreality.
Due to the expensiveness of Internet access, no news reached our party the entire eight days we were in Rarotonga. (Getting home to find Boris Johnson had been made UK Foreign Secretary and that there’d been another terrorist attack in France was like being hit on the head with a mallet.)
So there we were, festooned with flower garlands and strong, fruity cocktails, nicely sealed into our bubble of unreality, ready to begin our gently-paced adventure. I’ll save that adventure for next week’s post, though – there’s rather a lot to get through! Bye for now. Aere ra!