The sweet sweet smell of Rarotonga















Into our fifth day at The Beach Place – fittingly right on the beach – at Tikioki, nestled between Muri and Titikavaka on the south eastern coast of Rarotonga.

We arrived to blistering hot sun, a lovely long afternoon walk along a tropical plant lined road, on a grassy footpath, up to Muri village shops in search of dinner. Car-less we had no way to buy fresh fish the day we arrived so we bought what we found in abundance, fresh green tomatoes, big green lemons and fresh green peppers. In a sparsely stocked shop further along we found red curry paste, a big can of tuna and a tin of coconut milk. Perfection for dinner on our beachfront picnic table.

The next morning we awoke to pelting rain on our corrugated iron rooftop. Immediately we checked the forecast. Pessimistically it predicted seven days of rain. So we picked up the phone to get our rental car a day early, and being sunday, to check we could drive without having first got our Cook Islands drivers licenses. No problems at all – they even came to get us and drove us up to their office to do the paperwork. 

So off we drove, around the island, remembering old spots, good snorkeling, nights out on the tiles with friends, good places for clothes, pina coladas at the Pacific Resort. 

And so our holiday began. 

Fortunately for us, someone must have brought the weather with them because after the day of rain the sun came out but not too much. Not too much is good when you’ve got kids at the beach. And also good because you can’t then long for endless hours of sunbathing and sipping cocktails, snorkelling and afternoon naps. 

That time would be now, but now I’m grown up afternoon nap time is for writing. Or tidying up. 

So, anyway. On Monday, we discovered the fresh fish shop – now known to us as the Mahi Mahi shop. I did bring cous cous from Harvest – not even realising I’d be able to make my famous mythical dish; cous cous, paw paw and mahi mahi. Every morning we all leap in the car and head up to Ocean Fresh for Mahi Mahi, although today sold out. Tonight we’ll have tuna and swordfish instead. With a big salad of fresh local produce. Just down the road from us, on the inland side, is a little outdoor shop down a short driveway – called “Fresh local fruit and vegetables”. Oh Oh! Beans, lemons, lettuce, red and green basil, courgettes, paw paw, watermelon, capsicums in abundance and how good it all tastes – it’s all miles better than the organic shop.

When we first arrived we asked the car rental lady where the best food was and she immediately said Cafe Ariki – which is up in town on the interior road – just by the Perfume Factory. So off we went one warm afternoon and straight into an undercover table, lovely and cool. They had the barbeque going, offering bbq pork, steak, mahi mahi with paw paw chutney, Astrid had a prawn cocktail which was astonishingly huge for $10. Mains averaged at $15. And pretty good they were too.

Usually we’d dine at The Flame Tree – however this time on the ‘now we are parents’ budget we’ve had to flag it although we did splash out $17 each for a Pina Colada at the Pacific Resort. No, this time we’re pushing the boat out on a local handpainted sheet and pillow case set. Never mind it’s a sheet and not a duvet cover – you don’t really need a duvet cover here; and if we need one I”ll just sew another sheet to it and put some buttons in to turn it into a duvet cover. 

We did a big tour of all the shops yesterday for bedspreads. We’d been advised the best places to go were the shop to the right of Island Craft in Town, and the shop called “Shop” that’s written on a stop sign just past the weather station out near the airport.

At the shop called “Shop” written on a stop sign a nice man from Lower Hutt I think it was showed us traditional applique style duvet cover and pillow case sets. These were about $400 for a king set. The shop to the right of Island craft had both the applique style as well as beautiful handpainted tipani bedspreads and pillow cases. They also had padded quilts which were applique handpainted designs – the full monty! These were I think around  the $425 mark. We’d also looked at Pacific by Design on the road into town (going anti-clockwise) but they were at the end of their stock and the shop seemed fairly expensive – although that said, their quality was great and they had some fabulous handmade dolls.

We’d still not found anything in our budget though and so back we headed this morning to the place we’d initially seen the bedspread we liked which was in our budget. A beautiful, purple, handpainted king sheet and pillow case set in two tones of purple. Yes, yes, yes and yes! And $150 from the touristy shop at the front of the Pacific Resort (I love the Pacific Resort – it’s a resort but it’s also got good taste). 

And the other brilliant fabric story is earlier on this week I’d bought a fabulous little bag for $28 in a shop called “1 skirt, 100 ways” that had loads of scooter bags out the front in beautiful bright hibiscus patterns and driving past I saw the perfect one in red and pink so over we pulled, out jumped Astrid and off we set to buy the bag. Astrid duly adopted the bag and we decided we really ought to find the fabric for a duvet cover for her. And this morning, at the bottom of a heap we jubilantly found the fabric – only five metres left – but only $2.20 a metre!!!!! And now it’s washed and festooning our gorgeous sunny porch.

Other culinary highlights were the discovery of a french bakery in town – heavens! And the best most wonderful lemon ricotta croissants – just out of this world – and the best coffee in town was at the Saltwater café, down in Titikaveka by the good snorkelling spot. Probably the best coffee I’ve had since The Market Coffee House in Spitalfields in London. The French bakery people also have a place called the Deli Something, in Muri – it’s in a metal prefab kind of building and they sell fabulous wines, proper feta, amazing baguette (ideal for freshy made tuna pate and locally grown cucumber canapes). 

The ice cream place next to the “1 skirt, 100 ways” shop has some pretty good local coconut ice cream also. Who needs tip top when you’ve got the local stuff we said – but apparently quite a few people are after Tip Top too.  

Last night a local told us there was a night market – mostly food – so off we duly headed to discover the Saturday market area filled with the smell of barbequeing food – sausages, chicken, pork – we headed to the chicken skewers that come with fried rice and mushroom (cream and a little bit of mushroom) sauce. Between us we shared a $9 portion – a delicious entree before we headed back home for our staple of fish and salad.

We’d been searching high and low for the wonderful pineapple duvet set we have where we’re staying and we decided we’d act upon a rumour we’d heard – and that was to visit The Treasure Chest up in town. Oh! And there they had stack upon stack of beautiful handpainted sheet sets and duvet covers. I wasn’t leaving until I’d found my treasure – and there it was, amongst two big piles of single sets – and in amongst three or more serious contenders. Astrid’s pineapple sheet set! And a lot of other brilliant ones – lovely hand painted and dyed tipani designs; breadfruit; hibiscus – all just how I like them – very little contrast, pink and red, purple and lilac and even a charcoal and white one, lovely.

They’ve all been washed and are hanging out in the sun, ready to go straight onto our beds when we get home tomorrow. 

Ah, the sweet sweet smell of Rarotonga.



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9 responses to “The sweet sweet smell of Rarotonga”

  1. no blog norma avatar
    no blog norma

    thanks for that, was a really lovely photos of the new goodies please ?

  2. binnie avatar

    It’s a far – and lovely – cry from November in my end of the world, where, in the space of 24 hours I recently used a rake, a snow shovel, and an umbrella. Thank you for this little vacation.

  3. Megan avatar

    Ah now. There’s a place to spend some time.

  4. CMN avatar

    Love love lovely post, Charlotte! Thanks for taking the time to write up it all up. Makes me wish I was there…

  5. lies avatar

    I am alive, I promise. Ah i can almost smell the sweet!

  6. di avatar

    Sounds like a fantastic holiday- a food and bedding adventure!

  7. lottie avatar

    you’re right not to be missing london – how could you when you have all this in your world. such happy travels.

  8. Jenny avatar

    wow, you are making Raratonga look very inviting. Like you I’m a Brit living in NZ. I’ve never been to Raratonga but those long months over June and July here have made it look like more of an option in the future. Looking forward to seeing more of your lovely pics

  9. lyn avatar

    Have to say those brownies look so good have to make some tomorrow, bugger the diet!

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