Cook Islands Stories and Tips

Tiny capital city -Avarua

Avarua, the capital city of Raratonga and the whole Cook Islands:

Avarua has to one of the smallest capital cities I have visited but when you realize the entire population of the island is only 14,000 by comparison, Derby has a population 0f 220,000 it is not that surprising. The city had a few restaurants, shops, small supermarkets and two banks plus a tourist office but not a lot more.

On Saturdays there is a great market called Punanganui which we spent about three hours wandering around. It sold everything from cloths, local food, fruit and vegetables as well as local crafts, pictures, fabrics and the famous South Sea Island black pearls . As well there were several areas where people and sang and performed local dances which was most entertaining. It was quite crowded but so crowded that you were not able to see the performances or get to look at the stalls. The little local bus the circuits the island dropped you off at the market and then you crossed the road to get the bus back to our hotel.

There was a tiny museum housed in the same building as a very basic library. We did go in but when we had a peek there was so little in there and we had to pay so we decide we wouldn’t bother as it really was pretty pathetic as museums go. More interesting we found outside three volcanic stone sculptures with a number of carved boards depicting various legends/tales of the islands.

Not far from the museum was the university and then coming back a bit more into the city we came across an old rather run down building which turned out to be the "Para O Tane Palace" the place where Makea Takau, a Paramount Chief, signed the treaty accepting the Cook Islands status as a British protectorate in 1888. This is now rather uncared for and considered unsafe so you can’t go in but the gardens are really rather lovely to walk through.

At the corner of this road is the Cook Island Christian Church and the Papeiha Stone, named for the first person to preach the Christian gospel in the Cook IslandsThe church itself dates from 1853 and it does have quite a nice graveyard with a number of missionaries and Cook Island chiefs buried there.

As we meet the main road again we notice another lovely looking building which is called the Beachcomber gallery. We while we were sitting enjoying our coffee that this was originally built by the London Missionary Society as a Sunday School hall and has been done up and converted into this rather lovely local art gallery, shops and a café..
Walking back in Avarua you come across the seven-in-One Coconut Tree, a group of trees growing in a perfect circle of their own. It is reputed that they've grown from the same seed.This group of trees in just near the main roundabout in Avarua.

Just off shore there is the remains of the SS Matai, owned by the Union Steam Ship Co. This unfortunate ship was carrying a load of Model T cars when it was wrecked on Dec. 24, 1916. I’m not sure if they got all the cars off and from the shore there really isn’t much to see but it is now a popular spot for snorkeling and diving.

If you want to see the House of Parliament then you need to drive out of Avarua towards the airport and keep going. This very unimpressive building is just alongside the road which is parallel to runway. This extremely modest House of Parliament fits the peaceful laid back atmosphere of the island and was apparently formerly the hostel for the construction workers of the airport in 1973. Blink and you would miss it.

That is Avarua. A tiny little capital city with a warm heart. There is enough to see and do to fill a morning of sight seeing looking at these things I mentioned. The shops are okay, great if you want to buy some pearls and there are a number of cafes which all look very pleasant. The restaurants also looked great but as we were more than happy with our restaurant on the beach at our hotel we didn't try any of these but we did enjoy our coffee in the Beachcomber Gallery.

So there you are a walk around Avarua on Raratonga.

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