The current cruisers' information has been encouraging cruisers to skip Raro altogether given the steep exit fees ($50 per person) and mooring costs (about $3 per meter per night for a multihull) plus the fact that produce and meat is confiscated and they fumigate your boat. While the exit and tie-up fees still hold true, the rest does not. We were boarded only by the immigration official who likely would have preferred to conduct his business on land (but he had no choice as Harrison picked him up in the dinghy). The health inspector only asked if we had bugs on board and if anyone had been sick, while the customs guy simply asked us not to bring any fruits or veggies off the boat. I've carried an aloe plant and a basil plant all the way from Mexico and so far both are doing fine. Because there are so many cruisers avoiding the place, we are only one of 3 boats here on the island of 15,000 people.
On the other hand, there is a major harbor construction project going on, so it does get noisy during the day, and there is a lot of dust. While we haven't done any grocery shopping yet, we did stroll through a grocery store and found the prices to be slightly less than French Polynesia. I was pleased to find, however, that the restaurants are much more reasonable - we had a great Thai meal yesterday evening at Bamboo Jack's and I was grateful not to have to cook another meal after the 5 day passage.
So far, it's been well worth the stop. The beauty is similar to that of the Society Islands with gorgeous steep volcanic mountains covered in lush green vegetation. The culture is similar - laid back Polynesian hospitality and roots in the Marquesas Islands. It is interesting that Cook Islanders are the ancestors of New Zealand Maori, and their native language is similar to Maori. On the other hand, everything here seems that much more familiar as all is conducted in English - the Cook Islands are loosely associated with New Zealand although have an independent government for their internal affairs. That's not to say we understand it all: some of the heavy New Zealand accents seem like they have a Cockney edge to them.
We haven't found internet yet, so photos will have to wait - and we're not sure we'll find internet before we leave. We plan to be here about 4 days before our 8 day passage to Tonga.
Avatiu Harbor in Avarua, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
At 8/9/2011 06:36 (utc) our position was 21°12.28'S 159°47.10'W
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