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Monthly Archives: August 2017

Rarotonga - From one Island Paradise to Another

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 20, 2017

There is a recurring theme from many of our guests at Breakers Boutique Accommodation when I ask them how long is their holiday – three weeks, four weeks, even six weeks in NZ but finishing with a few days on a Pacific Island, predominately Rarotonga.  Well say no more – for us this is a no brainer, we have to check it out and make sure it is the right thing to do…… it’s a hard job but really someone had to do it……

Flying in we get an immediate sense this was the right thing to do.  You can see the whole island from the plane window at only 32 kilometres round and surrounded by crystal clear lagoon waters with the reef protecting it from the crashing waves from the sea.  Oh this is going to be bliss.

Now your trip to Raro can be as relaxing or active as you like.  Best thing is you don’t need to pack much.  Remember though it is an island with towering mountains in the middle so you can expect rain and in fact should expect rain at some stage.  You may not get any but I like to work with the rule of thumb – have a rain jacket and you won’t need it, don’t take one and it will rain.

This is our third visit to Rarotonga so we know our way around pretty well.  We like to be self-sufficient and book our accommodation through Rentraro.  They have properties all over the island that they manage and there is something for everyone and every budget.  This trip we chose a little one room bungalow – called Lyas on the South side of the island in Titikaveka and the sub-village of Tikioki.  This area has possible the best beach for swimming and is a renown snorkeling area – well just along the road anyway.  We made a point of lazing in the waters every morning and every evening.  A great way to start and finish our day.

One thing we have noticed during our visit to Raro is an increase in tourist population – this meaning an increase in vehicles on the road.  The first year we came it was predominately scooters – the favoured choice of transport for the locals and used to be for visitors too.  Unfortunately there are now numerous car hire options – can’t say I’m a fan and don’t think it is necessary.  Part of the appeal of the island is riding around on your scooter – with a speed limit of 30kms and 50kms you don’t really need a car to get anywhere.  That would be my main recommendation – hire a scooter, be like a local.  They are super cheap to rent and the price of petrol is bordering on ridiculous.  Think it cost us $5.00 to fill ours.

We also hire a mountain bike when we visit.  The roads are generally flat, if you head inland you might find a hill or two but the main outer road is flat the whole way round.  It pretty much follows the lagoon waters too so you get great views and can stop anywhere you like for a cooling dip in the waters.

There are plenty of eateries on the Island – again something for every budget but generally pretty inexpensive.  A popular item on most menus is a fish burger of some sort – think I’m in heaven.  We were lucky enough to be based right across the road from Charlies – a popular eatery with locals and visitors alike (you’ve seriously got to try their fish sandwich).  You can also hire paddle-boards and snorkeling gear here too.  There are other places dotted around the Island so options aplenty.

Another must do eating option would be the Muri night markets.  A great selection of local fare often complete with local entertainment.

We’re not big into fishing trips, pub crawls, diving, snorkeling, island nights or other tourist based activities.  That’s just us but there are plenty of those options for if you wish.  For us it just about a slow pedal around the island on our bikes or a walk along the beach – or a hike up the Needle.  Personally I think a hike up the Needle is a must do for everyone.  It is portrayed as strenuous but it isn’t really that bad.  Oh sure you will be huffing and puffing and probably taking lots of breaks on the way up but that’s ok, you’re on island time, there is no rush.  It may be super slippery after rain so do take good care – is very tree rooty, so much so in places it’s more like climbing a ladder…. I’m probably not selling it to you so far.  But we get to the top in less than 40 minutes – so take deep breaths and go for it.  The views are worth it – although in saying that follow the signs to head down the other side – but only for five minutes – literally to the top before you start the real descent.

You’ll know where I mean when you get there – there the views really open up for you.  You can carry on down to the waterfall if you want – it is was our plan this year but we’d recently had heavy rain making the ground super slippery and last thing we needed was a visit to the hospital so we played it safe and went back down the way we knew (town side).

So this isn’t our usual “this is what we’ve been up to” blog posting.  This is more an information based blog – hopefully helping you make an informed decision about what to see and do if you visit Rarotonga.  In summary:

The island is around 32kms round – split into West, North, East and South – easy eh!  West side is sunset side with coral based beaches.  We stayed this side first visit and while loved it for the sunsets didn’t find it the best for swimming as quite windy and a rocky shoreline. North is the more touristy side – home of Muri for all your water sports and main tourist based activities.  Huge amount of accommodation and eateries.  East side for the sunrise and possibly least windy side.  Renown side for snorkeling – the tourist trips all end up bringing their groups out to this side.  South side – possibly least rocky side of island, less touristy/busy but prettier for walking/biking as predominately following water line for duration and best side for swimming.

Accommodation:

Self booking/self catering check out Rentraro.  We’ve always dealt with Eddie and he is super informative and helpful.

Hotels:

West side – Edgewater Resort, Sunset Resort; North side – Club Raro (between town centre and Muri), Pacific Resort – right in the heart of Muri; nothing really more residential and holiday homes with exception Little Polynesian but super expensive – if you can afford it though I’d be going there for sure – what a spot!; South side – The Rarotongan.  If we were going to stay in a hotel style accommodation I’d be opting for The Rarotongan due to its location on the South side of the Island.

There are numerous other options, the above are just a small selection of the main hotels.

Transport:

Hire a scooter but if you have to hire a car…… hire a mini convertible – you might as well look cool!  We use Polynesian Bike Hire for both our scooter and mountain bike rental.

Hire a mountain bike.  We opted for the jumbo bikes – fat tyres and while you’re not doing any off-road as such the roads are in such poor condition for the most part the fat tyres give you more comfort.

Church – a must do when visiting Rarotonga is attending a Church service.  Aside from beautiful buildings these are wonderful to attend and listen to the locals singing – nothing short of heavenly (I know but it couldn’t be helped).

Finally.  Explore – take the inland route, especially round the south side of the island, so lush and green.  Take the little gravel back roads – they usually eventually end up back on the main outer route but you’ll get to see where all the fruit/veges come from, get away from the traffic and can even discover some seriously cool rock-pools ………..

or hidden hideaways to just sit in wonderment.

Most importantly – relax, it is the very reason you’ve come here.  Take off your watch, turn off your phone, unplug, get outside, immerse yourself in nature – you will be more connected than ever

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy sharing their experiences with their guests and helping ensure they make the most of the travels to this part of the world – no matter where the Island paradise…….


The Road Less Traveled - Taking a Drive through Untamed Natural Wilderness

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 11, 2017

It is so easy to get caught up with following the mainstream – be it in everyday life and including a road well-traveled.  Sometimes we like to get in the car and just go for a drive – nowhere in particular.  Recently we decided to head out for a drive into the Grey Valley – Heart of the West Coast back country.

Can’t confess to be completely on a “let’s just drive mission” – we did have a general plan – sort of.  We headed out the Grey Valley turning off towards Nelson Creek and out to Lake Haupiri and beyond.  The road just keeps going – on and on deep into back country farm land.  There was just us and lots and lots – did I mention lots,  of dairy cows.  Their backdrop isn’t bad though – surrounded by natural untamed wilderness with hills covered in NZ native bush and intertwined with gurgling rivers and streams.  Almost seems unfair for them to practically have this backdrop to themselves.

Eventually, given the rainfall of late the road got a little mucky even for us – we sure didn’t want to risk getting bogged down out in the middle of no-where.  Oh we had passed a few farm houses but still feels like the middle of no-where.

We turned back and made a bee-line for Lake Haupiri which we had driven passed on route.  It was spitting the first time round and now – well I can’t say the skies had cleared but it wasn’t spitting.  In fact it was picture perfect.  Not a breath of wind affording us fabulous reflections – both of the surrounding untamed countryside and the moody clouds hovering above the mountains.

Was one of those moments in time where you could just stand there and reflect – excuse the pun, on the fortunes of life bringing us to this little slice of paradise.  Many say we are lucky to live here – in fact we often say it ourselves but in retrospect we choose to live here, we love the West Coast, we love the Grey District – we love the untamed natural wilderness and that doesn’t mean getting lost in a dense forest or climbing a mountain but untamed and natural – a wilderness almost as God created and where when it has been touched by man, nature soon returns to her natural beauty.

Next time think about taking that road less traveled – you never know the journey it may lead you on and the beauty you will discover.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They love nothing more than getting out and about and exploring the region and everything it has to offer.


Kiwi meets Kiwi - Paparoa Wildlife Trust

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 06, 2017

Stephen and I get to experience some pretty cool things living on the West Coast.  With our vast varying scenery – mountains, sea, rivers, lakes, native bush and oodles of history.  Our latest experience though would have to rate up there as one of the most fantastic we’ve done yet – and it is going to be hard to beat n the future.

We recently had the opportunity of meeting a real live Kiwi.  Yes folks Kiwi meets Kiwi.

In the back of Greymouth at the base of the Paparoa mountain range is a Kiwi crèche.  Set up by the Paparoa Wildlife Trust the crèche is the holding ground for juvenile Great Spotted Kiwi (Roroa in Maori).  The Great Spotted Kiwi are the largest of the four species of Kiwi and the most endangered.

We met Jo, the Trust’s dedicated Kiwi Ranger at the crèche together with another couple  – Alvin and Bev both originally from the West Coast, Reefton and Hokitika respectively but now living in Australia.  Jo explained the intricacies of running the crèche and keeping it predator proof.  We got the chance to learn more about this fascinating bird, its feathers (super soft) and egg-shell (super thin and fragile).  Jo goes into the backcountry of the Paparoas finding the adult bird (thanks to a transmitter fitted to their leg), monitors them and when an egg is laid, after a safe period the egg is removed and taken to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch where it is kept in incubation until hatching and once at a safe age/size brought back over to the West Coast to the creche where it will stay until around 1-year-old, a healthy age and weight to be released back into the wild where it can generally look after itself.

Kiwi birds are at their most vulnerable from egg through to one year old or 1kg in weight.  Then they are for the most part strong enough to fight off most predators.

After our quick lesson we head off to some scrub land where Jo is pretty sure the current residents of the crèche have their burrows.  We’re here to do the monthly health check on Poutini – the youngest of the three chicks currently at the creche. The scrub is thick with gorse and cutty grass and very swampy.  The chicks have a transmitter on the leg so Jo is listening intently for signs of the Kiwi.  We can hear the transmitter beeping away so know he isn’t far.

Jo is well experienced and fairly sure she knows Poutini is in a particular set of scrub grass – down she goes into the scrub, belly on the ground foraging to find the burrow.  There are some great moves going on – you definitely don’t want to be shy of getting down and dirty.  Two attempts with no luck but the transmitter is telling us he is definitely in here somewhere.  We can even hear him ourselves.

Down goes Jo for another attempt and this time success.  You can’t help but beam when she comes up with this little guy in her arms.

I’m lucky enough to be Jo’s assistant with this health check – that means I too get up close and personal.  Close enough to touch but of course I don’t – I just stare in wonderment.  Jo takes Poutini’s weight and measures his beak length.  This all helps with the data they collect on the health of the bird ensuring it is eating right etc.

She also changes the leg the transmitter is attached to – this is done with each monthly health check, that way as the Kiwi grows the transmitter doesn’t cause any damage to the leg.

We take photos of the legs as there is a new study being done regarding their legs and scales on the legs.  Up close the legs look very prehistoric.  It will be a fascinating study to read once finished.

Little Poutini is doing really well – putting on good weight and there is no damage to his beak.

All too soon it is time for him to go back into his burrow and be left to do what Kiwis do best during the day – go back to sleep in peace.

That was some experience – an experience of a lifetime and one not many New Zealanders get to experience for themselves so Stephen and I feel very privileged to have had such an opportunity. Huge thanks to Jo for allowing us to come along for today’s health check.

The Paparoa Wildlife Trust is a community conservation initiative dedicated to running effective conservation projects in the Paparoa Ranges near Greymouth. Their goal is to halt the decline of highly threatened native species.  Their main focus since incorporation in 2006 has been on management, research and advocacy for great spotted kiwi (roroa) in the south Paparoa Ranges – our backyard!

To support the efforts of the Paparoa Wildlife Trust we sponsor three stoat traps.  As it is a predominately volunteer run organisation they really do appreciate all the financial help they can get.  Most recently they entered the Trust Power National Community Awards for the Grey District and were awarded the Supreme Award.  This means they now go on to the National event come October and we certainly wish them all the best.

If you would like to help, they gratefully accept donations or you too can sponsor a stoat trap.  By doing so you will receive an annual update on what predators your trap is catching.  Check out their website to see how you can help. http://pwt.org.nz/support/

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the West Coast and love living in this little slice of paradise they get to call home.