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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…….


Historic Reefton - the Little Big Town

Posted by Jan Roberts on May 16, 2017

The small village of Reefton nestled in the Victoria Forest on the West Coast is immersed in history.  It may be a small village but it is big in every other respect.  So much history it practically oozes from her very being.

Known as the Town of Light, it was the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to generate its own power and have street lighting – beating even some of the posher suburbs of London and New York.  Not only that, it would have to be our favourite little town on the West Coast.

There is so much to see and do in Reefton but it is also a great place to just relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

Relax and enjoy the scenery was the aim of our latest visit.  We purchased a little caravan over the summer and had been dying to try her out.  With a couple of fine days on the cards and no guests we loaded her up and headed up the valley to Reefton.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather – typical Autumn/Winter weather on the West Coast, mostly clear blue skies and glorious sunshine.

There is a great little walk you can do from town – The Bottled Lightning Powerhouse walk, over the swingbridge – a popular swimming spot for locals and visitors alike.  Yes we may have stopped here a few times……

You then continue along the trail following the information boards positioned along the rivers edge leading you to the site of the old powerhouse, giving you all the history regarding what lead to Reefton becoming the first place to have electric lights in 1888.

The Powerhouse walk was our walk of choice for our afternoon stroll with the boys.

Reefton is a town originally born from gold in the mid 1800s – first alluvial and then quartz.  In the early to mid 1900s the industries changed to coal, sawmilling and dairy.

The gold mining history has been embraced through tourism and Reefton has a very proud heritage and you can see that pride with the number of lovingly restored buildings around the township.

The next day we headed further up the valley to check out Larrys Creek track.  We’ve only ever biked this trail in the past and is a short flat fast flowing trail following the river up the valley.  Although the sun was shining, the trail is in the native bush so we were in the shadows of the trees for the duration and I’m happy to say I was prepared with my beanie and puffer jacket – it was a tad chilly.  Walking this trail instead of biking meant we had plenty of time to look up and admire the majesty of the trees towering above us.  We were completely submerged in a forest of green – I couldn’t help but sing to myself I see green, I see green, I see green (fabulous Split Enz song, except they see Red – NZ band for those of you who don’t know, highly recommend googling them).

The Larrys Creek trail meanders close to the river edge but never leaves the bush line.  Eventually it heads up the only little hill to end at the historic Robbie Engine and Duffys Mine.  I think each time we see Robbie he has deteriorated just a little bit more.  Mother nature eventually reclaims what is rightfully hers but we enjoy seeing all the old relics left in the bush and imagining what was.

There are some wonderful hikes and bike rides close to the village of Reefton in particular the Murray’s creek tracks.  After a bite to eat back at the camp site, Stephen headed out on his bike for a quick jaunt up the Murrays Creek track.  It is a nice meander up through the forest following the creek and taking you up the bush line passing lots of mining relics along the way.  I’m sure they were left to remind us the hard work our forefathers endured and giving us a reality check when we are huffing and puffing while out for a leisurely stroll or bike ride.

The Murray’s Creek trails are dual purpose – both hiking or mountain biking and certainly a favourite of ours to explore whenever we are in Reefton.  You can bike straight from town – only around 15 minutes down the road.  There are then options at the top of the trail to either come back down the same way or choose some more technical riding – down to the Waitahu River or deeper into the forest past the Inglewood and Ajax mine sites and back down the Konini Packtrack – right into Reefton.  Options, options – just comes down to time and fitness.

Stephen was on time constraint so he was just doing an up and back.  I in the meantime was spending my time wisely…… relaxing in the sunshine with the dogs and my book.

After a couple of relaxing days it was soon enough it is time to pack up and head for home – back to reality.  Thanks Reefton for our little break away – we will be back!

If you’re heading to the West Coast – make sure you include Reefton in your itinerary – so much to see and do and a wonderful history lesson.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and making the most of this wonderful region they call home.

 

 

 


Wheeling Through West Coast Wonderland

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 02, 2016

 

The Wheels on the bike go round and round, round and round, round and round, wheels on the bike go round and round – oh my gosh forever!  Can’t believe I’m thinking this but I could do with a hill climb about now.  We’re on a section of our ride that is a continual pedal – slight incline and seemingly going on  f o r e v e r.

The ride actually started straight into a series of hill climbs and then my thinking was hills are my friend, hills are my friend.  Funny how our mind-set can change depending on the moment.  Honestly though I would rather grind my way up a proper hill than grind away on a continual gentle incline – without any real respite.  Worse thing to do is of course to look up and see the road going on and on and on before you.

 

 

On of the saving graces is it is gorgeous in here – the back-country of Greymouth, following forestry roads and old gold mining claims.  We’re cruising along on our fat bikes – ooohhh I love my fat bike.  I often joke I’m out for ice cream – it is a Surly Ice Cream Truck but it is so cold today, we’re definitely not finishing our ride with an ice cream today. The other saving grace is a slight incline means we are constantly peddling and that is good for warding off the cold.

 

 

For the most part of the climb up into the valley we are on a well used gravel road before it then veers out on to a less used forestry road – more like a track these days.  It heads straight into a climb into the forest – this area hasn’t been logged yet.  As such the sun doesn’t penetrate through the trees very much and with a lot of rain of late it was a tad damp in here.  Made the trail fun though as water had been running down the trail creating ruts and making the ride a bit more of a challenge.  Great thing is our fat bikes just roll over everything – did I mention I love my fat bike

 

 

I always remember this last section being a fun fast downhill winding down through the trees.  Not so much this time – still fun and insanely beautiful but again due to so much rain of late it was extremely wet and rutted out and there had been much tree fall to so you couldn’t really open up and blast down too much – had to be semi responsible and take some care.

 

 

Of course going a little slower makes you appreciate your surroundings and again….. insanely beautiful.  Green as green – almost to the point of not looking real.  Stephen and I often comment that people won’t believe the photos – but honestly it really was this green.

Eventually we pop out of the forest and onto the main valley access road.  This makes it a nice loop track, meandering back along the metal road to meet back with the forestry block where our car was parked. We’re cold, we’re wet and our legs are a little tired but we’re feeling very satisfied – a great ride out in the back country of Greymouth – our West Coast wonderland.

 

 


West Coast Wilderness Trail - Old Christchurch Road to Cowboys Paradise

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 02, 2016

It sure is nice to be back out on the bike again.  Not much time for riding over our busy summer season so we’ve (yes I do mean I’ve) been trying to get motivated to get some more time in the saddle.

 

 

When Stephen suggested taking a drive so we could do an alternative to our normal version of the West Coast Wilderness Trail I was all for it.  Our latest jaunt was to park at the Old Christchurch Road at start of the Kawhaka Water Race and bike out to Cowboys Paradise in the Upper Arahura Valley – and back again of course.

 

 

The day wasn’t perfect but was better than forecast – rain was predicted.  It was overcast but not overly cold.  It had rained overnight so the trail was wet in places but we were blessed with patches of blue sky and occasional blasts of sunshine.  Certainly made all the creeks and rivers look super stunning.

To be honest though, when we arrived at the Old Chch Road the last thing I wanted to do was go biking.  I’d developed a pounding headache and to top it off an upset tummy – really, in the short space of a 1/2 hour car ride!  gggrrrrr.  Well we didn’t come all this way only to drive home again so I popped a couple of pills and off we headed.  It was possibly the most uncomfortable 1/2 hour or so of biking I’ve ever done but thankfully the Panadol kicked in eventually and I could start enjoying the ride for what it is – gorgeous West Coast scenery.

 

 

It is a stunning trail of contrasts, initially following the Kawhaka Water Race through to the weir where it meets the Kawhaka River.  Here the trail heads through an old logging tram line in the regenerating native Beech forest skirting the edge of the river up into the valley.  Yes I say up – it is a deceptive track in the respect that you think it is a flat meander but it is actually a gradual climb in this direction for the most part.

 

 

Eventually the trail meets with the Waitaiki reserve and we enter an ancient Podocarp Forest as it makes its descent down through the forest and over a fantastic swingbridge spanning a deep gorge. Down, down, down complete with “caution steep grade” signage – mmmmm going to have to bike back up this……

 

 

After crossing the swingbridge there is a  bit more riding through ancient forest – some of the greenest forest with the trees literally dripping with moss, simply magic.

 

 

We round the corner to come to Cowboys Paradise with a bit more forest riding to reach our final destination in the Upper Arahua Valley with an aptly placed bench seat to sit and admire the fabulous views down into the valley below.

 

 

A quick snack and time to turn around and do it all in reverse.  We anticipate the ride to be a bit quicker on the way out – since there is more of a meander down than the meander up coming in.  Of course we have to negotiate the winding switchbacks back up from the swingbridge first but that doesn’t end up being as difficult as I thought it would be in my mind.

 

 

Soon enough we are zipping our way back along the river’s edge through to the water race and back to the car.  The clouds have all rolled in again but they add some atmosphere to the water race – giving some wonderful late afternoon reflections.  Despite the start, all in all a great afternoon out on the bike and some miles in the legs – got to be good for me!

 

 


Fat Biking Rapahoe Beach, Great Coast Road

Posted by Website Admin on September 02, 2016

There are lots of great mountain biking opportunities on the West Coast and with the right bike that includes mile after mile of pristine beaches.

What’s that song Freddy sings “fat bottom girls you make this rock’n world go round” – well in this case it is fat bikes!  Stephen and I both have fat bikes and we love them.  We take any excuse to go for a ride on them and they are ideal for exploring the numerous West Coast beaches.

 

 

 

Lucky for us is that many of the accessible beaches are really close to home – one being the Rapahoe beach just a little to the south.  With a quick ride down the main highway we’re soon pedaling along the water’s edge.  From the eight mile to Rapahoe is usually stony but once across the seven mile creek it’s a flat sandy beach into the corner of Point Elizabeth.

 

 

A beautiful winter’s day cries out for a fat bike ride on the beach and who are we not to oblige…….

 

 

Sun is shining and it feels more like a summer’s day than middle of winter.  The sea almost looking inviting enough to go for a swim – I did say almost.

 

 

There are some fun rocky outcrops to muck about on and I want to say test your skill but with the fat bike you just roll over everything….. well just about everything.  Nicely captured hubby!  Actually no human was hurt in the making of this blog – I had actually stopped already and my foot slipped out from under me and… the rock was wet with a coating of slippery sand………. it did – it was!!!!!

 

 


West Coast Wilderness Trail - Camerons to Kapitea Reservoir

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 30, 2016

Oh it feels good to be back on the bike.  We’re not long back from an overseas holiday and while we did take our bikes with us we didn’t do a whole lot of biking – four days in total over three weeks. What we did do was a lot of walking, and feeling like we’d built up a good fitness base we wanted to continue on that theme now that we’re home.

 

 

Well how is it, considering we exercised at least 3 hours EVERY DAY for three weeks, now we’re home we don’t feel any fitter.  We thought we’d get out on our bikes and the ride would be a breeze – let me tell you now Categorically NOPE.

 

 

In fairness the thing with this ride is it is actually a gentle incline the entire way from Camerons just north of Greymouth to the Kapitea Reservoir in behind Kumara.  Also and this one is important – we rode like cut cats.  Seriously I had to say to Stephen can we button back a bit on the pace.  He of course said he was just trying to keep up with me which was so incorrect cos I was just trying to keep up with him……..

 

 

Moaning aside this ride is gorgeous.  Crossing the clip-on attached to the Taramakau road/rail bridge reminded me of our ride across the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco – ok so maybe couple of slight differences – not as high, not as long and nowhere near as many people to negotiate with on the way across (make that none!).

 

 

The Kumara tram-line was so green – I know we have lots of green but I’d almost…. almost forgotten just how green everything is here – all shades of green in all directions.  Just beautiful.

 

 

It was generally quite an overcast day making the skies a bit wishy/washy but the views of the snow-capped mountains and reflections in the Kapitea Reservoir were still spectacular.

 

 

Made the mistake of eating far too much for lunch at the Theatre Royal Hotel – but it was delicious.  That’s my excuse for feeling a bit sluggish on the ride back to town.  All in all though it was nice to be back on the West Coast Wilderness Trail – it’s a great asset for the district and a great way to see some diverse West Coast scenery.