Rarotonga Day 1 (Feb 2017)

We arrived in Rarotonga last night on a very late flight from Auckland.
We left around 7:45pm and after a 4 and a half hour flight, eventually landed in Rarotonga around 12.30am. We where a bit late as the pilot announced there was a lot of rain so we had to circle above the airport until it passed.

20170204_153407

Surprisingly the flight went by quite quick. It wasn’t full so the four of us (my boyfriend Nathan and our friends Kerri & Glen) all spread out on the seats. I had a whole row to myself and so did Nathan – such a treat when you’re cramped up on a Jetstar flight!

20170204_150209

I read most of the way and Nathan watched a season of Vikings that Glen had downloaded beforehand (there wasn’t any entertainment on – board)
I’m not normally a Jetstar flyer for long-distances because you don’t get much on the flight, but I found a really good deal to Rarotonga a few months ago that was worth the small leg room and no free food 😦

When we eventually landed, we had to quickly run from the plane to the terminal as it was still raining a little bit. If you’re planning on going to Rarotonga, don’t expect much from the airport. It’s your typical small island airport – very small and basic but you don’t really need much from it anyways.

The resort we where staying at organised a shuttle to take us to the resort, unfortunately I think they forgot to tell the driver as he had no idea but he happily took us anyways. For $20 per person I was expecting more than a leaky, damp van but from I’ve come to realize in Raro is that it’s a very simple island. It’s a country of little money and basic necessities with things being very expensive. However it’s still being such a beautiful place with kind people and a very laid-back atmosphere.

20170204_01204720170204_012149

When we got to the resort, we found our room (a nice 2 bedroom apartment) and all had showers to wash the ‘flight feel’ off before promptly heading off to bed. I was soo tired I actually had a pretty good sleep, even if I didn’t have my most favorite pillow with me haha. Unfortunately Kerri & Glen had an awful sleep because the people in the apartment next door to us (these four guys) basically had a party all night long. Kerri thought we where staying over the bar because they where so loud but it turns out they just spent up large on booze with their Virgin Australia flight.

Breakfast ended at 10am so when we woke up at 9:30am we quickly got dressed and headed down to the bar/breakfast area to eat some tropical breakfast before heading back up to our room to get ready for our day.
It started raining in the morning much to my disappointment (as I always think it rains when I take my boyfriend away on holiday) but it cleared up pretty quickly. We where told from the owners of the resort that a bus left every half hour outside the resort to take you into Avarua (the nearest town) where they had the Punangi Nui Market that morning until 12pm. We decided to do that so waited for the bus….and waited…and waited. Until eventually it came chugging up the road with the windows down and the driver singing Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.
I think we got lucky with the best Bus Driver on the Island. I can’t remember his name but he was quite a laugh – cracking jokes and making up stories along the way, like how he was really out from prison that day and it was just his day job driving a bus.

20170204_10183120170204_102244-2

At the markets, we had a quick browse but it was mainly locals selling fruits and vegetables and some nice sarongs. We didn’t really find anything we where interested in so headed across the road to Polynesian Rental Cars so we could get a couple of Scooters for our stay.
Originally I thought we where all going to hire a car but getting a scooter was the better option as they where cheaper and overall more fun to ride.
While the boys where hiring the scooters, I quickly went across the road to buy an SD card for the GoPro, unfortunately the one I’d put in wasn’t formatted properly so it wouldn’t work. I was going to buy a new one at the Auckland Airport but they where $65!!
Good I waited until Rarotonga because I got a 32GB one for $45 instead.

20170204_110108

Off we went on our scooters to explore the Island!
First stop was the grocery store to buy Sun cream and bottles of water. Coming from a New Zealand Summer, it was much hotter/humid than it was back home. Weirdly the Supermarket didn’t sell any sunscreen (apart from one bottle that looked like it was made on the side of the street) so we had to go to a clothing store a few shops down that sold them instead. However, they where like $40 a bottle!
They use New Zealand dollars over here and Sun Screen is expensive enough back home, I wish I had brought my own bottle over!
Once we where sorted, we jumped back on our scooters and set off clockwise around the Island. There is only one road that goes around the islands coast and in some parts there is also a second road inland that also encircles the island. Because of the rugged mountainous interior there is no road that crosses the island so it’s pretty easy to just drive around, as long as you stick to their speed limits of 30-50km/h

20170206_150054.jpg

We got a little hungry so stopped off at a place called Charlies. It was just on the edge of the Akapuao Marine Reserve with views of the water and what looked like some yummy food! As we walked in, we saw customers being served big plates of delicious looking sandwiches so defiantly decided to stay.
I wasn’t super hungry so ended up ordering a Beef Burger along with a Fruit Smoothie which was delicious. Glen got the Steak sandwich which was huge and had to end up sharing with Nathan as he couldn’t eat it all.

20170204_124804 2.png20170204_125257.jpg20170204_125253.jpg

The water was too tempting after our lunch so we all walked down to the lagoon to dip our feet into the clear waters for the first time on our trip. It was so warm and beautiful but we weren’t quite prepared for a swim so agreed to head back later during the week for a proper visit.
We kept on with our Scooters and drove around the Island until we got to our resort. As our flight arrived at 6am that morning we where all pretty knackered so decided to just chill at the resort for a bit and have a look around. Castaway Villa had a pool, bar, small restaurant and was right on the beach so we all grabbed some towels and headed down to the beach to get some color on our skins and have a little paddle.
Unfortunately the  water near our accommodation wasn’t the best for swimming in. You could if you wanted to but there was lots of sea weed floating round that wasn’t too appealing, especially when you went underwater and you’d come up with seaweed  on top of your head. Instead – we took some photos on the GoPro then went back to our sun loungers for a good 5 minutes before claiming it was far too hot and jumping in the pool!

1.jpg2.jpg3.jpg8.jpg

Once we’d had a bit of a cool off, we all went upstairs to our rooms and got ready to find a place for dinner. As it’s the quiet season in Raro, the restaurant at our accommodation wasn’t really packed and we didn’t really want to be the only ones in the eating area so we hopped on our scooters again and drove up near Muri Beach to find somewhere to eat.20170204_190441

The first place that had a sign saying ‘Pizza’ we stopped at.
When we sat down, we thought we’d share 3 pizza’s between the four of us. We all assumed they’d be a bit thin so we’d demolish them no problem. We even ordered Garlic Bread to accompany our meal.
Our eyes grew when the waitress set down our pizza’s! They where so big and so so sooo cheesy. I had 2 slices and I was done. I’ve never had that much cheese on a pizza in my life, even when I traveled to America!


We sheepishly ended up asking for a box to take the pizza’s home in so we wouldn’t waste it and popped it in the fridge when we got back to our Villa.

With tired eyes and very very full stomachs, we all went to bed (with quiet neighbors this time) and had a typical summer’s sleep with the fan going and the sound of palm tree’s outside out windows.
Tomorrow, it’s a day of snorkeling and more exploring!

Day 48 – Switzerland

Monday:
Today our tour company Top Deck had an optional activity for a train ride up to Jungfrau which is one of the main summits of the Bernese Alps.
It’s 3,466 meters above sea level on the boundary between the cantons of Bern and Valais, halfway between Interlaken (where we were staying) and Fiesch.

Even after I’ve explained all that, I didn’t actually go haha!
It cost like over $200 NZD just to take the train up and back down and I couldn’t spend that much money for those views. My budget for my world wide trip just wouldn’t allow it!
Especially to see some snowy mountains that I can get a picture of online.

Jungfraujoch - Top of Europe

(But yes, I know it’s more for the experience)

image

Instead, Kara, Kelly & I got ready and went for a walk down to the local town of Interlaken.
I didn’t bring my jacket (just my hoodie) with me so I jogged half of the way to warm myself up as it was freezing!
We browsed a few shops and I bought a magnet. It was far too expensive in Switzerland to buy anything else to take home.

imageAround lunch time we went to Hooters as I’d never been before and had lunch.
We shared nachos and chicken strips and curly fries.
The nachos would have been great it they had more beans on them! 😣

We also went to this really nice chocolate shop and I had the nicest white chocolate passion fruit mousse chocolate!

image

There were a couple of really yummy cake stores but I restrained myself from all the goodies!!

image

When we were done looking around we headed back to the hotel and had a stop off at the supermarket to buy lots of Swiss chocolate. 🍫
The girls then had a nap while I did some room exercise 😁
I’ve become so much less toned than I was when I left home so I was feeling a bit yuck about myself. I bought out the 30 day ab challenge and did crunches and toe touches on my bedroom floor 😥
It must have worked a little bit because I woke up the next morning with slightly sore abs haha.

I also wrote a blog and listened to a bit of music. We weren’t really in a place where there was lots happening so it was nice just to chill out for a bit.

When I went downstairs, I bumped into another girl on my trip Ashleigh and she told me how she’d gotten an outfit for Oktoberfest down the road at the Lidhl supermarket.

Oktoberfest is this beer festival in Germany and we’re going to be there when it’s happening but everyone dresses up! I’ve heard outfits are really expensive in Germany so it was good to know that the supermarket was selling some cheap knock off versions of the outfits.

image

Me and the girls walked down to the supermarket and as Kelly already had one, Kara and I bought the same outfit. They only had Pink or Blue colors to choose from so I got the pink. However mine is quite long though so I’ll see about shortening it if I get the chance.

image

We didn’t really do too much for the rest of the day. We met everyone for dinner which was Chicken and veges AND we got some apple strudel for dessert, yum! I love it when we get dessert. (Which is why I have to start doing more sit ups)

image

Happy hour was happening again at the bar underground so we went to that and I used up my last 5 francs of Swiss money on 2 large ciders. I left pretty early after that (around 12pm) and went back to bed for a semi-early night.

image

Overall it was a pretty chilled out day in Switzerland.
It’s such a beautiful place and everything is so picturesque, the grass is so green, the roads are nice and the streets are clean.
Apart from being it being so beautiful, I felt we were in are pretty quiet place with not much to do. Plus it’s so expensive I couldn’t ever live there.

image

They do have stuff to do like rafting and helicopter tours etc… so if you like really nice views and adventure sports you’d love Switzerland. Unfortunately we hadn’t had anything planned through Top Deck to do stuff like that.

image

image

Day 31 – Washington DC

I didn’t really think about Washington DC when I signed up for this trip. I knew it was the capital but was kind of oblivious to how much history and museums there are here!

Washington was one of our longer stops. We arrived on Friday afternoon and didn’t leave until Monday morning.

image

When we arrived in Washington DC, we went to the Arlington National Cemetery which is the final resting place of more than 400,000 fallen heroes from the fronts of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the veterans of World Wars I and II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, the Cold War and America’s Civil War

image

We went and saw The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which pays tribute to an unidentified American soldier from World War I and we also watched the changing of the guard.
The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, every day of the year by tomb guard sentinels. They’re considered to be the best of the 3rd U.S Infantry Regiment headquartered at Fort Myer, Virginia.

imageimage

It was pretty cool to check out the changing of the guards. They change every hour and it’s pretty intense to watch. I could never do their job because I get too impatient even sitting at my desk all day.

image

After watching the guards, we went and viewed the grave for John F Kennedy and his brother and deceased children.
When Mr Kennedy died, his wife Mrs. Kennedy had expressed a desire to mark the president’s grave with an eternal flame similar to that of the French Unknown Soldier in Paris.
A propane-fed torch was selected and lit by Mrs. Kennedy during the funeral of her husband. The Eternal Flame burns from the center of a five-foot circular flat-granite stone at the head of the grave. It’s specially designed so there’s a constantly flashing electric spark near the tip of the nozzle which re-lights if it’s extinguished by rain, wind or accident.

imagehotels-cheap_image

After visiting the cemetery we checked into our hotel Days Inn and I got ready for our dinner.
We were all meant to wear ‘American themed’ clothing but I couldn’t find any clothing with the flag or colors on it when we had our lunch stop that day so just dressed normally.

Dinner was next door at the Italian restaurant. It was basically a buffet pizza bar and a bowl of salad which was fine but the pizza was only 3 different flavors. Pepperoni, cheese and one with olives all over it. So it was a bit un-interesting.

Once we’d finished dinner, we had a 4 hour tour around Washington!
Another old Contiki tour guide who lives in Washington came on the coach and took the tour for us.
Our first stop was Capitol Hill.

image

It didn’t look like the above picture though, more like this…

image

They’re re-do ing the dome part I think so they had lots of scaffolding up around it.
Here is where the Senate and the House of Representatives come together to discuss, debate and deliberate national policy and craft the country’s laws.
Apparantly the Pope is coming to Washington DC later this month and is going here. Oooo… exciting…

After that, we had more of a drive around the city and saw the Washington Monument which was built to honour George Washington the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first president of the United States.

image

We then took around an hour’s walk around lots of memorials.
Such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial which was along the Tidal Basin, as well as the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.

image

imageJefferson Memorial and Washington Monument Washington DC Tidal Basin Blue moment Predawn  Low light photography

My phone never takes very good pictures in the dark it seems…so that last picture I’ve added that someone else has taken.

We finished off our tour at the Lincoln Memorial which was really nice in front of the water. It was built in white stone with 36 iconic columns and honors the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

washigton_dc_lincoln_memorial_at_night
Lincoln Memorial at night time
image
And during the day (credit to Google for the pictures)

image

When our tour was over, we went back to the hotel and headed next door to the restaurant again to have some drinks.
Not too many people were keen to go out so I went with Rob, Johnathon and Geoffrey (the usual going – out crew) and took  an Uber more into the city.
We found a club and went there for the night.
It wasn’t too bad but wasn’t terribly exciting either. I think I left around 1am  after trying to be a good wing – woman for one of the boys and then having a late Mexican 2nd dinner haha.

imageimage

X