2018/2019 Snowbird Wrap-Up

Our year south started off with rainy, foggy weather.

We have been home for four weeks and have had fun catching up with family and friends, made a trip to Edmonton to visit our two sons and family, done numerous loads of laundry, and lot’s of little chores. In the next few weeks we will start washing Maxx both inside and out, and clean out cupboards and storage bays.

But after a few days the weather cleared up and we had a nice drive down the Washington and Oregon coasts.

Without a doubt the highlight of this winter’s travel was our trip to the Cook Islands! Hubby and I had so much fun and can’t say enough good things about the islands and the people. While tourism is a big economic driver to their economy the thing that impressed us the most is how little that affected island life. The locals made us feel very welcome but they were not going to build massive resorts, restaurants, and gift shops to cater to tourists … and we loved that! The island is so laid back and relaxing, definitely worth a visit.

Happy hour views don’t get much better than this!

Coming in for a landing over Aitutaki, Cook Islands.

Over the past six months:

  • We only travelled through five states (Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Nevada), way down from the thirteen states we hit last year!
  • We covered 7,504 mi (12,077 km), which is down 2,731mi (4,395 km) from 2017/2018 when we travelled 10,235 mi (16,430 km). In fact this was the least distance we have travelled since we hit the road five years ago.
  • We spent $2,152 on fuel compared to $2,719.54 2017/2018; $2,150.60 in 2016/2017; $1,526.24 in 2015/2016; $2,350.54 in 2014/2015; and $5,041.40 in 2013/2014.
  • On average we paid $3.252 a gallon for diesel; up significantly from $2.598 in 2017/2018, $2.514 in 2016/2017, $2.096 in 2015/2016, and $3.128 in 2014/2015, but down from $3.813 in 2013/2014.
  • The most expensive diesel was $4.249 per gallon in Rio Dell, California (California is always our most expensive fuel), last year our highest price was $3.589 per gallon in Lodi, California; our cheapest diesel was $2.459 per gallon in Yuma, Arizona, which is up from last year when our cheapest diesel was $2.259 also in Yuma, and can you believe in 2016 we only paid $1.559 per gallon in Yuma, AZ!

It’s nice to be home and plant our gardens.

And once again we had a great winter and are looking forward to a great summer at the park. Hubby and I have now spent five and a half years living full time in Maxx and we still love the life, and each other 🙂

Hubby found this stump the first year we arrived, I call it my pants stump …I think it looks like a butt with two legs 🙂

Until next time …

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Goodbye Aitutaki, Cook Islands

Well the day has come and it’s was time to pack our bags and wave goodbye to Aitutaki 😦

Our flight to Rarotonga didn’t leave until 2:00 p.m. and we had to be out of our room at 10:00 a.m. so we spent some time sitting around the pool, not a bad way to spend four hours.

It was very warm out, and we would have time to kill in Rarotonga as well so we decided to leave our bathing suits on for the short flight. I thought it would feel weird to fly in my bathing suit and swim cover-up but we fit right in with the rest of the passengers!

It’s a pretty small airport.

When we landed in Rarotonga the weather had cooled down a bit so we changed into clothes and headed across the street to a funky little hotel for a few drinks and dinner with a nice couple from Calgary. We had a lot of fun and it was a great way to spend the time before our flight back to Los Angeles.

I will leave you with a picture I forgot to post earlier. This is mass transportation in the Cook Islands 🙂

Until next time …

Our Next Stop, Aitutaki, Cook Islands

We were sad to leave Rarotonga. We loved our beach villa and had met some really great people, mostly Canadians, Australians, Swedes, and New Zealanders … in fact we didn’t meet a single person from the US. We did spend a lively happy hour one night, and time around the pool on our last day, with a very nice couple from Sweden and another nice couple from Victoria.

But as I said yesterday our time on Rarotonga had come to an end. Our flight left Raro, as the locals call it, at 4:00 p.m. and we were told the shuttle would pick us up at the hotel somewhere between 2:30 and 3:00. It’s a twenty-minute ride to the airport and we had bags to check, plus I was unable to check in online, so I was worried about the tight time frame. Don’t worry I was told, it will be fine. We were at the airport by 3:00 p.m., were asked our names (no ID required), checked our bags, were handed our paper boarding slips and told to have a seat, the flight would board in forty-five minutes.

There was no TSA to go through, nobody cared if we had liquids, they just loaded us on the plane and off we went.

Fifty minutes later we were landing on the beautiful island of Aitutaki … and honestly all we could say was wow when we caught our first glimpse of the island from the plane!

Yes this truly is a shot of Aitutaki as we were coming in for a landing!

Upon arrival we were adorned with lei’s, handed a coconut drink, picked up our luggage and were ushered into a waiting van for the five minute ride to our resort.

A very cute airport

Our resort is on it’s own private island so we were dropped off at the shore of the main island where a boat picked us up and took us across the very narrow passage to the island. Our luggage was whisked off somewhere else and ended up in our room before we did 🙂

The boat coming over to meet us.

And we quickly arrived on the other side.

We entered the open air lobby and after registering, we were escorted to our villa.

The resort is adorn with beautiful flower arrangements.

The pool is off the lobby

As is the main dining room. In this picture it is set up for breakfast, which is included with our accommodation.

The grounds are beautiful and our villa looks out over the ocean. After our villa in Rarotonga we thought it would be hard to top, but our villa here is even more beautiful and welcoming.

The glass doors on the right go out to our open air shower.

It is hard to get a good picture of the shower but it is really neat!

A great view from the bed ☺

The only negative about our time here is the villa we were given and it has nothing to do with the resort. Our travel agent led us astray as she provided us pictures of our villa being over the ocean but that’s not what she had reserved us.

We thought we would be in the villas on the left.

They are on a rocky beach and the platforms are high off the water, I’m much happier where we are.

After the initial shock we decided that we actually like the villa we have much better than the ones over the water, so in the end things worked out well 🙂

Awesome views from our deck.

And fantastic views from our dinner table!

Until next time …

Time To Go ☹, Rarotongo, CI

All to quickly our time came to head to the airport. We have had a fabulous week at Palm Grove Garden Resort!

So why did we choose The Cook Islands? Well we celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary last September and last July we decided we should do something special. We married young and started our family right away, which didn’t leave a lot of free cash for travelling. Although we have managed to do some pretty awesome trips, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexican Riviera, Domincan Republic, Caribbean and Alaska cruises, and of course the last five years of winter travels which included the Florida Keys. When trying to decided what to do to celebrate our anniversary we visited a travel agent who had clients that return to Palm Grove Garden Resort in Rarotongo every year. After listening to her description and doing some research we knew this was the place for us and we have not been disappointed!

If you are every fortunate enough to visit The Cook Islands here are some tips for you …

If you want cell service you can purchase a package from Blue Sky, they have a kiosk at the airport once you clear customs. For $50.00 we got thirty minutes of talk anywhere in the world, three hundred incoming/outgoing texts, and three gig of data. It worked well and we thought it was worth the money.

Bring water shoes, the coral is very sharp! We did bring our own but the resort also provided shoes. The beach in front of our resort was white sand for a long way so you didn’t need water shoes for swimming but they were very handy when we walked out to the coral reef.

The Flame Tree

Close up of the flower on the Flame Tree

Our resort also provided snorkeling equipment and kayaks free of charge and I think most of the resorts we looked at do this as well.

Lot’s of different coloured hibiscus.

At someone’s suggestion we packed our rain jackets and an umbrella but never used them. We did get the odd rain shower, and that one fairly rainy day, but never enough to wear our coats. One night after dinner we wandered down to the store and it starting raining, the rain continued until we arrived back at our villa, but it was so fine and so warm that we were dry when we walked into the villa. As I have mentioned before the rain hangs over the mountains in the centre of the island but rarely fell over the beaches.

Sunscreen is expensive so bring lots from home, and use it. We put sunscreen on as soon as we arrived in our villa but others didn’t and were very red that first night! I also brought some aloe after sun lotion and I was glad I did.

We had been told that alcohol was very expensive on the island so we picked up two one litre bottles of spiced rum from the duty free at LAX, you can bring in two litres of alcohol each. You can also purchase alcohol from the Rarotongo duty free store when you land and before you cross through customs but since we already had ours I didn’t check out the prices. Alcohol was expensive but honestly not a whole lot more than we pay in Canada and as I mentioned the Canadian dollar is a little better than the New Zealand dollar. A bottle of rum at the supermarket was $40.00 and a glass of wine at the restaurant in our resort was $7.50 and a bottle of local beer was $5.50. We purchased a nice Pinto Gris in our local supermarket and it was only $16.90 a bottle.

We had also been told snack food, like potatoe chips, were very expensive so we packed cheese, crackers, popcorn, and trail mix. Snack food is expensive and we tended to have cheese and crackers for lunch so I wish I had brought a lot more. We brought three different blocks of cheese, which I placed in a zip lock bag with a thick ice pack, and they made it here just fine and the ice pack was still partly frozen.

There was a supermarket about a three minute walk from our villa, which was great for basics, but other than the fruit juice for our drinks we bought all our other food at a large supermarket in town. The main reason we chose to bring rum is because pop is also very expensive on the island, $8.00 for 1.5 litres, but fruit juice is much more reasonable, $8.90 for 2.4 litres. So gin and tonics were out, and actually I never did see tonic water, but rum and fruit juice were definitely in!

If you like beer, Rarotongo Brewery is a good option. We purchased a 2 litre flagon (their version of a growler) mainly because we wanted it as a souvenir but also because a fill was only $14.00 and, lets face it, a cold beer on a warm afternoon while listening to the waves roll up on the sand is very enjoyable.

I saw this flower on the side of the road and thought it was pretty.

The next day I saw it used in a floral arrangement … so very pretty!

So there you have our suggestions for a more enjoyable trip to Rarotongo. If you ever get the chance to visit, take it! We would definitely come again.

Until next time …

Something’s Fishy, Rarotonga, CI

During our beach time in the afternoon I would sit on a beach chair, enjoy my book, and cool off in the ocean from time to time. That’s my idea of fun beach time … hubby’s not so much 🙂

Hubby likes to keep busy so generally beach vacations are not his thing and he is always looking for something to do, and that means I don’t get much reading done 😦

While we were working my cousin and I would take off every February to some tropical climate, usually on a cruise, and enjoy lots of reading and relaxation. Did I feel bad leaving hubby at home … nope … he never wanted to come! He had his own business and was very happy working … yes he truly was, I’m not making this up!

But back to Rarotonga … hubby was very gung ho for this vacation and because it wasn’t his usual style I was a little hesitant, I didn’t want him to be bored.

Well bored is not what he was! Back to the afternoons of reading on the beach 🙂 While I was reading hubby was out snorkeling, usually armed with my underwater camera or his Go Pro. It was a win win vacation, I was happy and he was happy.

So all these fishy pictures are courtesy of hubby and his fishy friends 🙂

Until next time …

Our Room, Rarotonga, CI

I realized I never posted these pictures of our villa … so here is a look at our accommodation at Palm Grove Garden Resort in Rarotonga.

We were really pleased with the resort and would definitely stay here again.

View out our kitchen window through our open air window.

It is not as fancy as some, it is ranked at a three and a half star out of five and I think that is a fair ranking.

Looking in from the deck.

Looking out from the deck.

It appealed to us because it wasn’t all modern and fancy, it had a real island feel with its bamboo walls and teak floors … and of course the price was better 🙂

Until next time …

A Rainy Day In Paradise, Rarotonga, CI

Well it even rains in paradise, but it didn’t spoil our day 🙂 We had a leisurely breakfast, enjoyed coffee on our deck, under the covered portion, spent some time walking through local stores, had a late lunch out, and then … even with the rain … enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the beach.

Hubby had a great time wandering through the hardware store.

A single gang switch costs around $.99 at home. It would cost a lot of money to wire a house in Rarotonga!

We buy this water filter at home at a cost of 3 for $9.00, that would cost you $114.00 here!

$475.00

Home Depot in Yuma had a Ridgid eight piece set on sale for $329.00 before Christmas! Here it is $1,195 for a two piece set.

Seeds ranged from $1.80 to $5.00 a package.

Some things are very expensive here, but others didn’t seem that bad to me. Of course everything has to be shipped in either by air or sea. After the hardware store we wandered through the largest supermarket on the island. Like items in the hardware store, groceries also get shipped in by air or sea. Other than coconuts and bananas we didn’t see anything grown on the island.

Wow flour is expensive. It sure makes me appreciate the banana muffin I have every morning!

$7.90 for a box of Cheerios.

This didn’t seem that pricey, $4.80 for six granola bars.

These may be local chickens because we did see lot’s of those running around

We saw a few cows but no ranches.

And I thought eggs were expensive in Canada!

I definitely can’t afford to eat peppers for lunch everyday. For those of you in the US this works out to about $5.79 a pound.

Lunch today was at Charlie’s, which was highly recommended by the locals … and they didn’t disappoint 🙂

Keep an open mind, the entrance is deceiving.

Amazing view from our table!

There is live entertainment in the evening.

Hubby had a fish burger that was huge! Three large pieces of fish in one humongous bun, he brought half of it home.

Until next time …