Today was our last day in Raro. Checkout was at 11AM, and our airport shuttle didn’t leave til 3:30, which left us with four and a half hours to kill. We decided to head into town for lunch, figuring we could easily eat up two hours this way. We went down to the bus stop and waited for almost an hour, before wondering if perhaps the buses were not running on Sunday. Around this time a taxi pulled over (on a side note this is the ONLY taxi I had seen on the entire island) to see if we might like a ride. We asked him about the bus situation, and he said that he thought they were running but informed us that everything in town was closed on Sundays. We thanked him, and began walking down the road to see if the nearby cafe was open instead. The cafe was closed, as was every other business we passed, so we decided to head to the resort where the wedding was held, as the restaurant there was sure to be open.
The restaurant was indeed open, and to make things even better it was happy hour, which meant two for one drinks. We enjoyed a nice lunch and an even nicer view of the ocean, colored a spectacular shade of blue by the cloudless afternoon sky, then walked along the beach back to our hotel. We spent the next few hours relaxing on the beach and reading while we waited for our shuttle.
After arriving at the airport and checking our bags, we walked over to the security checkpoint (everything before this point is outdoors). Before crossing through the security line, I noticed a small line forming to my right in front of a window labeled “export tax.” A bit confused, I walked over to the window to ask the lady what the export tax was for. Apparently export tax is a tax you pay simply for having visited a location. It’s as if to say “thank you for visiting, we hope you enjoyed our island, now shell out $55.” One might imagine that pumping money into the local economy for a week was enough, but one would be wrong. $55 is no small fee, and this honestly was a bit of a slap in the nuts on the way out the door. Once the tax was payed, a the sticker announcing the fact was appropriately affixed to my ticket, I made my way through security,
In order to board the plane, we had to walk out onto the runway. This is a familiar scenario when flying on a small prop-jet, but a bit of a strange case when boarding a gigantic 777. I parted ways with Christine, who somehow had found herself in the first class cabin, and found my seat in the back of the plane. Apparently I was seated in the crying baby section, having 8, yes count them EIGHT babies, all crying, within 3 rows of me. Then there was the guy across the aisle of me who apparently bathed in Hugo Boss cologne, I’m not overstating this, within five minutes the back of my throat and nostrils burned from the smell! The couple next to me were the saving grace. A lovely pair from somewhere in New Zealand that I couldn’t quite comprehend through her thick accent. I was prepared to deal with all of these minor annoyances, that is until the guy ahead of me very forcefully slammed his seat into full recline. Now as I’ve said before, I have a small love affair going with New Zealand Airlines; however, their seats seem to recline much farther back than any other airline I’ve ever encountered. This would seem to be a plus at first, that is unless you’re the guy behind the guy with his seat recline. So sitting there, surround by screaming children, choking on Hugo Boss, and now with a crotch-full of seatback, I decided it was time to move! I said G’Day to my mates in the adjacent seat and found a new seat in the very back of the plane. I’m happy to report the rest of the flight went quite smoothly. It’s also worth noting that we crossed the international date line, so while we left Rarotonga at 5:30PM on Sunday, we arrived a few hours later at 8PM on Monday. Kind of a weird feeling..
We landed safely in Auckland, made it through security, managed to find a rental car, and made it to our hotel incident free (minus one minor ding of a traffic cone), all while driving a mazda-3 with a right-handed steering wheel, WOOH! Tonight also marks my first internet connection since I left the states 7 days ago. So for now I shall sign off and prepare to catch up on emails…