Two days before my niece’s wedding in Rarotonga, Mother Nature dropped 50mms of rain in four hours, ruining the best laid pre-wedding plans. The puddles filled. The roads flooded. The Hens’ Party was a washout. So what can you do in Raro when the weather is crap?
1. Sample the “Best Custard Squares” in Rarotonga
To anyone who grew up in New Zealand, long family drives were always punctuated with a rewarding stop at a little local bakery that baked its own custard squares. A good custard square is a fine thing. The custard filling needs to be soft and velvety, but not so soft that it squirts out all over your shirt. And the pastry should be crisp and sweet.
Sadly, the Café Jireh’s custard squares are none of these things. The filing is stale, changing colour from top to bottom, the pastry is hard and the icing is over-sweet. Are these the best custard squares in Raro? Only if they’re the only custard squares in Raro!
2. Enjoy the delights of the local brewery
The T-shirts at the Matutu Brewery promise that the beer contains “No Added Crap” and that seems to be a pretty good place to start. James and his cousins started Matutu about a decade ago with the guidance and a package of equipment from Carl at Wellington’s Tuataru brewery.
Their Mai Lager is brewed with German Pilsner malt and the addition of four hops which give this beer its crisp, bitter, beery taste. The Kiva, English style pale ale is brewed with Bairds two row pale ale malt and also touches of crystal and chocolate malts. Either one is sensational. One of the many things I love about Matutu is that James and the crew only bottle sufficient beer to meet their orders. By the time you’re drinking it at your resort it’s only a day or two old. And that’s good.
3. Eat a Fabulous Fish Sandwich
Just before the Muri lagoon, (or just after if you’re traveling the island counter-clockwise), you’ll find The Mooring Fish Café, constructed from a jumble of shipping containers right on the edge of the lagoon. Here the advertising doesn’t lie and their legendary sandwiches are hot and tasty, jam packed with either Tuna or Mahi Mahi and dripping with lime mayo or homemade relish.
The fish is cooked while you wait, and although there’s not many places to hide from the rain at The Mooring, it’s worth getting your bum a little wet for the best lunch in Raro.
4. Visit the memorial to my nephew Matt
Rarotonga featured vividly in the short but exciting life of my nephew Matty, only son of Ross and Karen. Raro was where the family frequently holidayed and the stories of Matt are legendary. Hiring a scooter at 12, disappearing out to sea with a local dog on a surf ski, climbing a tree for coconuts.
Right across the road from The Fruits of Rarotonga is a tree Matt loved to climb. At the base of the tree is a small plaque that acknowledges the 14 years of his life. Duck out in the rain and say one for Matthew.
5. Just pull the doona up.
Sometimes, when it’s raining that hard in Rarotonga, it’s best not to venture out at all. Return to your room and curl up with a good book. I’m struggling with all 900 pages of Garth Risk Halberg’s City On Fire at present, but in Raro I did enjoy Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s a mystery with more than a little magic.
Or you could pull the curtains shut and cuddle up with a loved one. As astrophysicist Tamara Davies said on Q&A last week, “We all know that one of the side-effects of sex is procreation. But that’s not why we do it”.