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COOK ISLANDS | Saturday, 18 August 2007 | Views [553]

Today we're leaving New Zealand after a lovely fortnight, heading for the Cook Islands (you can see our destination's remoteness on the map below) where we'll arrive yesterday after a leap across the virtual and mystical International Date Line. Trippy. The place where we were supposed to be staying in Rarotongo got a glowing review in our guide book (which is good), but we got a call from the hotel to tell us that they were renovating and the place will be noisy as hell (which is bad), so they're sending us to another hotel and giving us a beachside room (which is good), but the hotel we're going to doesn't have a review in our guide book (which might be bad). One way or another we'll have a roof over our head, and the weather should be good - around 25 degrees, so next week is the real chill-out part of the honeymoon. We've no intention of doing anything, so don't expect any blog postings until we get to LA next week.

In the meantime, we've compiled a list of ten things we didn't know before we got to New Zealand - we thought they might be of interest to you if you ever consider a trip here. We've also devised a little puzzle - find Ciaran in the picture above.

1. There are a strange number of Germans here. Obviously we don't care, and only comment because we think it peculiar. You hear German being spoken on streets, tour guides and receptionists speak Kiwi English with German accents. Heck, their national beer and sponsor of the All-Blacks is Steinlager.

2. Whatever about the number of Germans, the big cities - alright, the big city, Auckland - has a crazy number of Chinese - mostly young kids, well teenagers, loads of whom fill out the Internet Cafe competing in multi-player computer games. Once again, we only comment because it strikes you immediately.

3. When you tell people here you're Irish they do one of four things. They might make some joke or imply something about the Irish being a little bit stupid. In fairness this uninformed and outdated attitude is rare - we got this only a couple of times. Gobshites. Those who read newspapers comment favourably on the enviable success of the Irish economy in the last ten years. We got this quite a bit. A third possibility is that the conversation will turn to rugby, which in turn will eventually bring up either Brian O'Driscoll's jaw or shoulder. The fourth thing, and the thing which can be combined with any or all of the above, is that they'll have a crack at the Irish accent. We haven't heard a good one yet though.

4. Don't be surprised to see the streets of the main cities deserted on weekend evenings, though maybe this is just a winter thing. Where is everyone?

5. The cops do monitor your speed on the motorway, and, eh, they do impose fines.

6. The Kiwis don't say mate half as much as the Aussies.

7. The bank machines only give out $20 bills. We got out $800 a few times and each time we were given 40 $20 bills. What's the story? That's like getting €500 in €10 notes.

8. Almost all petrol stations use the same price for their petrol. It's cheap though so who cares.

9. Your average Kiwi speaks with complete frankness - especially if you get them onto something controversial.

10. Almost without exception, the people here are extremely friendly and hospitable and the country - both islands - has an absolutely breathtaking beauty.

(By the way, we've set the date of this posting to 18th August, although we left on the 19th we're arriving in the Cook Islands on the 18th.)

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