Stepping out of the airplane and onto the warm tarmac, arrival in Rarotonga is a relaxed affair. There’s a tiny terminal ahead, containing a man strumming a ukulele in welcome, with the sweet floral smell of hibiscus and tropical humidity in the air.
Author Archives: KevinPtak
When two seats opened up at the small table to our left, I nearly shoved the previous occupants out of the way to duck under the umbrella canopy and slide sideways into the wicker chairs. It was shoulder-to-shoulder, elbow-to-elbow amidst the packed tables in the narrow laneway, and the competition was intense for some of Melbourne’s finest coffee, and by that measure, some of the finest in the whole southern hemisphere.
Travel writing is rife with “life changing” “unforgettable” or “spiritual” experiences. It’s good practice to approach these with a degree of skepticism; many of us have had experiences like these, all of which are interpreted differently by the participants. Swimming alongside the planet’s largest creatures was different. Floating eye-to-eye with a baby whale 40 times your size stirs emotions you’ll never forget.
The Kingdom of Tonga is a collection of specks in the vast Pacific Ocean. It’s also one of the few remaining absolute monarchies in the world, and a land of immense churches and modest houses. A place where you can swim with baby humpback whales by day and quaff kava by campfire at night. So why is there nothing to do on Tongatapu, the main island, where you’ve inevitably just landed?
The White Lady only comes out at night, towed by a tractor to Commerce Street in downtown Auckland, just behind the train station and around the corner from Showgirls. With bright Christmas lights along her flanks like a beacon to the congregating barflies, the White Lady has been serving New Zealand’s late night crowd for more than 60 years, piling burgers high with pineapple, eggs, beets, and a series of accoutrement most would never consider atop on a beef patty.