I am travelling with my wife Kirsten and five children Alyssa (12), Jaeden (10), Dailin (8), Orin (6) and Eli (3) for a two and a half month adventure to the South Pacific. The first two weeks will be in the Cook Islands (Rarotonga 11 days and then to Aitutaki where we will stay in the islands’ most affordable shack for 3 days).
We will then head off for Tahiti for two months. While in Tahiti we will be staying with two families (of friends). Another friend also has a husband who works on the cargo ships which distributes goods throughout the Society Islands so we will have some real adventurous sea sick stories to tell. The first 2 weeks in Tahiti will probably be on the island of Tahiti, followed by the overnight Cargo ship to Bora Bora where we will stay with another family for 3-4 weeks. From this point we will take some 1 to 3 day trips to nearby islands.
We then plan to venture out to one or more remote Tuamotu Islands (including Rarotonga, a 30 km wide donut shaped island) where we will be cut off from cell phone coverage. Although we are not sure if our budget will allow for it, the Marquesas Islands may be a faint possibility.
Internet access is a bit touch and go on Bora Bora. Not too bad in Tahiti and the Cook Islands so we plan to login once or more per week. We will be updating this online travel blog throughout the trip so people can see what adventures we have experienced or are about to experience. One of our family’s goals are to learn and live from the local Tahitians and to learn French in the process.
We will be leaving on February 21st and returning on May 9th… that is if everything goes as planned. There are a lot of gaps in our plans to account for following the adventure to where it wants to take us. Not to worry, we are prepared… we think.
Part 1: Feb 21, 2007 – Flying with 5 Kids
Flying to the South Pacific
Well February 21st, departure day could not have come soon enough (although I wouldn’t have minded another week to get ready for leaving work for two and a half months). In any case I jumped on the plane with my wife and 5 kids anyways. I couldn’t let them have all the fun without me. Leaving Victoria around noon we were all refreshed and anxious to get going. Only 30 minutes to Vancouver and quick walk through US customs and we were boarding our just under 3 hour flight to Los Angeles.
It was in LA that we got a little restless waiting for our twelve and a half hour trip to Rarotonga (Cook Islands). The five hour layover was a bit long. There were no play areas for the kids and so we kept them entertained with the carry on items we had kept with us. After 5 hours of cards, Lego and scaring fellow passengers with Chinese yo-yo’s we were definitely ready for our late night flight to the South Pacific. The timing was perfect. We kept the kids up late and so by the time our 10pm flight rolled around they were ready for a good night sleep. The two youngest couldn’t even wait the 45 minutes before a hot dinner was served. They were sleeping shortly after takeoff.
The flight was extremely comfortable, especially considering it was only about 20% full. That meant there were some three center seat beds for each member of our family. The nine hours to our first stop in Papeete, Tahiti went by quickly as all the kids slept soundly (and so did I after the in-flight movie).
Our Air New Zealand flight was not reconfigured with the personal in-flight entertainment systems. I think they currently do this for the long range flights directly to New Zealand. As we were preparing to land in Papeete we caught a glimpse of a beautiful above-the-clouds sunrise. The gradually lit up as we landed on our first South Pacific island. Each of our kids were excited to land in French Polynesia but knew that they would have to wait another two weeks before having the opportunity to live there for two months.
Flying through Papeete to Rarotonga
Immediately after exiting the plane and proceeding to customs, we were greeted by two Tahitian girls that handed each passenger a beautifully scented flower with a warm smile. Music was also being played by three musicians as we patiently waited to pass through. After an hour long layover in a special holding area at the airport for transit passengers (complete with a nice sized kids play area) we boarded our flight for Rarotonga with more passengers who joined us. This flight was just under two hours in length and so we landed 23 hours after leaving home.
Our greeting through customs in the Cook Islands was a warm one. Similar to our Tahitian greeting, music was playing and we quickly relaxed into the slower paced mood of the Cook Islands. As we waited for our luggage we watched a police dog walk onto the baggage belt and sniffing and walking over all of our luggage to ensure that no contraband materials were being brought into the islands.
Anyone going to the Cook Islands should make sure to bring some New Zealand dollars with them (either that or some cash to exchange at the airport). There are no ATM’s at the airport or within walking distance. Fortunately I had some Canadian Dollars to exchange otherwise we would have been hiking the 10 km to our hotel. Perhaps I should have pre-booked our hotel transfers too. In any case, with a little bit of local cash on hand we quickly discovered that it was far less expensive for our family of 7 to crowed into a mini-van taxi than to take the multi-stop shuttle bus.