They instantly fell in love. The pristine white sandy beaches, sparkling blue water and lush green mountains proved too hard to resist.
Within seconds, the childhood friends from Visby, Gotland Island in Sweden decided Cook Islands is the place they want to spend most of their first holiday together.
With just a little knowledge about the Pacific and the Cook Islands, the two set out on their intrepid journey.
After spending some time in Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand, Ahlén and Ljung set their foot in the Cook Islands last month.
“We arrived at night so we didn’t see much, but we were curious to see what was in store for us the following morning,” Ljung said.
Then came the new day and in the typical island style, the two were awake with the first rooster crow.
A quick walk down to the nearby beach and their dream sight – pristine blue waters and white sand, stood before them. That first impression was enough to convince them they had made the right decision to come here.
“When we went to see our travel agent to discuss the possibility of a Pacific island tour, they showed us pictures of the Cook Islands. We knew straight away this was a place we had to check out,” Ahlén said.
“Our first impression of the place was, ‘Wow! This is truly a paradise. All we had imagined was right before our eyes. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Billeted at the Backpackers International in Kavera, the two made friends among their fellow travellers and went out for an adventure around the island.
They also spent a couple of days in Aitutaki which their travel agent had told them was one of the most beautiful islands in the Pacific. They unanimously agreed after just a short time on the island.
“In the three weeks we spent here, we did the cross-island hike, went to church three Sundays, visited the museum, did snorkelling, played a bit of volleyball in Muri beach, had a great party at the bars on some nights, cycled around the island and visited the night market,” Ahlén said.
“We love the people here, they are so easy going and friendly. The food and fruits are just amazing, the culture is so unique and welcoming.”
Ljung, who spent six months in Samoa when she was nine, said the lifestyle here was so relaxed and friendly that they immediately felt at peace.
“We surely have some jealous friends and families who are curious about our pictures from here on our Instagram and Facebook accounts,” she said with a laugh.
“They are asking where Cook Islands is. They want to visit this place as well.
“In Sweden, people are so busy and stressed. They need getaways like this. I hope there is more awareness of such a beautiful place like the Cook Islands in Sweden.”
The two leave Rarotonga for the second leg of their holiday to South America tonight.
While they are excited with what’s in store for them in Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, they will never forget the memories they made here.
“We like travelling so after this holiday, we will go back home and work hard for our next trip and hopefully, we are able to come back to the Cook Islands for the second time,” Ahlén said.
“For us, this place is truly a home away from home.”