Several Canadians visiting the Cook Islands for lengthy vacations during the northern hemisphere winter, year after year, seem to have things in common: They enjoy escaping the bitterly cold winters of Canada, and they love the heat, peace and quiet, and especially the people of Rarotonga.

This summer sees the return of dedicated cyclists Barry Cook and Marie de Sousa for the sixteenth time, and former policewoman Mary Frazer for the thirty first time. Strangely enough they have never met!


Dr. Barry Cook and Marie de Sousa are recognised for their annual visits to Rarotonga, and their daily cycling trips around the island. This their sixteenth consecutive visit to the Cook Islands.

Barry is a dentist from British Columbia (BC). Marie, his wife, is a dental hygienist who works in the practice.

According to Marie, she had never cycled until meeting Barry.

“When I met Barry he said he’d like to do a cross-Canada trip one day, so I had to learn how to ride a bicycle.”

Today, they make an annual cycling pilgrimage to Rarotonga: “It all started with my mother wanting her family to celebrate her 80th birthday with a vacation together. I convinced her to come to the Cook Islands,” said Barry.

“At high school I read Thor Heyerdahl’s The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Pacific. I knew then I had to go there one day”.

Barry and Marie have always travelled with their own bikes.

“Every year we called Cook Island Realty to find us a place. We started with two weeks, then a month, six weeks, now three months,’ said Barry. “This is our sixteenth visit.”

Over the years Barry and Marie have noticed changes on Rarotonga.

“A lot of construction with resorts and accommodation,” said Marie.

Barry added: “And, the number of cars and the size of the cars has increased. Everybody once had little cars, now it seems that they all have a Toyota Hi-Lux”.

Barry and Marie normally stay in Rarotonga from end-November to end-February.

They cycle around the island once or twice a day, sometimes three times. They keep cycling because they love the fresh air, the views and the exercise.

“This is the one time of the year we exercise for three months is a row,” said Marie.

“After three months cycling here I go home feeling very strong and better able to deal with the public in our business, who seem to be getting more and more demanding. So by the beginning of November, I am dying to get to the Cook Islands. I love the outdoors and I know what we will be doing here”.

Barry has two fused ankles, causing him difficulty walking up hills: “Cycling’s great because there is very little joint pressure. I also love to swim when I come here.”

With all that fresh air and exercise Barry and Marie are a picture of health.

“There is always that constant breeze when cycling; its better than walking in the summer heat and humidity,” said Marie.

“Our favourite stopping spot is in front of Police Headquarters in Avarua. There are shady trees and we like to look out onto the ocean there. We also enjoy the stretch along by the airport,” said Barry.

Barry and Marie have encountered many Rarotonga residents over the years to the point where locals often stop them for a chat, and a welcome ‘home.’

“We’ve met a lot of wonderful people here,” said Marie.

“We hope when people see us cycling around this island every day, they realise that anyone can do it, and its good for you!” said Barry


Born on Vancouver Island, Mary Frazer is 90 going on 91. Starting work at the age of 14 in a local department store where she stayed there until age 33, Mary went on to join Vancouver Police.

“I was with the Police doing patrol work, until retiring at age 60. I never married…I never had the time!”

Mary’s desire to travel goes back to the 1960s when she was a volunteer at veterans club in Vancouver. She met some New Zealand merchant sailors who told her tales about the Cook Islands.

“Since then it had always been in the back of my mind to go there.

“After I retired from the Police Department, I worked as a tour guide to Asia accompanying groups. One year I came home very tired after a trip. I saw an ad in the paper for two weeks in Rarotonga, that was thirty-one years ago in February, and this was my room I on my first trip”.

Mary was being interviewed on the patio of a room in Pauikura Reef Lodges, which has recently been renamed the Black Pearl of Puaikura.

“After those first two weeks, I said to myself ‘I’m coming back!’ I looked around for different accommodation but decided this was the place I would come back to, so I came back for Christmas the same year.

“It’s the place and the people!” said Mary.

“I have always stayed here, and always in the same room. If you look on the patio wall there is a panel that reads: Mary’s House.

Mary been coming to Rarotonga for 28 years, but thirty times, having visited more than once in two of those years.

“I don’t do very much when I come here. The pool in the morning, the beach in the afternoon. I also have a morning walk along the beach at 6.30am most days. I pick up a newspaper, do my laps in the pool, then breakfast.

“There are more resorts in Rarotonga nowadays, but the people don’t seem to change. I know people at the market and people around this area. I love this area because I know the people in it now,” said Mary emotionally.

“I love everyone of them. They treat me fantastically well. I don’t feel like a visitor”

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