COOK ISLANDS : RAROTONGA

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
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Trip End Feb 18, 2007


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Flag of Cook Islands  ,
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Today is the day where we travel back in time, and get to live Saturday 22nd of April all over again. Our flight leaves Fiji at 18:30 on Saturday 22nd, and arrives in Rarotonga at 23:30 on Friday 21st, some 19 hours before we left. How weird is that hey? All explained by the phenomenon known as crossing the International Date Line, where one day begins and another one ends.

Just as well we get to live Saturday all over again, as we soon discover that absolutely everything is closed on a Sunday, here in laid back Rarotonga.

Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands, a group of fairly isolated and sparsely populated islands in the South Pacific, with strong links to New Zealand. Most of the islandīs supplies are imported from Kiwi-land and Air New Zealand are the only International airline to fly here. The islands even use the Kiwi dollar, though they do have their own very unusually shaped coins, one of which is triangular in shape, and a supposed nightmare for vending machines.

The islands receive about 50,000 tourists a year. In a planet of 6,5 billion people that's not that many, so the place has a really laid back and friendly vibe. The people seem to like the easy life and don't seem the slightest bit interested in material goods, or making money. In fact, the opening times of everything here seems to run along the lines of Mon-Fri 8-4pm, Sat 8-1pm, Sunday closed. Not too taxing hey, and they don't need to worry either, as they have money from the Kiwi government, propping the place up.

After spending the first day wandering around Avarua, population 4,500, which must be one of the most laid back capital cities that we have ever visited, we decided to spend the second day doing the famed Cross Island hike.

Even Rotorua, the largest of the Cook Islands, is so small that you can walk from the North of the island, up a mountain to a point known from it's physical appearance as "the Needle", and right down to the beaches on the Southern side, in supposedly little over 4 hours.

The Lonely Planet book strongly recommends hiring a guide for this trek. Do we bother? Do we hell! After all the trampling in New Zealand, we're now both experienced hikers with a great sense of direction. So we set off, up the track though lush green vegetation, past seeming endless trees and plants, which are laden with all kinds of yummy tropical fruit. After about an hour, the track has turned into a small muddy path and we're practically pulling ourselves up the hill by the roots of the trees. When we reach the top, we're afforded great views over both sides of the island, plus the famous distinctly shaped needle.

As we head down the other side, the path keeps crisscrossing a stream, until all of a sudden it starts breaking off into multiple other paths, all looking like they could be the right one. So we make a best guess and follow one of the paths, up to a point where by having to climb up and down trees in order to get through, we realise that it can't be the right one. We retrace our steps and try the second path, which comes to an abrupt end at a cliff edge. We try the third path, which in turn divides into several more paths, we try and follow what we think is the main path, until it comes to an abrupt end at a river bank.

Now, we are starting to get worried, as there are so many possible tracks that we could have taken, and we have no idea which is the correct one.

We've just a few hours now before it gets dark, and we're seriously regretting not taking the travel bookīs advice and hiring a guide. We have visions of being stranded in the middle of the jungle at night, so decide to quite literally take the plunge! Realising that the river must finish in the sea, we start stepping-stoning the rocks in the river bed, heading downstream, and doing our best to stay out of the water. This was getting tiring, we knew that we still had at least a few more kilometres to go to reach the coast and also knew from reading the book, that the river would pass over some very high waterfalls. We were staring to get quite nervy, when all of a sudden, Marc spotted some foot holds in the rocks, on the other river bank. He climbed up them, and to his relief, found another main path, and shouted down to Patty to climb up. Luckily for us, it was the right path, and an hour later, we had reached the other coast. But it felt quite desperate there for a while, so we've learnīt a valuable lesson, if it says to use a guide in the travel book, then itīs probably for a bloody good reason :)

That's been enough stress and exercise to last us the rest of the week, so we spend the next few days chilling out on Muri beach, one of Rarotonga's best, protected by a coral reef and facing onto a crystal clear blue lagoon, could this be paradise?
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