Friday, 21 November 2014

Cook Islands, Rarotoga (Cross Island Walk) - 9/11/14

I poked my head out of the hatch to see why the sounds of children playing seemed closer than normal. I was met with the sight or four or five young girls hanging off our kayak. I stared at them for a while, trying to locate the paddle. It usually gets left on the kayak, but now the only thing in it are children. One of them saw me watching them, and let out a loud 'Garth said we could,' as if he were the parent and they had been given special privileges. Did he now?

They informed me that the paddle was safe on shore and continued splashing about in the water. I swear Garth still thinks he's ten. He eventually came back from the markets and invited them aboard. Within a few minutes the number of children multiplied as they swarmed the boat like it was a giant playground. They would climb on, run to the bow, jump off and then scamper back onboard again. Soon they were joined by a group of boys as well as the shy girls that had stayed on shore. Garth was having the time of his life playing with them. I kept hearing choruses of 'Garth, Garth!'

After poking their noses inside they scored invitations to venture downstairs as well, so they could investigate the rest of the boat. I chatted to them for a while and was struck by how incredibly intelligent they were. I was talking to one girl about why the boat was rocking around so much - the harbour is exposed from the north and the wind was swinging around to a northerly. She said "It's a full moon too, make sure you're really careful."

"Because the tides change so much?" I replied. She nodded wisely. Another one piped in and said "You should check the tide times in the paper." When I was ten, I knew nothing about tides. These island kids are awesome. They told us lots of information about the walk we were about to go on as well. The girls were excited for us because it ends at a waterfall. The boys were bragging about how many times they'd done it and climbed up the big rock in the middle, where the walk is supposed to be more a bit more like rock climbing than hiking. One of them said it was the highest point on the island, but I don't know how accurate that is. I'm sure at least one other mountain is higher.

Our anchorage here is actually really nice. It's in the middle of town and only a few metres from shore, which is convenient. Unfortunately the convenient location also comes with a takeaway burger place right behind of our boat. Literally. You step onto the shore and you're in the car park. So we're constantly haunted by the smell of burgers, which is dangerous at the end of a long day when we don't feel like cooking...

Kids and parents alike rock up all day, every day to jump off the wharf into the cool, clear water right next to our boat. They make a game of it. The younger ones dive in one after another like a Mexican wave, or cannonball in to try and make the biggest splash. There're constant back flips, bellyflops and divers with perfect form to keep us entertained. We're surrounded by the sounds of people having fun. It seems to be a main attraction here for the kids, which is fine unless Garth let's them invade our boat...



So after a splashy morning we headed off on the Cross Island Walk. They recommend you take a guide, but I think having other people watch me sweat like a pig and collapse at the top of every hill might have made the trip less enjoyable. We walked from town, which added an extra hour onto the hike than if we'd gotten a lift up to the carpark. But it was a lovely day and a nice walk.



After navigating past goats, dogs, chickens and a village I didn't even notice was there, we made it up onto the mountain. The path started off as a normal walk, then turned into a tiny track in between the trees, then a mess of tree roots and finally slippery dirt paths covered in loose gravel. We timed it on a day when there hadn't been any rain for a while, and I'm glad we did. I'd been told that after rain the paths turn into waterfalls, everything becomes slippery and you emerge at the end so covered in mud that you could easily be mistaken for a Swamp monster.





The path got steeper and steeper as we went. There were plenty of hand holds in the tree roots and a lot of it was more like an upward climb than a walk. It was not easy. There were ropes hanging along some of the paths to grab onto, and the angle of the slope often made me feel like I was abseiling.




The Needle


We eventually made it to the Needle, which is the distinctive rock which sticks up in the middle of the island. We climbed it as far up as possible, with the aid of chains which had been attached along the base of the rock. Some parts of the climb had bushes in between you and the cliff. In other places you were just clinging onto a chain on a tiny bit of rock next to a giant drop. There were solid footholds in the rock and it didn't feel dangerous, but at the end of the day the only thing connecting me to the rock was my grip on a chain and my nonexistent sense of balance. We would have preferred that the path up the rock went all the way to the top, but enjoyed the view nonetheless.





Some time before arriving at the needle we ran into a hen and her rooster friend. They circled us a few times, obviously used to people. Then the hen proceeded to follow us. She followed along the slippery path, as we skidded over the loose gravel. She followed us to the base of the Needle and stood there watching us rest. Then she followed us up the rocks to the highest point on the walk. We were clinging to chains and sidling along next to the rock wall. She just hopped her way up the rocks until she was at the top with us, the wind blowing from behind and ruffling up all her feathers in weird directions. Then we crawled down along the wall and still she followed, casual as anything. I don't know what Garth does, but animals and children just seem to follow him everywhere.




The rest of the walk was more of the same, snaking down the other side of the mountain and then following a stream for ages. We were dripping in sweat and ready for a swim by the end, but the waterfall was nonexistent. Just a shallow pool and a hint of water where it normally flows. The island kids said you could jump off the waterfall, so it must be especially dry at the moment. It took us about four hours all up, and it was a nice way to spend the day.





The path was marked by the same orange triangles they use on walks in NZ, some older looking green metal strips wrapped around trees and even older looking bits of wood nailed to trees with faded arrows painted on them. We started at the town (Aruva) and made our way to the other side of the island. Every time we felt lost and the path disappeared, a marker would appear just before we wandered off in the wrong direction. But there didn't seem to be many markers going the other way. In fact unless you knew where to find the arrows, you could very easily get lost. The path crossed the river over and over again and kept ending up in weird places. We often had to scramble up random rocks and banks, which you wouldnt think to do if you couldnt find the markers. I definitely wouldn't want to do it from the other direction without a guide. We had a great day though, even if it was challenging.





The waterfall...

So we're having so much fun here! It's the first time we've really been able to relax on the boat since leaving NZ a year ago. We've really enjoyed ourselves everywhere we've been, but in the back of our minds we've always been stressed about getting across the South Pacific before cyclone season. Now we're here! The Cyclones don't make it all the way to French Polynesia that often and we're now in the place we were worried about getting to. So we've just been enjoying life. The other day we went to the beach. And just hung out all day doing nothing. It was fabulous. We had to go and see Muri beach, considering it's the most popular, touristy destination on the whole island. It was just a beach. Granted, it was stunningly beautiful. But everything here is!



Muri Lagoon


There wasn't enough wind to go kiting in the iconic lagoon, so we wandered further north and went snorkelling in front of Fruits of Rarotonga. Which was average at best. I had fun, but got bored after a while. Which was probably because we'd already been to Aro'a beach on the other side of the island and the snorkeling there was great. The coral wasn't as exciting as in places we'd previously been, with bits scattered over white sand. But the water was clear and was shallow enough to stand up everywhere so not exactly chtgallenging. It's a marine reserve so we couldn't move without brushing past fish. They were super friendly.






We've been keeping up with repairs since Jerry left. I made a big list of things I wanted to do before we left the Cook Islands, and we've been steadily getting through it. Life is good.

Xxx Monique




Underwater selfies




Just chilling out


Garth wanted to pat him


The view from the top

1 comment:

  1. SO wonderful to know you are able to relax now that you have met your deadline. LOVE the chook story!!! Aunty Fiona XOXO

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