What to do on a lovely tropical day in the south Pacific? You've already had a half dozen days just like it, and most likely there's another week's worth coming your way. You checked email and went to the farmer's market yesterday; you have wandered a few kilometers both ways down the beach and explored the motos, the tiny lagoon islands, across the water from the little family run bungalow resort on Muri beach. It's a day when you have even tired of snorkeling with all the colourful fish in the warm crystal waters of the lagoon ...
¿Where the Heck are You? - Crossing Te Rua Manga!
Rarotonga - Cook Islands. Well, if you are anything like me, you gear up and go for a trek. So I did just that! I went for a trans-island trek to pass the day away and explore Rarotonga's interior. I would cross the island on a generally east to west route. I would need to hike, climb, and scramble through the jungle and over the island's central volcanic ridge to reach the far side of the island.
The interior of Rarotonga is dotted with the cones and lava vents of long extinct volcanoes rising up out of the lush tropical rainforest that blankets the island. The peak, Te Rua Manga, is in the center of the island, with its lava needle rising up above the beach and coastal plains of Rarotonga to a height of 500 meters (about 1650ft).
To cross the Island, the first order of business was to ride my scooter into town and park it near the central market area for easy retrieval that evening.
I had packed a couple sandwiches and granola bars back at the bungalows. I planned on snagging a papua or mango from a tree as I trek along through the rainforest, and bought a liter of cold water while I was at the market.
From town I follow the dirt track out of Avarua, the main village on Rarotonga. The track winds for a couple kilometers across the coastal plain and up the gently rising valley of Takuvaine Stream, known as Happy Valley. Along the way, I pass Rarotonga's lone power plant, a scattering of huts and garden patches, and groves of mango and papua. The dirt road ends at the far end of a clearing just past the last hut along the stream. From here, I have to hump it through the jungle on the often-disappearing trail that gets steeper and steeper the further I climb up the slopes of Te Rua Manga, one of the extinct volcanoes that helped form Rarotonga.
I find a secure enough spot with an opening in the canopy to stop for a moment and take a few photos. After stashing my camera securely in my pack, I reach for my water bottle. The bottle is slick, the cold liquid sweating the outside of the bottle in the tropical heat. I take a long slurp with my head tipped back, then drag the wet bottle across my brow to cool it. My feet stutter step to regain firm setting on the ridge top just as the slick half-empty bottle of water squirts out of my hand. Flailing arms grab wildly in the air after the bottle, and simultaneously for anything, a vine, a branch, to regain my precarious position on the ridge ... the water bottle escapes ... crashing down through the jungle canopy below me, never to be seen again.
Until at long last ... I come to the pot of gold at the end of the afternoon thunderstorm's rainbow - the tropical waterfall of Papua Stream cascading down into a most beautiful and inviting swimming hole!
After a revitalizing dip under the freshly flowing cascades to cool off, there are still a couple more kilometers to go. I am walking lazily now, feeling accomplished yet knowing I will pay for this adventure tomorrow with stiff and sore muscles. I wander the relatively flat costal plain of village farms heading for the beach and the lagoon.
Back on the coast's ring road, I grab a bottle of water from a little shack of a market along the road. Then continue the search for the nearest bus stop. Time now to catch the circum-island bus, it will be the last one of the day that completely circles the island. I must catch that bus and get back to my side of the island before the folks where I am staying send out the rescue party!