Chapter 4: Rarotonga

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The plane landed in Rarotonga around 6 and I followed my guidebook to a hostel that was reportedly renowned for its hospitality. The administration only worked after 10 so I dropped off my bag and set out on the "cross-island trek". The tragic flaw with this island was its weather; though it had not rained in a month's time, I was now hit with a consistent downpour. The first two miles of the trek were double-track, so I followed the trail until it changed into a string of muddy rocks running up a steep slope into a dense jungle; since the weather had worsened from "shower" to "typhoon," I was forced to turn back. On the way, I encountered an American couple that was going to attempt it, and I shared with them my firm belief that they would most likely die, but they decided to press on; I never saw those two again. When I returned to the hostel, the owner informed me that it was fully booked and I would have to leave immediately, so I went out to the bus stop to wait for the next half-hour in the rain. While I was waiting, some random guy stopped and offered to help me find accommodation. He was in the middle of errands, so before we sought out a hostel we went to the bank, the courthouse, his lawyer's office, his lawyer's house; through all this I got a rather unique tour of the island - Chris explained that his lawyer had a train hobby and naturally I expected a model train track to be set up around his house, but as it turned out, he had constructed a real track on which he ran a train that he had imported. Chris eventually conceded that he didn't know of any budget accommodation, but offered to let me stay at his house. His home was a little ramshackle by US standards no locking doors or windows, no hot water (and half the time, no running water at all), but it was close to town and the airport. Since it was still raining and any hope of renting a bike was quickly evaporating, Chris took me on a round-island tour (35km in total). We visited a few overlooks, a waterfall, a guy who climbed coconut trees to entertain tourists, the "ghost Sheraton" (an overseas group had constructed all the buildings for a massive resort and then run out of money), and other miscellaneous sights. He spoke to every islander we came across - he was apparently from a chiefly family and was somehow related to every single person in the country. Refusing to let me pay the exorbitant food prices in town, he prepared a feast of roast chicken and typical island veggies; he also offered a pile of peeled rotten bananas encrusted in flies that I politely declined (I would get this offer several more times - always the same pile - each time, less appetizing than before); I went to an "island night" at a local restaurant where a group played the drums and told jokes where hula-ers showed off the native dances; they pulled several audience members onto the stage to amuse themselves at the tourists' expense - fortunately, I was mostly asleep when this happened and was not selected - I would hate to have shown up the professional dancers. The next morning, the rains seemed to have subsided, so I went once again to attempt the cross-island trek (rain forests dry quick) this turned out to be a ridiculously difficult and treacherous hike with no signs to indicate whether you were going the right way or what dangers lay ahead. It began with a nearly vertical ladder of tree roots and rocks up to a rock formation known as the needle at 400m; from here, I walked along the crest of the mountains - the trail was a foot wide and was covered in wet tree-roots and rocks and had a sheer 1000-ft drop on both sides. At times, the "path" was an unprotected climb up the rock face. The descent was no easier; the only way down in most parts was to swing from limb to limb while doing an awkward backwards crawl. This was 4 solid hours of the scariest, most intense scrambling of my life - despite what any book may say, you should never attempt this climb without a guide or the 300 page guidebook or a legitimate desire to end your life. Upon finishing the hike, I was, not surprisingly, on the other side of the island, so I started the long walk back, eating random things I found along the way. There are two buses on the island - one goes either clockwise or counter that on the main road every hour. Each time one would pass, I would be ready to board but then catch sight of something shiny in the distance (which would inevitably turn out to be nothing worthwhile) and have another hour to wait. All the snorkelling places were closed for the holidays and besides walking, there seemed to be remarkably little to do on the island. Somehow, my feet had begun to rot from excessive waterlog and it became far too painful to keep walking; when I finally attempted to wave down a bus, it just drove right by, so it was some time before I arrived in town. Walking back from town, it once again began to rain and I was once again thoroughly soaked; a kid on a scooter offered me a ride; hitching on a scooter is, by its very nature, a hundred times more awkward than in a car. While waiting at the house for my 2am flight, myself, Chris and his mother all fell asleep; fortunately I randomly woke up and we made it with time to spare. When I arrived at the airport, all the lights were off and a few sleeping passengers were the sole occupants; around midnight, the staff showed up and got things up and running. I had to pay a NZ$25 departure tax, which is, incidentally, more than I spent the entire time on the island.


I can almost make out the Minnow from here


Can't complain about free lodging


This night was all kind of a blur, but I think it involved hula dancers


Some sort of whale studying place


Don't you love it when your trail vanishes into an impenetrable jungle?


Large rock


The needle


The ghost Sheraton


Even though I arrived at the airport around 2am, the locals still seemed happy to see me


I had a few complaints that I wasn't including enough pictures of myself; this is mainly a logistical issue, but here is one of me in the lavatory of the flight to Fiji

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