I've been told this is the best place in the world...
Rarotonga Travel Blog› entry 7 of 52 › view all entries
Prescriptive Misadventure & Bad Weather
At LAX I think I was the very last person to check in at the Air New Zealand Desk. The second to last person was Andrew from the Isle of Man. Clearly we're kindred spirits in our tardiness, & from then on we became good friends and spent the entire time in the Cooks together.
The flight from LA to Raratonga is about 13 hours; departing at night & arriving in the morning. Whilst waiting at the departure lounge I shared with Andi my plan to escape jet lag & therefore make the most of every minute on Raratonga:
'I'll drop a nytol as soon as we're on the plane, pass right out and come up smiling tomorrow'.
In actual fact I would have come up smiling on the same day, as we'd loose 24 hours in travel, but I couldn't quite get my head around the logistics of the international date line, despite Andrews' numerous & varied attempts to explain.
The Nytol plan went seriously wrong.
An hour after taking the first 'one a night' pill I was tired but wide awake & uncomfortable. I took another and shifted through 700 different positions trying to get snug. An hour later, still awake & unfathomably grumpy, I took a last half pill. Sometime after this I must have passed out whilst experimenting with a ludicrous upside-down-in-the-seat position. Groggily surfaced a few hours later having not moved an inch.
Clambered to the toilet cubile. Reeled in fright at my face: the last time my reflection looked this hideous was in the midst of a very ill-advised acid trip. Gravity had pumped my face full of fluid to almost twice it's size - all features were lost in the puff. My eyes were unrecognisable as my own - tiny coin slots in fat wads of skin!! Traumatised, I returned to my seat & waited, hoping for the first time ever that gravity would pull the swollen bits downwards.
It was raining in Raratonga when we got there & continued to do so for 2 whole days. This turned out to be a Good Thing because the effects of the Nytol took just as long to wear off. (in which time I nursed a cracking headache, along with sloth like energy levels and elevated grumpiness) I would've been seriously unhappy to miss out any sunshine due to self induced ill-health.
I am never, ever, ever, ever touching sleeping pills again.
Australasian Coincidence #1
Quite randomly I bumped into the son of a lady who taught me how to horse ride in a tiny Hampshire village over 25 years ago.
It happened like this: Fireman Paul says to me & Andrew:
"EH! YOU GUYS'VE GOTTA COME TO THIS NEAT LITTLE BAR WE FOUND BY THE BEACH, IT'S RUN BY THIS COOL ENGLISH GUY, HE'S A REAL OLD-SCHOOL DUDE.
Because he's Canadian Paul says everything loudly and enthusiatically. So Andrew & I go 'okay' and head down there at 10ish that evening. (acutally we should have got there at 9ish but got lost en-route. This is quite a feat considering how Raratonga has only got one road which is a complete circle)
The bar is called Waterline and is snuggled amongst the palm trees overlooking an idyllic stretch of beach. It really is the cosiest, most welcoming, unpretentious place you could hope be on a balmy night. When we got there Paul & Jean-Luc (French teacher living in Madagascar) had tucked into a fair few beers & had the bar seats well warmed up for us. Paul made our introductions to the relaxed looking chap at the bar:
'Andrew-Chris, Chris-Andrew" then
"Natasha- Chris, Chris-Natasha".
I asked Chris "Where in England are you from?"
and he says "Lymington". '
Ooo!" I say "me too!".
"Actually Pennington, just outside Lymington.."
"ooo!' I say again "I know Pennington well, In fact I used to spend every weekend riding on the common with a lady called Mrs Mussle.."
"That's my Mum!!"
"She's buiried over there!" He waves his arm to the left. Oh. my. god.
So then Chris & I spent the next hour quite rudley ignoring the boys as we reminise about Pennington circa 1980; about his little house with stables in the back garden and about his mum & her hardy spirit. We were really quite emotional by the end of the night ( it wasn't even boozy sentiment as I'm still abstaining).
It was far too late to catch the bus to the backpackers lodge so we were forced to hitch instead. (risk free in Raratonga) A few cars passed Andrew whose thumb was raised in a polite 'please' gesture. Paul, fuelled by a few more beers since the early intros, took matters into his own bear-like hands and literally pounced on a passing truck.
With a bellowing "EEEHH!!" he slapped the bonnet with one hand & waving the other madly he yelled at the driver "WE'RE HEADED THAT WAY MATE, ALRIGHT TO GIVE US A LIFT? EH!".
The slightly bewildered Raratongan nodded agreement and we hopped in the back and rode home through warm tropical night air.
The Cross Island Hike.
My Lonely Planet (kindly donated by Owen, thanks Bud!) advises that the Cross Island Hike 'should only be attempted in the company of a local guide.' Naturally nobody pays this any attention. How hard can it be to walk from one side to the other of an Island so small it only takes 45 minutes to drive around ?
After stocking up with Bundaberg's Ginger Beer & other sugary things, Jean-Luc, Paul, Andrew and I headed off towards the highest point in the centre of the Island: The Needle. The route starts as a road, then becomes a lane, then a path and in no time at all it's a small single track recognisable by being the only possible route through the thick foliage. This part of the trek is would be labelled 'The Fatburner' in gym circles: You simply climb vertically one foot after the other using roots as footholds, trying not to headbut the person ahead in the bum.
After feeling like proper explorers breaking through the wilderness, we arrived at the foot of the Needle only to find about 3 other (slightly sweaty) groups, inlcuding a team of tough 80 year olds. Hmm, not so intrepid now.
The fun really started on the way back down the other side of the mountain (or is it just a big hill?). Somehow we managed to loose the path & spent about an hour muttering 'this can't be right....' as we trapesed upwards (instead of downwards) following what may or may not have been a whisper of a track. When the descent came it was little more than a series of straight drops winding through trees and roots in cascades of loose dirt and rubble. There was no hope of standing-up, so we had to say goodbye to the seat of our pants and simply sit and slide down, grabbing at vines and rocks to avert snowballing into a heap of broken bones.
We finally found a way out of the wildreness by following a river to a waterfall. Once at the bottom we were again surrounded by other explorers, many of whom had had the same off-piste experience (the 80 year olds had beat us to the bottom!!). Stripping down to our swim gear we leapt into the icy pool at the foot of the waterfall & swam over to the base where the falling water brutally pummels your head & shoulders. It's absolute bliss after 4 hours scrubbing about in the dirt & heat.
This was by far my favorite day on the Cooks & it cost absolutley nothing; just good company & a bottle of fizzy pop.