Rarotonga Holiday 1
I am on summer holiday - a week in Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands. But I am not a typical tourist - well, hopefully not! I want to go hiking and exploring in the mountains, rather than flopping on the beach.
Saturday 2nd July - Again!
Due to the International Date Line, I get this day twice - my very first in Rarotonga with Daughter of Moosey. Yippee! My shorts fit! We are staying near Muri in daughter's cottage, for a short summer holiday in winter. Today we've been to the market, driven around the island, watched a local rugby match on a very short field, and the best bit - walked up a mountain road to the Turangi intake along a gravel road.
Head Gardener in Rarotonga
The local wildlife - roosters and hens (called wild chickens) everywhere, pigs in pens eating coconuts... Small plantations of Taro, Cassava, Papaya (both tall and coppiced), banana palms, and coconut palms in every direction.
The vegetation is so green - plants and trees jostle with each other, vines scramble up and over everything. The forest here looks continuous, compared to the more discrete groupings and layers in the New Zealand bush. I have a botanical book on the plants and trees of Rarotonga, so be prepared for some serious identification as I gain confidence!
Scrabble and Crochet...
I am now grappling with my handcraft-on-holiday project - crocheting afghan squares to make a woolly mohair blanket for Pond Cottage (brr - it's wintry and cold at the moment). After out meal (a turqoise parrotfish, covered in lemon and herbs, wrapped and baked in banana leaves) we are having a family Scrabble challenge - you can see this is shaping up to be a real holiday!
Tomorrow we are walking the track across the island. I am so looking forward to this, wondering how different the experience will be compared to New Zealand. I guess a visitor just can't help making comparisons...
Sunday 3rd July
Good morning to the wild chickens (AKA rooster and hens) 'pook-pooking' around on the grass by house ancestor John's tomb. Good morning to John, too.
Today my walking boots are getting their first outing - we are off on the cross-island walk. This I am looking forward to. I had no idea that the island of Rarotonga was so mountainous. I am much more drawn to the mountains than the beaches (salt water in the plait, and so on).
We are back! What a groovy walk - up a slippery clay track following the Papua Stream through the Slope Forest, then up a narrow spur in the Ridge Forest to the Cloud Forest with a lunch stop at the highest point, underneath The Needle (Te Rua Manga, 413m), a well-named part Rarotonga's mountain skyline.
Rooster on the Track
By the way, my proper, impressive forest names come from a Natural Heritage Project book. But more of this later...
Rooster in the Cloud Forest
Unbelievably there he was, Te Rua Manga's resident rooster, accompanied by just one scrawny hen. Rooster knew our lunch-spot well, and took an alarming liking to a tin of sardines left balancing on a rock. It seemed ridiculous - the lush tropical forest, views of sharp-ridged mountains, the distant sea, everything so inspiring and exotic - and a dead common poultry bird for company.
Rooster pecked at some spare crackers, and when we were ready to leave escorted us down to the ridge on the other side of The Needle. We had made a new friend? Oh no - a batch of new hikers appeared, going up, and back he scuttled with his new customers.
This rooster wins my vote for the Cook Islands Entrepreneur of the Year, hands down (or should that be 'claws down'). Alas, I seem to have more pictures of this silly chook than of the wonderful flora. I did not expect to be fending off a pushy lunchtime rooster so high in the forest.
Flora - Nei Nei and Rata
We descended (roosterless) on the drier side of the island down a wonderful example of nature's ladder (tree roots forming perfect hand holds) and soon reached the Avatui Stream valley.
Near the Needle
It was a really enjoyable day trip. Not too steep, nor too scary. A brilliant day, with a rooster at the summit thrown in as a Rarotongan bonus.