Rarotonga, Cook Islands
An Eery Hike To Te Rua Manga (The Needle).
A WEEK WITH FAMILY FOLLOWED BY A WEEK WITH BACKPACKERS
Let’s take it back to 2006 when I lived in Wellington, New Zealand. I was in the midst of planning a month adventure around both islands with my father and his girlfriend. When I suggested we could spend our last week together in the Cook Islands, without hesitation they excitedly agreed. So after the go-go-go of driving around New Zealand, it was a welcome change of pace to chill on the tranquil island of Rarotonga, the most populous and popular of the Islands.
We rented a house on Turoa Beach, with unobstructed views of the lagoon and reef. It was easy to succumb to the slower pace of island life – paddling kayaks on the calm shallow waters, dancing the night away at a traditional Polynesian show, drinking fresh coconut water at Punanga Nui Market and watching endless VHS movies at night. The week on Rarotonga was amazing that I decided to quit my job to stay another week (I was planning on moving to Queenstown anyway). Sadly, I couldn’t stay at the beach house without the financial support of my father. For some reason, he was not keen on paying for me. I can’t imagine why!? So I waved goodbye to my parents and luxury and off I headed to Vara’s Beach House on Muri Beach.
Being with other travelers made the week a completely different experience to the one with my folks. We skinny dipped under the light of the moon, I straightened a boy’s hair and myself and another backpacker ended up in a dance competition in town – we came in second! Although the week was immensely fun, the main reason for my extended stay was to hike Rarotonga’s most popular cross-island trek – Te Rua Manga (The Needle).
I corralled an eager group from the hostel and after a filling breakfast of pancakes, we took the bus to Avarua Town to begin the hike. Any brochure, guidebook or local will provide exact directions – don’t worry it’s super easy to find the start of the trail. Within minutes of our ascent, sweat beaded on our skin as the humidity in the forest was like being in a hot yoga class. 3km and 3 hours to go. Oh no!
We trekked up the path towards Te Rua Manga with all our strength. Our thighs burned, our butts tightened with every step. The feel of the ground became familiar – rocks, branches, mud, slippery leaves – that when one of my steps caused a loud clanging sound it jarred me out of my exercise funk. I looked down and beneath some dirt and branches was a gray, metal hatch. I frantically yelled ahead to tell my friends to hurry back. We stared, confused by this item being out of place. One of the guys tried to pry it open, with no luck. I mentioned that this felt eerily similar to the TV show Lost. With that comment, we bolted up the mountain.
We arrived at Te Rua Manga (The Needle), a towering rock formation seen from anywhere on the island. The 360-degree view was well worth the torture. Thank goodness it was all downhill to the coast. Although the terrain was like a slip and slide, as evident by my muddy backside, I could wash off the hike when we finally made it to Wigmore’s Waterfall and Lagoon. We jumped into the inviting cold water which awoken us from our tiredness. We slowly walked the short distance to the main road to take the circle island bus back to our hostel. What a great adventure to end my spontaneous extra week.
When To Go To Rarotonga
January – February are the warm months, but also when Aussies and Kiwis have their summer breaks. Prices are high at this time. We went in March and it was perfect! Fewer tourists and lower housing costs.
How much money to bring in New Zealand Dollars (their local currency)
- Hostels: $20-25 per night
- Average meal: $10-20
- Beer: $4
- Milk: I won’t even tell you how much a liter costs – it’s shocking
- Eat in: Select groceries are pricey due to shipping costs. Budget $60-80 for the week
*These photos were taken in 2006 when I was still using a camera from 1986. Sorry for the quality not being up to par. Let’s just say they are vintage!*