I did not have to market our around the island road to Ruth as she could see that it was flat and at only 32km we would hardly break out in a sweat.
We did not bother to book bikes, let’s wait for the right day (calm and cool?) and just turn up at the bike hire shop. That was the plan but the problem when we turned up was that they only had two bikes available. “Beach cruisers” they called them, huge tyres (think tractor) and weird handlebars (think Easy Rider). However, “beggars can’t be choosers” and given that it was just a short excursion they looked like they should make it around the island without falling apart. We took the “cruisers”.
How wrong could we be, the bikes were heavy and hard to move along and by our return we were tired and our elbows were aching from the strange handlebars. The lack of suspension and the rather bumpy island roads resulted in feeling a little “worse for wear”.
While there were a few negatives, there were some very positive aspects to the ride. There is a simple navigational rule if you are doing the clockwise trip around an island. Sea is on the left, mountains are on the right. Furthermore, there are no confusing signposts to worry about, if you keep riding along the same road you will eventually end up where your started. How cool is that? For those who have followed our blog over many years, this is monumental. Despite the challenging equipment, the head wind (why was it always a head wind?), the many stops to look at “shops”, we completed the distance in near record time. Given the leisurely pace how could this be? The answer – we did not get lost!
We were going to complete the across the island walk but did not take our boots. Having looked at the terrain we decided that our footwear was not suitable for what was obviously going to be a relatively steep and probably slippery track. Instead we opted to walk a “road” that ventured well into the interior of the island but was hopefully more suited to our equipment (or lack of).
In my earlier post I mentioned the high number of “free range” dogs. On the coast road the dogs we had come across seemed disinterested in strangers. If it was warm, they were usually comatose. However, up this “road less travelled” it seemed that a couple of strangers were something of great interest, even on a warmish day.
As the sealed road deteriorated into a dirt track we were greeted by two very excited dogs, lots of barking and attempts to jump all over us. Well if they were going to maul us there was nothing to stop them, no nearby houses and our coconut tree climbing skills are zero. I could have swung my camera at them but given my track record with cameras that was going to have an unhappy ending for me, Ruth’s insistence that “they go on home” fell on deaf ears. We were rapidly coming to the conclusion that the cost of our rabies vaccinations may turn out to be a good investment (if we survived).
The jumping all over us stopped but they raced off up the track and started to stir up every other dog in the valley. Our return to New Zealand was starting to look doubtful. Ruth was looking at me as if I should produce an AK 47 from underneath my tank top or at least let her sit on my shoulder.
After a while we noticed that they would race up the track and disappear from sight. Eventually we would round a bend and find one of the dogs waiting for us. This went on for some distance before we realised that they were going for a walk with us. After serval hours of their company we finally made our way back to where they had first hooked up with us. At that point they headed off to what we guess was their home, no doubt happy with their adventure. We were just happy to get out of the valley.
We loved the diversity of the plants. We have many different hibiscus and tropical plants at home but we saw many varieties of hibiscus that we had never seen before. The colours were amazing and on every walk we would always find something we had never seen before.
Institutions such as Parliament and Churches are housed in functional buildings rather than something that is designed to impress upon us mere mortals the power of the entity
While tourism would be the country’s biggest business and we visited in peak time, the tourist numbers were modest by international standards. Compared to many of the places we visited in Europe and Asia, it was pretty much deserted. However, I am sure it is relative and to a local it would seem crowded.
Locals received a right to occupy land rather than any freehold title. They could build their house on it but not sell the land. I hope they don’t change that. The resort accommodation ranged from very nice to the level that we had (comfortable). But it was all low impact, no high rise and all tastefully designed and landscaped to fit into this unique environment.
We were sad to leave and were probably lucky to have seen it as we did. If climate change does result in the sea level rises predicted, the future of these islands (and many Pacific Islands) is bleak. Tourism in Rarotonga would probably disappear with the lagoon and many of the outlying islands gone.