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Gone Bikin’

2010 September 13
by rob

March 24, 2009

Today I had ambition! Even though my attempt to walk across the interior of the island was thwarted yesterday, today I would try and bicycle around it. I walked to the Budget car rental office in the morning after breakfast. It was about 3 km from the hostel, in the anticlockwise direction. If the island of Rarotonga was a clock, my hostel would be at about 9 o’clock. The main city, Avarua, would be at about 12 o’clock. The airport was at 11 o’clock. The Budget office was at about 7 o’clock. My bicycle rental for the day was NZ$10 (CA$7). The bike wasn’t very fancy. It had only a handful of gears and a big basket on the front. On the way back to the hostel, I bought a papaya at a roadside fruitstand that I brought back and had for lunch before setting out on my odyssey.

On the recommendation of some people at my backpackers, I decided to bicycle around the island in the clockwise direction. My first stop was Avarua where I stopped at a shop and picked up a nice souvenir t-shirt. I continued on the the village of Mori (at about 3 o’clock on the island). I hid from the rain for a bit at a shop and drank some water. By putting my camera on a picnic table and using a timer, I was able to get a self portrait.

Gone Bikin'

Gone Bikin'

Nearby, I stopped to visit the spot where the seven great vaka (large double-hulled ocean going canoes) departed Rarotonga about 700 or 800 years ago to settle Aotearoa (New Zealand!). You could really feel the history here. There was a simple monument consisting of some stones in a circle.

Stone Canoe Circle

Stone Canoe Circle

I tried snorkeling a bit in the lagoon nearby using a snorkel and mask that someone in the hostel gave me, but they were pretty bad so I wasn’t that successful. I continued on to the south side of the island and tried snorkeling again, but the water was too murky and there were too many people around (just as Verena warned me). I already missed the big glorious lagoon of Aitutaki!

Some more rain fell on me as I cycled along the south short of the island. It wasn’t letting up, so I decided to stop at a nice café for some chocolate cake, ice cream, and Lavazza coffee. It was probably going to be my last “long black” coffee for a long time since I was returning to the world of “americanos” in North America. As I drank the coffee, I stared south across the lagoon and to the ocean. There was no land between here and Antarctica, 6000 km away.

After the rain tapered off, I pedaled hard up to Wigmore’s Waterfall. It was small, but pretty. I could have walked here the day before if I had successfully navigated the Cross Island track. After it, there wasn’t much farther left to go before I reached the Budget office again and returned my bike. The distance was about 32 km. It took me a few hours to do it, including the stops.

On the way back to the backpackers, I stopped to buy a coconut and a banana from the roadside vendor stand with the cutest kids ever! Two star fruits (or “raparapas”) were 50 cents. Bananas were 50 cents each and guavas were 50 cents each. Of course, it’s pure profit for these kids, since these fruits simply grow everywhere and they probably picked these fruits off the ground!

Cutest Kids Ever!

Cutest Kids Ever!

I was already an old hand at opening my own coconuts with basic sharp object. The hostel didn’t have a sharpened iron stake like I used on Aitutaki, but there were lots of sharp rocks I could use to open it. I was almost an expert now and was even showing other people how to do it! The banana and coconut meat would go into my very fine muesli for dinner.

Once I was back, I jumped in the pool, slacked off, showered, and slacked off some more. I had picked up a six pack of Matutu Pale Ale (a local brew) in Avarua the day before so I finished that off. It was my last day in the Cooks and I had to do it!

After having my muesli for dinner, I said goodbye to people, packed my bags, and went to bed at a very early 8:30 PM. I tried to get a few hours of shuteye before I had to leave for the airport at the very bleary hour of 1:30 AM. Sadly, I didn’t sleep one wink. I wasn’t tired enough and it was hot. I just waited out the last of the time by listening to my iPod in bed. I had a lot of flying the next day. It was going to be nuts.

Rob Szumlakowski
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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