A Travellerspoint blog

Markets… Mountains and that long walk home…

The Heart of the needle

rain 28 °C

OK, so with less than two days to go on Rarotonga, I had several activities I wanted to get under my belt.
I went to the Saturday Markets…. I took the bus tour around the Island… (an hour long drive or so with the occasional grouping of houses or resorts, and otherwise tropical beach fronts and general island rainforest). And I bought post cards and presents for family and friends.

The markets are mainly fresh food and produce then there is pearls and jewellery (Who am I going to buy jewellery for?) and sarongs (I didn’t need a skirt)…
That said I enjoyed trying the local delicacies and seeing what was on offer.
Saturday had turned out to be the day of the Island’s road race. I walked to and from the markets and as I did I saw cyclists and runners making their long and painful way into the finish line to be welcomed by the traditional drums of the locals. (Silly westerners who think its fun to exhaust themselves by running around the island).


So by mid day everything seemed to have finished… (Well what I mean by this is that the tours had started and the events and shops had closed or finished for the day).
After consulting the Hotel’s reception I found out that all the tours and guides had finished for the weekend… (Great!)
I sat down with a group of Kiwis and French/Polynesians to watch the world cup rugby. (After an unbelievable result, since when do the French beat the all blacks? I became restless).

I took the bus to the edge of the main town and started out for the rocky out crop at the island’s centre known as the “Needle”.
Now a lot of people visit the Needle many via the laid back notion of 4wd safari but as these were not running over the weekend I headed out on foot. (My map of Rarotonga had showed a clear path that leads from one side of the island to the other… and having nothing better to do and an over active sense of adventure I made my way into the steadily darkening rainforest. Now the service road I was walking along had small farms on either side and I choose now to say that if there was an animal to describe my time on Rarotonga it would be the Chicken, as every so many steps along the island I would disturb a chicken her young or even a roster… This said I must admit it did look cool walking past the farms with their Coconut trees, banana plantations and row after row of taro… then there were the goats, chickens and pigs… there was the occasional dog but mainly chickens.


So when the road ended there was a path that led into the thick rainforest… did I mention that it was starting to rain?
OK so like most bush tracks this one followed the ridge line… great! Rivers of water mud and sprawling roots of trees and vines… a fun if not steamy walk with some great views interludes of rain showers. At the top of the track stands the great solid rock outcrop which is the needle… attached to it is a warning along the lines of any journey further up the needle is done at the adventures own risk… (Read you would be an idiot to go up this thing!) So of course I climbed on first hanging onto the steel chains as my feet slipped all over the wet rock… then getting still higher I found the steel chains stopped and there was just wet rock… investigating I found there was an old rope and a garden hose… Now both of these looked old and warn… and any adventurer (Still alive would tell you not to trust a rope you have not secured yourself). This said I tested the garden hose… raising myself a foot off the ground just by pulling on the hose I tumbled backwards towards the edge… with a meter long piece of hose in my hand… The rope didn’t seem any stronger but by ensuring that I had secure hand and foot holds I minimised my use of either and made my way up through the centre of the needle.


Now I’ll just clarify here that there were several times I stopped, once or twice to think how spectacular the view was, or the things growing in this place or even at my own strength and endurance (aka getting ones breath back) but most of all I stopped every now and then and thought … why the hell am I climbing this thing!
At the top the view was great even with the showers and limited vision the achievement was very satisfying and one is left still asking “Why did I climb that?”


Having establish my insanity (at any time I could have fallen, I was there alone, no one knew where I was, and probably no one would find me for days if I had been found in the event of a slip or fall) I made my careful and slow decent… Now the path down through the rainforest to the other side of the island was not quite in the same state as the earlier path. In fact many parts had washed out and this is where I secured large amounts of mud and scratches as I slid down hillsides… after bush bashing and trail finding I managed to get to the other side… the other side being identified by an unimpressive water fall and a small pool of water which I was not allowed to wash my hands in let alone swim in… Sacred water hole! (I know this is where some of the island gets it’s drinking water from but it would make a great swimming hole!)


OK so walking out past more farms I made my way back to the main road and waited for the bus… nothing! I decided to start walking home as you can always hail the bus to stop any way… In the hour and a half that it took me to walk around the top half of the island not one bus passed me…

Lest to say come that night when I got home I was tired and saw (But what fun! What stupid “stupid” fun!)
Oh well!

Posted by M_Tree 21:49 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)


Nat and Corey and that Glow

overcast 20 °C
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OK OK… so you want to know about the Cook Islands.

Yes, it’s a tropical island and yes, there are Coconut trees and coral reefs with white sandy beaches… but I must say what stands out is the locals. Everyone I met was friendly, not in that fake (We want you to spend your money with us) way. This really made it a great place to be.


I’d arrived at 2 or 3 am the day before I left… (The beauty of the International Date Line is always to be gained when travelling east; I guess it’s that novel idea that in our own way we are time travellers).

Arriving at this hour any where is funny but being welcomed with a ukulele and floral necklace you just have to laugh.

Upon arriving at my hotel (Club Raro) I found out that there was no buses before dawn to get to the resort where my friend Nat was getting Married, but I was told that I could get a taxi. Great so finding my room having a shower and a whole hours nap I tried to find the receptionist at the hotel to get me a taxi… 5 am wandering around a hotel in the pre dawn light… after searching the hotel for half an hour I finally found the receptionist who’s response was to drive me across to the resort himself…

OK now this is where I acknowledge that I am a bit of a clown… At Christmas time I’d promised Nat that I was going to be at the wedding and I had called later in the year to confirm I’d bought my tickets, but I had not at anytime confirmed where and when the “Beach side Dawn wedding” would be… So rocking up at another reception I was like… Is the wedding still going ahead? When and where…

As it turns out I was early even for a dawn wedding… I eventually found the wedding crew … and yes it was spectacular see the attached photos… (Nat you and Corey looked so happy and I’m sure you would have been what ever and where ever the wedding had been)


Three cheers to the bride and groom…
Three cheers to Weddings where you just turn up and everything runs smoothly…
Three cheers to being at the right place at the right time…

After the ceremony, photos and general beach activities all moved to the restaurant for the reception. A beautiful breakfast was held, and a true highlight Nat and Corey Danced, now I need to clarify what was beautiful about this for me… Nat is a great dancer and loves to dance… Corey is a trade who has very little to no dance experience but this aside Corey displayed his love for Nat (the fact that he probably felt really unsure and nervous) and they danced!

I guess there is only one other thing I’d like to say about the wedding… They both glowed Nat and Corey showed the signs of people that have blossomed in the other’s presence and love!


Ok, so after several hours and a great wedding Nat caught me nodding off… yep… photo’s with the bride and groom and then back to my hotel to catch up on some Z’s,

Posted by M_Tree 18:35 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged events Comments (0)

Membership and all that Jazz


overcast 20 °C
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OK, so flying to the Cook Islands from Brisbane you have two choices…

• You fly Virgin Blue – Have no food or drinks provide, you pay for anything you use and are not allowed to stay in New Zealand between flights…

• If you fly Air New Zealand, you get food, drinks entertainment, and as is important when looking to explore the world … you can break your trip up into several flights so that you fly into one city say Auckland and fly out of another say Christchurch!

All in all this made a lot of sense to me, and so I booked my flights with Air New Zealand.
Just one hitch… flying into Auckland from Australia you arrive several hours before the connecting flight to Rarotonga departs.

So having paid several hundred dollars to become a member of the Qantas Club I thought I might spend some time relaxing at the Bar.

As I approached reception I flashed my membership card…
“Do you have a boarding pass?”
Well isn’t that funny when you get to it, I have one but for Air New Zealand…
“Sorry you can’t use the lounge if you’re not flying Qantas”
But I don’t have an option Qantas, nor any member of the one world alliance, actually flies to the Cook Islands!

Oh well shy of hassling a passing stranger to invite me into the lounge as one of their guests I choose to shop…

You can do a lot of shopping in the international airport in Auckland (and as some of my friends recommend the massages are great) and I must say that there are some very nice souvenirs ect… but what I really wanted was to sit back in that lounge and relax… (It’s funny how you don’t let go of things which you can’t change, I waited till I got back to Australia before lodging an official complaint… what’s the point of being a member of a club lounge if you can’t use it).

Posted by M_Tree 20:48 Archived in New Zealand Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

Finances the bank and packing

Give me my Money!

storm 50 °C
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Well I am not one that will ever have salt and pepper hair (I know already I’ll go bald first) but I would say I’m a seasoned traveller… a drink here and some funny herbs there and hey presto this ham has been cured!

All of this leads me to believe in the old saying that when one packs take away half of what you think you will need then take away half again… then double the money you expect you will need and extend your lines of credit until your family is thinking of disowning you.
Well being prepared for this trip I was aware that I had a sizable tax return due before I left for my trip… and I wanted to access this to spend (never save… that’s for misers or those that expect there to be a tomorrow).

Well after chatting with my tax agent I had confirmed that this was due the week I was to fly out. And sure enough my tax agent who lives two doors down from me received this the day before I flew out … but rather than drop it round like he has all my other paperwork he posted it! (What could have been deposited in my bank for immediate spending was now stuck in the great industrial machine… “Australia Post” and sure enough if you call into your local Post office (As I did) you find out that you can’t pick up your mail there. All mail is sorted at a big sorting centre and then buddled for delivery (Not a chance of getting it before I flew out).

Here in lay my double dilemma:
1. The day before I was to fly out I’d had my atm card eaten by a bank teller machine (hence no access to my pay check)
2. My tax return was stuck in transit!

Calm down! “Bar StudS!”

OK, ok the bank opened at 9.30am (the same time I wanted to be at the airport to check in… tough!) You need cash to travel… So patiently I rattled the bank door and stared at the frightened Bank manager… true to form at 9.30 the branch doors were opened and remarkably they let me have my key card and the contents of my savings… (Cash to travel on, Check)

Secondly… how do you access a cheque that will arrive when you're thousands of Kms away? Friends! Before I flew out I dropped my keys in a friends mail box and called her (Sheena you’re a gem!) *Yah* spending money!

I like camping gear, I especially love functional equipment and cloths… to say I went overboard is to say that there is some water in the worlds oceans.
I had all the things I would need for my travels, but being excited about a new trip I was out buying a new pack, new cloths, new fishing equipment… then after spending several hundred dollars and hearing the eco of friends and others saying “But you already own these things…” I stoped discussed things with friends. And reluctantly resolved to use what I already had (tent, sleeping bag ect) or to borrow the bits and pieces needed from friends (Cooking equipment and E-perb) thanks Caz and Anth!

All this said I found I had a change of cloths, a pack full of camping gear, and a secondary pack full of fishing equipment.
Hmmm I was on target with weight 17kg main pack and 5kg carry on…

It was just that I had so much stuff! (I always take to much gear 5 fly boxes with over 300 flys…) is a little excessive when you can rock up to a corner store in New Zealand and buy a fly for $2… add to that the fact that you can never have more than three in the water at any one time!

OK, so this sorted out I did the other well experienced practical thing before taking off on a new trip I packed in preparation… my bags were packed a week in advance (Just as well cause I didn’t come home or get a wisp of fresh air between packing for my trip and eventually tearing out of my house for the airport…)

The funny thoughts that go through your head as you climb into that taxi to the airport (have I turned the stove off? Is my washing in? Did I mop the floor?) Oh well it’s all too late when you only have an hour to catch a plane!

When in doubt board the plane and pray!

Posted by M_Tree 21:17 Archived in Australia Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (2)

Middle of the Pacific and the rest

Planning packing and stressing

all seasons in one day 27 °C
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Ideally before booking any flights it helps to know where you are going and what it is you hope to do… some would call this dreaming or planing or if written down with dates and destinations or activities this might even become a itinerary.

For me I had a totally different experience:

My friend Nat invited me to attend her wedding back in 2005, so come 2007 I thought I’d missed it. Well one thing I can say about Nat is that she is organised hence when I wished her a happy New Year and apologised for missing the wedding she’s like “Missed it? It’s this year!” So sorting my life out (as much as this man can) I booked flights and accommodation to Rarotonga, flying via NZ with two weeks stop over in NZ after the actual wedding.

Well I’ve been to New Zealand about 8-9 times with most of these being between the age of 0-9 and my most recent trip in 2004. (Another story or two here, if I’m feeling generous I might write this up as another entry).

Any way the wedding became closer and closer and conversations began in earnest with my family (Mother, Aunt, Uncle and Cousin) and ofcourse friends, about where and what I should plan to do…

The following mud map of an Itinerary grew into existence:

Friday 5/10/07:
• Depart Brisbane Airport 11:30 Air NZ NZ136 and
• Arrive in Auckland at 17:30
• 21:45 I take Air NZ flight No. NZ 848
• Arriving at Rarotonga at 02:40 on the 5th.

Take transfer to Club Raro
• Nat’s Wedding on beach at sunrise!

Saturday 6/10/07:
• Punanga Nui Market
• Day excursion?

Sunday 7/10/07
• Go To Church
• Explore Island
• Depart the Cook Islands on NZ 45 at 15:45

Monday 8/10/07:
• Arriving in Auckland at 19:15
• Inter City Coach lines 6503 at 19:50
• Arrive at Hamilton at 21:50
• Stay with Dennis and Susie

Tuesday 9/10/07:
• Spend Day with Dennis
• Head to Rotorua
• Stay at Waiteti Trout Stream Holiday Park 14 Okona Crescent, Ngongotaha Rotorua

Wednesday 10/10/07:
• Trout Man?

Thursday 11/10/07:
• Trout Man?
• Side Trip to Waitomo Blackwater Rafting/ Caving

Friday 12/10/07:
• Palmerston North Hana
• Explore rivers between?

Saturday 13/10/07:
• Wellington exploration
• Stay at Wellington top 10 Holiday Park 95 Hutt Park Road, Lower Hutt

Sunday 14/10/07:
• Lower Hutt collection point 8 am Wainuiomata Catchment Walking Tour

Monday 15/10/07:
• Depart Wellington take ferry to Picton
• Picton to Nelson
• Staying at Pinedale Motor Camp 820 Wakamarina Road Canvastown
• Attempt to book Back country pass(Greenstone Valley)

Tuesday 16/10/07:
• Explore Nelson/rivers and streams…

Wednesday 17/10/07:
• Visit Greymouth – The Jade Boulder Gallery
• Reefton – explore Gold mine/ Visit Flights Gallery
• Hukawai Glacier centre / Day walk at Fox Glacier
• Staying at Kingston Motels & Holiday Park 16 Kent St Kingston

Thursday 18/10/07:
• Greenstone River / Alternative Day trip on Milford Sound
• Travel to

Friday 19/10/07:
• Greenstone River / Start southern Scenic route trip to Invercargill
• Fish/Tramp

Saturday 20/10/07:
• Greenstone River / Southern Scenic route
• Travel to Dunedin
• Stay at Argyll Farm 246 Clutha River Road Clydevale Balalutha

Sunday 21/10/07: Dunedin
• Fish
• Visit Cadbury Factory
• Speight's heritage brewery & the speight's ale house

Monday 22/10/07:
• Return to Christchurch
• Fly out of Christchurch on Flight No.NZ 803 leaving at 15.10
• Arriving in Brisbane at 16.00

Well this was the plan (I knew it was about as likely as meeting the girl of your dreams but hey if your not optimistic she might just look you in the eyes and walk on bye).

Posted by M_Tree 19:53 Archived in Australia Tagged preparation Comments (1)

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