Today we scrambled over the cross island track, what a mission, it was hot, steep and slippery. We needed transport at the beginning of the track and pick up at the end, this meant leaving scooters at both ends. We designated Papua Falls as our end point which meant leaving two scooters there, then heading off around to the start, at the end of our walk we would be doing the reverse.
When we got to Papua falls there were five long wheel base open-topped Landrover trucks full of people being shown the wonders of the island without having to do a speck of exercise. By the time I had finished, I almost thought I would have preferred that method, no, not really. Sitting on the tops and watching the white-tailed tropic birds soaring around the deep green bush clad mountains and valleys was worth every bruise, scrape and scratch,worth the exhaustion and sweat that soaked all our clothing. The island is volcanic in nature although there appears nothing has been active for thousands of years. The highest point on the island is Te Munga at 653 meters, I estimate we reach between 350 and 400 meters at the highest part of our walk, having lunch on a ridge just below Te Rua Manga (The Needle). The vista from here is steep-sided mountains with sharp razor back ridges, falling off to the sea in both directions Avarua to the North to the lagoon to the South.
The walk is a very easy start, up a lush green grass track before entering this different world that almost spoke of hobbit’s.The bush is thick deep green with tall trees palms, the walking paths consist of matted roots and rocks reaching up through the dark cover of vegetation. You need consideration with every step, remembering the rules of trying to keep three limbs connected to the ground as you stretched for a foot hold to perch on, branches and tree trunks to grip on to, and looped roots to use as steps. It was the hottest day so far of our holiday, the sky was blue with just a few white clouds high above. It was perfect, most days thick rain clouds cling to the sides and tops of the mountains making the clay greasy, and the rocks and roots slippery like an ice rink, but up hill. The track in most places obviously doubled as the water course, I was very pleased today was fine, I could imagine a wet day would have been very ugly.
On reaching the top of the track there is a further 200 meters walk on a side track that is watched over by a rooster, guardian of the needle, he followed us to ensure we behaved. There is a place to rest right under the needle with fantastic views of both sides of the island as well as the bush and mountains around. Once settled up here we sat down and devoured our lunches purchased at the delicatessen a few hundred meters from our holiday complex. We had nearly finished all our water, with only a few swallows left in each of our bottles, climbing had been hot work and I suspected it would just has hot going down. We sat for twenty minutes on the top watching Al in her attempt to get some decent shoots of the white-tailed tropicbirds. We saw the red tailed tropicbird, in Lord Howe island, these slender white birds habitat the tropical oceans, they have exceptionally long central tail feathers. There are 3 species worldwide, the red and the white tailed tropicbirds occur in the Cook Islands. Photographing the tropicbird is becoming a mission that we will have to follow-up on.
Biggest mistake of the day, wearing three-quarter length cargo shorts, they hung just below the knee and once the knees started to sweat, which was almost immediately they started to stick to the lower part of the leg and prevent the full movement. As I stretched out to reach a footing, I had to physically move the trousers from sticking to my legs with a free hand, causing instability and requiring a lot more effort. It was dangerous as when I needed to stretch quickly to save my balance I couldn’t easily make it, back to short shorts for walking next time.
The scramble down the hill was worse the scramble up the hill, often it entailed going down backwards looking for foot holds that were beyond your reach, and to prove it there were actually ropes as hand holds on three occasions, that were absolutely necessary. The trip back involved crossing creeks on many occasions, across large slippery bolder’s only to find you had to use all hands and feet ascent up a short rock face once you got over the creek only to drop down to the other side to do it all over again. The walk was exhausting with no place to get into your stride, it hit me worse than the others but I carry a bit more weight than I used to and are not as fit as I was. Just before the end of the path , the track opened on to a short stretch of easy walking before it descended into another muddy slide down a hand hold less bank, with steps that were just out of reach right to the end of the trail.
Done, mission accomplished, time to walk down, pick up the scooters and head off to pick up the ones at the start. We enjoy a quick dip in the lagoon when we returned and then went and for drinks and nibbles, followed by salad and steak for dinner at the BBQ with the rest of the crowd. I retired to bed at about eight that night completely buggered.
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