lets start off with how you get there!
Make sure you carry plenty of water and all the gear you might need if something gos wrong. If your in Avarua, go clockwise around the island. After three kilometres, turn left, heading inland. you want to be on the inland circuit road so when you get to it turn left, and then almost immediately right onto a road running parallel to Tupapa Stream. Follow this road/track past the houses on the left. Keep going as far as you can, this road eventualy leads to the start of the track. If your lucky you might meet the friendly dogs tour guides like we did.
Te Manga Return
Time: 6.5 hours
Difficulty: Im going to say its very adventurous with some extremely steep sections.
Heres how it went for us...
Day one in Rarotonga started off with waking to a curious noise. Ngaio and i were half asleep trying to find what was causing all the noise, clicking and scratching, when a HUGE crab scuttled across the floor in full battle mode, pincers at the ready. First lesson, don’t leave your doors open in Rarotonga unless you want extra friends in your room.
After a breakfast on the beach of beautiful local fruits we were ready for the day. First mission, transport. We set off on foot in 27 degree heat to find a scooter to get us around the island, this ended up taking half the day, a bit longer than expected. After waiting in line at the busy little rental shed, we discovered our scooter didn't start! Back in line…
Once we had a functioning scooter and two groovy helmets we were headed to the police station with our temporary licence.
In Rarotonga so many of the tourists prefer to rent scooters than cars, because of the high demand there is a system in place where you rent a scooter, get a temporary licence that lasts 24 hours, scooter down to the police station and pay for a theory test then a practical test. If all goes to plan, you leave the station with your very own motorbike licence.
I drew the short straw and i was the one who had to sit the tests while Ngaio got to sit in the sun and watch. As i suffer from dyslexia this made my palms sweat a little, and not from the heat! The nice lady at the police station let me pass my theory even though i had gotten one too many wrong, thank goodness for the laid back locals! We then scooted down to the netball courts where two big tough looking policemen awaited our arrival. With serious faces they gave us our tasks to complete which included zigzagging through cones, getting up to 20km per hour and indication around cones like a round about. PASS! Me and my wild girl were off on our scooter and headed for the hills.
We were looking for a track to the highest mountain in Raro, called Te Manga. After a few wrong turns, and a lot of directions from the locals, we made our way out of civilisation and in to the jungle.
Rarotonga is known for its beautiful beaches, warm water and relaxed atmosphere, but the mountains and the forest here are awesome and totally underrated, thick lush forest covers most of the island and the peaks offer some epic 360 degree views.
As we were zooming along the track on our little scooter (now an off road scooter) we were met by two stray looking dogs, they were chasing us and barking. They were a bit intimidating. We quickly realised they were excited not angry! we discovered when someone goes on a walk, they want to come too! They greeted us with wagging tails and set off up the track, looking back at us as if they were saying ‘hurry up guys what are you waiting for?’. So of course, we followed.
The track went past a taro swamp and followed a stream up in to the mountains. Up up up we went, steadily getting steeper. After the first half an hour of hiking a large portion of the track has ropes to climb up rock faces, these sections were pretty steep and definitely got the heart pumping.
The track follows the ridge line then when you think you are almost at the top…it drops back down (much to the disappointment of Ngaio who was feeling the tropical heat at this point and couldn’t stop talking about mojitos).
The last part of the track is dicey, covered with roots to trip on that are hidden by grassy shrubs, holes that go a very long way down and trees that you have to cling to to get past without falling off the edge. Our dog tour guides (who we named squeak and cloud) had left us at this point. Ngaio and i scrambled up the last part of the track and came out at the summit to breath taking views.
Looking out over the many mountain peaks we could see the entire island, the lush bush stretching to the white sandy beaches, the aqua blue of the reef contrasted by the dark blue of the ocean with huge swell and massive breakers.
We were taking in the beautiful sights and talking about how lucky we were when we realised we were supposed to be down on the beach with my family for happy hour!
I raced down the track, swinging off the ropes and skidding down the banks, i called out to Ngaio ‘it’s so much faster going down than up’ and got no reply… hmm, eventually she came hobbling down the track. Blisters.
make sure you take proper tramping socks wherever you go, even if it is in the tropics.
We found our doggy tour guides waiting on the track for us not far down the mountain, they did take us on one detour that ended in us turning around and heading back UP the mountain to find the track markers.
Once on flatter terrain we made good ground to the end of the track, we gave the dogs our cashew nuts as a reward and i filled up Ngaios water from the stream to keep her happy (not quite a mojito).
Back on the off roading scooter we tore off down the track with squeak and cloud in hot pursuit, after one stop to climb a pawpaw tree for the ripe fruit we were headed back to the family. Safe to say we didn't make it for happy hour.
An awesome walk with amazing views, don't be in a rush so you can appreciate the surroundings all the way up the track, take plenty of water or use the stream at the bottom to fill bottles, and the tour guides will work twice as hard if you take them a treat or two (woof woof).