Towards Niue

Our last days in Rarotonga were pretty busy. On Friday I had to get our clearance to leave the Cook Islands. The paperwork was pretty simple except we had to change our crew list to disembark Jason and Lara. They needed a copy of their plane ticket (which I brought with me). The hard part was paying fees. We had to pay a $55 per person for the departure tax (1 each for Karen and I, Jason and Lara had to pay theirs at the airport), and we had to pay the $3 per meter per night for Tahina’s being moored in the harbor. That worked out to $46 per night. That is a pretty high price considering the only amenity provided was water (very low pressure water) – no electricity, no dock (we were medmoored 15 feet from a big wharf), no security, etc. But, after the monetary unpleasantness, we had two more days to enjoy before we departed.

Besides the wonderful market on Saturday, we went to the grocery stores several times to stock up a bit on our provisions. Then on Sunday we finally did the cross-island hike. This was only a 4 mile hike, but it was very rugged terrain. We first climbed to the spire (which I had done already on Wednesday). Karen had a difficult time with the very steep climb which is like a staircase made of jungle roots for about 20 stories. I was proud of her because she made it with only a few rest stops. After seeing the beautiful view at the top, I thought it would be an easier downhill run to the other side. Boy, was I wrong!

Before we started down, the trail took us up to a steep hilltop view of the Needle. It was a beautiful view though. The next thing was a very steep climb down from this hill that included a knotted rope to help! There were dozens of similarly steep climbs (some also with ropes) requiring us to scramble down backwards over mud and clay covered slimy rocks and roots. Karen slipped and landed hard on one rock and got bruises and scrapes. But, we all made it. We had a beautiful stream and lots of interesting vegetation and views along the way. And, at the bottom was a nice waterfall and swimming hole where we cooled off and had our lunch.

It was 3:30 PM by the time we hitched a ride back to the harbor. Jason and Lara quickly worked on getting their belongings moved to another boat. We were going to leave before dark. While they did that, I washed off the back of the boat and the dinghy because of all the dirt we tracked on board while going back and forth to the wharf. Then Karen and I started getting the boat ready.

We said our goodbyes to Lara and Jason. They were really great crew, and we are sorry in many ways to see them go. But, we still have some of their larger and heavier items because the plane costs were too high to take them. So, we’re sure we’ll see them when we get to New Zealand.

We were initially worried we might have one of the boat’s anchors on top of ours, but after slowly testing things it turned out we were clear. We got the dinghy back up before we raised anchor and headed out of the harbor. We turned to raise the mainsail when suddenly two humpback whales (about 50 feet in length) surfaced and blew just a boat length away! They might even have gone under us! I immediately turned 90 degrees away and motored off until I was sure we were clear. Got a couple of photos of them as well. I had wanted to get closer to the whales, but not that close!

We were soon sailing off into the sunset – literally. A full moon was out, and as we had dinner we could see the sillohuette of Rarotonga (now about 10 miles away) against a moonlit horizon with bright fluffy clouds floating above the island and lights of the population dotting around the bottom. It was beautiful! I had to try and take a photo, but it was really hard on a moving boat at night. If I had one of the newest cameras with ISO 64000 I probably would have done better. But, maybe this will give you an idea of what we saw:

Full moon over Rarotonga as we sailed away
Attempt to capture beautiful full moon view of Raro at night

Next stop is Niue about 600 miles away.

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