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Traveller Notice:
The Across the Island trek is closed to the public. Please do not attempt this climb.

Rarotonga is the only mountainous island in the whole of the Cook Islands.  Aitutaki has a little hill, but is mostly flat.  There are a number of treks.  If you are an arduous mountain climber, then by all means take your pick.  There is a book on mountain treks which is about NZ$10-15 (US$5-7) in the main shops in town and I advise you read it inorder to familiarise yourself with the terrain.

For the rest of us, the Across-the-Island trek is the only do-it-yourself hiking experience we need.  It is frequented by visitors and the path well-trodden.  Your host can provide directions as to how to get to the Across-the-Island trek. Its a ways walk inland from the mainroad so maybe if you can gather a group together, ask your host to drop you off at the foot of the trek.  I advise you to start on the town side. The reason is that there is one steep climb (30% of your time) then its downhill the rest of the way (70% of your time). I am sure you can reverse calculate and see the logic in this. The other thing is that you will do most of the work while you are still fresh. On the way through you will see the 'Needle', a rock formation that has a face carved into one side of it (but you have to look hard, as its surface is pretty worn). The inland of Rarotonga is relatively unspoilt as people do not live in the mountains.  This is a chance for you to observe the local birdlife and fauna. By the way, the views are breathtaking. 

If you are lucky there will be water in the waterfall at the end of your journey. This waterfall is called 'Wigmores Waterfall', this is not its official name, just the name of the man who owned the land in that area. As you make your way back down to the coast, you will pass the dubbed 'Sheraton or Vaimaanga Hotel' (the biggest black hole in the Cook Islands). If you are going up after a downfall the previous day, take care as you can slip. The hike will take you between 3-5 hours depending on your level of fitness.   There are no toilets so you best relieve yourself before you go up and avoid foods that digest easily.  Also, take a bottle of water and some snacks in case you want to have a picnic.  Wear hiking/walking/running shoes/boots and take some insect repellant. 

Now for the not so brave of us.  There is a mountain guide (there's only one) who understands the local fauna and how it was used in ancient Rarotongan life and local medicines.  He runs various tours.  The normal across-the-island trek and a walk up to a cave on one of the hills in Matavera, on the northeast side of Rarotonga. The cave is an ancient burial site which contains 12 skeletons (although I can't say that I have seen them, that sort of thing spooks me). This cave is visible from the backroad. It is a type of sacred place (marae). Hiking tours are fun and educational and cost about NZ$35(US$17.50) per person, transport and lunch included.

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