Location: Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Today we stepped foot off the ship and headed for the forest. After a coffee cake breakfast prepared by head chef Garrison, the crew and staff members Tim, Amanda, and James prepared for a several-hour hike across the island. We began sometime around 9 am and made our way to the trail through the city and different work sites that laid before its entrance. After we reached the entrance, the terrain began to slope upwards, and fast. A thick canopy covered the trail for the next few hours with very few openings, and the ground was muddy, rocky, and rooted. Around midday, we made it to the top where a large rock structure called the Needle stood towering over the island. It stood several hundred feet into the air with a small pathway that led only a small distance up it. We took two small groups separately along the side of the rock face trail, holding onto chains and rope drilled into the rock to stabilize ourselves. The view from the vantage point was shared with a lonesome chicken and an interesting tattoo’ed man named Rah. Not very many hikes could equal the one today. The trail proved to be challenging, beautiful, and long. The trip ended around 2:30 on the south side of the island with a view of the ocean, and we eventually made our way along the roadside to a burger joint Tim told us we needed to try out. Tim once again did not lead us astray. The burgers hit the spot. We ventured back to the boat on a local bus and began the final study sessions for our first marine bio test tonight after dinner. During the free time, our friend Jack, the tour guide from the other night, brought us boxes of passion fruit. We parted ways with grateful goodbyes and a new friend. Tonight’s dinner, prepared by Garrison, was chicken with oven-baked potatoes, beets, steamed broccoli, and some killer leftovers. We closed dinner with a “happy birthday” for Evan, who turned 17 today. Happy birthday buddy. Tomorrow, we beach!

Hey mom, can you bring me a Wendy’s triple quarter pounder loaded except tomatoes and mayo with a large fry and coke when I get picked up in August? Thanks and love ya momma.

Pictured: Views from the cross-island hike; Panos enjoying his non-dairy ice cream from the shop at the end; Evan and his birthday dessert; Margaux excited but students sad to take the marine bio exam.