I should have known that looks can be deceiving. I hold my breath and close my eyes as mud sprays over the roof. Friends’ screams echo off the mountains as we all follow the muddy trail to the top.This machine is capable of more than I thought.
Large rocks break the surface of the dirt track, adding to the discomfort of our journey. I don’t care in the least. I’m squealing with delight while water drenches us from top to toe.
We’re at Muri Beach, on the island of Rarotonga, the most populated of the Cook Islands. Standing outside Coconut Tours, we come in search of quad bike adventures. My travelling companions are my partner and two other couples. Unfortunately they don’t cater for two people per bike, so it is the ‘Island buggies’ for us. New Zealand dollars are the main currency so payment is easy for Kiwi tourists.
“Kia Orana” (hello) our guide Manu greets us warmly, accentuates safety and warns us not to mix up the acceleration and break foot pedals. I think I can remember that.
We lower our expectations in line with the more tame looking buggies. I race for the red car and into the driver’s seat. We’re the first buggy following Manu onto the road. Rarotonga has only one road which circles the coast of the 32-kilometre-round island.
A large, deep puddle presents itself on the verge. To my other half’s surprise, I floor it. Muddy water gushes up over our heads as he discovers I have a wild streak.The water is cool and refreshing on my skin as it washes over my face in the summer heat. My tip? Wear dark clothing. If you are in lighter coloured attire, you won’t be for long.
First stop, the Noni juice plant. An invasive stench of rotting Noni fruit permeates our nostrils. Derived from the local Noni ‘Morinda Citrifoila’ fruit, it sits in barrels fermenting into a liquid gold health tonic. Islanders sell juice at the Saturday market and it is also popular in Asia, even with a higher price tag. The gamer group members have a taste while others are put off by the pungent smell alone. I gulp mine down triumphantly. That’ll boost the immunity.
Next up is coconut husking. My other half is issued with a challenge from the well-built, sun-kissed, mullet-sporting guide Manu. It’s a race to the inside of the coconut with only a sharp stick as a utensil. If we were starving, I’d have to swap teams, luckily we aren’t and he reaches the inside husk with minimal assistance.
Passing thick vegetation, native ferns and towering trees, we wind up into the rugged mountains towards the island’s core. Things come to a halt when I stall mid-puddle on a steep slope. I let my co-pilot take the wheel. Manu gives us a push-start. Disaster averted. A couple of hills later and he stalls too, a smirk creeps from the edge of my mouth. Sometimes red cars do not go faster.
A waterfall is the end of the line and a great photo opportunity. The six of us drape soggy arms around each other, mud monsters with brimming smiles.
Coconut Tours is located in Muri Beach, Rarotonga and is easy to access from any location on the island. For more information, click here.