It wasn't always work and no play at Esther Honey, in fact it was quiet the opposite! we had a t least one day off a week, and when the clinic was quiet we ducked across the road a for a dip in the warm waters with the locals. The kids also enjoyed giving us Rarotongan language lessons, and would laugh their heads off at our pronunciation of certain words - the language being a Maori/Tahitian/French hybrid.
One of the other volunteers (Kayla) and I decided to head off on a day off to explore the Island. We had heard stories about the 'Cross Island Walk' and figured we were young and fit so surely could walk to 4kms across the Island to say we had done it! I was slightly worried given that she had been training for the US Olympic ski team, and my idea of fitness was running to my car in rain, but never the less decided it was worth a try. We were pointed towards the path by some locals and off we set, with 500ml of water each. The first half of the trail went well, there were little blue paint marks on the trees to guide our way. We ended up on the top of the mountains with a panoramic view of the Island - it was picturesque and made the 2 hour hike feel worth it. Once we had soaked in the views and refreshed we started or descent down the other side of the mountain. After about half an hour the blue marks were getting less frequent, and the path more overgrown, pretty soon there was no path and we were well and truly lost. But how lost can you get on an Island that's only 4km across! Surely we could find our way out? We continued wandering and the sky started to darken as the day went on, and we started to get a little freaked out that wed be spending the night in the mountains! Thankfully we stumbled across a large water pipe running from a collection point at the top of the mountain, and using our powers of deduction figured it must run to towards houses. So we followed the pipe through thick undergrowth for what seemed like hours. Thankfully we finally popped out of the bush into someones back yard! we weren't any worse for wear other than a few scratches. We later found out we had missed a turn... and apparently it wasn't uncommon for people to get lost on the hike.
During my last week at Esther Honey I had one of the volunteers pop their head in to me saying their was an emergency and I had to come quick. I grabbed my stethoscope and ran out into the driveway, and standing there was my boyfriend (now husband) Joel! It took me a few minutes to even realize it was him but I was so excited for him to be enjoying the Island life with me.
He quickly became the Islands 'spare parts' grave digger... we unfortunately removed a lot of body parts from animals including testicles, broken legs and ovaries... and they couldn't go into normal waste. So they were buried in the far garden never to be seen again! It was Joel's first taste of my veterinary world but he loved it!
We were then joined by my parents to spend a further week enjoying the island. We went to the local markets, did a lot of snorkeling and just general lazing around the beach.
Joel's birthday was also celebrated by attending one of the famous Island Nights, where the locals put on a traditional dance show complete with coconut cracking, tree climbing, hip swaying and cheap cocktails! It was this night that Joel truly cemented himself into the family, after vomiting into a plastic bag in the rental car and sleeping in my tiny pink cotton boxers...
But we did have one major attack on the island... We were snorkeling at the most popular beach on the main Island of Rarotonga, all having a great time, particularly because the locals told us the lagoon was protected from large sharks by the shallow rocks surrounding it. Next minute we started hearing screaming coming from my mums snorkel - dad started rushing to her head while the remainder of people in the water where rushing to the beach! Next minute her head pops up and she yells "The F$%king trigger fish are attacking me!". These protective beak-mouthed fish had come out in swarms and left bruises and bite marks all over her body! But we figured as far as travel disasters go this was one we could handle!
We all had an amazing time on the Island, experiencing the Pacific culture and way of life. I learnt more from my three weeks working at the clinic then any classroom could teach me and for that I will always be grateful!
If you'd like to learn more about volunteering or donating to Esther Honey check out our Take Action Page.
Image 1 - Muri Beach
Image 2 - Joel and I at the clinic
Image 3 - Digging dog at the beach
Image 4 - The cross island hike
Image 5 - fishing local dog
Image 6 - beautiful clear water and fishy friends
Image 7 - Snorkelling
Image 8 and 9 - Island night... before it got messy