Saturday, February 24

Aitutaki Vet Trek is finally here!

19 sq mi of lagoon
6.97 sq mi land
pop about 2000
cat population: “unknown” large feral population plus owned cats
Beauty of Aitutaki: unparalleled. “the Most Beautiful Lagoon in the World” (Lonely Planet quote)

Cats, Paying it Forward, and the Kindness of Strangers

A year go my husband and I came to this beautiful paradise, and as most people do, we fell in love with the islands, the people and communities. During our visit, a chance meeting on Aitutaki with someone who shares a passion for animals led to an idea being born to help with animal welfare, especially the cats of Aitutaki.

Almost a year later a small team of us arrive here in the Cook Islands with such gratitude for the phenomenal support we’ve received on so many levels and from numerous people and organizations. Our hearts soar to experience such warmth and true compassion. For us this is “paying it forward” to be able to help the animals and thus the people of the Cook Islands. It all started with the kindness of strangers, and now we know and understand that that is the Cook Island way.

We’d like to recognize and thank Gwen Welland and the people of Te Are Manu Clinic for all of their support and help with the government approval process, customs, helping us getting the donations we brought in order, and getting local support for our endeavors. We had quite a few changes and alterations during the process of coming here, and Gwen was always available to help get things through in a pleasant and efficient manner. Meitaki ma’ata Gwen.

Air Rarotonga has also sponsored us in a big way and has donated all 5 of our round trip airfares to Aitutaki. Thank you Ewan Smith, for your continuing support of the animals of the Cook Islands.

Thanks to the businesses and community of Aitutaki for their generous donations of dinners, lodging, a vehicle (with fuel) to pick up and return the animals, and even a Vaka cruise! When we’re not working we will certainly enjoy being able to drive to the lagoon, snorkel and eat some great food! Yumm!

Thanks to the Islander Hotel for 2 day rooms to rest and make ourselves presentable before going over to Aitutaki. Much appreciated!

We’d also like to thank the veterinary clinics of Corvallis and Eugene, Oregon, USA for their very generous donations of supplies, medicines, more supplies, and heaps of supplies! When we asked for just a few clinics to clean out their closets, they surely did! So much generosity made it hard to bring everything, but we managed to stuff 5 huge suitcases full to the brim! We know that the supplies will be well used and especially for the outer islands. Thanks Oregon! Could not have done this without you!

Also want to thank all the individuals in the states, both friends and new friends, who donated to our cause with cash donations to purchase many of the supplies for surgery. Again could not have done this without raising the money for the medicine purchases.

I’d like to introduce our team:

Dr. Sharon Forster-Blouin, DVM of Corvallis Cat Clinic, Corvallis, Oregon
Dr. G. Rochelle Brinton, DVM of San Diego, CA & founder of the Feral Cat Coalition of San Diego.
Ms. Sheri Pandey, CVT veterinary nurse, Corvallis Cat Care, Corvallis, Oregon
Mr. John Adams; assistant, all around go-for
Ms. Tomie Timon; assistant, chief cat herder and organizer of the mission

So when it’s all said and done, it always comes back to helping the animals.
They have no second agenda, their lives are valuable as are all lives, and if we can pay it forward to help them live better lives, what can be better?

Meitaki ma’ata and Meitaki atupaka!

Mataora matou, i te aere mai, ki konei!

Tuesday, July 4

Maungatea's mysterious basalt boulder

Hmmm. Loooooong time since I added anything to RaroLens.
That's because most of my videos these days are of various travel destinations so I've decided to put them on a new blog:
But today I have a Rarotonga-based video so here it is.
A group of friends recently hiked up to Maungatea Bluff, heading into the hills on the northern side of Rarotonga.
We were going to see a strange basalt boulder that Gerald McCormack, the director of the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust, found a while ago.
This boulder had tumbled from the bluff down the side of the hill and come to rest a short way off the side of the track so wasn't particularly easy to see if you didn't know it was there.
There are lots of basalt boulders up there but most of them are breccias, conglomerates made of basalt rubble held together by molten lava pouring over them.
The mystery boulder has a series of parallel grooves with rounded bottoms along its surface and on Rarotonga there's nothing else like it that anyone knows about.
Gerald wanted to re-visit the boulder to take more photographs and we all tagged along.
He originally thought the grooves might be man-made but after a lot of online research he found similar rocks in New Zealand, in particular at the Wairere Boulder Nature Park in Northland.
Geologists say these were formed when rain dripped from trees onto humus on the ground. The humus acidified the water which then formed streamlets that ran down the face of the rocks. Over millions of years the water dissolved the rock to form grooves (often called flutes).
There may be other fluted boulders somewhere on the hillside or possibly even signs of flutes up on the bluff but the ground isn't easy to walk over. We were on a track and it was quite a scramble in a lot of places. It's not surprising, then, that nobody has reported seeing anything similar on Rarotonga.
It was lovely being up in the bush but not particularly peaceful. The squawking sound you can hear on the video is the sound of birds, I think they are petrels, flying back from feeding at sea which they apparently do around midday.
Flying is clearly the best way to get to and from the bluff.
We had to walk, make that scramble, back down.

Sunday, January 1

The Golddigger Trail


While we were in Chile tweaking the settings of Phil's remote telescope(El Sauce Observatory), we stayed at the Hacienda Los Andes.
The Hacienda is in the valley of the Hurtado River at the southern end of the Atacama Desert in the foothills of the Andes. It is well away from the usual tourist routes and surrounded by pure wilderness although the valley itseld is green and fruitful.
The lodge grows much of its own food and has hiking trails and is a centre for astrotourism as it has several observatories on the property.
It also has a small herd of Chilean Criollos horses and has horseback riding tours ranging from half a day to multi day expeditions where you can spend up to 5 days in the saddle with overnight camping under the stars.
Well, I've only been on a horse once and that was fifty years ago but the Hacienda can cope with rank beginners as well as experienced riders so I decided to tackle the Golddigger Trail, a three hour morning ride.
My horse, Sirius, was very placid and new the trail intimately. I just had to sit on his back and hold the reins loosely. He had a tendency to stop and pull up clumps of grass to chew as he ambled along but he was the ideal mount for a non-rider.
It was a fascinating ride; once you leave behind the Hacienda environs you are out in rugged country with not a sign of human habitation.
The trail is narrow and winds alongside steep sided canyons, through dry riverbeds and over rocks and sand. Vegetation included cacti, lotsof them, and trees, shrubs and grass that were all so dry that they looked dead but must get enough rain during the winter to keep them alive.
We stopped on top of a ridge for a drink of water. This is supposed to be where an abandoned goldmine was situated, hence the name Golddigger trail, but I saw no sign of anything there.
Thought I might be a bit saddle sore at the end of the ride but I wasn't at all. This is obviously thanks to Sirius - the ideal horse for a beginner.