Monday, February 23

Team triathlon – three times the fun?

There’s a lot of sport on Rarotonga.
Last Saturday, for example, several age grades of rugby league took place, netballers had their second round of the season, golfers and lawn bowlers played hard, the sailing club raced in Muri lagoon, and somewhere outrigger canoeists paddled and surfers caught waves. Meanwhile during the week we had squash, touch rugby, a duathlon and Hash House Harriers.
So Rarotonga is an energetic place, but on Saturday the greatest output of energy per person was probably at Tikioki where the Cook Islands Triathlon Association held the annual team tri event.
It’s a relay with teams of three from places like businesses, clubs, government departments and families. Competitors swim 500 metres, bike eight kilometres and run two kilometres and then hand over to the next person, although this year for the first time there was an individual-disciplines category in which one person swims, cycles or runs three times.
Twenty six teams signed on to take part and with heaps of supporters and officials there was a real party atmosphere at the Beach Cargo venue.
The gun athletes were no doubt training for the Cook Islands games in April, the international triathlon in May and the Pacific mini games in September and there were plenty of prizes and spot prizes in various divisions, but for many people the thrill of completing the course made the effort worth while.
A bit of exercise, a drink or two and a lot of socialising – that’s competition in a tropical island paradise for you.
For results check out Cook Islands News – it should be updated on Wednesday.

Thursday, February 19

Rarotonga’s indoor stadium update

Rarotonga’s multi sports complex at Nikao is starting to take shape now. The additional Chinese workmen have arrived as well as a lot more containers of equipment and materials. The site is a hive of activity (weather permitting) every day except Sunday. The work continues after dark some nights.
It certainly isn’t controversial any longer; the Cook Islands government is adept at generating new scandals to occupy the public.
The fuel tank farm purchase is supposedly on hold. Yeah, right! we’ve been told that before and meanwhile cabinet have continued to ask banks about loans and the financial secretary refuses to let anyone see the agreements he signed about it. He claims it’s because of confidentiality but I assume it’s because he’s embarrassed about making such a pig’s ear of the whole thing. Nobody (except government and not even all of them!) can believe they’re planning to shell out five million dollars for something that’s only got a few years to run on the lease. And it looks as though they’ve also committed funds to buy another fuel farm – the airplane jet fuel facility – without even talking to the airlines.
You’d think they had money to burn – my tax money – but somebody must have been doing a bit of adding up and decided that cash might get a bit tight over the next year. So in order to save money the government wants to cut the superannuation rate for public servants.
Public servants were the first to join the super scheme and paid 3% of their salary the first year, 4% the second and 5% from then on. Employers, ie government for public servants, paid the same amount. Most private sector employers are now in the scheme although there were grave doubts about it in the beginning, mainly because nobody in their right minds would have trusted a pack of MPs with a piggy bank let alone the super fund. We were all assured that it was safe from government interference. Now they want to treat the rate like a yoyo to cover their own shortcomings. It’s a disgraceful thing to do to people’s future pensions. Yet another ominous sign that they’re not to be trusted.
Mind you, the so-called opposition is no better. They should be howling in outrage but the only thing that aroused their interest in a recent (and rare) sitting of parliament was the question of VIP parking for MPs at the airport.
Check out the details in Cook Islands News online.

Friday, February 13

Lightning over Rarotonga

The six o’clock TVNZ news is rebroadcast in Rarotonga at 8.30pm. Well to be more accurate it’s some time between twenty past eight and five to nine depending on what programme precedes it.
The weather segment of the news includes forecast symbols for Australia and the Pacific islands, including the Cook Islands.
Since early December our symbol has shown a dark cloud with flashes of lightning, rain and a temperature between 29C and 31C. The temperature’s been about right but we haven’t had much in the way of thunderstorms - until this week.
On Tuesday night we had two or three great lightning displays.
The first one started at about 6.30pm, still daylight but you could see the flashes illuminating the tops of the clouds. That was to the NNW. Very little thunder so it must have been a long way away.
It kept going though, and moved slowly to the west and then another display started up in the northwest. There was still no thunder and no rain.
The video was taken at around 9pm. By that time the storms had moved around to the west and there was an average of about 15 seconds between flashes but I’ve edited out the waiting time to make it look more exciting.
The display lasted for several more hours and another storm started up in the north at about 9.30pm. Actually heard some thunder from that one although it was still far out to sea.
So the TV weather forecast got it right at last.
Actually it’s just as well we haven’t had too many storms because whenever they come close, large numbers of the islands’ computers suffer from fried motherboards and hard drives. This is an additional expense that web surfers just don’t need given the already exorbitant cost of keeping up with the world online.
Telecom Cook Islands, the country’s monopoly ISP, is currently pushing a deal whereby you get ‘up to’ 1Mbps download speed and 20Gb data allowance (with a 10c per Mb excess fee) for the princely sum of $1650 per month. And I didn’t forget the decimal point. That really is one-thousand-six-hundred-and-fifty dollars. A month. Something similar from Telecom NZ (which is a major shareholder in TCI) will cost you $59.95 per month with a speed of up to 4Mbps and if you go over the 20Gb the speed drops but there’s no extra charge. That’s over 27 times more expensive.
It’s not cheap staying in touch in the islands!

Sunday, February 8

Tahitian Princess’s last visit to Rarotonga

The Princess Cruises ship Tahitian Princess paid its last visit to the Cook Islands on Saturday.
Locals will be sad to say goodbye.
The Tahitian Princess has been a regular visitor to Rarotonga for several years. Every ten days or so during the cruise season the elegant-looking ship dropped anchor beyond the reef so passengers could come ashore on small tenders. Well, they could if the weather was OK. If the seas were rough, riding the tenders was too dangerous and the visits were cancelled.
Over the years the harbour has changed quite a bit. There is now a western basin where small fishing boats anchor and this is where the tenders unload. Shopkeepers set up stalls on the foreshore above the harbour on boat days, mainly for black pearls, carvings, pareu and woven souvenirs. Visitors can also pick up tours and dive boats here.
Saturday was a lovely day, no problem getting people ashore and the island would have looked beautiful to those who stayed on the ship.
There is talk of building an alternative ship’s tender harbour on the western side of Rarotonga. It would be small and only be used when the sea swells in the Avatiu area stop the safe transport of passengers to the island.
A total of 28 cruise ships visited Rarotonga last year but another 13 could not stop over because of heavy swells. In fact the first scheduled cruise ship of 2008, the Seven Seas Voyager, was unable to land anyone. That’s a big disappointment for stallholders and tour companies. However, with world finances in their current state we’re unlikely to see a new tender harbour any time soon.
The Tahitian Princess is heading for the northern hemisphere this year but other cruise lines are planning to call in and they should all be welcomed with open arms, weather permitting, as they make a real difference to the local economy
Well, at least it was fine for the Princess’s final visit so let’s hope everyone had a great time and has lots of happy memories of Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.

Wednesday, February 4

Rarotonga’s cross-island walk

Members of the Cook Islands search and rescue organisation have just placed new markers along Rarotonga’s cross-island track. The track leads from the Avatiu valley, up to the Needle, about 350 metres above sea level, then down through the Papua valley to Wigmore’s Waterfall.
Heading up from the Avatiu side the track is reasonably clear but from the base of the needle there are two ways down, one goes along a ridge and the other through the valley. The route crosses the Papua stream in several places and there are also other tracks leading off the main path. It’s often difficult to see where you are supposed to be going.
In fact two female tourists lost their way in early January and spent a night in the bush.
Even in dry weather the steep slopes can be slippery and the head of Rescue Cook Islands, Charles Carlson, says the cross-island track isn’t a walk in the park! Especially after rain, the ground and stream crossings can be treacherous. On one rescue mission a tourist with a broken leg had to be carried out.
Carlson says that if it’s raining you shouldn’t go.
As the video (filmed several years ago) shows, there are some fantastic views on the track over both sides of the island but in wet weather it wouldn’t look nearly so impressive.
The two tracks leading down from the Needle to Wigmore’s Waterfall are now marked with green steel plates nailed to the trees.