Tuesday, June 30

Island feast and show at Highland Paradise, Rarotonga

“Drums of our Forefathers” is the island show at Highland Paradise on Wednesdays and Fridays, performed by dance troupe E Matike.
It’s very popular and having seen it I can understand why.
Over a hundred visitors arrived in five buses and were first taken to a marae on the property where they were welcomed in a traditional way (although it was too dark to get any decent pictures of that).
Then came the feast, featuring pork, chicken and vegetables prepared in the umu that day as shown in ‘Papa Rima’s Umu’, while the E Matike singers and drummers played.
Later MC Danny Mataroa joked and chatted until it was time for the show. Part of that includes the ura piani where the dancers choose victims – ah, make that volunteers – from the audience to join them on the stage and move to the rhythm. At the end of the show anyone who wants can have friends take photos of them with the dancers. Very popular.
(Excerpts from “Drums of our Forefathers” are in the next video).

Sunday, June 28

Preparing an umu in Rarotonga

I’ve mentioned Highland Paradise before. The tour of the beautiful gardens set in rugged hillside bush is a great way to learn something about Rarotonga’s history and culture.
They also put on an island night feast and show twice a week and I went along to a recent Wednesday night “Drums of Rarotonga”. Great fun – more on that in a later post.
But in order to have a feast, an umukai, you first need an umu. (Umu is an underground oven, kai means food). So I headed into the hills to watch Papa Rima get the umu started at about half past eight in the morning. He uses coconut husks and ironwood, they burn really hot, and gets the fire going with orange tree twigs. He then piles rocks on top and leaves it for about four hours.
Meanwhile kitchen workers are preparing the food. Pork, chicken and some of the vegetables, pumpkin and bananas, will go in the umu. Other island favourites like taro, chowmein, potato salad and various salads are cooked the normal way!
By one o’clock the rocks are hot enough and Papa Rima adds the meat and vegetables, covers them with banana leaves and then a fireproof sheet. Everything slow-cooks for about four hours and believe me, the meat is really tender when it’s time for the feast and show.
And as Papa Rima says, you can cook enough for a hundred people in one pot!

By the way, the background music in this video is a chant by the dance troupe E Matike who perform the "Drums of our forefathers" show.

Tuesday, June 23

Takitumu Lagoon Day

Stretching from the Avana passage to the Papua stream, Takitumu lagoon has the best beaches on Rarotonga with palm-fringed white sand lapped by gentle waves - a real tropical island paradise.
But for many years it’s been under attack from pigs and people.
Pig farms located too close to streams cause waste to drain into the lagoon; soil from hillside house sections and dirt roads runs into the lagoon after rain; and new buildings with their septic tanks can also put a strain on the environment.
The good news is that the local population is determined safeguard the health of their lagoon. The water is safe for swimming according to WHO standards but there is a gradual deterioration of fish and coral life.
Takitumu Lagoon Day spreads the good word on environmental protection to schoolchildren and the general public. (Actually it was two days this year because it proved to be such a success last time.)
With information about things like septic tanks, environmentally friendly shopping, e-waste, non-polluting pig litter, composting, soil erosion, lagoon life and water testing, the kids had plenty to think about and questionnaires and competitions kept them all busy and entertained.
And when hunger for information turned to hunger for food plenty of refreshments were available!

Saturday, June 20

New top cop is a Mitiaro man

Cook Islander Maara Tetava took over as police commissioner on Wednesday 17 June.
He follows in the footsteps of New Zealander Pat Tasker who’s done a terrific job of improving the standards and morale of the islands’ police over the last two years.
The Robinson report painted a grim picture of the force but the boys (and girls) in blue now have much more public respect. They still cop a bit of flak from time to time but most people think they’re doing a reasonable job and absolutely everyone wants Maara Tetava to carry on the good work.
The weather on Wednesday was hot and what with all the speeches you had to feel sorry for the police standing on parade for several hours, especially the two drug dogs that had official uniform jackets as well as fur. Whew! Well, I was there for the march, which was accompanied by the Nikao Boys Brigade brass band, and the first few speeches but I had to leave everyone sweating and head off to another appointment so I missed out on the fun and games when the people of Mitiaro and Atiu got going.
According to the report in Cook Islands News, they sang and danced, dressed the new commissioner in traditional clothing, piled layers of ei around his neck and carried him on a paata around the parade area in front of the police station.
It was a great welcome for the country’s new top cop.

Saturday, June 13

Rarotonga Careers Expo 2009

For many years the Cook Islands Ministry of Education has organised a careers expo to give school students some ideas about job and tertiary training opportunities available to them.
This year it was held over two days at the national auditorium and was bigger and better than ever.
As well as local students – of all ages – over 60 outer islands children from Mitiaro, Mangaia, Mauke, Atiu and Aitutaki were able to attend thanks to sponsorship by way of subsidised fares from Air Rarotonga.
There were 32 booths and heaps of freebies, giveaways and competitions to keep the kids occupied and DJ G-Dub kept toes tapping with a non-stop music broadcast.
The major prize, a laptop courtesy of Rarotonga Rotary Club, was won by 17-year-old Theresa Apera of Araura College in Aitutaki.
But judging by the noise and excitement, everyone who attended was a winner this year.

Sunday, June 7

Golden oldies rugby mini festival in Rarotonga

Twelve local and overseas teams joined in the fun at the two-day golden oldies rugby tournament in Rarotonga over Queen’s Birthday weekend.
Brisbane Budgies, Tauranga Old Stars, Lunchtime Legends, Grafton Big River Bullrouts, Tawa Toads, Stokes Valley Gangsters and Manukau Mudlarks were joined by Aitutaki Happy Feet, Avatiu Nikao Mongoose, Takitumu, Takuvaine Legends, Tupapa-Maraerenga and the lone Kevin Murphy (origin unknown – by me at least).
Saturday began with a march past of the teams. Then a minute’s silence was held in honour of Duncan Barrowman of Manukau Mudlarks, who was tragically killed in an accident on Friday.
Once play got under way many of the teams were ‘fruit salads’ with players from a mixture of sides.
As Cook Islands News reported, “This certainly spiced up the festival with visiting players relishing the chance to play with and against the country’s prime minister Jim Marurai and foreign affairs minister Wilkie Rasmussen who donned the black and white
jersey of Tupapa.”
Deputy prime minister Sir Terepai Maoate, a stalwart golden oldie, was also there playing for Takitumu.
Another local star was ‘Mama Mongoose’ – Ake Hosea – a regular player for the Avatiu Nikao Mongoose team.
In golden oldies rugby everyone’s a winner and, as is the golden rule, all games ended in a six-all draw.
The weather on Saturday was brilliant but I can’t speak for Monday because by then I was in Auckland for a few days R&R (rest and retail therapy). Actually the weather in Auckland was great; sunny all day and not a cloud in the sky. Cold, mind you, but you expect it in winter and dress accordingly. It stayed like that until Friday morning when fog rolled in but it was clear at the airport and didn’t stop the return flight to Rarotonga.
A pity because back in the Cooks it was cold and wet, had been raining for days with more to come and the road home was thick with mud where trenching work had got bogged down.
Ah, the pleasures of a tropical island paradise!