Wednesday, December 22

Christmas in the Park on Rarotonga

It’s the festive season again and here on Rarotonga, as with the rest of the western world, it’s time for Christmas carols, parties, presents, decorations, entertainment, and eating and drinking too much.
Rotaract, the junior branch of Rotary, organises ‘Christmas in the Park’ each December. It’s a giant party aimed at the kids but with the emphasis on family fun.
For the past few years it has been held in the national auditorium; plenty of space outside for food and toy stalls with the rain-proof auditorium for kids, Santa and local entertainers to do their thing.
Well, this year the auditorium is being repaired and/or refurbished so Christmas in the Park moved back to its roots at the stadium.
Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate – it was cold and miserable with intermittent showers on the planned day so the event had to be postponed from Monday to Wednesday which was awkward for some of the food vendors. However on Wednesday the weather was great and people turned up in huge numbers.
Food sellers did a roaring trade; the most popular toys were flying saucers and kites; soccer goal kicking, golfing for cash and the ever-popular face painting kept kids busy until Santa arrived and the concert began with a cast including Raro Idol contestants, dancers and community groups.
To cap it all there were fireworks to end the show and send everyone home happy.
It was a huge amount of fun and Rotaract must be congratulated for a great start to the holidays.
Best wishes to everyone for a happy and safe Christmas and New Year.

Friday, December 10

The Aranui Experience – Puamau on Hiva Oa

Things have been hectic on Raro for the past few months what with Maeva Nui, the Pacific arts meeting, body building, week of running, international sevens, vaka eiva, turama and Gospel Day but at last I’ve got a chance to get back to my Marquesas videos.
There are six inhabited islands in the Marquesas group of French Polynesia, and the Aranui 3 takes cargo and passengers to them about sixteen times a year. It’s a fabulous trip and the Marquesas Islands are fascinating. The only downside is that you spend such a short time on shore – just while the cargo from Tahiti is being unloaded and agricultural produce like noni juice and copra loaded.
This video is of our first stop on Hiva Oa – we actually went to three different places on this island, the second largest of the Marquesas.
We took the whaleboats to Puamau, on the north shore of Hiva Oa, but we didn’t see the village – jeeps were organised to take us to Meae Iipona, one of the main archaeological sites on the island.
Iipona has five stone statues and ten stone heads amongst the terraces and boulders. The statues include one of Takaii, a warrior chief. It’s almost 2.5 metres tall – the largest in Polynesia apart from the Easter Island moai. One tiki is horizontal. I’ve seen it called the ‘butterfly princess’ and it was once thought to represent a woman giving birth. That seems to be because it was upside down when it was excavated. It’s now in its correct orientation and no longer goes by that name. It’s a very unusual carving though, and in much better condition than any of the others.
There are a lot of similarities between the Cook Islands and the Marquesas, including the language – CI Maori speakers and Marquesans can understand each other. However in the Cooks there isn’t much in the way of old stone carvings.
Nowadays Mike Tavioni carves both stone and wood; in fact he’s responsible for the stone statues at Punanga Nui marketplace and at the national auditorium. But I don’t know of any old ones.
We do have marae with stone platforms and they often have standing stones a few feet tall but no carved tiki.
Most people walked back down to Puamau to get back on board the Aranui.
Then we sailed part way round the island to the tiny settlement of Hanamenu for a picnic lunch.

Wednesday, December 1

Paddle power – Vaka Eiva 2010

The Cook Islands has just hosted another successful sporting event. The seventh Vaka Eiva outrigger canoe festival was a smash hit with around 800 international and local paddlers taking part. We had teams and individuals from Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Tahiti and New Caledonia including more than 25 junior teams – this section of the festival has grown enormously over the past few years.
The weather was atrocious for the start of competition – the OC1 and V1 (singles) Iron races on Saturday. Over 100 paddlers started but the conditions proved too much for some and several did not finish.
It wasn’t much better on Monday when the team V6 contest cot underway. Strong winds and heavy rain reduced visibility to about 50 metres at one point. In fact veteran oe vaka photographer Harvie Allison says he’s never seen racing in such awful weather. He got some great photos of all the action though.
Things started improving on Tuesday and the junior sprints, senior sprints and round Raro relays were held in sometimes dull, sometimes sunny conditions but there were no more freak storms.
Other events included the Trader Jacks charity boiler swim, Oe Vaka art exhibition at the Art Studio and Mike Tavioni’s traditional canoe carving project.
Cook Islands News did a fantastic job covering everything from the pre-festival supplement to stories, results and photographs each day.
You can see the whole coverage here.
For more photos check Harvie’s website. This year’s pix aren’t up at the time of writing but he’ll no doubt have them online soon.
Another media regular at Vaka Eiva is Ian Rambo. Check his blog Rambo’s Locker for some super video, a lot of it taken from on the water. Again, this year’s aren’t online yet but keep checking.

Friday, November 26

The crowd goes wild!

Our three-day Rarotonga international sevens tournament was a fabulous occasion with good weather (at least for those watching – might have been a bit hot for the players), high-class rugby and plenty of entertainment both on and off the field. ‘Dash for cash’ races and goal-kicking competitions gave spectators the chance to win prizes and on the final day, a Saturday, many in the crowd dressed up and had a ball. There were more prizes for best team supporters (Vikings walked away with that), best dressed groups and best hats.
We even had a streaker (sort of).
Food, drink, entertainment and great rugby played in a sporting spirit; Sevens in Heaven was a huge success.

Tuesday, November 16

Sensational men's sevens in Rarotonga

The sixteen men’s teams taking part in the Cook Islands Sevens in Heaven tournament included four entirely from overseas: Porirua Magic, Melbourne Valley Reds, College Rifles and Hastings Rugby and Sports. But the eight local teams also had plenty of top notch overseas players including Rene Ranger, a recent All Black.
The on-field action over the three days was hard, fast and classy.
In the end College Rifles won the cup to make it a double after their women’s team also won the cup to become this year’s sevens champions. In the final Rifles beat local team Avatiu Eels.
Titikaveka Rehab Razorbacks beat the Tauae Bulls to take the plate; Ngatangiia Flying Dragons defeated Hastings Rugby and Sport for the Bowl and the Aitutaki outer island team took home the shield after disposing of the Melbourne Valley Reds.
As Cook Islands News sports journalist Matariki Wilson put it, “Sevens in Heaven 2010 has outdone past international tournaments with high calibre players from New Zealand helping to provide great games and lift the standards – and providing a great excuse for people to get dressed up and let their hair down.”
The next video will show some of the off-field action including those who dressed up.

Monday, November 15

Women's rugby at Rarotonga sevens

Women’s rugby sevens has improved a huge amount over the past few years and it was obvious watching the games at the Rarotonga international sevens tournament.
Eight teams took part, four local and four from New Zealand although the local teams also had overseas players.
T&M Crushers, Avatiu Motor Centre Eels, Club Raro Stormers and Titikaveka Rehab Ravens were the local sides; College Rifles, Waitakere Nesians, Hastings Rugby & Sports and Napier Tech Rugby came from overseas.
Final results: College Rifles won the cup after defeating local favourites Rehab Ravens; Hastings Rugby & Sport beat T&M Crushers for the plate and Waitakere Nesians (who reckon they trained on McDonalds) won the bowl over Napier Tech Rugby girls.
We had a great three-day rugby fiesta with fast-moving good quality and entertaining women’s rugby.
Look forward to more of the same next year.

Sunday, November 14

Sevens in Heaven - the tackles

Rarotonga’s recent ‘Sevens in Heaven’ rugby tournament was a lot of fun, at least for spectators, but the players weren’t messing about.
As you can see from the video, the tackles were solid, ‘take no prisoners’ affairs.
There were no serious injuries and only a few yellow cards. On the field it was serious stuff but at the end of the day everyone ended up smiling.

Friday, November 12

Rarotonga sevens - a look at the teams

The Rarotonga International Rugby Sevens tournament, held last week from 4 to 6 November, was another huge success.
This was the twenty-first birthday of the event which just keeps getting bigger and better each year. We had 24 teams all told – 16 men’s and 8 women’s sides. Some were predominately local with imported NZ stars while others were entirely overseas teams.
Sevens legend Eric Rush was one of the first New Zealand rugby stars to play here and we’ve also had players who went on to All Blacks fame – I think Jonah Lomu was one of them. This year Rene Ranger took to the field for one of our local teams.
The weather was great, the rugby was great and the crowd was great.
Here’s the first sevens video – the march past of teams.
There will be more to follow so watch this space!
By the way, for a bit of light relief check out the Edgewater flash mob video on YouTube here.
Strictly speaking it wasn’t a spontaneous flash mob as the Edgewater staff had been rehearsing it for a couple of weeks but it looked like a lot of laughs and had over 4000 views last time I checked. Good fun.

Sunday, November 7

Turama – Rarotonga's festival of light

All Souls Day is in fact 2 November but in the Cook Islands it is now customary for the Catholic Church to celebrate the eve of All Souls Day on 1 November in a local festival called Turama.
The main focus of this is the Catholic cemetery at Panama.

In the days leading up to Turama family members clean and paint their loved one’s graves and decorate them with flowers and candles. Water is blessed at a requiem Mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral in town then there is a short prayer service at the cemetery. As the sun goes down the choir sings hymns while priests sprinkle water on the graves. In the candlelight people have time to remember those who have passed away and to ask God to grant the dead the joy and peace of eternal life.
Turama is a colourful but peaceful occasion. There is an earlier video and more information about Turama here.

Sunday, October 31

Cook Islands Gospel Day on Rarotonga

This is a pretty busy time of year on Rarotonga.
Cook Islands Gospel Day takes place on 26 October, celebrating the arrival of Christianity on Aitutali in 1821. Actually a visitor to Raro commented that it should be called Slash and Burn Day – the number (and noise) of chainsaws and weedeaters in operation from early morning is huge.
Then we have Turama, All Saints Day, on 1 November, when the Catholic community spruce up the graves of loved ones that are then blessed by the bishop of Rarotonga.
On November 5 our international sporting rugby sevens tournament – Sevens in Heaven – gets going. This year it is a three-day event because of the increased number of teams, 25 all told, 16 men’s and 9 women’s.
Then later in November the Vaka Eiva outrigger canoe festival takes place and that is getting bigger year by year. There could also be canoe carving, and international food festival and a special trade day at the same time.
And finally at the beginning of December there’s the Tiare festival, celebrating all the flowers that should be blooming round about then (as long as we don’t have too much in the way of winds). Oh, yes, the cyclone season also starts in November but we’re hoping it will be a mild year; various met offices are forecasting that our part of the world should miss out on the worst of the action. Hope they’re right.
This video comes from Gospel Day.
Arorangi hosted the event, which got under way somewhat later than advertised but nothing really unusual about that. This year’s theme was about taking the gospel to the heathens. The video shows parts of the host’s nuku (religious play) which covered a wedding in Mangaia and the early days of Takamoa Theological College when pastors and their wives were trained to become missionaries in places like Papua New Guinea. As is always the case most of the village took part and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. There used to be a (flexible) time limit of twenty minutes per nuku but this one took more like an hour and what with that and the late start I only had time for Arorangi and part of Matavera’s drama which involved cannibalism in New Caledonia.
All good fun.
Bring on Turama.

Sunday, October 24

Korero Maori dancing kids

The Cook Islands constitution celebrations (Te Maeva Nui) commemorate the country attaining internal self government. We’re not actually independent, because New Zealand looks after such things as defence. I can only remember one instance of talk about ‘real independence’ and that was a smoke screen raised by politicians trying to draw attention away from a major economic meltdown caused by themselves.
Most Cook Islanders are very happy with the way things are. I think they regard New Zealand rather like an elder brother. I suspect New Zealand thinks of us like a spoilt child.
Anyway, that’s why we have a Constitution Day rather than an Independence Day but we all enjoy the public holiday and the dancing regardless of the name. It takes our minds off the current financial crisis, once again caused by politicians.
We’ve got an election coming up in mid-November, a chance to clean out the house.
Our parliamentary system is nominally the Westminster system in terms of elections but with our own Pacific flavour. Government members think it’s their job to take as many overseas trips as possible and rack up the per diems. The opposition’s job is to sit on their backsides and wait until the next election when they might be able to take over the trips. They don’t actually oppose anything (except political reform). There’s no ideological difference between the parties and nor does there need to be since the candidate with the biggest extended family is the one who’ll be elected.
This year we have 70 candidates standing for our 24 seats and two new political parties have been formed just for the election. They probably won’t get anywhere, they very rarely do, but what’s more interesting is the 16 independents. Some of these are disgruntled sitting MPs who have been dumped by their parties but others are interesting people with solid reputations. I hope lots of them get elected then maybe we’ll get some movement on reform.
Meanwhile, here’s a video of Te Maeva Nui. The population may be dwindling but culture is alive and well. Many local dance groups performed at the celebrations as guest artists and several of them had junior dancers ranging in age from toddler to primary school age.
These are the little ones from Korero Maori dance group.
(Don't forget, DVDs of the entire Te Maeva Nui festival are available from the Ministry of Cultural Development.)

Thursday, October 21

50 things to do on Rarotonga

I’ve been a bit slow to get the next video completed and online but I’ve got a good excuse. I think it’s good, anyway.
I’ve been finishing off a free e-book called ‘50 Things to Do on Rarotonga’. Click on the picture on the right to get a copy of the pdf. It's about 870kB.
If you're planning to visit Rarotonga sometime soon you need this e-book to get you up to speed so you don't waste a minute of your precious holiday time.
It’s actually a 20-page booklet but e-booklet or even e-brochure just doesn’t have the same ring to it so I’m sticking to e-book. Sounds classier.
It’s based on a publication in Hawaii called ‘101 Things To Do in Oahu’. Well, Oahu’s much more than twice as big as Raro so fifty things isn’t too bad to be going on with. The ‘things’ range from relaxing to rousing and where appropriate there are web addresses so you can get more info about the activities that interest you.
There’s already quite a lot of printed material for tourists to the Cook Islands although none are organised like this one. When you get here make sure you pick up the Cook Islands Sun and the Jason’s travel guide and also one of the free maps that both companies put out.
Since this is an e-book there aren’t any printing costs hence no need to chase around for advertising. It also means that updates and additions will be relatively easy to do so if anyone spots any errors, or knows of something that ought to be added to the fifty things just send an email (
And now it’s back to the video editing. Should have a new one up in a few days.

Sunday, October 10

Umukai at Takitumu

Takitumu primary school’s Maori culture week ended up with a big umukai for the children, teachers and all the parents who made the week a success. (See also CI culture wows Takitumu kids.)
The mamas had mostly helped with showing the kids how to use kikau and play the old-style games.
The papas were in charge of the umu making sure it was ready by 11am.
They put on a fabulous spread although I’m not sure that chocolate cake qualifies as Maori culture!

Sunday, October 3

Rarotonga’s week of running

Here are some video highlights of Rarotonga’s week of running, one of the Cook Islands’ popular international sporting occasions.
This video includes footage from all five events.
It started with a fun run on Thursday evening although many of the runners didn’t arrive until the early hours of Friday morning because of an eight hour delay in Auckland (I was told that Air NZ had to bring in a replacement plane from Australia).
The big one, the Round Rarotonga Road Race (for runners and walkers), began at 5.30am on Saturday with times ranging from just over 2 hours to just over 6.
Monday’s Hash House Birthday Bash was another fun affair – the after-run party was the main attraction; Tuesday’s round the rock relay attracted a lot of school teams this year as well as the regular runners; and nearly 50 people took part in the final race, the nutters coast-to-coast.
Incidentally, it’s called the nutters run because it used to be sponsored by a peanut company. The name stuck even though the sponsor didn’t. It’s definitely appropriate for people who travel across the middle of the island on a muddy, tree-root-covered track as fast as they can just for the hell of it!

Saturday, October 2

Nutters coast to coast run

The final event in Rarotonga’s week of running is the Nutters coast-to-coast run.
It’s not for the faint-hearted.
The route starts at Vaimaanga on the south side of the island and heads up and over the cross-island track and down the Avatiu valley to Avatiu harbour on the northern coast.
We had a bit of rain over the previous couple of days so the going was slippery in places but nevertheless just under fifty runners and walkers joined in (the walkers started an hour or so earlier to make sure they finished in daylight).
Greg Gustafson, winner of the RRRR, was also the first nutter home in just under 55 minutes but 8-year-old Liam Teura also made it across and 16-year-old Jacob Pynenburg (who is in the video) finished in eighth spot.
Cook Islands News covered all the week’s races and in fact was a sponsor of the round the rock relay.
Check their online stories here:
Hash 1; Hash 2; Fun Run 1; Fun Run 2; Round Raro 1; Round Raro 2.

Wednesday, September 29

Rarotonga Hash birthday bash

Hash House Harriers have been running around on Rarotonga since about 1980 and they usually hold their annual birthday celebrations when the round Raro visitors are in town. The Monday Hash run is one of the regular ‘week of running’ events.
It was a colourful affair as you can see with the emphasis on fun rather than exercise. The course was about four kilometres, starting and ending at the Edgewater Resort car park (the Edgewater is one of the ‘week of running’ sponsors) followed by a BBQ and liquid refreshments of one sort or another.
With two more runs to come – the Round the Rock Relay and the Nutters Coast to Coast – no doubt all the dedicated runners stuck to soft drinks.
Yeah, right!

Monday, September 27

Round Rarotonga Road Race 2010

The Round Rarotonga Road Race was a resounding success once again this year with about ninety people opting to get up in what I consider to be the middle of the night to head down to Punanga Nui market for the 5.30am start of the 31km race around the island.
Another fifty set off at the more civilised hour of 7.30am from Muri to run or walk 10km to the Punanga Nui finish.
First man home was Greg Gustafson. This used to be a regular occurrence in the 1990s but the last time Greg ran (and won) the RRRR was in 1997.
Second home and first local was Roland Neurerer.
The pair ran alongside each other for most of the race but a sprint finish (after 31km!) saw Greg home in 2hrs 15min 32sec with Roland 7 seconds later.
First woman was Vanessa Palmer, also the first local woman and sixth overall.
The first walker was Jos McDonald.
There were competitors from New Zealand, Australia, the USA and a lone one from the UK as well as locals of course.
The Round Raro is our longest running international sporting event; this is its 33rd year.

Tuesday, September 21

CI culture wows Takitumu kids

Takitumu primary school’s on the east coast of Rarotonga in Matavera and the teachers, pupils and parents recently enjoyed a great week celebrating Maori culture. The adults showed the youngsters how to play traditional games, and make toys, headbands, plates and other things from kikau (coconut palm fronds).
One day the entire school hired buses to visit local marae - parents and village elders were on hand to talk to the kids about the history of the places.
Friends and families sent along treasures like hats, tivaivai, pounders, necklaces and other traditional items to turn the school library into a culture museum for the week.
The children also learnt songs and dances for a show on the last day of culture week and then had a magnificent umukai – using the plates they’d made earlier in the week.
This first video shows the kids having a whole lot of fun learning how to weave kikau.

Tuesday, September 14

Buff body bonanza

Rarotonga has just played host to another international sporting competition. This one was the 2010 Asia Pacific Bodybuilding Championships, organised here by the people at Top Shape gym.
It was originally supposed to be held in the Philippines - the venue was only changed in June I think, so everyone did a good job at short notice. In the end over fifty athletes took part including one local, Aaron Enoka – son of Cook Islands bodybuilding icon the late Felix Enoka.
Top Shape’s round up in Cook Islands News said:
“It’s time to re-label modern day bodybuilding.
The word bodybuilding easily conjures images of guys spending endless hours grunting it out in the gym and developing freakishly huge muscles…”
Well, the evening show turned out to be a real eye opener.
It had fantastic bronzed bodies, shapes to die (or possibly diet) for, great muscle tone, cool music and entertaining routines. Competitors’ ages ranged from seventeen to seventy! Seventy-year-old Colleen Sloane from Palmerston North was awe inspiring and there were several 60+ men strutting their stuff.
And everyone seemed to be having so much fun! We even had an on-stage marriage proposal (it was accepted).
It was a competition so you have to have champions but really I think everyone was a winner and I hope all the athletes had a great time here and come back to visit us again.
2010 Asia Pacific Ms Shape -Teresa Edwards
2010 Asia Pacific Ms Physical -Helen Aloiai
2010 Asia Pacific Ms Figure -Karen Kelly
2010 Asia Pacific Ms Fitness Model- Maeve Agnew
2010 Asia Pacific Mr Athletics- Jason Bartley
2010 Asia Pacific Mr Physique - Roshan Ferrao

Top Shape should soon have a half-hour DVD of show highlights available.

Sunday, September 5

More Maeva Nui – the Pukapuka pe’e

The Ministry of Cultural Development has just issued the 2010 Te Maeva Nui DVDs – a box set of four.
The DVDs cover all the events of this year’s celebrations – the pe’e, ute, kapa rima and ura pau from each of the five teams (Atiu, Arorangi, Mangaia, Nikao and Pukapuka) plus international night, some really great guest artists and the drumming competition – all for just NZ$50.
Any overseas Cook Islands dance teams and culture groups should buy a set to see how culture is surviving and progressing here at home.
Check the MOCD website here.
In the meantime here’s a short sample from the Pukapuka pe’e.
The Pukapukans are always popular performers; they put so much energy into everything and they always look and sound as though they’re really having fun.
This pe’e (legend or chant) is about a boastful wrestler who annoys the rest of the tribe and is killed by the other warriors.
Come to think of it, many pe’e are a bit on the violent side. I guess it’s the stories with larger than life winners and losers that survive (even if the combatants don’t).

Tuesday, August 31

Rarotonga tattoo

Tattooing in the Cook Islands was one of the many things almost stamped out by the missionaries who regarded it as a pagan custom. It was discouraged from their arrival in the 1820s and eventually they persuaded chiefs to prohibit the practice in 1879.
The art of tattooing survived – just – until the 1990s when it suddenly became not only acceptable but desirable.
The South Pacific Festival of the Arts held in Rarotonga in 1992 certainly had a lot to do with this when tattooists from other islands demonstrated new designs and techniques.
Tattoos are now common for young men and women who want to show they are proud of their culture and traditions.
In the video Kroc Coulter is continuing a chest tattoo on Ian George. He’s assisted by Numa McKenzie as a ‘stretcher’ (stretching the skin to make sure the ink goes where it should).
Kroc’s tools are all hand-made of natural materials. The comb (of needles) on the tattoo adze is made from boars’ teeth, carved and flattened. A spatula is used to tap the adze to get the ink into the skin.
Actually the rat-a-tat-tat sound this makes is possibly where the word tattoo comes from. The local name for the art is ‘tatau’ which means to tap or drum.
You can hear this in the video.
The other tapping sound in the background is from women making tapa cloth. Apparently this is another practice discouraged by the missionaries who didn’t like the noise it made. They encouraged local women to take up patchwork instead and so tivaivai was born!

Wednesday, August 25

Marumaru Atua meets the Picton Castle

Marumaru Atua is one of five double-hulled outrigger sailing canoes (vaka) built in New Zealand and funded by the Okeanos Foundation for the Sea. The canoes are made from modern materials but the design is traditional, in fact it is modelled on Te Au O Tonga, the wooden Cook Islands voyaging canoe which has made many Pacific journeys since its maiden voyage in 1995.
In April this year the fleet of canoes left Auckland and sailed first to Raivavae in French Polynesia and then to Rarotonga. (For more information check the Cook Islands Voyaging Society website.)
The Picton Castle is a three-masted sailing barque, based in Novia Scotia but registered in the Cook Islands. It’s on the fifth trip around the world – each one takes about 14 months – and sailed here from French Polynesia. From Rarotonga the Picton Castle will head first to Palmerston and Pukapuka and then west to Tonga.
She’s a true working tall ship with a professional crew of 12 plus 40 trainees who learn things like handling sails, scrubbing the deck, taking a turn at the wheel, raising anchor, hauling on lines, helping in the galley, going aloft (optional), and keeping lookout. (For more information check the Picton Castle website.)
Marumaru Atua sailed out to meet the Picton Castle and escorted her to Avatiu Harbour. Some of the crew will be trying sailing in a rather smaller vessel over the next few days.
The Voyaging Society is planning to run trips for tourists and locals as a fund-raising exercise. The Okeanos Foundation currently owns the vaka which is worth about $1 million, but it will sell it to the nation for $200,000 provided the money can be raised by the end of 2012.
The vaka is also being used to train current crew members for their captains’ certificates and to recruit youngsters to become future vaka sailors.

Friday, August 20

Te Maeva Nui – Arorangi Kapa Rima

The kapa rima is a story-telling dance and is usually very graceful with lots of hand and arm movements.
The young Arorangi dancers put on a fine performance in their kapa rima (action song) at Te Maeva Nui. Although there was no overall competition, this dance was judged to be category 1 and earned Arorangi $1000.
A huge amount of work goes into preparing all the dances and it usually involves a large proportion of the village. The costumes are made from scratch, the mamas help out here but the young dancers also do their share, and it takes hours of practice to get everyone moving in unison, but in the end it’s all worth it. Everyone on stage and in the audience enjoyed it.
It’s a sobering thought though that it’s a one-off performance.

Tuesday, August 17

Rarotonga whale watching

We were heading home from shopping last Saturday when we saw parked cars and motorbikes near the sea wall at the end of the airport runway. People were standing, staring out past the reef and since no planes were due in at that time it looked like a whale sighting.
We carried on to Nikao beach where more people had gathered and sure enough there was a pod of whales heading slowly along the reef towards Arorangi. They were spouting, breaching and thrashing their tales about. In fact they seemed to be having a great time playing, just like kids in the waves.
We rushed back home, grabbed cameras and binoculars and went down to Black Rock at the Arorangi end of Nikao beach.
The whales were getting close to the rock, still leaping about. A couple of small boats kept pace with the pod, probably Nan Hauser of the Whale Research Centre on Rarotonga. During the whale season here, she and a group of volunteers keep tabs on all these magnificent visitors to our waters. Apparently whales come up to this part of the world from the Antarctic to calve between about July and October.
The pod put on quite a show for a very appreciative audience of both locals and tourists, then started heading back the way they had come.
I’ve seen quite a few whales this year, far more than I have in previous years. I don’t know if that’s because there are more of them around or just that I’ve been getting out more but either way it’s a fabulous sight.
(For more information on Nan and the research check out

Thursday, August 12

Te Maeva Nui – Atiu Pe’e

The competition side of Te Maeva Nui was different from other years because there was no big cash prize for the overall winner – last year it was $15,000.
The five teams who joined in (Nikao, Arorangi, and Rarotonga-based Mangaia, Atiu and Pukapuka) did it for love of their culture and to give their youngsters a chance to shine. The audience loved it, everyone on stage seemed to be having a wonderful time and they all deserve congratulations. And nobody went home empty-handed because what sponsorship money the ministry of culture had was spread around all teams.
Judges put teams into three categories for each item. In the choir and imene tuki sections category 1 earned $500, category 2 $400 and category 3 $300. In the ute, pe’e, kapa rima and ura pau sections category 2 earned $800 and category 1 $1000.
This Atiu pe’e was awarded a category 1 ranking.
The story was about a warrior who killed another. The dead man’s tribe had to avenge his death before the night was over.
The pe’e is a chant. In the olden days it commemorated a particular event or brave deed but very few traditional pe’e have survived.
The pe’e performed at Te Maeva Nui are specially written. The main players act out a story which very often involves murder, treachery and revenge. The rest of the team dance and chant an accompaniment. The costumes are natural materials, leaves and such, for the chorus but often tapa, headdresses and ornaments for the stars.
As with all Cook Islands performances, everyone has a marvellous time!

Sunday, August 8

Te Maeva Nui Choir Competition

The first competition events of Te Maeva Nui cultural festival are the choir and imene tuku sections on Sunday evening.
The choirs may sing traditional hymns or something specially composed for the occasion.
Imene tuki are traditional Cook Islands hymns, unaccompanied and including grunts as well as words.
This video is from the choirs of the five teams in this year’s competition; Nikao and Arorangi villages and groups representing Mangaia, Pukapuka and Atiu made up from people living on Rarotonga but with outer island roots.
(The Ministry of Culture DVD of Te Maeva Nui will have full performances of choir and imene tuki. It should be available in about a month from the ministry website.)

Thursday, August 5

Pacific Princess steals the show

The Kiribati community put on an impressive performance at International Night on the first day of Te Maaeva Nui, but the star of the show was a tiny tot who did her own thing and delighted the audience.
A dance champion in the making!

Te Maeva Nui International Night

August 4 is Constitution Day in the Cook Islands, celebrating the day the country achieved self-governance 45 years ago.
Te Maeva Nui takes place during this week and is a festival of the performing arts.
In some years outer islands dance teams come to Rarotonga but this year there’s no money available to fund their travel, no doubt due to the Toagate affair, a saga of serial stupidity which cost us millions of dollars and will continue to do so for years to come. (If you don’t know what ‘Toagate’ is – and really want to - you can Google it to find out more. Here in the Cook Islands we just wish it would go away).
Te Maeva Nui always begins with International Night, a variety show with performances by local expatriate communities, champion dancers and overseas cultural dance teams.
This video features extracts from the first half of the show and includes singer Tara Kauvai, the Kiribati community, our male and female dancers of the year, Miss Cook Islands, the Philippines and Slovenia. Yes, you read that right! The Academic Folk Dance Group from Maribor in Slovenia has been coming here for several years and is very popular.
Saturday’s International Night is followed by the choir competition on Sunday while the cultural dance contest continues for the rest of the week.
The Ministry of Cultural Development is filming all the shows and will be issuing a DVD of this year's festival in a month or so. The DVD from the Dancer of the Year competition earlier this year has now been released. You can check out prices, including overseas postage, on the ministry website.

Sunday, August 1

The Aranui Experience: Ua Pou

Our second stop in the Marquesas (third on the journey) was Ua Pou, about 40km south of Nuku Hiva. It’s home to about two thousand people about half of whom live in Hakahau, a small town with the best anchorage on the island. There’s a concrete dock that the Aranui 3 tied up against; no waiting for whaleboats, passengers were able to walk ashore at will although once down the gangplank you had to dodge between forklift trucks, four wheel drive pickups, containers, crates and barrels as well as a large number of local inhabitants coming to collect cargo.
The arrival of the Aranui every three weeks or so is a big occasion.
On a hill overlooking Hakahau bay there is a large white cross. That’s not unusual – there are large white crosses scattered all over hillsides in the Marquesas. However this one is quite accessible, a thirty or forty minute walk first along a concrete road then a good track. Very nice view from the top over Hakahau and also the next door bay Anahoa, an uninhabited valley with a very nice beach but lots of nono (sandflies).
July is heiva (festival) time in Tahiti and many dance teams head to Papeete for the annual cultural competitions but some of the more remote islands hold their own mini-heiva, Ua Pou amongst them. A marquee set up at the Hakahau Community Centre housed stalls with wood and stone carvings (the island has a reputation for good carving), jewellery and straw weaving. The stalls surrounded an open space where children were performing dances and relay races involving food (coconut grating and breadfruit peeling). The older dancers would be performing later but we had to leave by mid-afternoon so didn’t get to see them.
But quite a few statues, masks and other souvenirs accompanied us back on board. It’s good to know that we tourists were contributing to the local economy as well as having fun!

Wednesday, July 28

Fight-Do demo on Rarotonga’s Kavera beach

I’m taking a quick break from the Marquesas for an update on the crew at Top Shape gym in Rarotonga.

Last week Terry Thorn, a master trainer from Radical Fitness, was on Rarotonga to put instructors and those wanting to become instructors through their paces.
As a grand finale the trainees gathered at Kavera beach on Rarotonga’s sunset side for a fitness session on the sand.
Once everyone was tired, hot and sweaty they put together a demonstration to show off some of the things they’ve learnt. Here’s some video of the demo.
It looked like a lot of fun - especially cooling off in the sea at the end of the session!

Monday, July 26

The Aranui Experience: Nuku Hiva

On the Aranui’s usual run Ua Pou is the second port of call but our schedule was altered because of taking in the solar eclipse at the end.
After leaving Fakarava we sailed all the next day and reached Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva on our third morning.
All the Marquesas are volcanic with jagged peaks, higher than Rarotonga’s – some are over 1000m. There were no coastal plains on the islands we visited and no surrounding coral reefs. The islanders live in the valleys but most of the settlements are small.
Nuku Hiva has about 2600 inhabitants with 1700 living in Taiohae, the centre of administration of the Marquesas. The island’s area is 340 sq km. Compare this with Rarotonga’s area of 67 sq km and population of between 10,000 and 14,000 (depending on whose figures you believe and whether you include visitors or not) and you can see that the Marquesas -Te Fenua Enata to the locals – are remote, rugged and sparsely populated.
Shore excursions are included for passengers on the Aranui 3 so once again we took whaleboats to the wharf then piled into 4WD vehicles for a drive across the island to the village of Hatiheu for lunch Chez Yvonne. Umukai food – very nice and lots of it.
We had a choice after lunch of a swim, a 40 minute hike to a viewpoint or a 20 minute walk to a marae.
Once an estimated 90,000 people lived in the Marquesas but nowadays the total is less than 10,000. However this means that the islands have many archaeological sites of villages and marae from earlier times. Some of these have been excavated and restored including the one we visited, Paeke near Taipivai. We had a stiffish uphill walk to reach the site and some of the older folk took over an hour to get there.
Everyone made it this time but some people gave later hikes a miss!

Wednesday, July 21

The Aranui Experience: Fakarava

The Aranui 3 is a cargo/passenger ship, based in Tahiti, which services the inhabited islands of the Marquesas 16 times a year. It also has room for up to 200 passengers in accommodation ranging from dormitory-style to suites. The restaurant serves three meals a day with wine included at lunch and dinner. There’s a small swimming pool (which sloshes mighty spouts of water in rough weather), a lounge with constant supply of tea and coffee, a bar, video room and boutique with a great supply of shirts, t-shirts, pareu and other essential souvenirs. You’re encouraged to open an account which makes it very easy to buy goodies and the credit card just suffers one big hit at the end of the journey!
We sailed from Papeete at about 10.30am and reached Fakarava early the next morning.
Fakarava is the second-largest atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago and is supposed to be an excellent place for scuba diving as well as black pearl farming. We had our first encounter with the whaleboats, a mode of transport we soon became very familiar with, but weren’t ashore long enough for more than a blitz on a couple of pearl shops and a dip in the lagoon.
The population is less than 700 but the road in Rotoava village is a wide, well-made concrete affair. It was built several years ago when French president Jacques Chirac was due to call in. Chirac never turned up but the road is still there and it’s no doubt much more useful than a presidential visit.
All the main roads and many of the small ones on the islands we went to were this standard. Not a pothole in sight and no Telecom trenches cutting across. The Aranui probably makes a fortune transporting the cement! I’ve got to confess I’m envious. There are obviously compensations for being a French territory.

Saturday, July 17

Total eclipse of the sun

Over 400 people travelled to Mangaia in the Southern Cook Islands to view the solar eclipse on Sunday 11 July. Most of them were stationed at the airport and unfortunately the weather was cloudy enough to obscure the three minutes when the moon blocked out the sun’s light but many of the visitors said the island’s beauty and its people more than made up for the failed eclipse.
For more about the eclipse check the Cook Islands News website here.
The predicted path of totality cut a swathe across the South Pacific touching land in only a few places – Mangaia, Easter Island and some of the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia.
I was lucky enough to get a spot on board the Aranui 3, a cargo/passenger vessel that does a regular run to the Marquesas Islands, calling in at a couple of the Tuamotus as well. Just under 200 eclipse-chasers took the two-week trip to the remote and rugged Marquesas. (It was a fantastic journey but more on that in a later post.)
We were due to disembark at 5am on Hikueru, an atoll with a large lagoon and a small population, on Sunday morning but the weather was cloudy – just like Mangaia – so the captain of the Aranui checked the forecast and sailed to a place where there was a gap in the clouds. The advantage of this was that we did not have to get up so early.
The early stages of the eclipse were obscured by clouds at times but just before totality the clouds cleared and the sun came out – and then disappeared again.
Awesome (a much overused description but deserved I this instance)!
The eclipse was really just an excuse to visit the Marquesas and it would have been a great trip anyway but actually seeing just over four minutes of totality was the icing on the cake.
The video shows people getting ready for the greatest show on earth as well as the eclipse itself (edited – not the whole four minutes!)

Wednesday, July 14

Rarotonga airport’s new terminal

I was hoping to get this post online two or three weeks ago but as mentioned below, internet access in Papeete was slow and expensive and the same was true for the Aranui 3. However, it was quite pleasant to forget about email and computers for a while. And the terminal’s still there. Here’s the post – at last.
The next few videos will be of the solar eclipse and the Marquesas.

The new terminal at Rarotonga airport was officially opened on Monday 21 June although it had been in use for some time before that.
I didn’t make it to the opening as I was busy packing for a trip to Tahiti and the Marquesas but I heard the sound of drums, rather a lot of them and going on for a very long time. This probably means that everything started late and there were too many speeches.
Not to worry, there’s only one plane a week to Tahiti at the moment and it flies in on Tuesdays so I was down at the terminal the following day to welcome the Air Tahiti ATR32 and check out the facilities.
I’ve heard people moaning about the building; what was wrong with the old one? (arriving and departing passengers could mix and mingle – a no-no in these days of enhanced security); the tatty old terminal had a certain charm (but very few places for travellers to sit down); the new building is too hot (this might well be true for a full Air New Zealand jumbo-load but Tuesday’s twenty or so passengers plus staff didn’t overtax the fans).
The terminal has a large north-facing roof area so, when finances permit, the Airport Authority can install solar panels and air-condition everywhere. The Business Class lounge is already air-conditioned and very comfortable although it hasn’t got very many more seats than the old lounge – they’re just spaced further apart.
In the meantime other travellers will just have to be grateful that they’ve got seats, some interesting new shops and duty free outlets and a snack bar.
Local art has been used for decoration. A painting by Tim Buchanan depicting travelling Polynesians graces the entrance to the departure lounge and Ted Nia sculptures adorn the concrete pillars.
There’s also a little stage for Jake (Numanga) to serenade everyone as they head off into the wide blue yonder.
Jake might actually have cause for a moan because in the old days he could sing to incoming and outgoing passengers from the same position. Now, however, he has to hop smartly from the arrival to the departure hall at the appropriate time. That’s progress for you.

Monday, June 28

Problems updating RaroLens

People who complain about Telecom Cook Islands should try accessing the internet from a hotel in Tahiti. It costs an arm and a leg and it's as slow as a wet week.
One hour access costs $27 and most of the time is spent waiting for pages to download.
I've got a video ready to add to the blog but I can't upload it at the moment.
I'll be on a boat heading for the Marquesas Islands tomorrow and don't know if internet access will be available.
If not I'll be back in a fortnight.

Friday, June 18

Queen’s Baton at Takamoa, Rarotonga

Rarotonga, as everyone knows who has lived or visited here, has a single main road that circles the island – all 31 kilometres of it. It was along this road that the Queen’s Baton Relay (for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi later this year) took place.
However, one of the highlights was a side trip to the Takamoa Theological College.
The college buildings have recently been renovated and the administration building and grounds now look magnificent against the backdrop of lush, green mountains.
The building is the best example of colonial-era architecture still standing and was founded by Aaron Buzacott, one of the early London Missionary Society (LMS) missionaries.
The LMS is now the Cook Islands Christian Church (CICC) and Takamoa is where the pastors are trained. They live there with wives and families and the choir, a family affair, is noted for its imene tuki renditions.
During the QBR the trainee-pastors greeted and challenged each baton-bearer, then the choir sang while the baton was carried around the college building.
It was a beautiful day and the men in white suits and women in white muumuu and rito hats were quite spectacular as you can see from the video.

Wednesday, June 9

Final match in Pacific Netball Series

This video is of the final match in the Pacific Netball Series.
As I mentioned in the last post, Samoa played well to beat the Cook Islands by 56 goals to 46.
It was a disappointing series for our girls but netball fans got to see some great games and let's hope some of the skills and attitude rub off!

Monday, June 7

Pacific Netball Series in Rarotonga

Pacific Netball Series Opening Ceremony

Fiji (50) v Samoa (45)

Cook Islands (59) v PNG (57)

Samoa (57) v PNG (54)

I’m back from chilly New Zealand and it’s a relief to be warm again!
The Cook Islands has just hosted the second Pacific Netball Series with four countries vying for two spots at the World Netball Championships in Singapore in 2011.
According to the world rankings before the tournament the Cooks were in seventh place, Samoa 8, Fiji 9 and Papua New Guinea 12 so we were definitely hoping to secure a spot.
Well, things didn’t go to plan.
We managed a narrow win over PNG (59-57) but were trounced by Fiji (32-46) and well beaten by Samoa (46-56).
It must have been very disappointing for our netballers but the other teams should be delighted with their performances. The PNG girls in particular might feel a bit unfortunate to end up in fourth place because their results against Fiji (42-47) and Samoa (54-57) were better than ours!
Still it was nice to see the new indoor arena being used for international sport again.
Meanwhile it’s back to the drawing board for Cook Islands netball – no longer number one in the Pacific.
Here are short videos from the opening and first three games.
One more netball video to follow and then there will be other from the Queen’s Baton Relay.

Monday, May 31

The Queen’s Baton gets moving in Rarotonga

After arriving on Friday night, the Queen’s Baton Relay opening ceremony took place on Saturday morning, although launch would probably be a better way to describe it.
It was definitely a low key affair with not many spectators apart from those related to the kids who welcomed the baton and then carried it around the stadium.
It was a beautiful day though and once the baton moved out onto the road there were plenty of people to carry it and cheer it along.
People in Rarotonga know it’s wise to avoid politicians giving speeches although, like the arrival on Friday night, these were kept short.
More later.

Saturday, May 29

The Queen's Baton arrives in Rarotonga

The Queen’s Baton contains a message to be read at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi later this year. The baton visits as many Commonwealth countries as possible with a relay being held in each one.
The baton arrived in Rarotonga on Friday 21 May and was welcomed at the airport with a turou and dancing.
There was quite a media throng on the tarmac with not only the regularlocal contingent but also a large number of photographers who are travelling with the baton to record its every move. It may sound like a lovely assignment, travelling around the world taking pictures, but those people are working really hard as they have to get a story and selection of photos online every day on the Commonwealth Games website.
The arrival and greeting must have been quite impressive for the newly arrived tourists. Of course, Jake Numanga was there with his ukulele and songs meeting every plane as he has done for many years, but the cultural display was something extra!
There were a few speeches, mercifully short but the highlight of the welcome was people being able to hold the baton which is a pretty impressive high tech article.
The baton relay itself took place on Saturday (22 May). Beautiful weather plenty of action.
I’ll have more videos of parts of the relay but at the moment I’m in Dunedin (where the weather is anything but beautiful) where my time to edit and internet access are both limited.

Thursday, May 20

Intermediate Dancer of the Year auditions

A couple of posts ago (Rarotonga's dancer of the year coming soon) I mentioned the Dancer of the Year competition along with video of some of the junior contestants.
This video shows the intermediate auditions. There will be more dancers on finals night – some kids were busy with school work at the time of the auditions and last year’s champions will also be included.
The finals next Thursday (27 May) should be a spectacular night of dancing. Unfortunately I won’t be able to see it as I’ll be in New Zealand next week.
I’m sorry to be missing out on the competition but looking forward to the trip to NZ (but not the weather which seems to be cold, wet and windy at the moment).

Saturday, May 15

The new Vaevae Challenge

Following hot on the heels of World Health Day, the Cook Islands public health department has started another Vaevae Challenge.
Vaevae means ‘legs’ (in CI Maori) and the idea is to get more people walking or doing some other form of exercise.
We’ve had similar contests in the past and they’ve been very popular.
Teams of between four and six people from the workplace, clubs, schools or just friends, keep track of how much exercising they do. They get points for each half-hour’s-worth and the team with the most points at the end of six weeks wins the challenge. There are extra points every now and again for things like group walks or taking extra people along with you, best uniforms (Cook Islanders love an excuse for getting a new T-shirt designed), best team photo and so on.
The challenge has been run before – in fact it’s back by popular demand – and a lot of people will be walking or jogging in the early morning, at lunchtime or after work.
Quite a few will carry on at the end of the competition.
One thing about living in a tropical island paradise is that the weather is good for getting out and about most of the time!
Hash House Harriers combined their regular Monday run with the vaevae start so participants could choose between long and short courses, runs, jogs or walks. Something for everyone.

Saturday, May 8

Rarotonga’s dancer of the year coming soon

The Cook Islands Dancer of the Year competition was scheduled for late April/early May this year but it had to be delayed because of cyclones and such. However the auditions have just been completed.
In previous years the southern group outer islands have also taken part but money’s tight at the moment and the competition has been scaled back.
The junior, intermediate and senior finals will all take place on 27 May at the auditorium. This will make for a long night’s entertainment!
This video is of the junior auditions. As you can see, the kids all performed in costumes but on finals night the stage will be lit and decorated and the children will have a variety of props and quite probably elaborate additions to their costumes.
At the auditions everyone used the same drum beats for the slow and fast sections but the dancers will be performing to songs of their own choosing (about two minutes long for senior dancers but it may be less for the little ones).
You can bet that the kids (and their parents, friends and relatives) will be putting a huge amount of effort into getting ready.
It’s bound to be a spectacular night – fans of Cook Islands dancing should look out for the culture ministry’s DVD of the competition which should come out in June some time.

Sunday, May 2

Biggest ever Rarotonga international tri

This year’s Rarotonga International Triathlon was a huge success with the biggest ever field of both local and overseas competitors.
We were lucky with the weather too. It rained beforehand for about ten days almost non-stop; mud everywhere, the roads dissolving into potholes linked by the occasional piece of tarmac (their usual state I might add); the poor tourists must have wondered what they’d come for. But then the day before the race the skies cleared, the sun appeared and the puddles started drying out.
Cook Islands News put out their usual supplement (you’ll be able to check it out with the story and results when the website is updated on Wednesday).
About 120 individuals took part with over 90 from overseas, mainly New Zealanders with a couple of Australians and one German according to the paper. We also had 24 teams of two or three people.
The Girl Guides turned out in numbers to man the water stations and cheer on the athletes and there were plenty of spectators both at Ngatangiia and along the road.
Last year’s winner, Josh White from Australia, made it three in a row in about 2 hours 8 minutes (outside the race record of 1:58:18 which has stood since 1998). Josh also won in 2008. Michelle Bremer was first woman home in this her first Raro Tri. Phil Washbourn, a newcomer to triathlon, was first local male and Kelly Pick also made it a double, coming in first local woman for the second year in what I think is a new local record time of around 2 hours 19 minutes.
This video is longer than usual at just over 4 minutes but everyone was putting in so much effort it seemed a shame to cut it short!

Saturday, April 24

Te Hiva Nui at the Staircase

Back in August last year the Te Hiva Nui dancers were invited guests at three folk dance festivals in Europe., the Billingham International Folklore Festival in northern England, the Confolens Festival in France and another festival in Switzerland.
I’ve already posted several videos of a fundraising performance at Punanga Nui market but before they left they put on a really spectacular show at their home base - Staircase Restaurant in Rarotonga. The place was packed and included a couple of government ministers (who because of the ongoing political shambles here are now deadly enemies) as well as other locals and tourists.
This video is of the first item in the show, a drum dance.
I hope it doesn’t take as long to get more from the show online!

Sunday, April 18

Fighting in the street – Raro style

One of the highlights of last week’s World Health Day in Rarotonga was the Fight-Do session outside Westpac Bank at lunchtime.
Fight-Do is a cross between shadow-boxing and martial arts, set to thumping music (the ‘do’ in Fight-Do is pronounced as in martial arts like judo, taekwondo and bushido).
Bank staff came out to have a go and plenty of public health workers and passers-by also joined in.
The great beat and all those people obviously having fun should be a good advertisement for the benefits of exercise which was one of the purposes behind World Health Day.

Thursday, April 15

World Health Day in Rarotonga

Officially World Health Day is 7 April, a Wednesday, but here in the Cook Islands we celebrated it on Friday the ninth. Sounds odd but it made sense because the Public Health Department arranged free health checks, sports demonstrations and plenty of activities for people to have a go at. On a fine sunny Friday people are more inclined to get out and try things. It feels like ‘the weekend starts here’.
There was a good turnout, eight sports and plenty of people watching or taking part but honestly the folks down at health have got their work cut out.
The Pacific has some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world and with more people, especially kids, passing by lovely local fresh fruits and nu in favour of chocolate, chips and fizzy drinks the problem won’t be going away.
Nearly 160 people aged between 17 and 80 years took advantage of the health checks. Over 90% of these were either overweight or obese! On the positive side, the blood pressure results were good with only about ten percent having high blood pressure (hypertension).
Those who had the checks and joined in some of the activities are obviously thinking about their health and the Fight-Do and Zumba sessions in particular show how much fun keeping active can be.
One old grouch definitely wasn’t there. He complained to the local paper saying it was disgusting that the main road was closed off without warning when there were plenty of sports fields and indoor arenas where the event could have been held.
In fact there had been stories and adverts about the road closure in the paper, on television and no doubt on the radio as well. Having it in the centre of town meant that more people could see and join in. There would have been far fewer participants between 11am to 2pm at the stadium or sports arena. Public Health’s job is to spread the good health message and they did it well but it clearly it didn’t reach Grouchy who no doubt remains glued to the seat of his car like a mobile couch potato. And I bet it is a ‘he’. Women have got more sense!

Friday, April 9

Zumba party at Topshape Rarotonga

Topshape gym recently celebrated its 21st birthday at the same time as a change in management.
Mann and Sisi Short started the gym and aerobics centre with business partner the late Felix Enoka.
Felix was a much loved trainer, bodybuilder and environmentalist and his two sons, Aaron and Oki, have now returned home to take over running the gym with Puai and Tai Wichman. Meanwhile Mann and Sisi will be concentrating on other ventures including the popular Staircase restaurant, situated above the gym.
Topshape is my gym and it’s always had great aerobics classes although the names have changed over the years. Aerobics made way for group fitness and Les Mills ‘body’ classes – body attack; body pump; body jam and body combat. Then came Radical Fitness with powerfit and fight-do. That’s my favourite at the moment. Punch, jab, elbow, kick, jump and all to funky music. You can sweat out a lot of aggression at a fight-do session!
Zumba’s a more recent addition to the Rarotonga fitness scene. It’s like a cross between exercise and dancing, got some great moves and all to Latin music.
There have been Zumba classes at Topshape for a while but the video is from the first of the new evening sessions with four of our trainers (including new managers Tai and Puai) showing the way.
Good moves, good music and I hope you can see how much fun everyone was having.
Too good to miss! After filming for a while I put the camera away, kicked of my jandals and joined in.
Way to go!

Saturday, April 3

Rarotonga’s Alaskan visitors

Every September Rarotonga is targeted by a number of native Alaskans of the feathered sort.
The Pacific golden plover (local name torea), wandering tattler (kuriri) and bristle-thighed curlew (teue) breed in Alaska and northern Canada then head south to avoid the rigours of winter in the far north. They end up on various Pacific islands, and Pacific rim countries.
The ones that reach the Cook Islands have covered about 9000 kilometres, many travelling non-stop, taking five days or so. They are pretty thin by the time they get here!
The plovers mainly feed on wide open grassy areas. The airport is a favourite spot along with sports fields and large lawns. They like short, freshly cut grass which makes you wonder what they did in the days before lawn mowers, and they’re territorial, usually just one bird to quite a large area. Plovers are a common sight over the summer, standing still for a while and then making a short run to peck at an insect or seed. They are also waders but the birds that gather on the shore along Nikao beach aren’t territorial. They seem to congregate in the afternoon and evening and just sit around without seeming to hunt for food. I’ve seen groups of up to sixteen taking flight together when disturbed by wandering tourists.
In February and March the birds develop their breeding plumage. The males in particular are very handsome with black faces and breasts and a white band running from forehead to flanks. By now they’ve fattened up and in early April they head back to Alaska. (For more about golden plovers check the CI Biodiversity database here.)
The wandering tattlers are a little smaller than the plovers and forage along the shoreline. They’re very busy little birds, running and bobbing over the rocks and sand. They also feed on the mud flats at Ngatangiia. They are quite solitary – sometimes two might be fairly close to each other but usually it’s only a single bird. Apparently they do have different breeding plumage but I’ve never noticed it, they all look grey to me.
The third bird, the bristle-thighed curlew, is much rarer. I haven’t seen any this year and in fact only noticed a pair for the first time last year. (There is a photograph here.) They are a bit bigger than the plovers but the same sort of speckled colour. Unfortunately they are seriously endangered so the chance of seeing them is remote.

Monday, March 29

Earth Hour in Rarotonga

This year Rarotonga took part in wwf’s Earth Hour for the second time.
In case you missed the world-wide publicity, Earth Hour encouraged people to turn off electric lights for one hour on Saturday 27 March to save power and raise awareness about climate change.
Our newest cabinet minister, Cassey Eggelton, is MP for the village of Matavera where a candlelight vigil was held on the Takitumu school field. Cassey is now the environment minister and was the face of Earth Hour for the Cook Islands.
We called our celebration Matariki Night, the idea being that if you turned out the lights you would be able to see the stars. Matariki is the Maori name for the Pleiades, the seven sisters (matariki means ‘little eyes’).
Not too many stars were visible on the night because of clouds but we were quite lucky – during the afternoon it rained heavily but the evening was fine.
Around the island some shops and hotels joined in Earth Hour as did the Avatiu sports club with a candlelit party out on the field.
Te Aponga Uira (TAU), the power company, sent power usage updates to one of the local radio stations, 88FM and the results were pretty pleasing.
We had a 390 kilowatt decrease in readings, with Takuvaine, Tupapa, Matavera and Turangi recording the biggest drops. Last year the decrease was 200kW.
So, altogether a good effort from Rarotonga.
The country is also beginning to do something about renewable energy.
Solar water heating has been around for many years but now people are getting wind turbines or solar panels to generate power for other things and TAU is fitting meters that can run backwards and allow you to send electricity back into the grid.
I’ve been looking into that but in the meantime it’s a case of remembering to turn out unnecessary lights to save electricity, save money and save the planet.