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.