Monday, May 30

Opera in Paradise - two tenors come to Rarotonga

And now for something completely different…
We get a fair number of entertainers passing through Rarotonga; many come for a quiet getaway but some are here to perform – mostly jazz, Polynesian pop or as DJs.
But it’s not often we have genuine opera singers on the rock and not just one but two of New Zealand’s top tenors.
Benjamin Makisi and Bonaventure Allan Moetaua were here last week for two dinner concerts organised by local company Motone Productions at the Crown Beach Resort and Spa.
Ben Makisi, often called the Pacific Pavarotti (he’s of Samoan/Tongan heritage) was here last December for a similar concert which was such a success that he came back again, this time with Bonaventure who is actually a Cook Islander. He was born and brought up in New Zealand and this is his first visit to Rarotonga but he’s got relatives here, in particular an aunt who is obviously very proud of her nephew.
It was a wonderful occasion and a great excuse for people to get dolled up. Glamour and glitz was the order of the night.
Ben and Bon are real showmen! They gave us a great variety of music – opera, musicals, island music and pop – and they were enjoying themselves so much that the audience was just carried along.
Bonaventure is only 26-years-old and already he sounds great but tenors apparently reach their peak in their late thirties or forties so he should have a wonderful future.
Let’s hope performing in Rarotonga is part of that future.

Monday, May 23

Rarotonga ANZAC Day parade 2011

ANZAC Day, 25 April, is a public holiday in the Cook Islands, as well as Australia and New Zealand, marking the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915.
More than 300 Cook Islanders from every island in the country were involved in the war. The first contingent of 45 men left Rarotonga in September 1915.
Of these, nineteen-year-old Corporal Apu Tepuretu was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme on 30 September 1916 (and is buried in France), his brother Sergeant Araitia Tepuretu, was severely wounded. Private Vavia William from Mauke died of wounds. Many of the volunteers died of sickness.
Cook Islanders also fought in the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) but later contingents served in Egypt and Sinai working for the British in the campaign against the Turks because the cold northern winter caused so many casualties.
More information about Cook Islanders in the first world war can be found on the Cook Islands Library and Museum site; the New Zealand History online website has a section on the Rarotongan Company in the First World War; a list of the 317 who saw active service can be found on the Auckland Museum website here; the Cook Islands Roll of Honour of those who died is on the NZ History website.
This video includes some historic footage from World War 1 to give some idea of the horrors that soldiers faced.

Monday, May 16

Rarotonga triathlon week

There’s more to tri week in Rarotonga than the Olympic distance triathlon, held on a Saturday in early May. The week begins on Thursday with the Trader Jack’s round the boiler swim.
This year the weather was rough and high winds kicked up a big swell but around fifty brave souls took to the water. They had a hard slog with some being pushed towards the reef on the homeward leg but everybody made it - apparently the waves had been even higher earlier in the day. Winner was Jon Robinson of New Zealand. An invigorating start to the week!
The weather remained blustery and rainy for the Air New Zealand international triathlon (check the previous video for more of this).
On Monday it was still raining but Hash House runners put on a traditional umu after the regular run.
Tuesday remained wet and windy for the Turtle’s tour de Raro bike ride around the island – no climb up Hospital Hill for this race but the 51 cyclists had to battle the elements. Local rider Geoff Stoddart came home first.
On Wednesday the weather brightened up for a new event – the Matutu mile. This was sponsored by local brewery Matutu and was a fundraiser for charity Te Vaerua community rehabilitation service. About fifty athletes including runners, walkers, children and pram-pushers joined in the fun, many wearing fancy dress, and made their way to the brewery for a half-way beer or water stop then back to the Tikioki tri site for more of the sponsor’s product and a sausage sizzle.
It may not have been a race but it looks as though this event is a winner and will be a permanent fixture on the tri week calendar.

Tuesday, May 10

Seventeenth Rarotonga international triathlon

This year's Rarotonga International Triathlon, the seventeenth, was a wet and windy affair but the large field of over 150 athletes seemed to enjoy it all anyway.
Muri lagoon was choppy which made for slow swim times; first out of the water was Nathan Richmond (NZ) in 22.50min. Richmond was a former winner in 2005. He was followed by fellow kiwis Jon Robinson and Stephen Farrell.
Local girl Kelly Pick was first woman to emerge closely followed by another local Vanessa Palmer and Jo Saxton (NZ).
It began to rain as the cycle leg got underway but the gusty wind was more of a challenge for the cyclists on the 41km circuit of Rarotonga with an extra loop up hospital hill and around the airport. Fastest cycle time was local veteran Geoff Stoddart's 1.07.08. Kelly Pick had the fastest women's time of 1.12.23.
The cool conditions suited the runners, particularly those from overseas. Stephen Farrell did the 10km in 41.08 and was this year's champion (total time 2.11.37).
Second male home was local Roland Neururer (2.14.55 - a new local record).
First woman was Kelly Pick (2.17.31 - breaking her own women's record).

Thursday, May 5

Rarotonga golden oldies dancer of the year

The Golden Oldies dancer of the year competition was held at Hidie’s Bar, Cook’s Corner following the Papa’a contest (see previous video).
The dancers might not be as nimble as they once were but they can still teach the youngsters a thing or two when it comes to showmanship. There were some great performances - the dancers were obviously having a wonderful time and carried the audience along with them.
Three contestants took part in the rauti para section (for the older mamas and papas) with seven in the rauti pi.
Mau Raina retained the rauti para male golden oldie title with an energetic performance; graceful Tekura Benioni became the female champion and regular golden oldie dancer Mama Tutu Pita was second.
Tanya Savage, appearing as a Golden Oldie for the first time, produced a stunning performance in both slow and fast beats to take the female rauti pi section. Last year’s winner Merle Pukerua came second this time while third placed Joane Manuela had plenty of fans in the audience singing along with her slow beat number. Newcomer local policewoman Rebecca Hosking was another crowd-pleaser.
Noo Ngametua successfully defended his male rauti pi title with the ever-cheerful Mongoose Casper Mateariki second and community constable Allan Rua third.
All in all it was another successful competition for the Ministry of Cultural Development and their DVD of the entire Dancer of the Year competition will be available in a few weeks. That includes the juniors, intermediates and seniors as well as the golden oldies and papa’as.
Anyone who wants to see Cook Islands dancing at its best should keep an eye on the ministry website.