Tuesday, December 30

A brief look at Hanoi, North Vietnam

After cruising on the Mekong River from Saigon to Siem Reap last July*, we flew to Hanoi for a week. We'd never been to North Vietnam so this was a good opportunity.
Hanoi has quite a different feel to it compared to Saigon (oops! I mean Ho Chi Minh City). Seemed to be less frenetic with not so many young people with tablets and laptops.
We'd heard that the traffic was worse in Hanoi than HCMC but actually found there weren't so many motor bikes so crossing the smaller roads was easier. The main roads were a different matter.
We took a couple of days out from our time in Hanoi to go to Halong Bay. Definitely worthwhile. That'll be the next video.
*Videos of the Mekong cruise are here:

Wednesday, December 10

Los Angeles to Chicago in 2 minutes

I love trains but there's not a lot of chance on Rarotonga to ride them.
There is a steam engine here, in the upper Tupapa valley but sadly it no longer operates.
However, whenever the opportunity arises I'll take the train.
In 2013 we had to get from Raro to Boston to visit family so after travelling by Air New Zealand to Los Angeles (on a 777-300R - one of Air NZ's premium quality planes and very nice too) I decided that if we were going to cross America from one side to the other I wanted to see something of it. My husband wan't quite so keen but he came along for the ride anyway.
Amtrak operates some interesting long distance routes and one of these is the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago. It travels through eight states; California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Iowa and Illinois. That's almost 3600km (2200 miles). The train left Union Station LA in the late afternoon and arrived at Union Station Chicago in the early afternoon two days later.
That's a long journey but we were in a two-person cabin with a shower and toilet, cramped but comfortable. The dining car provided breakfast, lunch and dinner; and coffee, water and juice were available all day at one end of the sleeping car.
So here's a very much condensed video of the trip - 2 days in 2 minutes.

Sunday, December 7

Rarotonga's Vaka Eiva 2014 festival

The eleventh Vaka Eiva festival recently took place on Raro with about 600 paddlers from all over the world heading for the water.
There were many regulars from New Zealand, Hawaii (paddling legend Nappy Napoleon's Anuenue) and Australia (especially Rogz for Dogz who always come loaded up with supplies for the Esther Honey animal clinic). This year we alos had teams from Canada, England and Tahiti.
The weather was, shal we say, variable. No problems with Friday's canoe blessing and Saturday's V1 and OC1 races, but some of Monday's V6 iron races (12km or 18km six-person, no changeovers) had to be postponed because high winds made things dangerous. It rained fairly solidly for the juniors' Muri lagoon sprints and marathons but that apparently didn't dampen the enthusiasm; rain stopped for the senior sprints on Wednesday and although it started off dull for Thursday and Friday's V6 round the island relays the sun came out later on and some of the postponed V6 iron races were held on Friday afternoon.
A great innovation this year was DotVision's live view of the races - each vaka was fitted with a GPS gizmo so you could see online where the boats were.
This video is a brief look at Vaka Eiva as viewed from the shore. The VE Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/vakaeiva?fref=ts) has some neat videos including footage from the air and the water. I think there may be more of these coming but they weren't online last time I looked. The videos will probably also end up on the VE website  but again they weren't there last time I looked. However, all the results are there (V1 and OC1: http://vakaeiva.com/index.php/information/race-results/race-results-2014-singles
V6: http://vakaeiva.com/index.php/information/race-results/race-results-2014-v6)
For more stories on the biggest soprting event in the Cook Islands check out Cook Islands News (http://www.cookislandsnews.com/sport/paddling)

Tuesday, November 25

Sevens in Heaven 2014

As usual there was plenty of action both on and off the field at this year's Sevens in Heaven.
Here are the results:
Men's Cup Final:
Teimurimotia Stallions 10 - Tabusoro 5
Women's Cup Final:
Suburb Angels 12 - Royals 10
Men's Plate Final:
Takuvaine Reds 24 - Tupapa Panthers 22
Men's Bowl Final:
Tauae Bulls 41 - Araura Enua 7
Men's Shield Final:
Edgewater Resort (Arorangi Rustlers) 31 - Titahi Bay Panthers 1

Good to see the Rustlers taking away the Shield. Apparently a couple of teams had to pull out of the tournament at the last minute, one from overseas the other local lads from Ngatangiia. Would have been awkward rearranging things but Avatiu and Arorangi stepped in and fielded a second team each, Avatiu Boyz and Arorangi Rustlers. The Rustlers even managed to secure sponsorship from the Edgewater Resort. A great show of support for local rugby from both clubs.

Monday, November 17

The Pride 25 Hip Hop Crew at Sevens in Heaven

Here's the Saturday entertainment at the Sevens in Heaven tournament. Natasha Areora's three teams of hop hoppers (big, small and tiny)worked hard to produce this great display and it was very much enjoyed by the spectators. They are all training for their next show which will be in December at Rotoracts annual Christmas in the Market event.

Wednesday, November 12

Hip hop 4 kidz at Sevens in Heaven

The Hip Hop 4 Kidz crew strutted their stuff on Friday at the Sevens in Heaven tournament at the BCI Stadium, warming up for the big one at finals day on Saturday 1 November.
Natasha Areora has done a fabulous job with these awsome kids.
Watch this spot for a video of the Saturday show. Great stuff.

Movember - Cook Islands style

November is 'mo month' here on Rarotonga as well as in the rest of the world. It's the month for drawing attention to men's prostate cancer.
Local personalities have been raising funds to sponsor the awareness campaign by getting rid of the current facial hair in order to grow a brand new mo. 
Three brave guys - George George, Kevin Iro and Mark Brown - showed their support for the campaign by having a close shave at the Sevens in Heaven tournament at the BCI Stadium on finals day on 1 November 2014.

Tuesday, November 11

Sevens in Heaven 2014 - trailer

Well, it's all over for another year but once again the Sevens in Heaven international rugby sevens tournament was a huge success. 2014 marked twenty-five years of staging top class sevens action on Rarotonga and we had a mixture of sixteen overseas and local teams, some with imported talent, in the men's competition. This year saw a welcome return of the women's division - always popular with the spectators. Three teams battled it out for bragging rights here.
We were lucky with the weather. The three competition days were sunny and dry but clouds and rain put in an appearance once the tournament was over.
Saturday's finals day is always the highlight of Sevens inHeaven, when the off-field fun factor is as exciting as the rugby action with food, competitions, wierd and wacky costumes plus hip hopentertainment.
This short video is a trrailer for the rest of the sevens action. Watch this space for more ... coming real soon now!
BTW Teimurimotia Stallions were the top men's team and Suburbs Angels from Christchurch the top women.

Friday, November 7

Rarotonga Girl Guides celebrate 86 years

It's been over a month since I added a video to RaroLens.
Computer problems! Unfortunately it meant getting a new motherboard and chip from the US as the ones available locally couldn't handle video editing. Took ages.
Well, I'm up and running now and I really, really hope the machine can keep going as I've got a few videos to get on with.
First up is this one of our local Girl Guides celebrating 86 years of guiding here.
Guiding was introduced to the Cook Islands in 1928 by Mrs Tailby, the wife of a missionary at Takamoa Theological College. Then the daughter of resident commissioner judge Hugh Ayson got permission to start a company in Avarua. Ranger patrols were set up in 1935 and the first Brownie pack was registered in 1937.
The 86th birthday party was organised by the Arorangi company and they were delighted with the big turnout of guides and supporters.
The celebrations included a film about the history of guiding here, items by various companies and, of course, kaikai!
For more about the history of guiding in the Cook Islands check here:
and here:

Saturday, September 27

Te Maeva Nui 2013 - Mauke Ura Pau

I didn't make it to the 2014 Te Maeva Nui because I was overseas in Vietnam and Cambodia  as you can probably tell from the last five videos I've uploaded.
However, I never finished editing all the dances from last year so I've decided to revisit Te Maeva Nui 2013 and here is the first of the new set - Mauke's ura pau (drum dance). It's not the whole thing of course, just some of the highlights.
Uura pau are the most exciting of the dances; no doubt that's why the performaces always finish off with one - end up on a high and send the audience away happy.
Next year (2015) is going to be the big one. It's the fiftieth anniversary of independance, well internal self government to be more accurate. All the outer islands will be sending teams, I'm sure the dance competition will last a full week rather than the three days we've had recently, and it's sure to be a sell-out.
In the meantime anyone who wants to buy DVDs of the performances in their entirety should contact the Ministry of Cultural Development (http://culture.gov.ck/ but currently the site is being updated).

Sunday, September 14

The Mekong Unexplored - highlights

This video shows some of the highlights of our recent cruise along the Saigon and Mekong rivers on the RV Angkor Pandaw. The previous four videos show more details of the places we visited.

Friday, August 29

The Mekong Unexplored - Cambodia 3

 On day 8 of Pandaw's Mekong Unexplored cruise we visited Wat Nokor in Kampong Cham. The ruins of an 11th century sandstone (Mahayana) Buddhist shrine predate Angkor Wat which was built in the 12th century but a modern (Theravada) Buddhist pagoda has been squeezed inside its walls.
We travelled by bus on some of our excursions and saw local country life including rice planting in a tiny paddy field surrounded by buildings; a family-run pottery that specialised in small cooking stoves and pots made without the help of a wheel - the women walk around in circles patting the pots into shape; and a rubber plantation and factory that was once government owned but is now privately owned by a relative of Cambodia's president Hun Sen. No surprises there since Cambodia is number 160 on a list of 175 countries ranked in order of corruption.
The smell of raw latex is revolting; the end product is blocks of solid rubber about the size of pillows that weigh 35kg so the skinny fellows moving them around in the video must be stronger than they look.
Up until now we had been on the Mekong but now we sailed downstream as far as Phnom Penh where we entered the Tonle Sap river towards Kampong Chhnang. Anchored overnight on the far side of the river from the town, a very peaceful location with fields, birds and insect sounds and hills in the distance.
On the other side of the river was the town itself with a large floating village of Vietnamese immigrants who our guide accused of overfishing even though they have fish farms under the houses.
Kampong Chhnang has a busy port, mostly for small boats, and we had an interesting to walk through the town past shops, market and fords. (NB it was near Kampong Chhnang that we visited the pottery at Andong Roosy).
This was day 9 of our journey and it was here that we departed from the original itinerary. We were now supposed to sail upstream into the Tonle Sap lake but unfortunately the monsoon was late and water levels were low, so low that even a boat with the shallow draft of the Angkor Pandaw couldn't make it. Somebody said it was a sandbank at the mouth of the lake that was the problem - maybe Pandaw's next boat should be a dredger. Instead we sailed back downstream to Kampong Tralach where we had an oxcart ride arund the district. This method of transport makes rickshaws and cyclos feel like limousines in retrospect, however it was interesting although tricky to video (from onboard).
On day 10 we visited Prek Kdam, a village given over to silversmiths, and Udong, another former capital of Cambodia. The Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Meditation Centre looked like a popular place although the non-meditating rourist must surely have been a distraction. Several hundred monks and lay monks live in the complex - which includes a large refectory.
The next day we left early for a six-hour bus ride to Siem Reap. A bus ride along a bumpy road is not a patch on a slow cruise on a boat on a lake but it couldn't be helped and this one was enlivened by a brief stop in Skun, also known as Spiderville because of the local delicacy - deep fried tarantula.
I wasn't hungry.

Friday, August 22

The Mekong Unexplored - Cambodia 2

The third section of the Mekong Unexplored journey on the RV Angkor Pandaw was all new territory for me.
After leaving Angkor Ban (see previous video) we cruised upstream and anchored on the river bank near Chhloung, a town between Kampong Cham and Kratie.
Enjoyed a pleasant early morning walk of a couple of kilometres to the main township which was notable for some of the old buildings in particular the Chinese shophouses. Some were in good condition, others just about falling down.
This area has a fair sized population of Moslems and we saw quite a number of women wearing headscarves.
We then continued upstream to Kratie. This was as far upstream as our boat was able to sail next day we travelled by minibus to a World Wildlife Fund protected area where (if you're lucky) you can see the rare Mekong River dolphins. These are a sub-species of the freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins and there are fewer than 100 of them left. Small boats with four to six people aboard took about an hour to reach the dolphin area and then we sat and waited. It took a while but in the end the dolphins put in an appearance. Awesome!
In the afternoon we went by minibus to Phnom Sambok where a number of wats, pagodas, monasteries and a whole lot of statues of monks sit on a hill surrounded by trees and with a great view over the Mekong. Very pleasant excursion.
We then cruised back down the Mekong towards Kampong Cham. There was a fantastic electrical storm as we sailed along. Went on for ages with sheet lightning as well as bolts. Most impressive.

Saturday, August 16

Cambodia on the RV Angkor Pandaw

Here is another video from my recent Pandaw trip on the Mekong from Saigon to Siem Reap.
After crossing the border we cruised to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
In fact we woke up in the morning to find we were tied up at the tour boat wharf there which  meant we didn't see the Phnom Penh skyline as we sailed in - a bit unfortunate as the wats and palaces look quite impressive (as I remember from my previous Mekong journey). However the morning sky was spectacular for we early risers.
We spent the day in Phnom Penh with a cyclo ride to the royal palace in the morning and sort of free time in the afternoon. Pandaw organised a visit to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng prison in the afternoon but I went to those places on my last trip and they were both utterly grim and inhuman. Maybe you should see them once but never again.
Next morning we had a short sail to Prek Bong Kong, a silk weaving village. There are very many of these in Cambodia - this is quite different from the one we visited on our last trip; no hordes of hawkers on the river bank when we tied up, just a walk to a couple of family-owned weaving areas and stores.
Later that day, after another sail, we visited the rural village of Angkor Ban. The highlight here was the local primary school where all the Pandaw people were co-opted into talking to the kids to improve their English. Cute!

Wednesday, August 13

Vietnam on the RV Angkor Pandaw

I'm back in Rarotonga after my holiday in Vietnam and Cambodia and it looks as though I picked a good time to be away. Apparently the weather's been horrible for the past month, cold, wet and windy and it's more or less the same now.
I love being on board the Pandaw boats; so relaxing cruising slowly along the Mekong watching the world drift by and there's no packing and unpacking when you get to new places.
Here's the first video; it's of the Vietnamese section of the trip.
This boat, the RV Angkor Pandaw, has a low profile and draft so it can travel on shallower rivers and canals. That meant we were able to start the cruise from Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City to be more politically correct) on the Saigon River rather than taking a coach to the wider, deeper Mekong at My Tho.
Most of the time we anchored overnight and cruised during the day with morning and afternoon excursions to places of interest.
Here's video from the first three days, in Vietnam.

Wednesday, July 2

Oceania Area Athletics Championships

Here's a short video of some of the action at the three-day Oceania 3-day athletics meeting held on Rarotonga in June 2014.
You can find the results and a summary of the action on the Oceania-Athletics website here:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Also on the Cook Islands News website here:
I'm heading overseas on holiday so there won't be any videos for a while. Cheers.

Monday, June 30

Cook Islands Pearl Market Day

Pearl Market Day is one of a number of initiatives that the Cook Islands Pearl Authority is undertaking to raise the profile of our black pearls. Others include a logo design competition and sponsorship of the national Cook Islands Black Pearls netball team. The aim is to build an international presence so that when people mention 'black pearls' it brings to mind the Cook Islands and not just Tahiti.
Market day included a cultural performance by a local primary school, stalls where lucky buyers could snap up a bargain from producers and jewellers and a fashion parade that showcased beautiful dresses from Tav and stunning pearl jewellery (I was quite taken with some dangly pearl earrings!).
Earlier in the week the weather had been dreadful - cold wet and windy - so bad that CIPA thought they might have to postpone the event, but fortunately Thursday was fine. That was good for locals and tourists who were able to check out a wide range of pearls, pearl shell carvings and jewellery and pick up some real bargains.
CIPA plan to make Pearl Market Day an annual event so watch out for it next year.

Friday, June 27

Jacko Gill's personal best at Oceania champs

The three-day Oceania Area Championships have just ended here in Rarotonga.
The weather was atrocious for the first day - torrential rain and wind. Not much fun for the athletes.
The other two days were better, still windy but the downpour turned into showers.
The highlight of the championships was the appearance of New Zealand shot putter Jacko Gill. He's had an illustrious career already as a junior with many age-group world bests and gold medals to his name.
Jacko was using the Oceania champs as part of his build-up for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in August and must be well satisfied with his performance.  He improved with every throw and his final put of 20.70m was a personal best as well as a new championship record.

Wednesday, June 25

Rarotonga International Triathlon 2014

The annual Rarotonga International Triathlon, the twentieth, took place in early May this year.
It was another outstanding success with over 170 competitors, local and overseas, 106 individuals and 27 teams.
Winner was Dave Vernon (NZ) repeating last year's first place, with other previous winners Steve Farrell (NZ) and Yoann Hotellier (Tahiti) second and third respectively.
First three females were Vanessa Woodger, Serena Hunter and Kate Lahart, all local residents.
Local Roland Neururer came in fifth with Geoff Stoddart tenth.
The weather was wet and a bit windy for the swim and cycle but by the time the run started the sun had come out making for a hot final leg.
For more details see Cook Islands News here.
Full results of the tri, the Boiler Swim and the Tour de Raro cycle race are on the RaroTri website
Plenty of photos on the RaroTri Facebook page.

Thursday, June 19

Cook Islands Black Pearls at the Pacific Netball Series

The recent Pacific Netball Series between Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands was a great success and even though our Black Pearls didn't manage a win they improved with every game and came close on several occasions.
Their skills and teamwork kept getting better and they gave the fans some exciting moments - heartstopping even.
If these relative youngsters can stay together and get more quality time on court they have the potential to claw their way back up the netball ladder (once upon a time Cookies were the Queens of Pacific netball!)
After the series coach Trish Wilcox said, “The biggest challenge was the short time frame, coming on board in February with a squad already in place and trying to get them to a fitness level to cope with six games in six days tournament as well as working on the skills and tactics that we would need to be competitive against the other nations.”
Sadly another challenge was dealing with unpleasant criticism from some members of the public over the selection of the final twelve players from a training squad of fourteen.
At a time when we should have been cheering our girls and Netball Cook Islands, they had to deal with a level of negativity towards many of the players and the coach which must have affected team morale.
Well, they overcame that and showed the critics up for the miserable creatures they are - parents and so-called 'friends' included.
We could all learn something from the Fijian community here on Rarotonga.
They were out in full force at every game. They cheered, they sang, they waved flags, sometimes they danced. They clearly were having a wonderful time and, even when their team was behind, the support never wavered.
For more on the Pacific Netball Series check Cook Islands News online here.

Wednesday, June 11

Hip Hop 4 Kidz entertain at Pacific Netball Series

Well, the Pacific Netball Series is over and the Fijian, Samoan and PNG netballers have flown away.
Actually most of the Cook Islands netballers have done the same but in many cases that's because they are studying overseas. Our squad is very young, the youngest just 17, and most of them were born and brought up here in the Cook Islands.
More on the netball later but this video shows some of the between-match entertainment by the Hip Hop 4 Kidz group trained by Natasha Areora.
Tash has done a great job, taking over when Nana Hirata returned to Japan earlier this year.
The kids, from tiny tots upwards, spend their Saturday afternoons perfecting their moves and learning the routines. And you can see from the video what an amazing job they've done.

Saturday, June 7

Pacific Netball Series in Rarotonga

Netball fans have had a week of top class games here on Rarotonga where we've been hosting the Pacific Netball Series.
The four Pacific teams involved are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea and the top two teams in the round-robin competion win spots in next year's Netball World Cup in Sydney, Australia.
With just one round left it's going to be Fiji and Samoa who represent the Pacific.
Here are a couple of videos, one of the teams at the opening and the other of highlights from the first day's play when the Cook Islands went down to Fiji and Samoa defeated Papua New Guinea.
Once the tournament is over I should have a chance to get more highlights edited and online.
For some really stunning PNS photos check out Harvie Allison's Facebook page (Harvpix). Harvpix Facebook page

Monday, April 14

Rarotonga's Highland Paradise

The weather's been terrible recently; cloudy with a lot of wind. No good for flying the Phantom but I managed to get some flights in a couple of weeks ago at Highland Paradise (http://www.highlandparadise.co.ck/) and at last had a bit of time to get this video finished.
Highland Paradise covers about 200 acres on mount Maungaroa, inland from Puaikura vaka (district).
The mountain refuge covers many historical sites including a 600-year-old village, home of the Tinomana tribe. The village was abandoned with the arrival of Christianity in the 1800s when the whole tribe moved down to the coast to what is now Arorangi.
Some 25 acres have been developed into a botanical delight full of native, introduced and medicinal plants. And the views of mountains and coast are magnificent.
The background music is appropriately enough a Puaikura pe'e. The pe'e is a chant based on a legend significant to the village concerned. It was written by Katu Teiti, a well-known local composer, choreographer and drummer. It was most prpbably written for The Maeva Nui, the Cook Islands constitution celebrations culture festival but the CD (Paradise Mixx 4) doesn't have a date.

Friday, March 7

Aerial view of Avatiu Valley, Rarotonga

A short look at the inland end of Avatiu valley seen from above using a DJI Phantom quadcopter and GoPro camera.

Sunday, February 23

Rarotonga's Te Maeva Nui 2013 - Tongareva Ura Pau

Here's another video from the 2013 Maeva Nui dance competition - the drum dance (ura pau) from the Tongareva (Penrhyn island) team.

Wednesday, February 19

Netball in Paradise another sporting success

Long time since my last posting but I've been busy, was in New Zealand for a couple of weeks and, well, time goes fast when you're having fun.

It's a while ago now but the second Netball in Paradise tournament, from 1 - 7 December 2013, was another Cook Islands sporting success.

Six divisions, 13U, 15U, 17U, Open Competitive, Open Social and Mixed, meant Rarotonga was host to large numbers of netball enthusiasts - about six hundred I believe. Over the four days of play the TCI sports arena saw plenty of exciting action as well as lots of fun.

According to Cook Islands News (here) 32 teams took part in this fantastic week of netball.

Under 13: Cook Islands Griffins Cookies national team
Under 15: Visiting New Zealand Maori team Tuwharetoa
Under 17: Cook Islands Powerade Blasters under 17 national netball team
Open Competitive: Cook Islands Pearls national netball team
Open Social: Team Kaipara
Mixed: Family Ties took out the highly contested mixed division.

Plans are already underway for the 2014 competition. More details here.

For phot0s of the tournament check the Netball Cook Islands Facebook page here.

Saturday, January 11

New Year beach concert on Rarotonga

Motone Productions are the people who brought Opera in Rarotonga and Divas in Paradise (among others) to the Cook Islands and they also arrange workshops and teaching sessions for young Cook Islanders whenver overseas musicians visit the rock.
Recently they produced a month-long creative residency here for Murray Hickman, an internationally renowned percussionist. As well as developing a composition to be performed at the opening ceremony of the New Zealand Festival of the Arts in Wellington in February, Murray also worked with local drummers and children and as a result of this ten children from Aitutaki and Rarotonga as well as two local composers, Katu Teiti and Mark Short, have been chosen to travel to Wellington to be part of 'the big bang'.
They will join 200 young Nw Zealanders from Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland in a mighty group led by Hickman and Strike Percussion.
Alongside them in Civic Square, Wellington will be hundreds of singers from across the region.
Getting everyone to Wellington is an expensive business so Motone kicked off fundraising on New Year's Day with a beach concert featuring local artists as well as two groups of the young drummers.
It was a great success with over $1500 raised in door takings plus more donations from the floor.
Anyone in Wellington on Friday 21 February should head along to Civic Square at 8.30pm for The Big Bang, the spectacular free opening event.