Saturday, November 7

Wedding Proposal at Rarotonga's Rugby Sevens 2015

It's Sevens in Heaven time again and the entertainment on the second day of pool play was made extra special when New Zealand rugby ref Pete Willis proposed to his partner Kavitha Singh in front of the appreciative spectators.
Congratulations and best wishes for the future.
(More sevens coming soon as well as some beach volleyball.)

Astrofest in Hawaii

Hmm. Bit of catching up to do here. This video is of an astronomy conference held on the Big Island of Hawaii.
I went along for the holiday. Good fun, especially the visit to the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea where the group got to see it from the inside.
Since we got back I've been doing some heavy duty gardening - in a climate like ours the weeds don't take long to turn into a jungle even though we're  having something of a drought at the moment.

Friday, August 7

Birthday greetings from

This year the Cook Islands celebrate 50 years of internal self governance in association with New Zealand.*
A long-time friend of the Cooks, John Roberts, has produced a video birthday card, Cook Islands 50 Beginnings, looking back on some of the events since 1965. John's website,, is a great place to find out all about the Cooks, its islands, people, traditions, tourism ... you name it and it will probably be there. Check it out.
Many thanks to John for this great reminder of the last 50 years.

*The prime minister has recently been making noises about having a seat in the UN but our association with NZ doesn't allow for this. Changing the terms of the association, if it's even possible, would mean giving up New Zealand citizenship and the majority of Kukis here are just not interested in this. In fact they are vehemently opposed. No doubt this is even more true for the 80,000 or so who live overseas.

Saturday, June 27

Matariki Maori Art Exhibition, Rarotonga

We've got a new New Zealand High Commissioner on the island. Nick Hurley was appointed in April this year, taking over from Joanna Kempkers. He recently hosted the Matariki Maori Art Exhibition, a five day carving and weaving fest by artists from the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) based in Rotorua, finishing off work they started in New Zealand.
They were joined by local craftspeople at the outdoor exhibition and visitors were welcome to watch them at work. Many local schoolchildren took advantage of this opportunity. The exhibition took place from 15 to 20 June although the Rarotonga weather played a hand - one day's events had to be cancelled due to heavy and prolonged rain.
Motone Productions organised the logistical side of things and this included a daily free lunchtime concert with local musicians Henz and Destiny, Lincoln Mail and Kura Happ along with visiting NZ funk/soulo diva Bella Kalolo and friends.
More on the exhibition and photos can be found on the Cook Islands News website here:
and also on the NZ HiCom Raro Facebook page here:

Sunday, May 3

Ura Fitness mental health fundraiser on Rarotonga

Ura Fitness is a Cook-Islands-dance-based exercise system using the hip-swaying motions and arm movements typical of our local dancing.
The sessions usually take place at Top Shape gym in Avarua with a couple of Muri lagoon beachside classes especially for visitors.
As the Ura Fitness Facebook page ( says, "From slow soothing island songs to vigorous fast beats and the basic sway of the hips to modern technique.... Ura Fitness can get your heart rate pumping and muscles burning like you wouldn't believe!"
Last Wednesday (29 April) Ura Fitness fans gathered  on the grassy area opposite the Banana Court for the first of five live shows. The $413 raised at the event was donated to Te Kainga Mental Health and Wellbeing Centre.
With great weather and an excellent turnout of regulars, tourists and newcomers it was a fun occasion (check out all the smiling faces in the video).
Many of the regular ura-goers went the extra mile with not just pareu but head ei and feathery, extravagent titi - great for emphasising hip movements.
And UF isn't just for the slim young and athletic. There were plenty of older ladies, some a tad overweight, but still able to show everyone how to swing those hips.
The 'Yes Please’ boys provided the music while sisters Avera Hunter, Alana Short with a new instructor Gary Taripo were up on stage leading the crowd.
Most of the exercisers were women but there were quite a few guys watching proceedings and Gary wants to encourage more men to join in at the next live show.
The smiles, laughter and singing were so infectious I just had to put down the camera and take part. So I can vouch for the fact that Ura Fitness is a fabulous fun, cardio, conditioning exercise.
Looking forward to the next one which will probably be later in May around the time of the Te Manava Vaka Festival.

Tuesday, April 28

Anti-purse seine march on Rarotonga

Last Friday's (24 April) seine fishing protest march received plenty of coverage from Cook Islands News and CITV both before and after the event.
About 400 people, young and old, marched through Avarua, Rarotonga, on Friday afternoon 24 April 2015. They were trying to convince the prime minister, Henry Puna and ministry of marine resources secretary, Ben Ponia that purse seining should not be allowed in Cook Islands waters. So far their calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
Environmental NGO Te Ipukarea Society originally argued that new fishing licences should be halted, but so many members of the public wanted a total ban on purse seiners that TIS joined in their call.
The PM and MMR secretary have both said that the purse seining industry should be based on science and not sentiment but although TIS has asked to see the scientific reports none have been forthcoming.
A quick Google search for 'purse seining in the Pacific' produces plenty of 'anti' reports (most of them from Greenpeace) but 'pro' or even neutral reports are harder to find.
Radio New Zealand carried a story:

(Protest in Cooks leads to fishing argument over bans
And Cook Islands News reported comments by the prime minister:

(Two sides to purse seining story, says PM
However the protesters were not convinced.

(Passionate protestors want purse seining ban

It's unlikely that either the PM or Marine Resouces will come up with more scientific evidence than they've produced so far (ie none). However they are in a position to ignore the worries of the protesters. They both spend rather a lot of time off the island - maybe they hope everything will be forgotten when they get back to work. Maybe they're right. Time will tell.

Thursday, March 19

Lashio in northeast Myanmar


It's been fine and sunny for the past few days but before that it was wet and windy – the sort of weather that makes you look ahead to future holidays and look back over past ones.
Here's a video from Myanmar taken in 2012. It is of Lashio in Shan State, in the north east of the country, a hundred or so kilometres from the Chinese border along the famous Burma Road. It's sbeen in the news recently because of clashes between the Myanmar army, the Tatmadaw, and local Kokang tribes (ethnic Han Chinese living in Burma in an area along the border with Burma). Many refugees from the fighting have gone to Lashio. The town also had clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in 2013. However when I was there it was a bustling city of about 130,000.
Things change, and not always for the better.

Monday, February 2

A drone's eye view of Nikao

It's been ages since I made a drone video.
I used to make a point of calling my Phantom a 'quadcopter' because some folk objected to the word 'drone'. They thought everyone equated them to the Predators used to bomb people in Afganistan and Pakistan. And elsewhere.
So 'quadcopter' was OK. Also UAV which if you've got one you might remember means unmanned aerial vehicle but is just jargon to most people.
Well, I've now decided to ignore those folk and call my little machine a drone as the many thousands of people all over the world who got one for Christmas are undoubtedly doing.
My drone is a Phantom 1 and I'm not particularly interested in the flying side of things; it's more of a flying tripod (quadpod?).
I added prop guards when I first got it, for protection when flying into trees and bushes (necessary, believe  me) and more recently a gimbal to help steady the camera while the drone was flying. That made it a bit heavy and shortened the flying time so I got some gruntier batteries, removed the prop guards and added slightly bigger props. I've now got a longer flight time.
Unlike more recent (more expensive) drones I can't see what I'm filming until I get it back to the computer but I like editing anyway.
What I need now is some decent weather. Had a few good days a couple of weeks ago but we've had strong winds, heavy downpours and even the occasional thunderstorm since then. This is good for filling the water intakes and relieving the previous drought conditions but not much use for drone video.
Anyway, here's a short drone video of the Nikao area taken on a couple of days when I thought there wasn't much wind.
It turned out that although it was calm where I was standing, higher up and further away it was quite gusty. You can see that from the smoke trail in some sections of video. The drone got caught by the wind, spun around a couple of times and then drifted behind some trees. I don't fly it beyond line-of-sight but when it's high up it's a small white blob against a light background of sky and it hard (make that impossible) to see what it's actually doing. Thought I'd lost it but there's a failsafe switch on the controller and a couple of minutes after flicking it on I heard the sewing-machine sound of my Phantom heading home. Whew!
I could see from the video that the wind caused quite a bit of vibration but I flew it again next day and everything worked well.
No more flying since then because of the wind, but it looks as though the weather's improving so maybe I'll get a chance to fly again soon.

Wednesday, January 21

New Year Concert sets the tone for 2015

2015 is going to be a big year for the Cook Islands as it marks the 50th anniversary of internal self governance. There will undoubtedly be lots of parties and celebrations and Motone Productions got things off to a great start with a family-friendly concert at Nukupure Park (aka Ngatangiia sports field) on New Year's Day. Even the weather played its part in what turned out to be a wonderful occasion. We'd had seven days of rain from Christmas Day to New Year's Eve but January 1 was fine and sunny, well, for most of the day.
Cook Islands News estimated the crowd at 'Tarekareka - our people, our music' to be about 800 at its peak and local talent lined up to entertain them all.
This video includes popular trio Island Groove; Arorangi gospel singers The Boys of Harmony with our new star Ridge Ponini who later treated the audience to some more operatic items first with his cousin then with Kiwi-Cookie Bonaventure Allan-Moetaua; and finally the Triggerfish duo of Kura Happ and Mo Newport.
The concert also included the Takitumu drummers, Kahiki and special guest stars from New Zealand Annie Crummer and her father Will Crummer with his band the Royal Rarotongans.
A fireworks display ended the evening and even the rain during the latter part of the show didn't spoil the event.
More about the concert on the CINews website.
Incidentally, Ridge Ponini has been accepted by Otago University Department of Music to study opera starting this year. Unfortunately he wasn't able to get scholarship funding for his first year, possibly because it was a late application or maybe because the Cook Islands education department aren't interested on opera.
Hope he has better luck next year.

Sunday, January 4

Two-day trip to Halong Bay, Vietnam

Took a couple of days out from our stay in Hanoi to visit Halong Bay. We were originally planning just a day tour but the online advice was universally in favour of taking longer. Quite right too. It's a four-hour road trip from Hanoi to Halong, through uninspiring scenery, and even starting early in the morning wouldn't leave much time for more than lunch on the boat and a couple of hours cruising the bay. It deserves much more than that.
Halong Bay is  a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new seven natural wonders of the world, and it's beautiful even in the monsoon season when the skies are cloudy and the water is grey instead of bright blue.
Ha-Long means 'descending dragon' and the bay features thousands of limestone rocks and isles which are presumably supposed to represent the scales of the drowned beast.
Hundreds of junk-style boats carry tourists to see them. Our boat, the Syrena, had 34 double cabins on two levels and the majority of the passengers were Taiwanese although there were several other nationalities. Once everyone was aboard we had lunch (buffet in the Lotus Restaurant/Bar - standard mix of western and Asian food but nicely presented and tasty.
The boats motor along quite slowly - they mostly have two ot three masts but unfortunately none of them raised the sails. Shame; it would have made for nice pictures.
The organisers pack a lot into the tour, beginning with a visit to the Surprising Cave, also known as Sung Sot cave. We're all ferried from our various junks by tenders. The landing stages are chocker!
Several million people come to these caves each year and I reckon most of them were there right then; a constant stream of people
queueing to climb stairs and follow the winding trail while several guides at a time talk and wave laser pointers around and people pause for selfies.
Next stop was Titop island, named after Russian cosmonaut Ghermann Titov when he visited Halong Bay in 1962.
The island has a pagoda-styled lookout at its summit - 427 winding stone steps up the mountain. Apparently the 360 degree view of Halong Bay is incredible but I'm sorry to say we didn't go up! Should have done. Instead we swam at the small sandy beach. The beach is protected from the bay itself by a floating net, necessary to stop such marine life as very large jellyfish from stinging tourists. I saw one of these jellyfish floating near the Syrena and it made me rather cautious when it came to the next part of the tour - a spot of kayaking. Very pleasant once we got the hang of steering and paddling and the exercise was good after a substantial lunch and the even more substantial dinner that was to follow. Well, more than just dinner - it was a ten-course banquet! Excellent.
Our cabin was compact bur comfortable with a double bed, en suite toilet and shower and a balcony. Good for sitting watching the lightning over the islands that night.
Next morning I joined the tour guide and half a dozen or so people at tai chi on the sun deck. It obviously takes practice to become graceful at this. After breakfast we visited a floating fishing village, Ba Hang, once home to 50 families but now down to less than twenty as people pack up and head for the mainland.
A small Vietnamese lady rowed us, four to a boat, through the village and surrounding inlets, a peaceful forty-five minute journey but it must have been hard work for the rower.
Then it was back to the Syrena for brunch, the cruise back to Halong and the four-hour drive to Hanoi.
Here are some of the highlights.