Wednesday, November 2

Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands, on board the Aranui 3

Here's a flashback to 2010 when we sailed aboard the Aranui 3, a combination cargo/passenger ship that carried goods and tourists to the Marquesas Islands.
Back then I edited videos from several of the islands but, as is frequently the case, I didn't get all of them finished. (I have gigabytes worth of unedited video on my hard drives.)
I was reminded of this when I checked out the Aranui 5, the extremely fancy replacement for the Aranui 3. Whatever happened to the Aranui 4? I've got no idea - the 5 was always planned to take over from the 3.
In 2010 we visited Fakarava (not one of the Marquesas), Ua Po, Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa and Tahuata as well as Fatu Hiva, Ua Huka and Makemo; the videos from these three islands have been in limbo for many years.
The itinerary of the Aranui 5 now includes Bora Bora. I imagine this is for the benefit of the tourists as I'm sure Bora Bora has no problem with cargo deliveries unlike some of the more remote Marquesas.
We travelled to Fatu Hiva after leaving Hiva Oa - Paul Gauguin's tropical island bolthole.
The island has bleak-looking mountains made all the bleaker by the torrential rain. The valleys were green though, unsurprisingly.
This is the place where the young Thor Heyerdahl and his then-wife went back to nature before the second world war. There they struggled against the climate, mosquitoes and venomous insects, rain, skin disease and local hostility. The book 'Fatu Hiva: Thor Heyerdahl's first Pacific Adventure' describes this in fascinating detail.
It was on Fatu Hiva that Heyerdahl formed the ideas which eventually led to the famous Kon Tiki expedition. 

Friday, October 28

Lao Food Festival, Vientiane

Before our Mekong river cruise on the Laos Pandaw in early 2016, we stayed in the Lao capital Vientiane for a few days and checked out a food festival in Chao Anouvong Park beside the Mekong River.
The annual Lao Food Festival is a fascinating celebration of Lao cuisine,that takes place in late January in Vientiane.
This year the weather wasn't great but that didn't spoil the fun.
The organisers, the Women's Union and Businesswomen's Association, focussed on units run by Lao women, growing and selling agricultural products as well as cooking for restaurants and cafes.
One-hundred-and-sixty stalls were set up in Chao Anouvong Park beside the Mekong River.
Some sold fresh or  preserved food as well as herbal medicines, silk and souvenirs while others cooked popular local Lao treats.
Lao people enjoy fresh vegetables and herbs, and these appear in almost every Lao meal.
Meat and fish are usually grilled or steamed, so the dishes are fresh and low in fat - healthy as well as tasting great.
Vientiane is full of western-style restaurants but for tourists it's well worth looking out for local ones such as Ban Vilaylac.
As well as the whiteboard specials this friendly place has a very large menu - makes choosing difficult!  But the Lao version of fish amok was tasty as was my stir fry chicken with vegetables.
Good to get back to editing the holiday videos - brings it all back.

Wednesday, September 21

Cook Islands Noni

 This video started life as a look at scarifying noni seeds to speed up germination. Scarifying didn't make much of a difference as the seeds germinated and grew anyway but the video also grew and it now covers seedlings, planting, picking, pressing and bottling.


Morinda citrifolia is better known as noni.
Its knobbly egg-shaped fruit goes from green to yellow to white when ripe … and it is full of seeds.
Cook Islands Noni Marketing produces organic noni juice mainly for export and our customers are crying out for more.
So we need more growers … and more trees.
Noni seeds can take up to a year to germinate.
To try to speed up germination we scarified the seeds to roughen the the hard outer shell.
We also experimented with soaking the scarified seeds for one or two days but the wet seeds are much more fiddly to plant and it made little or no difference in germination time.
Even scarifying made only a small difference so we don't think the time spent was worth it.
The seedlings appear about 5 weeks after planting.
They are then transferred into dirt bags where they stay until ready for the plantation.
Small size 5 bags are used and plants must be watered daily.
They will be ready for field in 3 to 5 months after bagging when they should have healthy green leaves and a strong root system.
We fill the hole with organic compost from the local composting centre to give the plants a good start.
We make organic juice so there are no chemical sprays or fertilizers used in the plantations.
Weeds are kept down by regular mowing.
The old tyres protect the young trees from mowers and weed-eater.
Six months later the trees are are a metre or more high and already producing fruit.
The first fruit picked is small but as the trees grows the fruit will be larger.
Noni is not seasonal.  Once the trees start producing they continue year around.
Ripe fruit goes into large blue barrels.
Full barrels are collected, weighed, labelled and stored at the factory.
Ideally the fruit should be kept in the barrels for at least 3 months to maturate.
Junior is our processing expert.
The presses are 160 litre hydro-presses – no moving parts and they require little maintenance
They have a  large central bladder.
The maturated noni is packed into the press and when the bladder is filled with water, the pressure against the fruit squeezes out the juice.
For darker juice a longer maturation period is needed.
Most of our customers prefer dark juice.
The juice is filtered through clean white cotton material.
This can be re-used after thorough washing in plain water.
The food grade blue barrels hold 125 litres of noni juice.
When we have an order, we press then pasteurise the juice by heating it to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (about 30 degrees Celsius) for about 15 seconds.
The pasteurised noni juice is pumped into 1000 litre IBCs (Intermediate Bulk Containers).
Filters for the pasteuriser are used only once
Some of our customers prefer bulk juice which we ship overseas so that they can bottle it themselves.
Other clients prefer bottled juice, rather than the bulk product
Noni juice has a sweetish smell but some people say it tastes like liquid cheese.
It contains many trace elements
Noni juice is said to boost the immune system.
It's been used for hundreds of years by the native Polynesians as a natural food supplement and health tonic.
A good way to take it is 20ml first thing in the morning, sometimes mixed with fruit juice.
CINM is certified every year by Australian Certified Organic (ACO) for Japan and the US.
It is also certified organic for the Chinese market.
CINM has been operating for over 10 years.

Te Maeva Nui Float Parade 2016

This year's Te Maeva Nui (constitution celebrations) just featured teams from Rarotonga but the float parade that started things off was as popular as ever.

The route was somewhat shorter than it has been in the past. It started from Punanga Nui market and travelled sown the sea-side of the main road to the VIP tent which was set up on the area that looks like waste ground most of the time but is, I believe, actually now called Constitution Park, opposite St Joseph's, the Catholic cathedral.

In the traditional manner the parade was late starting because we all had to wait for the speeches to finish. I don't know why politicians bother with long speeches at public events because nobody listens to them, they don't get reported in any kind of detail in the media and they just annoy people who are waiting for the fun to begin.

And it was fun, once it started, for both participants and spectators.

Cruising the Mekong River in Laos

Hmm. I havaen't been very active on RaroLens recently. Well, that's a bit of an understatement as you can see; the last video was added towards the end end of January so it's time to catch up and add a few more.

In March we went on another Pandaw cruise, this one was on the Mekong River in Laos. Fabulous, as all the Pandaw cruises are. The boat was newly built ( and had just 10 cabins so it was easy to get to know everyone; and the crew were as friendly, efficient and fun as always.

The Laos Mekong is quite different from the Vietnam and Cambodian sections downstream with many fast-flowing sections and rapids. Our trip headed from the capital Vientiane to Huang Say on the border with Thiland.We finally disembarked in Chiang Khong, Thailand. As we cruised north, the scenery became more mountainous and the weather got colder.

Here are a couple of videos of the cruise (and one of these days I'll get around to finishing some more, because Laos was a fascinating country).

Friday, January 22

Sevens in Heaven 2015

Just realised that I never put my video round-up of the 2015 Sevens in Heaven rugby tournament so here it is.
It was another fun-filled occasion - until the last game - the men's cup final - which had to be called off because of a brawl.
Men's cup winners were local the local Fiji community side Tabusoro; women's cup winners were Suburbs Angels from New Zealand.

Monday, January 18

Kids enjoying Cyclone Victor's big waves

18 January 2016: Tropical cyclone Victor is currently passing to the west of the Cook Islands - very slowly.

It originated near Samoa and for a while looked as though it was going to head east towards the Cooks but, fortunately for us, it moved more or less south and is now projected to go west towards Tonga and then turn south again.

We've had several days of strong easterly winds and, for the last two days, rain as well. That's very welcome as Rarotonga has been suffering drought conditions and the grass is looking very brown.

The other effect of the weather is big waves on the north and west of the island.

The traditional way of checking out cyclones (and tsunami) is to ignore warnings and head for the water. And, for fearless or foolhardy youngsters, to jump in and have some fun.