Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rarotonga November 2010 - A South Seas Paradise

Sally and I talked about a holiday in the wonderful Pacific again, regular travelers, we have been to many places, but the Pacific is on our doorstep.  We love the weather; we love the friendliness of the Polynesian people and Melanesians.  It is a great place to go and relax.  We grabbed from Air New Zealand a “Grab-a-Holiday”.   Let’s Go!


RAROTONGA

When we saw a wonderful deal from Air New Zealand, Sally and I decided to go to Rarotonga.  We left in late November on an afternoon flight.  Before we left, we called a taxi, and Joe our smiling driver lifted our suitcases with ease into the boot of his LPG powered Falcon.  Yes he was a big man and he generously
exploded into a grin when we mentioned our destination was the Cook Islands.  He said ‘those beautiful Islands, named after the great explorer’.  He had never been there, but knew them by reputation.    This is high praise coming from a Samoan.  That country is also a stable Polynesian paradise.

We arrived at the airport and Joe helpfully got a trolley for us and lifted our bags out of the back of his car and we made our way in.  As we were flying on a Works Deluxe Package with Air New Zealand we were able to go to the premium check-in.  There we met Karen, a friend who has a retail shop on Jervois Road.  She also has a French Bulldog Foxy, who is a good friend of our dog Hemi.  Karin, who works in the rag trade, in a very niche market company she works for, Yvonne Bennetti   we caught up in the Koru Lounge, she, like all, told us to have a wonderful time.  She herself has been to Rarotonga and had great fun.  She particularly liked the wind whistling through her hair as she road a motorcycle.  She also mentioned that what you spend in the Pacific Islands stays in the Pacific Islands, benefiting the local economy, it’s not exported.  I thought that was pretty wonderful. 

Sally and I had missed lunch, so we tucked into a lentil and kidney soup, and a portion of shepherds pie.  Karen is surprised that we eat this, but I explain that the menu on the Island flights is a little lighter these days than the Trans-Pacific, and that we had missed lunch.  We all bemoaned that there are no nibbles or nuts to have with the drinks.  Karen has a Pinot Noir and Sally a Chardonnay, while I sip on a Sauvignon Blanc made by Tony Visitich who is a winemaker from Westbrook, which is so good I have another glass.

Our new Air New Zealand Airbus 320 was filled and we were lucky enough to be in the old business class seats.  Sally and I made a comment to the purser where is the Qualmark Enviro Gold sign given the plane.  Air New Zealand is more than a great airline; it is also a profitable one.  A rare thing these days, it also takes the environment seriously and has been a major global player on sustainability.  It is also positively proud of its Qualmark gold award.   At The Great Ponsonby, not only Sally and I but also the whole crew, are also very proud of our Qualmark Enviro Gold award. 

When we get into our seats Sally is very happy.  They are large, leather, and quite plush.  But she is going mad with her new cell phone, and it is driving her crazy.  Karen had suggested a new I-phone to connect to her I-pad and Mac computer.  They are both Apple advocates and addicts.

Our flight crew is very friendly and the work on this route is pretty high-pressured, they are running around non-stop.  But the atmosphere is set up with the innovative and humorous   Air New Zealand safety video using the All Blacks, their coaches children dressed in provincial colours and a mature women as a streaker.  It is fun, effective, and holds your attention. However something happened and the streaker and the camp kiss have gone

The crew is quickly off the mark getting the servings happening.  We fly regularly, and although Air New Zealand is our airline of chose, sometimes they are not flying the routes we are, or we have been spontaneous and have not been able to get a seat.  Air New Zealand flight crews are very good.  This particular crew on flight ANZ48 stepped up to the mark and beyond.  They are real ambassadors for Air New Zealand.  There was no difficulty in getting a second scotch and soda and they really looked after us.  In fact anything we wanted they seemed to do in a jiff.  We were ahead of schedule and it was a really good flight.

Air New Zealand is fighting hard to keep their   position as the Pacific’s leading airline.  They do know the Pacific, they fly the Pacific regularly.  Business class may soon be a distant memory on any Pacific flights.  Air New Zealand is being innovative as it launches Pacific and Tasman flights with four fare structures on board.  You have a basic seat and bag option, and other options are a full service deluxe package that we are flying with.  I would really recommend it.

We are first through customs when we arrived in Rarotonga avoiding the queues at the duty free shop, which may have been a mistake considering the Pacific’s cheapest tobacco and there are hardened tobacco addicts getting their supplies.

As soon as we arrive through customs they put a lei around our neck and give us a bottle of water each, which is pretty amazing.   Our transfer to the Edgewater Hotel – we were first on the bus at reception, however two misfortunes happened simultaneously.  One our booking at the hotel is a day forward, and the second an anal retentive receptionist who wanted to complete an FBI enquiry into our booking.  Other guests behind us were getting frustrated after a long flight and wandering what the hell was going on.  In fact I would describe them as bewildered.  The Edgewater do have spare rooms, and after what seems like an eternity the receptionist agrees to give us a room and sort it out later.

Our rooms are comfortable and three star.  We crash for the night and sleep well. Breakfast by the pool is wonderful.  It is pleasant and children are splashing in the pool as we eat our fruit platters.

We check out without any fuss thankfully.  The Budget Car Rental offices are open, so we get a car, which is fun.  I get a temporary license, which allows me to drive to the police station to register it.  We have a small Nissan convertible, which is like a Noddy car, which in the heat is wonderful.   Rarotonga, as everyone knows, is beautiful, and the road follows the coast.  Motorcycles are popular and with a maximum speed limit of 50km per hour you are able to get a really safe ride and take risks here more than you would be prepared to at home.

We visit the Saturday market, which is a bright and colorful affair.  Families sell their produce, tropical fruits, eggplants, and other vegetables.  There is also a fishmonger and people selling handcrafts and brightly coloured straw hats, fruit bands, and sarongs.  It really is wonderful.  Black pearls are a high value product, and the dealers range from families who are selling what they have dived for to pay the university fees for their children in New Zealand, and professional dealers who know the world price and supply a very good product.


We drive out to the Rarotongan Resort.  We are warmly welcomed and within minute’s a flute of punch in our hands.  Bill, our receptionist, is professional and helpful.  There is also a mistake in our booking, which affects all our plans.  I wait while Bill   the front office manger offers Sally a range of different room options and I am happy to just go with the flow.  I am on holiday.  We will spend our first two nights in a luxury honeymoon suite; this has a spa bath and internal hot tub, as well as steam room and sauna.  Seems crazy in Rarotonga, but they do get a mild winter, so German and Scandinavian honeymooners will be well catered for with these options.

We lunch by the pool, Sally chooses a chicken salad and I have a grilled fish burger.  Both excellent choices, we enjoy a litre of Sangria a good choice anywhere on a hot day.  We wander around the resort, which is spread along the best beach in Rarotonga. It comprises two resorts; The Sanctuary, which is a childfree resort and The Rarotongan, which is very child friendly.  Both are great options, and both have high quality kitchens.

I look for the sports section of Saturdays Herald.  Sally has dumped it without consultation, World War 3 erupts. We have an hour’s kip, or try to as I stew.  That evening drive to Little Polynesia, which is Lonely Planet’s top choice for accommodation. 

We are the dinner guests of two of our guests Peter and Elizabeth Angel.  Peter is in Corporate Law in Oxford, and we talk and speak of Rugby and league.   Peter also looks after some of the interests of that venerable institution founded in 1215, Oxford University.  John Hood, the New Zealander who got the top job there, is not so respected he tells us, and has managed to get off side with many of the people, including his friends.   John’s friend or some would say girlfriend Judy, had got on well with people and been really successful.

Little Polynesia boasts a great kitchen.  Sally and I both had scallops poached in white wine and herbs.  Our main was a local fish called Miamia, which was beautifully cooked, pan-fried with grilled eggplant on the plate.  I settled on the local lager, Matutui, which is yeasty and well rounded.  Peter, Elizabeth and Sally shared a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. We said goodnight after a really wonderful meal in which we enjoyed their company, and promised to drop back tomorrow Dick Scott’s Years of the Pooh Bah, The History of the Cook Islands Trading Company, and The Cook Islands to Independence of 1967. 



We spent Sunday morning around the pool at The Sanctuary after a great tropical breakfast and copious cups of moderately strong coffee.  I enjoyed reading The Rough Guide, to The Rolling Stones.  We met a New Zealand double Olympian in rowing Eric Murray and his wife, who are on honeymoon after a four-year delay.  She is a horsewoman, which is major employment industry in their hometown of Cambridge.   They were chilling out as Eric had won the National Champs at Lake Karapiro the previous week.

Main highway in Rarotonga

Sally and I drive out to Little Polynesia to give Peter and Elizabeth The Year of the Pooh Bah.  It has gone 2pm and most of the cafes have closed. We find Delicious an Internet café with really good coffee, sandwiches, and Maitai larger. When we get to Little Polynesia we stop to talk to Peter and Elizabeth.  Their suite is a real stunner, external bath and shower, and views of the water from the king bed.

We circumnavigate, stopping at a church and are back at The Rarotongan within an hour.   Some hard case ladies we discover are actually rednecks from Mosgiel are in fine form singing the praises of the waterfront bar called the Whatever where they had partied the night before.  By all accounts a pale imitation of the Banana Court of colonial times.  This couple was plumbers and they were large employers in Mosgiel, a former Mill town in Otago.   They came to Auckland to see the Rolling Stones on their last Auckland visit, and by chance socialized in the house bar with Mick Jagger and the other Stones. A Lovely couple from Murrays Bay is also hanging out at the pool.  He is a customs agent and she is a nurse.  She has given more pricks than we have had hot dinners. The pool scene also includes a couple of Australian women who are in their seventies. They quaff white wine with a good patter and are very amusing. Yes very Kath and Kim.

Sally and I dine in the   Tipina   restaurant at the resort, enjoying a set piece Japanese banquet.  It is a really fine meal, which we partner with a Hawke’s Bay Gewurztraminer. The Poolside, drinkers have shifted nearer to the bar and have a great head of steam on.  Their racist redneck views provide us with the excuse to head to our room.

Monday morning we change rooms, a downgrade which actually works better for us.  No spa, and a smaller room, but upstairs there are sea views and a small deck. It is wonderful.  I wrote my notes from here, drinking beers and sipping some coffees.

Back at the pool in the morning we meet a young New Zealand couple from the Mount.  The husband is a wandering minstrel who teaches music at a number of Bay of Plenty High schools.  He is heavily tattooed, she less. They are on their honeymoon too and  a really interesting and fun couple.  She is a photographer who develops much of her own black and white film.


In the pool a couple of thirtyish mothers who have escaped from their children for the morning.  One is Australian and the other French.  They are both sharing non-alcoholic cocktails.  They know what they want, and would rather be here than San Tropez.  I agree.  It is a really warm day and Sally and I are content to spend much time in the pool.  Eventually we pry our way from it, jump into the convertible and drive to The Salt Water Café for lunch.  Sally chose poached eggs on toast, I had a fish burger which is yellow fin tuna and tastes great.  We speculate about the domestic arrangements of the couple that run the restaurant.  He is a German, thirtyish, and holds the lease.  A Thai woman, who works the front, cooks the menus, and a Rarotongan woman washes the dishes. With a large personality is part of the show too.  Her body language indicates it is not necessarily a German/Thai coupling.

We drive off towards Avarua stopping at a duty free gallery.  This is a real find, pearls, paintings, and painted waka.  Even a Tavavae is on display.  This is the first one we have actually seen since we have been here.

Tavavae is a traditional village craft, the woman would all work on the same piece for weeks, sometimes even months. Modern life now takes preference.  Perhaps if we were to go to some of the outer islands we may strike it lucky and find some.

We drive into Avarua to explore the shops.  Sadly nothing takes our fancy.  There isn’t a large selection, and also better quality can be found in Auckland, Apia, and Suva.  We check out the watering holes.  Sadly the Banana Court is now reduced to about 20% of its original size, and is a very tame coffee bar.  They have also converted some of it into Shops and a takeaway bar.  It has lost its charm and some of the infamous stories of yesteryear will now only live as legends in the memories of older people.  Whatever bar is an upstairs bar, which is essentially a large deck which benefits from a cool breeze.  It is happy hour, and my DB Export is only $3.00.  Sally has a Tui Blonde, and we share a small bowl of nachos and salsa from Master foods for $15.00.  The proprietor is a thirty-year-old Cook Island Maori; he is friendly and has two firm young blonds as crew who are ready for action.  Sixties soul music plays through the sound system.  Obviously this is a place for fun.

Our next stop is a venue called Trader Jacks where Beaver, the singer, had a residency for quite a time. Sadly Beaver is no longer with us, having passed away a little time back.  Trader Jacks is a very nice spot on the waterfront and favoured by the local business elite and government officials.  It also has good food and is a pretty hip place to hang out.  We enjoy a beer on the pier as Iron men and Iron Women head off for a 16km paddle.  There is also a large waka with a lot of crew hanging around it.  There are going to be Vaka Elva event starting this following week, it will attract over 2000 people and return millions of much needed dollars to the Raratongan economy as well as installing much pride in the populace . It is the Waka event in the pacific.

We go to the post office to do some basic things.  Back at the hotel we have a swim in the sea then retire to our deck for a beer.  We dine at the Tipani Restaurant.  Sally has Nasi Goreng, and I settle for a butter chicken.  The other guests in the restaurant in a thin blonde American Rasta who sits cross legged at the bar eating noodles.  A family is enjoying a banquet of really fine food.
 And of course more Australian honeymooners nibbling their food while concentrating on each others eyes.

William, our kiwi raised bar tender is in fine form maintaining a repartee whilst mixing and serving cocktails.  Pretty tough job!  The plumbers who have ridden in the motorcycle convoy have just had their last drinks and steaks at the Whatever Bar, and are back to pay the bill and have a final drink before they fly.  Personally I can’t say I will miss them, the resort may though, they were really good value at the bar, and good spenders.

A lone Australian who is swigging his second Carlton Crown joins us for a conversation about the Rarotongan general election which is taking place tomorrow.  Tim works for an international organization, NGO, and spends half the year in the Pacific.  He hopes that one party will get a majority, but fears another coalition government.  The individual constituents are very small and it is possible that one family can win a seat.  He also hopes they can choose a Prime Minister with a national and regional vision.  The staff at the resort   we talked with are voting for the old democratic party.

Tuesday is Election Day.  We woke up to a wet day, and on my stroll to breakfast I meet the old birds from Queensland – the Kath and Kim’s.   They ask me how I am doing and how do I feel, when I answer ‘fine and dandy’ their response is fast and classic ‘self praise is no recommendation’.

The breakfast area is virtually empty; I take a seat near the beach, but make a retreat when the wind whips a little rain in.  Kath and Kim arrive and pass humored comments like that it is a nice little breeze.  Nothing will stop them from having a good time.   They are part of group of 50+ from Queensland, and all I can see are fit tanned 70 plus widows.  Everyday for them is an adventure, it is wonderful to see. 


The damp day quickly dries out around midday but the sky remains grey.  The sun is allowed to break through from time to time. 

We had lunch at Le Bon Vivant, a French Café/deli.  Jamie, our young kiwi waitress, is friendly, chatty, and has a great sense of humour.  She also makes the best coffee we have had so far.  Sally has a fish pie which is excellent; my brie and ham sandwich is equal to anything on Ponsonby Road.

We discover The Art studio at Aorangi   owned by Kay and Ian George who have one of the Pacific’s finest galleries.  Kay designs a range of fabrics and items of clothing, wall hangings, table placemats, curtains, cushion covers, which evokes the Pacific and its region.  Paintings are by Ian and are uniquely striking.   Visitors to Rarotonga who are interested in art should make this their first port of call.  Ian is a well known art curator through the high schools around the Cook Islands.  Previous to that he lived in Rotorua where he also been Head of Art at the local high school.  Kay has a degree in art from AUT.

We dined in the famous Tamarind house Restaurant.  The food was tasty, involving island fruit, petals, and fish.  Lamb and beef was also available.   I choose a mild curried shrimp served in half a papaya, and yellow tuna served on rice with more papaya.  Amazing    food.  It would probably, without doubt, be one of the finest restaurants in the Pacific, including New Zealand and Australia.   Sally has a raw fish dish served in taro leaves, and also the tuna.   We choose a 2008   Shingle Peak chardonnay as our wine.  All choices work well.   The restaurant is situated in the old Union Steamship Company    manager’s home which was owned by a former employer of mine in the 1980’s.  It was then bought by the local Solicitor General and British Consul.  Sue Caruthers the current owner has developed much of it into restaurant and extended the verandahs out towards the sea.  There is a huge lawn which goes right to the waters edge.  The Union Steamship Company, or the Southern Octopus as it is known, has certainly used its influence to ensure they got the best position I think anywhere in the Pacific.  I may have made a fine manager in this location.   There are a lot of photographs around the walls of old Rarotongan ship visits by the Royal Mail line.  But sadly none of the Union company fleet, the Tofua and Matua and regular callers here.

In Rarotonga today there have been so far three finds.  They are the hotel where we stay, Kay Gregory’s gallery, and the Tamarind House Restaurant.  New find number four is Truffle Garden Café.  The garden stretches from the inland road to the   sea.  Seven acres of gardens developed over many years, it is the Garden of Eden.  The walks are stimulating and wheel chair friendly.   They also have a nursery with plants for sale.    The café has many choices which cater to most tastes.  Much of the produce is from the gardens, and like all of the chicken we have had so far is organically free range.   Yes, you can tell the difference.

The next day we fly to Aitutaki our flight is delayed for thirty minutes.  We can’t buy a Cook Island News anywhere.  They are always sold out and it appears it is almost a conspiracy.  However a friendly café attendant gives us a copy of Thursdays which has the Local Government election results. It is a landslide to the opposition Cooks islands Party even if Norman George and another colorful character make it back it is a real result and can only be good news for the Cook Islands.
We read the New Zealand Herald on line and discover the Pyke River tragedy where 29 miners are trapped in the mine. This is really sobering – Sally’s father and my grandfather were miners Sally’s actually on the West coast. We both recall the Strongman mine disaster of and pray that this is not a sequel.
Our café attendant is a kiwi Raratongan a bright young lass who is also doing a design course and is most confident .

We board our Air Rarotongan flight. Our plane is a Saab and is more than comfortable for our 45 minute flight.Flying into Aitutaki the island is surrounded by a turquoise sea and is strikingly beautiful.



We land and frangipani leis are placed over our heads and are offered chilled coconut juice in the shell. Two other guests, a retired English couple from Plymouth, join us on our trip to the resort. This involves a van and a small boat trip. We are welcomed by a warrior playing a clam shell flute; we were all blown away by the warmth of the welcome. Sally and I are delighted, we’ve been upgraded to a lagoon villa from a garden villa, it is a stunner, and the lagoon is just a hop skip and a jump away. We lunch at the beach front café, sharing a margarita pizza and a couple of beers. We meet and chat with the resort manager, Rob. He is originally from Birmingham and has been at the resort for over 11 years, he started as the engineer. He is very affable and an open warm soul.

We talk about hurricanes, and costs, and how challenging and fun the business is to be in.  Some years are almost biblical in how long it takes to make a profit.  The sky is open and we shelter at the café a while.  We spend the afternoon looking at our view and listening to our music.

We dine at the resort restaurant, BBQ Mahi and vegetables.  Our baked potatoes with sour cream are in tin foil.  It maybe 70’s style, but they are great.

With four other guests we go out on a guided pub crawl. Our first stop is a Rainforest bar.  It is a shed in the bush where they make home brew.  It is a male refuge where we are treated to a concert – it is wonderful.  The next watering hole is a fishing club on the waterfront, a container tacked onto an open plan cargo shed
Run by a couple of knockabout Aussies, enjoying a sea breeze and is a good spot, although the mosquitoes do wear saddlebags.

Our Aussie companions are Mark and Tina from Sydney and Nathan and Emma from Melbourne.  All are great fun and we are enjoying ourselves. Our final bar, Crusher, is the local disco and perhaps the most happening scene, especially to see the young cook islanders dancing and enjoying themselves. But the consensus of all was that the highlight of the night was the Rainforest Club. The night would not have been as much fun without our host Mata and James who was our driver. They were wonderful hosts and really looked after us all.

Non-honeymooners are a rare sight on this island, it will good again to be in normal company.  Just joking, we could easily stay and wish we had been here a lot longer. 

Saturday: Lagoon Cruise
Bishop Cruises. The sun gods repaid with interest any who had complained about the previous grey day. The sun bit the skin and smiles delight were visible everywhere. Our boat crew of four had been our hosts and part of the choir at the Rainforest bar the night before. Additional crew was a nine year old boy from Glen Innes and a fifteen year old girl from Papatoetoe. Education does come in many shapes and sizes. As we cruise out of the lagoon sail boats are assembling into an armada. They are the local kid’s trialing to be in the Aitutaki school team for the Pacific cup competition in April next year. I wonder how many of these will become part of around the world race teams for America’s cup sailors. Sailing and navigation are well and truly part of Pacific folklore and life. Our cruise has around 50 people; at least 20 couples were honeymooners, some German pensioners and a Tongan NZ couple. The later are Southern Sting and Commonwealth Gold medal winning netballer Daneka Wipiiti and her Southland and Highland rugby player husband Joe Tuineau. After about an hour we stopped at a great swimming beach where the TV series Shipwrecked was filmed. Our next stop was for snorkeling. The coral is dead but schools of tropical fish are a wonderful delight to swim amongst. We stopped for lunch at One foot Island where you can get a stamp in your passport for $2.50. WE enjoy a BBQ with Marlin and salads and a concert care of the ship’s crew. We also explore the island and swim. We return about 4.30pm and dine at the boatshed café with a Huntly miner and his wife we shout them dinner, as we bore the bad news about the Pike River tragedy. They were very concerned as they have friends who have gone down there to work. This is not the news you want to hear on your honeymoon. Sally and I offer some moral support, sally had rung her father a - 97 year old former mining engineer - who had serious concern about the gas in the mine.

Sunday:
We go to church at the CICC church which was built in 1828 making it one of the oldest churches in the Pacific.  The church is not longer filled to the rafters even with the three parishes of today from around Aitutaki. So there is plenty of room for the 20 or so tourists present. We are treated to an amazing concert. Sally and I are privileged to have a soprano behind us. Some of the hymns, including How Great We Are and Old Langsyne we recognize and are able to sing to. After the service, we are invited to a substantial morning tea from the church hall. Our driver says grace. I have a chat with David a builder from New Plymouth who is in charge of the third and fourth phase of the re-construction after Cyclone Pat ripped through Aitutaki February 2010. He tells it is progressing well and he has 95 really competent and committed   cook island staff working with him. Cyclone Pat damaged 89% of the housing stock. David acknowledges the churches as an essential partner in this reconstruction. Their churches are where all gather in an emergency, they are the focus of the community. Like their NZ counterparts they have an increasing number of non- attendees at services, but when there is a need, they all come back. We lunch at the Koro café, the choice of food is typical Ponsonby Rd style and they also have handicrafts available along with WIFI. Sally and I both eat fish - I have a fish burger and Sally fish and chips. Sally checks email using the new (and sometimes frustrating) Ipad. I check the NZ Herald online to see the news about Pike River. 


The Koro café is run by a Kiwi/Cook Island couple. Dad is running the kitchen with a baby in a papoose on his back. His wife runs front of house, supervising her Aunties who are her serving staff. The café also has a modern house attached to it and they have a couple of waterfront bungalows you can rent. This enterprise has been created by Mum and Dad retiring from Auckland where they owned a house of Franklin Rd. The sale of this house, which had been the family home for a generation, created this business. Not a bad result in working class terms for a life’s work. We spend the afternoon reading, swimming and listening to music.

Monday James drives up to the Needle and we climb the 120 meters to the top in the company of a Lebanese Marinite Christian couple from Sydney. They are good humoured, but also unprepared jandal wearers for this hike.

In the afternoon we frolic in the lagoon, in the evening at the resort we are lucky enough to enjoy a traditional Rarotongan concert out in the hotel.  The dance of the Pacific followed by fire eating performances and a Rarotongan band.  It was an absolutely great show.   You can understand why Blye’s crew wanted a mutiny and  why Cook had pretty strong discipline on his sailors when he sailed through there.  We also eat what is possibly our best meat.  I have a trilogy of pan fried tuna, marlin, wahee?  Sally chooses a pork loin which is tender and tasty.  We share a Trinity Hill Chardonnay. 

Tuesday:
We are up early for out ten o’clock departure back to Rarotonga.  James and Mark wish us farewell, we promise to get some gospel and other music to him soon.

We arrive back in Rarotonga, the bright sky that said goodbye to us is not there.  We head out from our villa to go to the night market, but instead go to the local market where we pay $80NZ for a ukulele made from coconut.  We sink a few more lagers and watch the swimming race, part of the Vaka Elva event.  As I said before, teams are from all over the Pacific, and the competition is really on.  The event actually puts $2M into the local economy, which is impressive.

Trader Jack is now getting a name as an institution.  It sits in the waterfront and a breeze blows through there taking the sting out of a hot day.  It is well covered and if the rain is around and it is still humid, you have that wonderful breeze to chill you out.   It is a more up market bar of Rarotonga, where local government officials and private business folk dwell.  It is very informal and casual, and in my Fijian Bula shirt I feel very much at home.  The food is also very good. Sally and I look out at the harbor.  There is a big old boiler from  a sunken steam  ship from over 100 years ago which now a sort of route which people swim or paddle out to and round it.  Today we see ironmen and iron women rushing down to get into their boats, they are going on a 16km paddle.  This is the week that people are getting really fit and training because next Monday is the start.  It is a major Polynesian event which brings over 2000 people to Rarotonga, and pumps the local economy as well as getting everyone’s passion flying.  There will be teams from as far north as Hawaii, and also from various parts of the pacific and   New Zealand, including Tangata Whenua teams, and also teams from Australia.

One of the swimmers who we briefly chat to is an Australian lass, also a vet and a volunteer at the Esther Honey Foundation, a local trust that looks after animals.  Wearing a wicked smile telltale of the fun she is having she tells us that Rarotonga is very addictive.  I smile, this is very true.  Esther Honey NGO which has stolen ground from the established RSPCA, I wonder what is going on.We have entrées at Trader jacks enjoying a beer or two.

We make our way to the Whatever Bar which is happening. A group of young kiwi women are hanging out for a few days and have struck a great relationship with the band and are sing the chorus. We have the famous sirloin steak and chips .The steak does live up to its reputation. 


Ocean-going waka