Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Family Land

The land in the Cook Islands cannot be sold to outsiders it can only be leased out by a family. In other words only locals can own land and that is by dint of been born into an Island family therefore being able to trace back your linage.

The land is set out in strips, starting at the reef and working back to the mountains. This way all have fair and equal access to the various wealth bearing parts of the land. The reef, lagoon and beach give access to fishing and shellfish. The flat sandy part going back to the uplands was considered the least important until White man came; you couldn’t grow much in the sandy soil except coconuts. Next comes the swampy part, good for growing Taro the islands staple food. Then the upland (hillside) has the very fertile land for other crops and fruits plus good building area away from flooding caused by hurricanes, tsunami and alike. It is ironic however that now the wealth of the land is the sandy flat land because tourists want to be close to the lagoon, so leasing this part of the family property is the new wealth.

Families had fought and defended their land for hundreds of years before white man came so there is a real tangible connection to the land and its use by the subsequent generations.

Because the land will always be part of the family… family members are buried on it so when you walk out your back door, grandfather, grandmother, aunts, uncles, etc, are there to be remembered. Of course there are cemeteries like in any other society but this closeness to family and the land is still prevalent today.

I have included a shot of family members entombed on Danny’s mothers land along with a seaside cemetery and even my own mothers ashes enshrined on Danny’s land between the main house and where I stay. It was nice to be able to sit, talk and meditate with mum every day. We could even have family funs times next to mum. Family still rules in Rarotonga.

Food on the Land

Here on the Kelly compound I have access to many fruits, vegetables and other consumable items. Looking out from my balcony I can see growing in front of me. Coconut palms (two kinds), Mango trees (not in season), Paw Paw trees (papaya), Avocado tree, Lettuce, Rocket, Spring onions, Taro root, Arrowroot, Mountain Banana trees, Lemon trees, Orange trees, Coffee trees and Chickens running free with the odd Pig squealing somewhere in the distance. That is just from my balcony if I go out the front door toward the main house I can grab, Star fruit, Passion fruit, Pineapple, Brazilian Mango, Vanilla beans, Grapefruit and I know I have left a few out, but not to worry because once I get to the kitchen I can have Vegemite or Marmite on toast, so I’m okay in case I’m still hungry!

I haven’t gotten into the flowers growing wild yet… maybe another blog. Suffice to say a little vegetarian like me can survive just by walking out my door and I do. Every day I have fresh fruit although the dogs get the Avocado’s first when they drop and eat them in front of me! The tastes of these fruits are explosive to my tongue, there is nothing like fresh ripe fruit.

For those non vegetarians out there the ocean is full of fish. In fact it is interesting to watch the fishermen at night speed up and down the reef with big flashlights to attract the flying fish to jump at the light and hence into the boat. No lines, no bait, no wait… just a light and the fish fly in! It looks like a highway of traffic with all the lights going in one direction. Here I have shown, Banana, coffee and Star fruit... the others you should know!

Friday, April 25, 2008


So the trip is almost over... it is ANZAC day here and I attended the pre-dawn (so no pic's of it) service. I haven't been to one since I was a kid. but, I wore my paper poppy with honor. The boys brigade supplied the marching music while the veterans kept marching time... "by the left!"... in a valiant, albeit limping stride for a few of the old timers. A magnificent affair as the Sargent Major barked... left, left, left right, left. The sound of the surf crashing behind me much like it would have on the shores of Callipoli and the shuffling of old tired feet going by brought this event in focus for me and I was glad it was dark...

All most a 100 years ago those brave boys landed at Callipoli to start t
he legend. (you can Google it). There is a church service being held across the road so that means another parade won't be far away... let me see if I can capture some of those parsisipating in the march downtown!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Saturday Market

Saturday Mornings in Rarotonga for the locals starts off with a visit to the Punanga Nui Market. This is where the entire island comes to buy, sell, eat and socializes. A gathering place for characters, sights, sounds and smells.

Of course I had to go along and see for myself. I arrived early with Trevor to catch the morning light.

The people here in Rarotonga are friendly and love to laugh and the market brings it out in them. No one seems to by hung up on issues… they live for today. I was able to walked up to people and asked to take their picture and they would all say “sure if you like,” and they would stop what they were doing and wait for you to take the picture. Then wish you a good day and go about their business. One fellow asked if I wanted to see his best side and I said sure… so he bent over and said “cheese” then laughed and laughed… I then said no don’t say cheese say Banana, at which point he said he left it at home, eh!

Cats, dogs, chickens, roosters, kids and tourist come and are welcome to roam around. A real open market with open people… I will miss Rarotonga… not only for the wonderful weather, food and landscape, but for the laid back people, were family is first, sharing is normal and having a good time is paramount!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sunrise Raro style

While I have seen a few sunrises on this trip I thought I would bring you along for this one. It seems no two sunsets or sunrises are alike here, each one unique each one memorable and each one the last for that day as we are at the western edge of the International Date Line. Just a short journey west will take you to tomorrow. The sun here in Rarotonga moves as if it is on a mission bursting over the horizon as if it can’t wait to get here and in the evening it sinks quickly as if it is running late to its appointment with tomorrow.

This morning my big brother Trevor and I went to the place where it is said the first Maori set off to settle New Zealand. We arrived as the first rays of sunshine were reaching from below the horizon. We are on the coral and volcanic headland to the north of the inlet.

A house with a giant turtle painted on its side sits on the shore line pointing toward the sunrise. We are alone this morning with only the ever present surf in front of us… and scores of Roosters behind singing backup.

I find myself in a water filled hole in the volcanic rock were the surf crashes in on every third wave. The entrance is a small opening about 4 foot wide and in the muted morning light the opening looks like two ancient sentries one with his arm out to stop me from going any further.

Of course I did not heed the warning and I got wet but before I did I captured the spray coming through the entrance, back lit by the sun. After turning to avoid the spray I see Trevor standing above me taking in the view. Even he is silent (very rare folks) as he can’t help but pay homage to a new day in paradise…

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Lovely Milli

Friday was Milli’s birthday. Milli is from Fiji and now part on the Kelly family. Being 6 months pregnant to my nephew Ryan she is fitting in very well and learning that the Tombleson side of the family is different from any she has encountered before! But, I must say she is an in-laws dream come true with her sweet and respectful nature along with her sense of humor. Having said that, it must be hard for her in some ways as she is away from home and family, very pregnant and just turning 20 years old.

We put on a lovely party for her with lots of her favorite food stuffs and big cake complete with 20 candles. We all wanted her to have a special day as she had told us the last birthday she had were she received any gifts was when she was 16 and that this night was an unexpected surprise. However, it was Milli who gave us the best gift of all. She caped off the night with a tearful speech of appreciation to the family. I hid behind my camera; Gordon took off to do the washing up while all the rest wiped their eyes with some regularly as her emotion and elation poured out.

I managed to capture a few images of the characters present this night… but no matter how hard I tried to take pictures it was the image of Milli talking that was ingrained in my mind. Thanks Milli…all the best!

And News just in!!!!!!!! Milli just came back from having a scan and when she asked about the sex of the baby the female doctor said, and I quote! “Yes, here is the ding dong and here are the balls, it’s a boy, eh!”

I love Rarotonga… it hasn’t gone politically correct yet… and a ding dong is still a ding dong! Thank God.

I did however take a picture of the Tombleson's, Kelly's and Walkers this night.

Ka kite


It was my time to be surprised… It is I who usually surprise others with my appearance but this time the family set me up! It was a cousin fest here in Rarotonga. My cousins Jan and Gordon flew up from New Zealand for a few days to see us. After surprising me by walking in while I was having breakfast we all went into town to surprise Trevor and all us 5 cousins spent the next days out doing each other with catch-up stories. What a lovely thing to do... a family thing.

I promised I would report on the Jet blast sport which I have done a number of times, each one exciting and I say to myself I will just experience it without taking pictures. But, when you see that bloody big plane coming right at you it is a reflex action to put camera to eye.

I will get to the blast site 15 minutes before the plane arrives to get the best spot followed by other tourists and wait in the hot sun (“mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”) while all the local kids etc, turn up 30 seconds before the landing for a quick thrill then back on their scooters and off to have fun somewhere else.

The first blast I experienced was more interesting watching the tourist. The plane came in over western approach or ocean and due to cross winds was noticeably wobbling from side to side. Two girls ran away terrified and squealing, but, soon the roar of the engines silenced them as the plane pasted safely overhead and landed much to everyone’s amusement.

The day I took these shots the plane came in over the eastern approach so you can see some of the landscape and a shot of my cousin Gordon getting the first part of a Jet blast.

Ka kite

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Family

I get to use my sister’s little Suzuki car to get around which means I can go in any direction around the island that I chose! First, however you must have a Cook Islands driver’s license. All I needed was a valid drivers license from USA plus $10.00 and the magic password of “Jayne and Danny Kelly” you can get the license while standing there. BTW, I have found the magic password very handy so far. It seems Jayne and Danny are much respected here and can open doors quickly.

Life here is in many ways like living back in the 50’s and 60’s in New Zealand. Don’t get me wrong it relates mostly to the pace and attitude between one person and another… I like it. All the other modern conveniences are here, but, the family life and social interaction is old school. The local TV station has no particular schedule even though it advertises one. The other night the news was on but was cut in the middle of the broadcasters sentence because a big Rugby came from New Zealand had started, so straight to that, which is what we all wanted to watch anyhow. Another trick I have found is to take a shower when a game is on or when “Shortland Street” a New Zealand television drama comes on as everyone is watching therefore is the best time for good water pressure!

I have driven around the island only once but plan to go more often as time allows. The electrical power here is all generated by diesel generators up on a hill side so power is more expensive than in the USA, but town water which everyone is on is free, just not always at high pressure. The main mode of transportation is scooter/motorbike, small cars and public bus. You folks back in the USA better stop complaining about gas prices.... here is is $2.39 per litre (four litres to the gallon). I see cruise ships call in and of course there are the flights coming and going from New Zealand, Tahiti, USA, Hawaii and alike.

I haven’t been taking many pictures as I’m just soaking up the place and living, laughing and loving with my family after 14 years. It is such a great pleasure to catch up with my dad… I do miss his conversation, wit and wisdom that he brings to any situation. Sitting with my mum started off very hard but is getting sweeter all the time. Catching up with my brother is wonderful as we share many interests together, photography being one. My sister Jayne is treating me like royalty and I love it… (Or as she puts it… “It’s only for 3 weeks, and then she sits back on the throne”)… isn’t that sweet of her?

We have had monsoon rains the last couple of days and it caused the flight from LA (The same one I came on last week) to be diverted to Tahiti as the pilots couldn’t see the runway nor the runway lights. I missed a free flight to Tahiti by one week!

Ka kite