HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 574:27 July 2011

Manihiki diary

Home again
We’ve been back home now for almost a month and just when you think you’ve just about done all the work that needs to be done, you turn your head around and another surfaces - Just my luck! But I must say it is fantastic to be home irrespective of the size of the “home” that I’ve had to clean back up to scratch. We arrived safely under the care of Taio Shipping travelling cabin class. All my family are “Sea-worthy”, so travelling back to Manihiki is not only easier on the pocket, but made a lot of sense. For those of you who have never travelled by ship. It’s not an easy decision to make when selecting the most convenient mode of transport, but for myself, it gives me time to relax, plan the next few months ahead and appreciate the ambience of Mother Nature. After four nights and five days, we gaze upon the magnificent island of Manihiki. After being away for so long, my breath was taken away by its beauty and grand appearance. Telecom Cook Islands had travelled earlier in the year to Manihiki to install Mobile phones, so alerting friends and relatives of our arrival was a matter of seconds to confirm. We arrived safely to shore with the assistance of local government boats and barge. On shore was our truck to take us back to our home in Puou, Tukao.
A craving for sea food
The programme for first couple of days was all cleaning, checking up on the working condition of electrical equipment in our home and what’s left that is useable and edible. Because outer islands are so small and exposed to extreme salt conditions created by sea-breeze, metallic or electrical items have a very short lifespan. The closer you are to the ocean or the more exposed your home is, the more likely your premises will incur more damage. But one of the first things we wanted to do on our arrival was eat fresh seafood. Whether it is fish, paua, koura or kavou, we were craving for some delicacies that Manihiki is so renowned for. I’d just like to let you all know, that our appetites have been well serviced!
Making jerky
My husband went out a couple of days after our arrival trawling with a mate. It wasn’t long after they returned with a catch of seven big Tuna & one Bonito. The fish were virtually jumping up to their boats, but because the fish were so big, the boat was getting too heavy and they had to return home. Well, that’s their story anyway! Most of our sustenance is sourced from the sea. Whether from the lagoon or ocean, 85% of the food we eat is seafood. And until living here, I really didn’t eat much seafood. My idea of fish was a fillet of Groper sitting in the window of some Fish Shop owned by a Greek family. It didn’t have any bones, scales or heads on it, it was a clean piece of meat just waiting for me to purchase. Today, I am the fish monger and an expert when it comes to cooking and eating fish. If my mother were still alive she would be laughing at me eating fish on the bone vacuuming every nook and cranny a fresh fish cooked on an open fire (tunutunu) provides. So what happened to the all the Tuna mentioned earlier? We decided to make Tuna Jerky out of it and send it down to Rarotonga along with some Flying Fish Jerky. Fish Jerky up here is part of the northern group diet. Many years ago when there were no freezers, food was salted and dried for storage. I’m talking just about everything was dried from fish, paua, korori and pork. Today, our sister island Rakahanga continues to produce Tuna Jerky for small domestic markets in Rarotonga. Not many people make Jerky here in Manihiki, I suppose because most of us here are farmers, there isn’t much time to make it. But also Rakahanga is geographically aligned to a channel where the big fish pass through.
Seeding pearls
We’ve been busy getting shells ready to seed for our next seeding programme. It’s not an easy job believe me, but we went to check our shells and our spat lines were looking pretty good. We’ve since been cleaning shells and drilling to condition/prepare for seeding coming up later this year. We’ve had a few shells sitting around our Kaoa, so we’ve also been harvesting those shells that hold mainly Keishi pearls. Keishis are the natural pearl that don’t have a bead or nuclei implanted in them. The pearls that are produced here in Manihiki, and for that matter around the world are mainly cultured pearls. The term cultured pearl means that a Pearl Technician has made an incision into the living tissue of the oyster and has inserted a foreign object into it cavity. After 18 months, the oyster is ready to harvest and hopefully, has produced a beautiful pearl. The Keishi is born about in a natural process whereby a piece of sand enters the oyster and over a period of time, coats and produces a natural pearl called a Keishi. The Keishi shape is not very symmetrical and is sometimes weird looking with slight dents and bumps but is certainly worth a lot depending on size and colour.
Rough weather
Weather conditions in the northern group have been very rough lately with the occasional bout of thunder and lightning. The lagoon has been murky therefore, hindering some farmers and fishermen with visibility. Just travelling between villages can be a little scary if you’re not used to waves clashing with boats and your boat tossing about like a helpless little toy in kid’s bath. And may I just tell you that the two villages Tauhunu & Tukao are both very different when it comes to weather conditions. Tauhunu has this lovely built in Air Con that soothes the air 24/7 and the water near this village is general a lot more active than Tukao. But in Tukao the weather isn’t so cool & breezy, rather warm with stable water conditions that engulf and calm the rough conditions of Tauhunu. Hence, Tukao is called “Tukao veravera”.
Many outer islands are preparing to travel to Rarotonga for the up and coming Constitution Celebrations and Manihiki too will take part this year in the festivities with their Rarotonga support counterparts. We’ve been fortunate this year to have assistance of Vaitoti Tupa and the Korero Maori Dance troupe. Here in Manihiki, we’ve been gruelling down with practices three times a night in Tauhunu. A boat from Tukao departs the wharf near Tukao School and travels over to Tauhunu for practices that commence at 6pm sharp. Today, the Tukao people who will be travelling in the Tere Party got together to gather uto for their trip to Rarotonga. A quota has been decided per Male traveller as support for the group during their stay in Rarotonga. Tomorrow night, we will be singing our lungs out in Tauhunu. Next week, we will give the latest updates of what is happening here in beautiful Manihiki. Stay tuned and we will bring you more pictures and stories of the preparations Manihiki is undergoing for the Constitution Celebrations. Kia Hua, Kia Tata!!

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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