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Plucking a few pearls from Punanga Nui

Friday April 13, 2018 Written by Published in Local
Mae-Joe’s owner Mere Vikta serves up one of their dishes to a hungry customer. 18041207 Mae-Joe’s owner Mere Vikta serves up one of their dishes to a hungry customer. 18041207

On a rather rainy Saturday morning in paradise I visited the Punanga Nui Market in downtown Avarua.


It was still buzzing with activity despite the rain however and the drumming and dancers kept the tourists entertained.

The market is open from 8am to noon on Saturdays and a few stalls and huts are also open during the week. BSP bank have an ATM there on Saturdays and Bluesky have a stall where tourists and locals can top up their mobile phones.

There is also an island show every Saturday morning sponsored by Highland Paradise.

The first stall I visited on Saturday was Mae-Joe’s Cafe. They offer a huge selection of food for eating in or to take away, including Chinese, international and Mexican menus.

They also sell a selection of soft drinks.

Owners Mere and Jo Vikta told me the most popular dishes on their menu are wonton soup and chicken sweetcorn soup. The Mongolian chicken main course is also a favourite of Mae-Joe’s customers.

Chef Itara Teruka prepares and cooks the delicious food, serving up generous portions which definitely appeal to their local customers.

The cafe is very popular with both locals and tourists and is also open during the week on Monday to Friday from 11am to 2pm, then from 5.30pm to 9pm. On Saturday market day they are open from 9am to 1pm.

I also visited KBA Pearl Ltd owned by Mehau Johnson, Manihiki pearl technician/farmer.

This hut is located near the stage in the main body of the market. They also have a stall on Saturdays and the shop is open during the week.

Manihiki Pearl Tech’s pearl technician and farmer Mehau Johnson shares the cultured pearl process of the Manihiki Black pearl in a two-minute video on their Facebook page, Manihiki Pearl Tech.

Check out their range of pearls and jewellery.

The video shows that there is a five-year process in farming and manufacturing black pearls.

Mehau says that as a pearl technician she spends most of her time in Manihiki working on the farm, seeding and harvesting the pearls.

She was born and raised on her parents’ farm in Manihiki and went into business with KBA Pearl Ltd five years ago.

Mehau has two brothers who are also pearl farmers – Tamiela Karaponga, owner of Samuela Pearl Services Ltd, and younger brother Kaina Karaponga, who holds a pearl farm permit.

Mehau is also studying at USP for a bachelor of commerce degree in professional accounting and is married to Mokoha Johnson.

She comes back at least once a year from Manihiki to bring the harvest.

While she is away, the business is run by her mother Nga Karaponga, who has supported the three siblings with their businesses.

You can buy pearl jewellery from KBA Pearl Ltd at great ‘farm-gate’ prices. I also saw a range of beautiful rito hats whilst visiting the shop.

            - Susan Tealby