After 33 years in business guiding visitors over the mountains of Rarotonga, and many more years spent walking the track before that, the “Son of Polynesia” embarked on what would be his 5000th and final trek, before officially handing over the reins to his successor, nephew Bruce Goldsworthy.
Those present to honour Pa included finance minister Mark Brown, who was also one of two dozen walkers joining the hike, Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust director Gerald McCormack, and local businessmen Sam Crocombe and Don Carlaw, both longtime friends of Pa.
MC Metua Vaiimene of Cook Islands Tourism invited Pa up in front of the crowd to unveil a specially-made plaque “commemorating 33 years of eco-tourism excellence”.
“Good to hear that you’re not actually going anywhere Pa, because we need you around,” he added.
“My heart is broken today,” said Pa in reply. “But it’s healing.
“I’d like to thank you all for honouring this happening this morning.”
The super-fit septuagenarian kept his remarks brief, thanking the landowners for allowing the placement of the commemorative plaque and stone, and also singling out close friend and relation Sam Crocombe for special praise.
“I can’t say more – time for action! Thank you everybody.”
Bruce Goldsworthy said taking over from Pa left him with “big shoes to fill”.
“He’s left behind a legacy which is still going,” said Goldsworthy. “I never knew much about hiking, about our native plant life, our history. In the last three or four years I’ve been guiding with Pa, I’ve learnt so much. About myself, my family, and the island: the true island that we live on.
“And I’m continuing to learn. It’s just a great honour to be here, continuing Pa’s legacy.
Gerald McCormack also acknowledged Pa’s legacy, giving him credit for making the Rarotonga cross-island trek “one of the most famous walks in the South Pacific”.
“But there’s more to this walk than just Pa’s fame, and the walk,” added McCormack. “This walk is the best nature walk in the South Pacific.
“This forest here is the most pristine forest that I have ever seen, and I’ve worked on ships as a guide all the way from Easter Island to Fiji.
I’ve been to more than 80 islands and this is the best nature walk in the South Pacific,” he said.
Taking a break from the campaign trail for a trail of a quite different kind, Brown told CINews that attending the morning presentation gave him “a good excuse to actually do the walk for the first time in a long time”.
“It’s been a while. In fact, probably the last time I did the walk, I was still at school. But it being Pa’s last walk – he’s a good friend, and I thought I’d make the effort to not just come to this event, but also join him on the walk across the island.”