I was greeted with a warm “kia orana” and a beautiful smile by Vara Cowan Hunter, who always looks stunning in her island dress and ei.
She is at the market every Saturday, greeting tourists and handing out brochures for Te Vara Nui’s spectacular dinner and show which takes place every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It’s one of the best dinner and show events on the island and is not to be missed. Vara also told me a little about her heritage. Tekura-A-Vara Cowan Hunter grew up in Rarotonga, of Cook Islands parents and inherited a Scottish surname from her great-grandfather, and some German ancestry from her father, as well as Irish ancestry from the Hunter side of the family. Full of joy and happiness, Vara is a great ambassador for the Cook Islands.
The second stall I visited was Super Healthy Food owned by Tuhe Piho who hails from Rakahanga. For over four years Tuhe has served up healthy food to both tourists and locals at the Punanga Nui Market and also at the Muri night market. On offer was a turmeric mild curry with coriander and 10 vegetables, lentils and onions and kumara salad with seven veggies and chicken chop suey, fish and 10 veggies. A piled-up plateful costs just $12. Tuhe also serves delicious fresh smoothies with a coconut water base.
The Punanga Nui market is open from 8 am to 12 noon on Saturdays and a few stalls and huts are also open during the week. BSP bank has an ATM there on Saturdays and Bluesky has a stall where you can top up your mobile phone. - ST