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A long-distance love affair

Saturday 15 January 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Art, Features


A long-distance love affair
Author John Roberts from Cheshire, England, with paperback proof of the book ‘Around the Corner from Nowhere: The Cook Islands Rediscovered’. SUPPLIED/22011435

Retired BBC radio and TV reporter and presenter John Roberts from Cheshire, England has been having a long-distance love affair with the Cook Islands for nearly 40 years.

Now, after multiple visits and a wealth of research, he says he wants to “share the love” by way of a new book he’s written called ‘Around the Corner from Nowhere: The Cook Islands Rediscovered’.

John Roberts describes the book as a narrative about all 15 of the islands, rather than a guide book. But there are also fascinating stories and traveller tips which he hopes will interest those who’ve visited, are thinking of visiting or just want to learn more about the Islands, as well as Cook Islanders themselves.

Down the years he’s written and broadcast in the UK, Australia and New Zealand about the Islands, and for 17 years has run his own Cook Islands website ( which gets over a quarter of a million visits a year.

His love affair began in 1982 after he read a short report in the travel pages of the UK’s ‘Sunday Times’ newspaper about the Islands and it completely captured his imagination. But it was more than 20 years later before he finally made his first visit. And he recalls, in the chapter about Rarotonga, that night he arrived.

“Deep emotions were mixed with an overwhelming desire to see something of this island of my dreams as soon as possible. OK, I admit it; I cried tears of joy and darkness wasn’t going to get in the way of discovery. In fact, it made for a memory to last a lifetime. Strolling along a beach which was deserted and silent apart from the pounding of the Pacific Ocean, the best free show in town was underway. With no light pollution, looking up into the night sky was like seeing the view inside a planetarium. Billions of stars sparkled down as they must have done since the first Polynesians crossed uncharted seas in their canoes to reach these islands more than a thousand years ago.”

The book blends his own first-hand accounts of visits with those shared with him by other travellers and islanders themselves to provide an insight into each and every one of the Cook Islands.

Over the course of 16 chapters, complete with more than 30 photographs, he also answers some intriguing questions such as: Where and why are turtles on the school science timetable instead of the dinner table as they used to be? Which US political VIP loved an official dinner at a Rarotonga restaurant so much that she went straight back the following night? Where did a distinguished historian have a ghostly encounter with “an intangible force of evil” and how did he escape it? and Where might you see ‘ghost fire’ and why would you rather not?

The title of the book comes from a passing remark in a long and insightful article about the Islands in a 1967 edition of ‘National Geographic’ and Roberts concludes with his 21st century reflection on that writing by way of some personal pondering about the future of the Islands and threats from tourism, climate change and seabed mining. 

“Around the Corner from Nowhere: The Cook Islands Rediscovered” is available now from Amazon as a print replica e-book by following this link

The paperback edition will be available later this month via Amazon or direct from the author ( It can also be ordered through bookshops from February, 2022.