Sunday, 27 January 2013

Rirei's: The Heineken Store

Hello everyone! Sorry for lack of updates! Work has been increadibly busy and I kept forgetting to add more info to the blog!

It looks like the Cook Islands is in the path of a cyclone this year. I hope all my friends are well over there.

So here we go. Today I'll just share what you can expect in Aitutaki in terms of food/shopping because it is a common question most travellers have before going there.

As a tourist, Rirei's (or more commonly known as the Heineken Store amongst tourists) is probably the most easily identifiably "supermarket" on the island. It sits in Amuri, only a short distance down the main road from Pacific Resort, Rino's and other accommodation services. It is situated about half way down the island and right across the road from a big breadfruit tree.

 Why most people call it the Heineken Store is because there's a Heineken sign out the front, and it's the only sign they have. Nowhere, except on bread bags, does it say "Rirei's."

 It isn't exactly a "supermarket" by any means, but it has a good range of stock for travellers and locals, and it probably is the most reliable in terms of quality of the stock. The only other shop on the island that probably is on par with Rirei's is Neibaa's, which unfortunately has a good range of stock but you have to watch out for those expired ones!

So they've got drinks sorted includin beer ($2.50/bottle) and other fizzies and juices. They also have bottled water which is nice for those who need a water bottle.

 This was the selection of refrigerated goods while I was there. Now, the fruit and veges are great quality, except that they have been airfreighted so are quite expensive. Peppers/capsicums, I remember, went for $45/kg. Sometimes you can find them for $2/each at Neibaas if there are local produce around. Otherwise, 500g block of cheese is around $10-12, a tub of yoghurt $15 and chocolate bars around $2-3 (from memory). There are also salami and butter.

Not shown in the photos are the frozen goods, and they have sausages (provided the cargo ship was in recently - they go quick!), frozen fish, hash browns, frozen meat (not the best cuts I admit) and cheesecake etc.

 And yes! They have toiletries! A bar of soap is around $1.50 and most other things aren't too bad for price. Laundry powder is about $10-15 (Persil is on the more expensive side), shampoo and conditioners around $9-10. They have toothpaste and Bonjela. They also have insect repellents for those who had forgotten it from home!

 Now, getting onto the food... there's jam (about $5), pasta sauce (Dolmio, Five Brothers), some gravy sauce, soup, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, peanut butter and Nutella. They also have Vegemite but only the bigger jars. And, because there are cats on the island, they also have cat food ;)

 This is the main food aisle (or more like the only aisle in the shop haha). There's pasta, rice, sauces (satay, soy), cereals, rolled oats, bikkies, instant noodles, canned tuna/fish, baked beans, canned spaghetti, milk powder etc.

Milk on the island are either from powders, or carton milk which are $3.50 each 1L carton.

Rirei's also have some Tip Top ice cream scoops which go for $2. Not a bad price if you ask me, and for those non-Kiwis out there, the Boysenberry flavour rocks (proven by a London mate who thought it was awesome).

They also bake their own loaves of bread daily so they are available instore. Occasionally you will find baguettes/french sticks and other types of bread.

Anyway, I hope this gives somewhat of an idea what you can find on the island. You can't expect the prices competable with NZ but provided they are all imported, most aren't too bad.

PS - Watch out for the batteries! Many have rusted at the ends and won't work!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Koru Cafe

Hello everyone,

I believe it is time I really started to write about all the different places on Aitutaki before I forget them all (no, that won't happen any time soon).

I feel that I should start my reviews with one of my favourite places to visit for food and coffee on Aitutaki - Koru Cafe. It is by far the best place for lunch and coffee anywhere on the island. Pacific Resort may debate over the best food but I think for the money and quality of service you get there, you can't beat it anywhere. Food is always top-notch and it is probably the one of very few places that give you that Western cafe-feel.

I admit to having lots of photos of food from Koru Cafe, because I went there several times a week (it was that good) and was a regular there.

Koru Cafe - there are seats inside (windows have mosquito nets) or brave the mossies on the outdoor seats depending on your preference.
Situated (unfortunately) on the opposite end of the island from the hospital out towards Ootu Beach, it takes a good 15-20mins on the scooter to reach Koru Cafe. Whilst the length of the island takes about 10mins, the length of the airstrip also takes just as long! However, the trip is worth it, and those staying at Samade on the Beach or Popoara Beach Villas (aka Boatshed) or Aitutaki Lagoon Resort (Akitua), well lucky you, because you are close by!

Koru Cafe has some very modern looking interiors and nice and comfy couch in the corner as well. The table by the couches hide folders containing lots of information about things to do on the island + pamphlets of different charters and businesses for tourists.
My apologies for lots of food photos, but this is what you can expect to get from Koru Cafe every single time you go there. You get a decent portion of very very yummy food made right from the kitchen. They have different specials on each week and they are al. worth a try too.

The moment you enter the cafe, you just pick any seat and the girls bring you out a bottle of chilled water and a glass. You can take your time to order your meal and food is usually ready in about 10-20minutes. They come and top up your water when it runs low and service is just awesome. You don't find that anywhere else (except at resorts where you are forking out a fortune for it!). 

EDIT: I just found that Koru Cafe has their menu online.  

Coffee goes from about $4.50ish (very reasonable!) through to $6-8 for ice chocolates and coffees. From memory, milkshakes were about $9.

Vanilla Latte (from memory, just under $6). It is better than those from most cafes in New Zealand and apparently UK as well!
Iced Coffee for those really sticky hot days!!! Made from real espresso coffee and spliced with a scoop of ice cream. Yum!
Most meals are usually accompanied by salad and chips. They do very good burgers. Their fish burger in particular is worth mentioning. Most main meals go between $18 - $28ish range. The most expensive on the menu is a Turkish Chicken sandwich (the name is along the lines of this) and is $29.90 - but is huge and can easily be shared between two people.

The famous Fish Burger - served with chips and fresh salad (they are hard to get by sometimes on the island!).
Oh for those Asian lovers, this was the week's special before I left. I think it was called something like Soy Noodle Stir Fry. They did it once before with a type of meat as well. Both times it was really good. If I could find it in New Zealand, I would go out and eat out!
Their Salt & Pepper Calamari is also just gorgeous for the seafood lovers. Yummy!

The Salt & Pepper Calamari (main) - just YUMMY!
Beer-Battered Mahi Mahi (it's a fish) - one of the specials. It is really good.
For those who haven't got the tummies for a full sized meal, they also have Tapas and burgers on their own for a very good price (and still packed with flavours). I am beginning to sound like an advertiser, aren't I? But seriously, I think this place deserves it ;)

Ika Mata (Tapa) - fresh fish (I think this might have been tuna) cooked just on the outside. Served with garlic aioli, soy sauce and some pickled ginger.
I think this was Ben's BLT or Chicken Burger. Roughly $12 from memory and still a good meal when you aren't feeling up to fries and salad.
The biggest downsides of Koru Cafe for elective students are the distance it takes to get there (particularly on a wet day!) and the fact that its opening hours are from 7am through to 3pm (7 days a week) - meaning that a hard-working medical student won't be able to make it after a long day at clinic (bummer!). 

Otherwise, it is a fab place to go in the weekends particularly because it is also close to the beautiful Ootu Beach or Aitutaki Lagoon Resort where you can go for some nice swims.

You can also get some locally made souvenirs at Koru Cafe. Mostly at reasonable prices without you having to travel all around the island. They have books, jewellery made by Steph at T&S Artworx, flax fans, artwork for the walls and more. You can order online as well from anywhere in the world @

Just some of the souvenirs you can get at Koru Cafe. You can also buy online.
Jasmine, me, and Trina (owner) at Koru Cafe on my last day in Aitutaki. I was covered in "eis" as leaving gift given by several people. I really miss them :'(
I just loved Koru Cafe to bits and the people who worked there. Trina and Steve, the owners, are just lovely and during my 9 weeks, I got very familiar with the place. I hope Trina & Jasmine doesn't mind the photo going up, because I just wanted to show how much I was loved. Besides, I said lots of nice things about the cafe! ;)

Anyway, all in all, a 5 out of 5 hands down cafe on Aitutaki. It's a must-visit cafe for tourists, visitors and the foodies amongst us in my opinion.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Back in New Zealand

Hello everyone,

Sorry for my lack of updates recently. I have had a bit of a rollercoaster two weeks and have had to cut my time in Aitutaki short by two and a half weeks. This follows after having had a scooter accident and getting a reasonable wound to the left knee that would have done better back in New Zealand. So I had to rush and re-arrange flights and returned earlier this week after a rollercoaster week.

It certainly does not help with my "post-elective blues" that I had to come away in a rush. I was given a massive send off with 1 shell necklace, 6 eis (flower necklaces) and 3 flower head bands on my last day. I did look like a dork wearing all of them at the airport but I knew I was well-loved.

Me, covered in a few "eis" at Aitutaki Airport on the day I left. There are a few more in a plastic bag on the table that I wasn't wearing at the time!
As for all the bits I promised about the blog... I will slowly write about each place on Aitutaki now that I am back in a place with more reliable technology and internet, and hopefully with complementary map to each locations! ;) It will take time, but I hope you will be patient with me.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Aitutaki Hospital

Sorry for lack of updates! I will be slowly putting more information about Aitutaki.

My elective buddy, Ben, has left this afternoon, and now that I'm lacking a companion to hang out with, I have a whole lot more time to blog!

I figured it is about time to show you around Aitutaki Hospital. There is very little information about Aitutaki particularly for prospective elective students, so here are some snapshots of the hospital life...

Aitutaki Hospital site, looking from the driveway. Outpatient clinics and the ward are on the right hand side, and the far end on the left has the dentist, public health nurse and the hospital manager's offices.
The student bedroom - free accommodation at the cost of being first on-call during your elective (if you are on hospital grounds). You can get called at all hours of the day and night. Ignore the mess of the room, but there are two single beds (old hospital beds), two bedside cabinets and a really... iffy sink. Definitely not a five star hotel suite, but it serves its purpose. The nurses call it the "President Suite." Lol.

 Aitutaki Hospital is currently manned by one permanent doctor, Dr Koko, who provides 24/7 emergency services. It really should be run by two doctors, but other doctors have come and gone in the past, only staying for short periods. Hospital services are largely like a rural GP service, with clinics running Mon-Fri from 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm. If there are any inpatients (usual number of inpatients are 0-5), ward round occurs at 8am during weekdays and 9am on weekends.

The outpatient department waiting area. Patients are often found waiting an hour before clinic is meant to start and expect you to start early (argh). Today I had a patient who turned up at 7.45am when clinics are meant to start at 9am. Patients wait here, and somehow figure out the order in which to see the doctor(s). You don't really get a chance to call the next patient in, because as soon as your current patient leaves, the next person comes in whether you are ready or not!
   Patients turn up with 'emergency' cases all through the day and night if need be. By majority, they are minor conditions not requiring emergency care (e.g. common cold, allergic rash), but emergencies do present themselves from time to time ranging from full-blown heart attacks to motor vehicle accidents. In my 6 weeks here so far, I've been blessed to not have had a cardiac arrest in the hospital but there had been one the previous week before my arrival.

The hospital has two outpatient clinics - one is often manned by elective student(s) whilst Dr Koko runs the other. Students can always ask questions if there are any doubts, but by in large, can run the clinic solo with full responsibilities of prescribing on the island (Dr Koko only takes final year medical students). Most common presentations are, (1) common cold, (2) skin infections/boils and (3) diabetes/hypertension/gout.

Our outpatient clinic room. It's pretty much a GP office.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the "NCD" or "chronic disease" days where patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, gout and etc come for their check ups (usually 2 monthly).

Hospital back yard with pawpaw (papaya) plantation. Students are welcome to help themselves to the pawpaws as they ripen. Be warned, too many can give you the runs!
 Patients often turn up well before the clinic is meant to open (e.g. 8:10am) and expect to be seen early. I've been given the funny looks when I told them I'm not starting until 9am just so I could check my mails and get the programmes started etc.

Computers are slow here, but it does work, and just fast enough for video Skyping. The hospital uses one of the older MedTech programme for patient records (a common GP software which is not very much liked), and because everything goes through Rarotonga and back, it is slow. It is not uncommon for computers to freeze or system to crash for half a day or more.

What is available at the hospital? Well, there is an x-ray machine and a new ultrasound scanner (only been here for 2 months!). Eteta is our super-pharmacist/radiographer/phlebotomist who runs the pharmacy, takes x-rays and does blood tests. She's only had 6 weeks training for all this! Aumate is the other pharmacist at the hospital.

In terms of medications, it is largely dependent on orders from Rarotonga, but selection is very limited. Everything else is based on donations from students who have gone by. Enalapril is our only ACE inhibitor and it annoys me greatly that many go to New Zealand and get put on quinapril and come back! We do have Metoprolol, Bendrofluazide, Felodipine, Candesartan, Digoxin and Nifedipine but it's about it! We have no antihistamines except Phenergan (Promethazine) so anyone turning up with allergic rash gets zonked to sleep with 25mg of Phenergan lol Only diabetes drugs are Metformin, Gliclazide and Insulin. When you are on Aitutaki, you have to learn to do without.

Commemorating my emergency call out at midnight on the ambulance... in my pajamas! The ambulance rarely gets used on the island.
I am currently self-treating myself for probable gastritis with triple therapy. Unfortunately, no Clarithromycin means that I have to use the old regime of Omeprazole-Amoxicillin-Metronidazole combo. But students can get medications free of charge if need be. But this is not the best place to get sick... I've been battling with this tummy ache for 2 weeks now <_<

There is also a dentist at the hospital who can manage basic dental conditions. Our public health nurse deals with sexual health clinics, antenatal things and immunisations etc - she's also one of two midwives on the island.

Sparky's (the dentist) clinic. This is all we have in terms of dental services.
I am running out of things to write about currently. Will update with more photos later!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Aitutaki Lagoon Tour Photos!

Okay, so I went on the lagoon tour last Sunday with Aitutaki Adventures. There are a few companies that run it, but we chose this particular one because they gave us discounts for working at the hospital ($50). Most places now charge between $85 - $99 for the trip.

The locals call it the "Yellow Boat" - Aitutaki Adventures Cruise Ship
I've got oodles of photos to show from the trip. Aitutaki Adventures tour does not have its main focus on snorkelling. They do take you to a couple of snorkelling spots, but I hear TeKing is the one to go if you want more snorkelling.

Aitutaki Adventures takes you to 3 smaller islands (the motu) in Aitutaki lagoon - Honeymoon Island, 'Survivor Island' (because they filmed Survivor there) and One Foot Island.

We were lucky to see a sea turtle on the way to Honeymoon Island. We had to cross the deepest parts of the lagoon (from memory around 13m deep) and apparently the sea turtle like these spots. We saw one bobbing away in the distance but it quickly went underwater as it heard

Just at the edge of Honeymoon Island
Sprouting young coconut on Honeymoon Island. When husked, they call it 'uto' and it's all green/white and spongy.
Me at Honeymoon Island... without a hubby lol.
Attempting to climb a coconut palm. I sucked at it.
Wet & Wild boys at Honeymoon Island for kite surfing.
'Survivor' Island where they filmed the US Survivor series.
Puna (our captain for the day) with coconut! These are surprisingly hard/firm and addictive snacks. Need to get myself a machete...
Nice photo, except the horizon isn't level. Nothing worse than a crooked photo... To photoshop later...
One Foot Island (or Tapuaetai). Goegeous beach and better swimming spot than Ootu Beach.
So the leaders obviously stopped by at One Foot Island during their forum and planted a few trees before leaving.
Yummy yummy lunch! Top left, the thing that looks like pineapple slice is actually a breadfruit chip. I'm in love with it!

This is Puna who runs Aitutaki Adventures. He was our Captain for the day.
Get your passport stamped at the world's smallest post office on One Foot Island.
I can't move this photo up... anyway me at Survivor Island. I suspect this campfire spot is a remnant of the series.
Ka kite.