“In a way I am walking in (Puruto’s) tracks, but there has been no-one to do this for many years,” says Mamanu.
Having returned to Rarotonga after years away, he says the culture and the beauty of the island just “hit” him.
“The idea for this tour was like a vision sent to me from God,” says Ngametua, “and I became passionate about it, it’s my strength, my purpose.”
He now regularly takes groups of visitors on walking tours of the main road and back road, taking in the culture and the history, and emphasising authenticity.
Mamanu shows his walking clients the local fruits, vegetables and marine life and demonstrates how local people harvest and prepare their food.
They look at inland farms, plantations and ancient trees. They are also given lessons on the coconut, “the tree of life”, including coconut tree climbing, how to husk, grate and use the coconut as well as weaving baskets from the leaves.
“These are used as food baskets for the umu, that they can help prepare. And the baskets they take home.”
He says a variety of meats are used and whatever other ingredients they find along the way also go into the umu.
“It could be breadfruit or taro or something else we’ve found during the walk. It keeps it authentic.”
He says the spontaneity of the experience provides a number of stories to go with whatever might happen during the walk.
“It keeps it real.”