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Cross-island treks remain in good hands

28th May 2018

Cross-island treks remain in good hands

By Alastair Blount

Photography by Cook Islands Tourism

“About four years ago Pa fell ill. The doctor advised Pa to slow down. When he was in hospital his wife Jillian invited me to guide for them. I thought it was something new and exciting that I could do. Since then, I’ve learnt so much in the about Rarotonga, its history, and about Pa!

Trekking the highlands of Rarotonga is one of the most energetic and natural forms of exercise you can find in the Cook Islands. Accompanying thousands of international visitors trekking kept world famous guide Pa Teuruaa fit and healthy for more than thirty years; now in his 70s, Pa has chosen retirement from escorting cross-island treks. Pa’s understudy for four years has been Bruce Goldsworthy, related to Pa though Bruce’s partner Mata Vogel. Bruce and Pa share Pa’s vision for sustainable ecotourism in Rarotonga.  “He loves everything green and organic, and so do I,” Bruce said. Born and bred in Rarotonga, Bruce is an energetic 37 year-old: friendly, open-minded and fit! His father is a New Zealander who came to Rarotonga on holiday in the 1970s and never left! “He fell in love with the islands, met a local girl from Aitutaki, and has been here ever since!”

Bruce went to Avatea Primary School, then Tereora College. “After college I joined the family business; a confectionary company, B&M Wholesalers. I still work there. “I get to sneak off three days a week to hike”. Bruce has kept fit since school days through rugby and boogie boarding.  Playing reserve and first class rugby and rugby league for many years, Bruce played for his village, the Avatiu Eels. He has also played representative rugby for the Cook Islands in Rugby 15s, Rugby Sevens, and in Rugby League nines. “My first time was playing Rugby League Nines at the South Pacific Games in 2006 in Samoa. We won the silver medal, losing to Fiji in the finals…one of my greatest sporting moments! “Then, the Rugby Sevens people approached me for the Wellington Sevens. We beat England, but didn’t come away with anything! The second year we went to the Wellington Sevens we won the Bowl, beating Tonga in the final!”

One little known fact about Bruce is that he was a champion cultural dancer when he was only 12 years old. “I won a junior dancer of the year competition and was picked to dance with the Royal Rarotongans. This dance group went on tour throughout Europe one year, then USA the next; a big eye-opener for a young Polynesian boy”. Today, twenty-five years later, Bruce is trekking the mountains of Rarotonga, sometimes three times a week. Bruce married into Pa Teuruaa’s family. “My partner is Pa’s grandniece, Mata Vogel. We were high school sweethearts. Now we have three children 8, 6 and 3 years. “About four years ago Pa fell ill. The doctor advised Pa to slow down. When he was in hospital his wife Jillian invited me to guide for them. I thought it was something new and exciting that I could do. Since then, I’ve learnt so much in the about Rarotonga, its history, and about Pa! “I live near Pa and Jillian. We have always been close to them. Pa is a very family-orientated person; everybody in the village calls him uncle”. Bruce is very respectful when talking about Pa and Pa’s business.

“It hit me on the day of Pa’s 5000th trek public celebration a couple of weeks ago just how big the shoes are, that I have to fill!” Bruce will continue to promote Pa’s vision of sustainable ecotourism. “With the popularity of cross-island trekking, trail erosion is inevitable - some man made, but torrential rains also wash out parts of the trail”. Cook Islands Tourism as a matter of policy and safety recommend that visitors experience the cross-island trek with a professional guide. “If visitors want to trek alone they need to research the trail. It is marked north to south so it is best to do it that way. Be prepared; give yourself lots of time, and tell someone when you are trekking,” Bruce said. “Many people expect a smooth footpath, then discover it is actually a rugged trail”. Bruce said he is in Pa’s Treks for the long haul. “I enjoy hiking and I like meeting new people each week. I would love to carry on doing this for as long as I can.”

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