Team Tai Tonga takes food tour of Samoa

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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ISLAND FOODIE: Janine Maruera renews her love for taro.

ISLAND FOODIE: Janine Maruera renews her love for taro. (Photo: Elizabeth Ah-Hi)

All eyes are on the harbour as paddling teams do their thing, everyone is in their swimming/active wear in various stages of saturation, cheering their team mates on. 

Dear Tourist strikes up a conversation with Janine Maruera who just finished a race. She was eager to tell us about how the Alo Paopao Festival was going for her and her team mates in Tai Tonga from Patea, New Zealand. 

“This is my first time,” she said. 

“Most of us I think it’s our first time. There are six of us in the womens’ open team and so far we have really enjoyed the races. We were fortunate to sprint both finals so that was an awesome achievement considering that most of us are novices.”

The weather for Janine has exceeded her expectations, perhaps a little too much. Arriving last week, her and her team have not wasted any time and have hit as many beaches as possible and toured Savai’i, as well. 

She hasn’t been able to get over how beautiful the landscape has been here and most importantly, she has felt at home here in Samoa. 

 “I was expecting it to be hot but not this hot. Nothing prepared me for this heat. 

“I think the biggest thing that stood out for me are the people. They’re always smiling and have made us feel very much at home. It’s absolutely beautiful here -- absolutely beautiful. 

“We’ve been over to Savai’i and we did the touristy (sic) things there. Loved it, very different again. It’s a different sort of vibe there, less busy than Apia, but I’ve just loved every bit of Samoa.”

Janine gives Samoan food the thumbs up and she’s even had a change of heart over taro, giving our staple food another chance to woo her. 

Dining out in as many different places around town has been their aim and she’s had a few favourites along the way.

 “I’ve tried taro in New Zealand and to be honest, I wasn’t that keen, but then I had it cooked in the umu here -- and oh, I love it. I absolutely love it. Love the fish, especially the raw fish and chop suey.

 “We went to Paddles restaurant one night and the service was A+. The workers there are absolutely amazing and we’ve tried different places like the pizzeria... we are just trying to get round to all the different types of food. We’ve found out about these places through different people that are taking part in the festival and also from the tourist pamphlets.”

The team have been based at Malifa Suites and Janine says that her and the team have been well looked after there and they were really thankful that there was air conditioning. 

The Alo Paopao Festival has given Janine a chance to explore Samoa and she hopes that these types of festivals continue because she would really like to return.

“I would love to bring the rest of my family here. I’ve got my daughter here but Id love for my husband and son to come experience the festival because its really good. I think its an amazing festival because its all inclusive. The organisers are wonderful. We’ve done different things every day, like the different types of races, so I hope it keeps going.”

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