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Emotional welcome for voyaging fleet

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 31, 2010) – Pacific voyagers were celebrated on Saturday afternoon when the five voyaging double hulled sister canoes made an historic landfall at Avana harbour.

The welcome ceremony for the canoes was a moving one as Cook Islands vaka Marumaru Atua led the fleet through Avana passage.

While the fleet’s arrival at Avana was delayed by nearly two hours, they had in fact arrived on Rarotonga four days ahead of schedule with their original arrival time set down for today.

Many saw the canoes on their arrival on Friday night before their eventual welcome on Saturday.

But the canoes battled into the wind from the west side of the island on Saturday morning and because of this the canoes tacked out to sea to catch the winds that would push them to Avana.

Vaka Marumaru Atua and Faafaite arrived at Avana at the same time but Fiji vaka Uto ni Yalo, Aotearoa vaka Matau O Maui and mixed nations vaka Hine Moana tacked out further to sea and arrived later on Saturday afternoon.

Despite the wait and frequent change to the programme, the welcome for all crews was no less passionate and powerful.

And those who waited patiently were treated to a cultural feast.

Canoes found Avana by following the billowing smoke from two fires lit on the harbour.

Once in the harbour, crews were ferried to land by inflatable dinghy – although Marumaru Atua crew member Amosa Tatuava thought it more fitting to swim to shore.

On the shore, the crews were welcomed by chanting warriors and thrilled family and friends who decked their loved ones in ei.

Marumaru Atua and Faafaite crews were the first to experience the thunderous welcomes before Fiji vaka Uto ni Yalo arrived.

Upon their arrival the Rarotonga based Fiji community conducted a Qaloqalovi – a traditional Fiji welcome which included the gifting of a tabua (whale’s tooth) from the welcoming party to the voyagers.

As crew members of the first three canoes embraced – the final two canoes of Matau O Maui (Aotearoa) and Hine Moana (mixed crews) finally made their way into the harbour just in time for the sunset kaikai. - Matariki Wilson

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