Welcome to the Cook Islands, Hillary – now, can anyone lend us a motorcade?

 

Life usually dawdles in the Cook Islands, a cluster of coral atolls sprinkled across the South Pacific. But with Hillary Clinton due to visit later this month, the place is in a spin.

For one thing, the government doesn't have enough cars for an official motorcade.

The tiny nation is hosting the annual Pacific Islands Forum from 27 August, and with the US increasingly focused on its strategic interests in the Pacific, the Secretary of State is expected to attend for the first time. For the Cooks, where nothing of note happens from one year to the next – save, perhaps, a coconut dropping on someone's head – the event represents history in the making.

First, though, the country, which is home to only 20,000 people, has to resolve the motorcade problem.

The government fleet consists of three four-wheel-drive vehicles, so officials are having to borrow extra cars from the locals. Residents are also being trained as chauffeurs, honing their skills by doing laps around the 20-mile road which circumnavigates the main island, Rarotonga. Although the Cooks – a self-governing nation in free association with New Zealand – are a popular tourist destination, they rarely host high-profile international delegations. If she attends – and US diplomats are teasingly refusing to confirm it – Mrs Clinton will be the country's most illustrious visitor since the Queen popped by nearly 40 years ago.

A team from the US embassy in Wellington was in the islands this week, scouting the facilities. Jaewynn McKay, a local official coordinating preparations for the forum, said the biggest challenge was finding a suitable place for Mrs Clinton to stay with her large entourage.

"I understand she usually travels with 90 [people], but they've had to lessen their footprint on this occasion," Mrs McKay told Associated Press. "We had to tell them we just don't have the space."

Robert Graham, a government official in charge of transport arrangements, has already borrowed six four-wheel-drives from islanders, for a small fee, and is hunting for one more. That would enable the government to put together a 10-car motorcade. It has borrowed nine more late-model cars from residents, after the main rental agency ran short.

Mr Graham is stressing about the fact the US wants large four-wheel-drives, but the only ones in the Cooks are smaller Toyotas and Suzukis.

"We are a really small island and they're wanting these really big SUVs," he said. "We have tried our best to accommodate and help."

The SUVs will be used to transport not only Mrs Clinton but other leaders around Rarotonga, Mr Graham added. He has been training drivers, both government workers and private volunteers, to act as chauffeurs.

The US has been stepping up its military presence and trade ties in the Pacific, as well as increasing humanitarian aid to the region, as it seeks to provide a counterweight to China's growing military and economic might.

With about 500 people from 57 countries expected at the forum, Rarotonga – with an area of only 26 square miles – will feel like Piccadilly Circus.

The second island, Aitutaki – described by Tony Wheeler, the Lonely Planet co-founder, as "the world's most beautiful island" – made rare headlines last year when it had its first ever bank robbery. According to some reports, the bank was secured with a single padlock.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Manager

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This distributor of electronics...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client has a number of different bus...

Recruitment Genius: Frontend Developer / Designer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working on a range ...

Ashdown Group: Software Developer - C#, .Net, SQL - Cambridgeshire

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and g...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower