Added: Doris Smotherman - Date: 25.02.2022 08:15 - Views: 30111 - Clicks: 4711
The old man, as bony as his bike, navigates the lie of the rutted path that le further into the jungle valley. He pedals no faster than he needs to—slightly ahead of the point of imbalance, but no more. Gravity threatens to overtake him at any moment.
There is no rush. By way of greeting, he tosses his eyebrows an inch up his forehead. I do the same. No word passes. Presently, I spy the bike, but see nothing of the rider.
Two kid goats are playing in the cleft of a rock shelter. All around, the breadfruit that brought Bligh to the Pacific hangs not in the loaves of childhood imagination but in the shape of swollen baseballs, bright green. A horse stands dumb at its tether. Somewhere here the old man is working to feed the family. I climb over a dry-stone wall and lie full length in the smell of sun-baked grass. Then his grandchildren will be called to help bury him in the front garden of his house, chocolate soil in their bare hands. The village will bring food, sing his praises with speech and not depart until the last trowel-work on the tomb has been smoothed.
Death is no reason to shun a person. His family will not leave him alone, cold in the ground, but, to ease his way into death, will sleep next to the tomb for as long as they feel he might need the comfort. As time passes, his grandchildren will come to play on the tomb as if it were his lap.
There, unhurried amidst the fuss and tangle of departure, was a group of big men standing easily with one another, like farmers in town on a Friday. There is a marae clutter of bags and babies. One man cuddles a girl in a pink wedding-cake dress, iced with lace and bows. The special breed of airport hyperactivity flows on by. Prima donna hostesses tippy-tapping past; the glamour of flight. You get the feeling they never left.
On board this flight is a freezing worker from Bluff, being carried home to the front garden. The Cook Islands discovered New Zealand a thousand years ago. If New Zealand is part of the Pacific then, despite our isolation, we are most closely associated with the Cooks.
The original Maori colonisers came by catamaran. There has followed a fresh wave of Maori settlement—by plane. The voyagers claim those who stayed behind were the slack ones! The two countries still share a common language, place names—even family names. Cook Island words for everyday things have been adapted to a New Zealand usage. The Cook Island word for giant clam is paua; chicken is moa. At a stretch, New Zealand moa resemble nothing more than outsize pullets. James would have understood.
Falling in love with a country is about an accumulation of many things, and eavesdropping there in the airport I was glad to be returning to this place I first visited four years before. For some, the sea is still the sole physical link, with shipping that is irregular, if it calls at all. Nevertheless, the word, via radio telephone and Morse, was that the Pukapuka island council was not going to let us ashore. History provides an answer. Measles remains devastating. Most ship visits leave sickness of some kind. Our ship carried the particular risk of dengue fever, a mosquito-transmitted virus otherwise known as break-bone fever, for the type of pain it causes which can be fatal.
Isolation had thus far saved Pukapuka. The wake against the sharp blue sea is washing-powder white. On deck there is a store of drinking coconuts and bunches of bananas. This le to spilling the milk like some clumsy infant. The Cook Island audiences at either side-show exchange the same kind of glances. But there is no drink more refreshing than coconut milk. A green nut is full of faintly sweet water of such purity that during the war it was used as an emergency intravenous drip.
The best milk is slightly fizzy. And then there is the pure white jelly to spoon from the shell. On an ocean voyage there is plenty of time to talk. You still must have a good reason to chop the tree—to get a canoe to go fishing, or something like that.
This was amazing conservation! In Pukapuka, you never just drink the nut and throw it away… you must eat the flesh. They know how to make do. The 15 islands and atolls of the Cooks can be divided three ways. On the six northern atolls, where coral grows in a ring around the sunken rim of submarine volcanoes, people live. About live on six southern islands, most of which are large pancakes of fossilised coral that has been pushed from the sea.
And then there is Rarotonga, with high volcanic mountains and a fringing reef. Raro, with —most of the workforce is in the tourism industry— is a world away from its quieter and relatively impoverished neighbours. From the sea, the islands of Penrhyn show on the horizon as a series of Morse-code dots and dashes—grey-green, like chunks of some improbable pine plantation set adrift in a fine mist of surf spray.
From that vantage there is room for romance. The blackbirders came by sea. At Penrhyn, the ships called again and again, until no one of saleable age was left. From a population ofin six months were spirited away. The blackbirds—that was the code-name—were told they would be working for wages in nearby islands.
From Rakahanga, went—a third. A year into the trade it was the Peruvian government which called a halt—embarrassed by reports from a crusading local paper of mass death and brutal treatment. If the original seizure had been inhuman, the liberation was diabolical. Of the crammed aboard the berth Barbara Gomez, were thrown overboard.
Of the taken from the Cook Islands, not more than 15 ever returned. In the north the word paniora Spaniard still means something like fiend. The word Kalio Callao is an approximation of hell. Frigate birds on their way ashore do a spin around us. This is clearly more than knee-jerk escape from an undersea menace, for they glide hundreds of metres, flaunting perfect control. This is Omoka village.
Te Tautua village is at the other end of the lagoon. Together, about live here.
At dockside, the people are singing hymns. There, in the heat of the night, with great huffing, honking exhalations of air pumped from the gullet, bull-throated men roar their song. Others work their sinuses like band-saws. The women squeeze air through their nasal chambers with such sharply defined compression that the sound has an electronic purity. Somewhere there is the feel of bagpipes being tuned. They build to a pitch, and then comes abrupt silence. This is not so much singing as the sound of an orchestra of obscure wind instruments.
There is the clearing of throats. Finding a sensible way to convey in writing the impact and substance of Cook Islands singing is a task that, over the next two months, will defeat me. A new song begins and several of the women appear to be in thrall to some deep upset. They gnaw at their palms between choruses, faces contorted with expectant pain, something like childbirth. They dab at the eyes with hankies, but there are no tears. We move to the first feast, a table of delicacies conjured from this strip of coral rock and the surrounding sea—pork, chicken, yam, taro, turtle meat, paua, dozens of tiny fish and cross-sections of tuna.
Small girls peep at us from behind frilly curtainry that fills in the breeze. Corned beef mixed with taro leaves and coconut cream is rich and delicious.
Some have their sleeping mats down at the beach. There is the murmur of talk. One house invites me in for a video of blurred lunging Ninjas. An accumulation of children watch on in a stupor of fatigue. While the church keeps guard for dubious religious content—Last Temptation was banned—when it comes to video decadence they show a lax hand.
One of the best things about the arrival of broadcast television in Rarotonga is the way it has diluted the video diet. On the rest of the islands, videos seem to run 24 hours a day. Save for the Bible, few houses have reading material. Back on the beach, I ask one group why some of the choir seemed to be crying. I learn this is the way some choose to show ritual devotion to the Lord—a devotion not shared by everybody.
The times are 6. Time was the least of it. On one stifling Sunday I catch a friend trussing himself in a suit.
He catches my look. First you tell us to put clothes on, then you want us to take them off! Some of these gaping black holes can be blamed. I start to notice teeth. With some of the people I speak to—those with broken rotting stumps—I p to suggest a visit to the dentist. There is not a lot of interest in this.
Toothache, when it gets unbearable, remains the only reason for a visit. Dental nurses, resident on each island, concentrate on educating school children, but the drive for better dental hygiene has met with patchy. The standard of medical care is patchy, too. In the plainly inadequate clinic at Omoka, a young woman has lain for days with a septic uterus. There is a queue of elderly wanting their eyes tested.
In one patient, the early stages of leprosy are detected.Looking for older from Cook Islands
email: [email protected] - phone:(390) 867-8129 x 8849
History of the Cook Islands