After a late breakfast Gilbert and I head to our pre-booked couples massage. We are welcomed by two smiling Thai girls who pour us green tea for starters and ask gently about our hearts, recent ops etc to quietly gauge likelihood of needing CPR. I point out my scarred, and a little ugly still, two big toes. More so she doesn’t get a fright. “I will just avoid that area”, she advises me with a smile and starts working on my heels with what feels like a bit of 40 grit. I soon nod off to the sound of water running, the smell of aromatherapy and the gentle pressure of her strong hands kneading my tired muscles. It’s a shame it has to end but I take solace that I have one booked next Tuesday at home. I hope it’s as good as this.
We head straight to the beach and today I keep all burnt bits covered. There’s all the set up for a wedding on the sand and soon the bride comes down to the waters edge where we are sunbathing and an outrigger canoe awaits. Wearing just a traditional sarong the guy jumps out of the canoe and scooping her up in his massive tattooed arms he carries her to the waka, slips her in one end while her three bridesmaids watch from the shore and tucks her gown in gently. He’s done this before.
She adjusts her strapless bodice, waves and smiles to the girls watching as he rows her out a bit, blows on his conch to announce her arrival and then brings her back into shore 50 metres down, before plucking her from the canoe and carrying her up to where her group is waiting at the waters edge. Such a contrast with her white layered tulle and his bronzed, muscled body. Gilbert and I have a giggle that she’s no lightweight and wonder if there was a risk assessment done.
It’s a small wedding party and we watch from to time from a distance as they exchange vows, photos are taken and then the party begins. It’s been a big few days for us too. Each morning we have a presentation from our head office. Just an hour, before free time to explore or join in with something organised. We meet at four each afternoon for cocktails and then back to our rooms at six to dress for dinner. After dinner we relax in the bar and people head to bed when they want to retire. We’re not used to this routine but soon become accustomed. We’re not big drinkers either but some in the group are and cocktails are ordered in doubles. All expenses paid I’m trawling thru the cocktail list and rather enjoying it. We head to bed before midnight leaving them to drunken shop talk over glasses of straight rum from duty free. Gilbert and I smile as we hear them fade into the distance discussing sales methods as we slip away.
Yesterday we went out on the glass bottomed boat. We motor off to the marine reserve where you can get out and snorkel. The boys have thrown out food, so the fish are swimming right around you. I stayed on the boat. Did this forty years ago, well thirty-nine to be exact, and I also fell sleep in the sun yesterday and am so burnt I decide to keep covered up. Pretty dumb of me. I should have known better. I DO know better.
The local boys keep us entertained with stories and jokes that have obviously been told many times before, but even they can’t help but chuckle at each other. They sing with the ukulele, a rather different looking one to what I’m used to. I pick it up and strum while the others are snorkelling around the boat. Eight strings not four and the hole in the back instead of the front gives it a slightly different ‘Cook Island’ sound. From there we head to another Island that has the unmistakeable smell of BBQ wafting across in thick smoke and when lunch is served its delicious. Onions, fresh caught fish, bananas sliced and caramelised on the hot plate served with salads, bread and freshly sliced fruits.
Should do this at the next wedding at our place. Super Easy. Tara. Maybe you and Sifa can have another Wedding?
It’s a pretty good diet if the locals stick to it. We’re suddenly hungry and wolf it down and then sit quietly satisfied as one man stands and tells us about coconuts and its multitude of uses. I wonder if I could possibly grow them in my subtropical garden?
Then they demonstrate climbing up to pick some and how to husk and grate, getting milk and cream from them. He squeezes the cream from one freshly picked and grated and offers it around. I rub it on my arm and its richly moisturising. Would quite like to have a bit more to rub on my sunburn but alas he’s moved around the group and then starts on ‘seventeen ways to tie a sarong’. The audience love him. He comes and sits with us later and as Gilbert asks, he tells us he was sent to NZ for an education and has a degree in civil engineering. I’d quite like to ask him to nip up the tree beside us, grab another coconut, husk and grate it so I can rub that cream on my sunburn but he’s in full swing on his own story. He hated being inside an office and swapped engineering quickly for a job at Dive HQ where he worked for fifteen years before being called home to Rarotonga when his a Father died, and remained here helping out with his Uncle’s glass bottomed boats. Not a bad way to live he admits. That was very interesting…now would you mind getting me another coconut?
When I send pics to the kids Tara replies enthusiastically. “Mum, can you bring some fresh coconuts home?” Ummmm Tara. Pretty sure that will be tricky given you can’t even bring an apple into NZ. She quickly checks out with her mates and proceeds to tell me the ways around bio security. Someone she knows bought two suitcases of them in. If I’d known I was going to need to find a representative from the Rarotongan govt to vouch for them being visually checked for bugs, I would have brought the required $ worth of KFC in my carry on like the guy in front of us on the plane to use to make friends in all the right places.
I read Taras instructions out to Gilbert laughing incredulously. “Of course Tara would actually do this, I add and wouldn’t see it as too much of a problem.” “Tell her no, Gilbert says. Just tell her no….” and goes back to his book.